Thursday, January 1, 2009

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Falk off Israel

‘The declaration of the State of Israel in 1948 was at the expense of ethnically cleansing 513 Palestinian villages, creating over 700,000 Palestinian refugees and expropriating their lands, homes and businesses in 78% of Palestine … There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former (Palestinian) population’ - the late Israeli Defence Minister, General Moshe Dayan.

Before its campaign of focussed mass murder in Gaza began Israel’s willing executioners had moved to suppress Richard Falk, the professor of international law at Princeton University and the UN’s special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories. Falk, who describes himself as an ‘American Jew’, has been an exceptionally astute and persistent critic of Israeli aggression who has constructed probing critiques highlighting the Nazification of Israeli policy in the Middle East. In June 2007 he infuriated Israeli authorities when he penned an article in which he spoke out against ‘a holocaust in the making’ and ‘genocidal tendencies’.

In mid December, because he feared an escalation of Israeli violence possibly resulting in a ground invasion of Gaza he led a UN delegation to the region to monitor and report on events there.

I was leading a mission that had intended to visit the West Bank and Gaza to prepare a report on Israel's compliance with human rights standards and international humanitarian law … the purpose of my reports is to document on behalf of the UN the urgency of the situation in Gaza and elsewhere in occupied Palestine. Such work is particularly important now as there are signs of a renewed escalation of violence and even of a threatened Israeli reoccupation.

Israel, an implacable foe of human rights activity, had no intention of allowing Falk to thwart its human rights abuses. In the words of Professor Falk the Israeli government ‘had strongly opposed my appointment a few months earlier and its foreign ministry had issued a statement that it would bar my entry if I came to Israel in my capacity as a UN representative.’ This was a cynical disregard by Israeli authorities for its own claim that every Jew in the world has a right to Israeli citizenship and the protections which it brings. The treatment Falk received when he arrived alongside UN colleagues at Ben Gurion Airport served to underline the bogus nature of the professed Israeli respect for all Jews. On entering the airport he was:

put in a holding room with about 20 others experiencing entry problems. At this point, I was treated not as a UN representative, but as some sort of security threat, subjected to an inch-by-inch body search and the most meticulous luggage inspection I have ever witnessed.

He was then separated from his two UN colleagues and:

taken to the airport detention facility a mile or so away. I was required to put all my bags and cell phone in a room and taken to a locked tiny room that smelled of urine and filth. It contained five other detainees and was an unwelcome invitation to claustrophobia. I spent the next 15 hours so confined, which amounted to a cram course on the miseries of prison life, including dirty sheets, inedible food and lights that were too bright or darkness controlled from the guard office.

The following day the UN’s special rapporteur was deported to Geneva. Undeterred, since the Zionist assault on Gaza Falk has accused the Israelis of violating international humanitarian law and of having committed war crimes or crimes against humanity. ‘The Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip represent severe and massive violations of international humanitarian law as defined in the Geneva Conventions, both in regard to the obligations of an Occupying Power and in the requirements of the laws of war.’ Falk singles out three areas in which the Israeli action constitutes violations of international humanitarian law: collective punishment; targeting civilians; disproportionate military response.

The last point he underscores by pointing to a major anomaly in the logic of the Israeli military strategy, pointing out that despite the much vaunted need to protect Israeli citizens from rocket attacks the Israelis atrocities have led to a Hamas rocket attack which resulted in the death of the first Israeli civilian in over a year.

He has further argued that it is mandatory for the UN's International Criminal Court to investigate Israel’s policies in occupied Palestine. The court should decide ‘whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders responsible for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law.’

Richard Falk has proven to be an effective advocate of human rights in the Middle East. This lies behind the Israeli and the US virulent opposition to his appointment to the UN Human Rights Council. Former US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton was very blunt about it. ‘This is exactly why we voted against the new Human Rights Council.’

Exactly why indeed.


Jim Lynch said...

People like John Bolton and their political masters would love to silence people like Richard Falk, but they should remember the words of one Thomas Jefferson;
"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."
How true. Good article.

AM said...

Jim, The arrogance of people like Bolton is breathtaking. Reminds me of Kissinger