Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi.

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RTOP) will educate South Africans about human rights abuses by Israel against the Palestinian people, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Sunday.

“A great number of South Africans remain... ignorant about issues they should be supporting,” Vavi told reporters in Johannesburg.

“South Africa is not a place known for international solidarity work. We have not yet mastered the art of knowing when injustice is visited on people. This tribunal will make it people's business.”

The tribunal is scheduled to take place on November 5 and 6 in District Six, Cape Town.

Vavi said the tribunal would consider whether Israel's treatment of the Palestinian people fitted the international definition of apartheid.

“Although there were clear differences between the state of Israel today, and South Africa under apartheid, the question to be answered is whether the policies and practices of Israel... are in breach of the prohibition on apartheid in international law,” Vavi said.

Meanwhile, SA Jewish Board of Deputies spokeswoman Charisse Zeifert said on Sunday that the tribunal was “nothing more than a one-sided, politically motivated kangaroo court”.

“The so-called 'witnesses' and 'jurors' are on record for their vocal anti-Israel sentiment, and can be expected to find Israel 'guilty' at every turn,” she said.

“Two previous sessions of the RTOP did just that, and we anticipate more of the same in Cape Town.”

Zeifert said South Africa's Jewish leadership rejected the tribunal and supported initiatives that would “bring about a secure and democratic Palestinian and Jewish State”.

The tribunal will be opened by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the panel will include acclaimed author Alice Walker, former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire, retired judge of the supreme court of Spain - José Antonio Martin Pallin, and 93-year-old Holocaust survivor Stephane Hessel.

South Africans participating in the tribunal are Vavi, ANC stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils

The RTOP held sessions in Barcelona and London last year. The final session will take place in New York in 2012. - Sapa