More words of support for the UN Palestine Rapporteur

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It is a common spectacle nowadays – someone highly respected speaks out and confronts the cultural and religious establishment and suddenly they have no friends but are being targeted by all their peers and roundly condemned from all sides (the name ‘Richard Goldstone’ comes to mind)!

What is encouraging is to see Richard Falk standing his ground and receiving some degree of recognition for his courage.

Father Dave

Ricahrd Falk

Richard Falk

source: In defence of UN Palestine rapporteur Richard Falk  

In defence of UN Palestine rapporteur Richard Falk

By Lawrence Davidson

Richard Falk is the present United Nations special rapporteur for the Palestinian territories. His job is to monitor the human rights situation in the territories, with particular reference to international law, and report back to both the United Nations General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council. He is Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and well qualified for his UN post.

Telling unsettling truths

Professor Falk was appointed in 2008 to a six year term in his present position. That means he has been telling the unsettling truth about Israeli behaviour for four years now, with another two to go. Repeatedly, he has documented Israeli violations of international law and its relentless disregard for Palestinian human rights. For instance:

  • In 2008 he documented the “desperate plight of civilians in Gaza”;
  • In 2009 he described Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip as a “war crime of the greatest magnitude”;
  • In 2010 he documented Israel’s array of apartheid policies;
  • In 2011 he documented Israeli policies in Jerusalem and labelled them “ethnic cleansing”; and
  • In this latest report for the year 2012, he has concentrated on two subjects:

– Israel’s treatment of Palestinian prisoners which, he concludes, is so bad as to warrant investigation by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). It should be noted that Israel does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICJ. However, condemnation by this organization would, within the context of growing awareness of Zionist crimes, help further educate public opinion.

– Falk documents the assistance given to Israel’s expansion of colonies on the Palestinian West Bank by a number of multinational corporations, including Motorola, Hewlett-Packard and Caterpillar Inc. This assistance may be profitable, but it is also manifestly illegal. The chief executives and board members of these companies stand in violation of international laws, including provisions of the Geneva Conventions. Since no nation, nor the UN itself, seems ready to prosecute them, Professor Falk has recommended a boycott of the guilty firms “in an effort to take infractions of international law seriously”.

Reactions

In a sane world this work would make Richard Falk a universally acclaimed defender of justice. But ours is not a sane world. And so you get the following sort of responses from both Israel and its supporters:

Karaen Peretz, the spokeswomen for the Israeli Mission at the United Nations, found Professor Falk’s latest report “grossly biased”. This is a sort of response used by someone who cannot dispute the evidence and so must resort to attacking the character of the one presenting the evidence. Peretz also asserted that “Israel is deeply committed to advancing human rights and firmly believes that this cause will be better served without Falk and his distasteful sideshow. While he spends pages attacking Israel, Falk fails to mention even once the horrific human rights violations and ongoing terrorist attacks by Hamas.”

Actually, this is not true. Back in 2008 Falk requested that his mandate from the UN Human Rights Council be extended to cover infringements of human rights by Palestinian governments just so he would not be seen as partisan. Subsequently, Mahmoud Abbas’s pseudo Palestinian Authority called for Falk’s resignation. In this job, you just can’t win.

In any case, Falk’s documenting of Israel’s crimes puts the lie to Peretz’s claim that Israel is “deeply committed to advancing human rights” and that documentation cannot be dismissed as a “sideshow”. Relative to 64 years of ethnic cleansing, it is the militarily insignificant missiles out of Gaza that are the “sideshow”. And, can we honestly assume that Ms Peretz’s attitude towards Professor Falk would turn for the better if in this report he had mentioned Hamas “even once”?

Then there is United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. She echoed Peretz by describing Falk as being “highly biased”. Well, what sort of attitude is one suppose to have toward overwhelming evidence persisting over many years? Isn’t one supposed to be “biased” in favour of such evidence? To ignore it doesn’t make you balanced or fair. It makes you either corrupt or in a deep state of denial.

Ms Rice goes on to say that “Mr Falk’s recommendations do nothing to further a peaceful settlement … and indeed poison the environment for peace”. These are pretty strong words, but if considered critically they make little sense.

First of all, Falk’s mandate requires him to reveal the facts about human rights violations in the Palestinian territories. It makes no reference to “furthering a peaceful settlement”. That is what the US government claims to be doing. And its record in this regard is pitiful.

Second, just why should conclusively documenting practices that may well be standing in the way of a settlement, be equated with “poisoning the environment for peace”? That doesn’t add up at all.

There are many other spokespeople who have reacted negatively to Falk’s latest report, ranging from the Canada’s foreign affairs minister to representatives of the companies caught on the wrong side of the law. And, remarkably, they all sing the same song: Falk is biased, ad nauseum. They can do no better because they cannot refute the professor”s evidence. Thus, all of these well positioned, well paid representatives of nations and multinational businesses are reduced to sounding like lawyers defending the mafia.

Conclusion

Professor Falk’s experience should serve as a warning to both those who would, on the one hand, make a career out of being a spokespersons for governments or companies, and on the other, those who would dedicate themselves to “speaking truth to power”. Taking on the role of the former is the equivalent of selling your soul to leadership whose sense of right and wrong goes no further than their own local interests. Taking on the role of the latter is to face seemingly endless frustration for, as Noam Chomsky once noted, power already knows the truth and doesn’t care one jot for it.

Yet, for those who would travel down this latter road, Richard Falk is as good a role model as can be found. Having dedicated himself to the role of truth teller he is to be commended for his devotion to justice and sheer durability. He is a hero who, hopefully, will have his praises sung long after Ms Peretz and Ms Rice are deservedly forgotten.

Comments on More words of support for the UN Palestine Rapporteur Leave a Comment

November 10, 2012

Fred Skolnik @ 1:05 pm #

I too am a reader of Richard Falk, though not an admirer, and through him have become familiar with an entire army of Israel haters, of which you are apparently a part, churning out endless blogs filled with venomous half-truths. I will not use the term Jew haters though I have to wonder how it is that such people have zeroed in on Israel as the arch enemy of mankind in a world where populations are being massacred nearly every day. As I do not intend to visit you again I will state Israel\’s case in as few words as possible, though you of course may choose not to publish this in order to not to lose the effect you are aiming at:
1) There is no historic Palestine that has anything to do with the Arabs, nor is there an “indigenous” or native Muslim population there. “Palestine” was the name given by the Romans to the province of Judea after they conquered it and was revived by the British during the Mandate period. The Arabs came out of the Arabian Desert and conquered the Land of Israel along with the rest of the Middle East in the 7th century, forcing its inhabitants to convert to Islam and making life miserable for anyone who didn’t. The Land of Israel was in turn conquered by the Crusaders, Turks and British. Most of the Arabs with \"roots\" in the Land of Israel migrated there from other parts of the Arab world in the 19th and early 20th centuries whereas the Jews have been continuously present in the Land of Israel for well over 3,000 years. The Arabs have as much historical, political and moral right to sovereignty in the Land of Israelas they do in Spain, which they also conquered. Nonetheless, Israel accepts the principle of a two-state solution to the conflict.
2) The displacement of Arabs in the Land of Israel during Israel’s War of Independence, as often as not encouraged by the surrounding Arab countries, who assured them that they would be able to return after they finished slaughtering the Jews, was paralleled by the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Jews living in Arab lands at the time whose lives became unbearable under vindictive Arab rule. However, unlike the Arab refugees, who were herded into camps and treated like animals by their Arab brethren, the Jews fleeing the Arab lands were received with open arms by their Jewish brethren, and that should tell you something about the moral character of the two people.
3) The Nakba or Disaster is something the Arabs brought on themselves by attacking Israel in 1948. Those who remained in Israel, with all the problematics inherent in constituting a national minority whose primary identity is with an Arab world that is hostile to Israel (and to all non-Muslims in fact), live better lives is Israel, politically and economically, than Arabs do in their own lands and would be very reluctant indeed to change places with these other Arabs and endure the nightmarish conditions under which they live.
4) Israel occupied Judea and Samaria (the West Bank of the Jordan River), the Gaza Strip, Sinai and the Golan Heights in 1967 after defeating four Arab armies who attacked it. In the case of the West Bank, it was Jordan who indiscriminately and without provocation began shelling Jewish Jerusalem, hitting over 500 buildings and killing 15 civilians on the night of June 5, and the following morning, reinforced by Iraqi troops, advancing on Israel’s border. You start a war, you lose a war, you get your territory occupied. This is the oldest story in history.
However, whereas in the normal course of events, defeated nations sue for peace, the Arabs, with the support of a great many people and countries around the world who refused to condemn their aggression, then proceeded to issue the Khartoum Declaration with its three famous noes: no to peace, no to negotiations, no to recognition of Israel. Since that time, Arab terrorists have been launching barbaric attacks against Israel’s civilian population.
5) The suffering of the Palestinians has been caused by their own leaders, who could have had a state almost at any time in the last 45 years but refused to relinquish the Big Dream of destroying the State of Israel and engaging in another of their massacres on the shores of the Mediterranean.
6) The Arab inhabitants of Judea and Samaria are inhabitants of occupied territory and therefore no different in status from the Germans in Occupied Germany after World War II. The security fence, roadblocks and curfews in the West Bank and the closure of Gaza are there to prevent terrorist acts. When the terrorism stops and the terrorist organizations are dismantled, these measures will be eliminated and the Palestinians will get their state. At that
time the fate of each Jewish settlement will be determined. It has been understood for years by all practical people on both sides that with regard to borders, settlements and the expansion of Jewish Jerusalem, there will be an exchange of land that allows the big Jewish settlement blocs to remain part of Israel and compensates the Palestinians territorially. All this involves around 5% of West Bank land.
The Israel-Arab conflict is not racial, it is national; and to the extent
that nationality and religion are intertwined (among most Arabs and a minority of Jews), it is also religious. Israelis do not think of Arabs as belonging to another race. (In fact they are often referred to as \"the cousins.\") But of course, since \"racism\" is the dirtiest word Israel haters know, and one to which other dirty words can easily be attached, like \"apartheid\" and \"Nazi,\" that is how the conflict is being represented by such people.
In the Arab-Israel conflict, Israel has in fact been represented so often by its enemies as the villain of the piece that few people realize that it is the Palestinians who refuse to return to the negotiating table. Most recently, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reaffirmed Israel\’s commitment to the two-state solution and again proposed direct negotiations without preconditions. Sadly, however, there are just two kinds of Palestinian leaders:
those who are afraid to make peace with Israel and those who do not wish to make peace with Israel. In the year 2000, at Camp David, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Arafat more than he could ever have hoped for, but Arafat refused, reportedly saying that if he agreed to such an offer, he would be murdered when he got back home. In 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made an even more generous offer to Abu Mazen (PA President Abbas). This too was rejected.
The reluctance of \"moderate\" Palestinian leaders to reach agreement with Israel on anything other than an all-or-nothing basis is a clear reflection of the influence of the extremist groups, including terrorist organizations like Hamas. The Big Dream of the Arab world continues to be the total destruction of the State of Israel. Intolerance has been at the heart of the Islamic world
view for nearly 1500 years. The existence of a non-Muslim state in the region is intolerable to their way of thinking. The solution in the Muslim world to problems of any kind has always been a bloodbath.
Israel knows who and what it is dealing with. 9/11 should have taught the rest of theworld what Muslim extremism is capable of. In the absence of peace and in the face of murderous terrorist attacks, Israel has acted to ensure the
safety of its population. This includes the bombardment of terrorist facilities in Gaza, including the tunnels through which the terrorists smuggle in their rockets and the warehouses in which they hide them. Were Israel as brutal in its countermeasures as people pretend, Gaza City would look today like Dresden and Berlin after the Allied bombings in World War II and instead of hundreds there would be hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths. This is of course not the case. The Israeli army is one of the most moral armies that has ever existed. Unlike the Arabs, who set out to murder women and children, Israel goes to extreme lengths to avoid injuring civilians. But when you hide behind your children to shoot at my children, someone\’s children are going to get hurt, and it is my responsibility to make sure that it isn\’t my children, and it is the Israeli government\’s responsibility to make sure it isn\’t Israeli children. It is as simple as that.
Though Israel has legitimate claims to sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, it has relinquished them and is prepared to accept a two-state solution with all outstanding issues settled at the negotiating table. In 1948, in the wake of the UN Partition Plan, the Jewish leadership in the Land of Israel acceptedfar less than it thought it should get, and in truth would have accepted even less, because its first concern was the welfare of the Jewish people and the
creation of a state in its ancient homeland, however small, that would ensure their security. Had the Palestinian leaders shown equal concern for their own people, they would have had a state today every bit as prosperous as Israel, for the Palestinian people are truly as talented as any in the Arab world. But because these leaders were indifferent to the welfare of their people, and continue to be indifferent to this day, clinging to the apocalyptic vision of a great massacre on the shores of the Mediterranean, their people have lived in misery for over 60 years. Today they can have their state. The question is whether they are ready for one.
As to Falk\’s most recent allegations with regard to Palestinian prisoners, the sainted Khader Adnan, whose cause he has championed, is a member of the Islamic Jihad, a terrorist organization, and can be seen on the utube encouraging suicide bombings. Most of the hunger strikers that Falk writes about with such compassion were convicted terrorists striking under orders from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in Gaza. The deterioration in conditions they were protesting against was the removal of all the little perks they receive over and beyond what is required by international law, including canteen privileges, cable TV, and external academic studies. This was done in view of the conditions under which Gilad Shalit was being held. No more haflehs. Isn\’t that a shame.

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