29 November 1947 – UN calls for creation of Jewish State + Arab State in Palestine

That’s right: 63 years ago today, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 181 which calls for the establishment of a Jewish State and an Arab State in Palestine.

For 63 years, the “international community” as we know it has backed the establishment of a Jewish State.

Six months later, the State of Israel was proclaimed as a Jewish state by virtue of UN General Assembly resolution 181.

And, though some argue otherwise, this is “international legitimacy” — a term coined by Palestinians, many of whom wish to preserve an option for their national rights based on UN resolutions and international treaties and various other agreements that are now called international law.

In November 1988, the Palestinians themselves declared independence, based on this same UN General Assembly resolution 181. But, it remains unrealized. Vague Palestinian pronouncements are met with threats against any “unilateral” actions — though Israel is perhaps the world’s foremost practitioner of “unilateral” actions , the country of “unilateral” actions par excellence .

So, how is it that we are all still talking past each other?

And, how did this situation come to be?

Continue reading 29 November 1947 – UN calls for creation of Jewish State + Arab State in Palestine

Why is Palestinian Authority against Richard Falk?

A shocking story: Ma’an News Agency reported from Chicago today that “Richard Falk, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, said on Monday the Palestinian Authority (PA) urged him to step down after he criticized the PA’s treatment of a UN war crimes report”.

Continue reading Why is Palestinian Authority against Richard Falk?

Meanwhile, in Gaza…(cont'd more)

The Israeli Air Force reports that it has attacked Gaza tonight, targetting what it said was a group of Palestinians launching rockets toward Israel. The IAF said that one person was killed, and four injured. There have been Israeli reports of sporadic firing from Gaza in recent weeks.

Earlier today, Gaza’s former parish priest, Father Manuel Musallam, told me in an interview in his home in the West Bank town of Bir Zeit today, outside Ramallah, that he fears a renewed Israeli attack on Gaza. Father Musallam spent 14 years serving the Catholic Church in Gaza, and endured the unprecedented Israeli military attack last winter before being pulled out, by Church authorites, into what appears to have been a forced retirement last May, the day before the Pope arrived in the Holy Land. “I had written to the Pope to come to Gaza, to say NO to the suffering of Gaza, to the deaths and the injuries and the fear and the hunger and the thirst of the people of Gaza”.

Father Musallam expressed indignation that in a report on the important events of the year 2009, the Church (here, apparently, headed by Patriarch Fouad Twal) said that the visit of the Pope was the most important event. “This was a big mistake”, said Father Musallem. “The Church neglected to say that the Church of Palestine suffered the war on Gaza — I was there, and I say that that was the most important fact of 2009”.

Continue reading Meanwhile, in Gaza…(cont'd more)

Richard Falk on Solana proposal – a negative development inconsistent with the right of self-determination

The latest report by Richard Falk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, transmitted through the United Nations Secretary-General (document A/64/328), dated 25 August but presented by Falk himself to the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee at UNHQ/NY this week, says that:

“On Palestinian self-determination, the most fundamental international human right whose realization has been thwarted by Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is the inalienable right of self-determination as enshrined in article 1 of both international human rights covenants. It has been widely assumed that the exercise of this Palestinian right would be brought about through bilateral negotiations, reinforced by the role of the United States, more recently by the Quartet (that has involved direct United Nations participation) and encouraged by the international community as a whole. Because the exercise of this right has been so long deferred and because the Palestinian situation under occupation endures multiple forms of unlawfulness, it is of utmost urgency to work towards a peaceful solution and an end to Israeli occupation.

“The main negative development [bearing on the right of self-determination] is the seeming unwillingness of the recently elected Israeli Government to endorse in clear terms the international consensus on a sovereign Palestinian State comprising the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem as its capital; the inability on the Palestinian side to achieve unified and legitimated representation that would seem to be a precondition for meaningful peace negotiations is another negative development.

This set of conditions has led in recent months to the advocacy of an imposed solution by external parties, often known as ‘the Solana Plan’ because of the prominence accorded to proposals made along these lines by Javier Solana. At present, neither public opinion nor leaders in Israel or Palestine are favourable to an imposed solution, and its advocacy must be considered a negative development, inconsistent with the right of self-determination, and an expression of frustration arising from the seeming futility of direct negotiations” …

Continue reading Richard Falk on Solana proposal – a negative development inconsistent with the right of self-determination

U.S. diplomat: Palestinian Authority should investigate Hamas violations in Gaza war

A  U.S. diplomat representing her country at a debate of the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee last week said, after hearing the presentation of Richard Falk, the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967, that “her delegation had serious reservations about the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation, including that anybody request an opinion from the International Court of Justice on Israel’s refusal to cooperate” …

This diplomat, who is not indentified in the UN press release summary of the Third Committee meeting, “noted that Israel had received at least 100 complaints of abuse in Gaza and had already investigated several of them.  On other hand, Hamas was a terrorist group that had seized control of Gaza and had no institutions to deal with these violations.  She requested that the Palestinian Authority carry out its own investigation into the violations of international law by Hamas”.

The Palestinian Authority would probably just love to do so …

The UN press release noted that, in a response, Falk said that all three of the Special Rapporteurs who spoke that day to the Third Committee “had faced the same problems of non-cooperation from the country they were tasked with assessing.  He believed that it was the responsibility of the international community, as well as the General Assembly, to take this non-cooperation seriously and to address it in a non-political manner.  Israel should receive the same focus that Myanmar and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea did”.

Continue reading U.S. diplomat: Palestinian Authority should investigate Hamas violations in Gaza war

U.S. State Department says Richard Falk's views are "biased"

The U.S. State Department spokesman told journalists on Monday that the current official U.S. position is that the views of the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, U.S. Professor Richard Falk, are “not fair”, and are in fact “biased”.

But, the State Department spokesman said, the U.S. believed that investigations into what happened in Gaza — into Israel’s conduct of the 22-day Operation Cast Lead — should go forward. But, they should be unbiased.

Here is a full transcript, as provided by the State Department:

“QUESTION: Does the United States support the call by the UN rapporteur Professor Falk before the UN Human Rights Council for an independent inquiry into possible war crimes in Gaza by both Israel and Hamas?

MR. WOOD: Look, we’ve expressed our concern many times about the special rapporteur’s views on dealing with that question, and we’ve found the rapporteur’s views to be anything but fair. We find them to be biased. We’ve made that very clear.

QUESTION: But my question is: Do you support the call that was also echoed by Archbishop Tutu and Amnesty International to call for an independent inquiry – committee of inquiry into possible war crimes?

MR. WOOD: Well, as I’ve said to you before, those types of investigations with regard to where there are charges being made, whether it being it’s one side or the other, there will be, I’m sure, people, organizations will be looking into these. And we need to let those go forward. I don’t have anything further beyond that.

QUESTION: In the framework of the Human Rights Council?

MR. WOOD: I’m just saying – I’ve already spoken to, I think, our view about the Human Rights Council, certainly to the UN special rapporteur’s role, and we viewed them as biased. And I don’t have anything further to add to that.

QUESTION: Wait, I just want to make sure I understand. You do – you support an investigation into war crimes?

MR. WOOD: No. I’ve said – you are trying to twist my words.

QUESTION: No, no, no, I’m not.

MR. WOOD: What I said —

QUESTION: I’m trying to make sure I understood what you just said.

MR. WOOD: What I said was —

QUESTION: You said there are going to be calls and inquiries.

MR. WOOD: I said there will be calls and —

QUESTION: And that they should go ahead.

MR. WOOD: No, no, no. What I —

QUESTION: I’m not trying to twist your words. I just want to make sure I understood what you said.

MR. WOOD: What I was trying – what I’m saying here is that you’re going to have these types of investigations and calls for, you know, there to be investigations, whether it be of one side or the other. And that’s likely to be something that will happen, and that’s not going to be anything that we’re going to be able to do – excuse me, to prevent. What we want to see, if there are going to be these types of investigations, they need to be non-biased. They need to take into account the situations on the ground, the realities on the ground, and go from there” …

Richard Falk interview with Jerusalem's Alternative Information Center

In an interview last week published by the Alternative Information Center in Jerusalem, Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Gaza, summed up his view of whether or not war crimes, and crimes against humanity, had been committed by the IDF in its recent operation in Gaza.

Falk said: “I think that the attack on Gaza initiated on December 27th of last year was a violation of a fundamental norm of the UN Charter, which prohibits non-defensive uses of force. At the Nuremburg trials after World War II, that was treated as a crime against the peace, which was viewed as the most serious of all international crimes.
Following from the attack itself, which was not a justifiable use of force, is the whole question of whether the use of modern weapons in a setting where the civilian population is exposed to the ravages of war can ever be reconciled with the international law of war. I believe it cannot be. That conclusion is somewhat controversial, it hasn’t been formally tested in an international tribunal, but I think the inability to prevent civilian casualties has clearly been established by the results of the attacks on Gaza.
Beyond the actual physical death and injury endured by Palestinians, including many women and children, is the wider reality that being trapped in a war zone of that sort almost certainly imposes severe and maybe incurable mental damage to the entire population. So it is a matter of waging war against a whole civilian population. That is, it seems to me, the essence of the most serious violation of the law of war. And it was aggravated in this situation because the civilians in Gaza were not even given the option to become refugees. They were locked in the war zone and therefore deliberately trapped in this combat area, which was so densely populated and being attacked from the sea and the air and by land.
Finally is the issue of the tactics and weapons that were used. There is a lot of eye-witness evidence that prohibited targets were struck, including several UN buildings; that civilians were deliberately targeted in an act of vengeance, apparently; and that legally dubious weapons were used in contexts where civilians were exposed to them, such as phosphorous bombs and a weapon called DIME, which involves a very intense explosive power that makes surgical and medical treatment impossible. So there’s a whole bunch of issues that together create quite an inventory of violations of the law of war as well as violations of the UN Charter”.

This interview can be read in full here.

Richard Falk to UN Human Rights Council – IDF war on Gaza not justified by self-defense

The Geneva-Based UN Human Rights Council (HRC) is today discussing the report it requested on the IDF Operation Cast Lead in Gaza from U.S. Professor Richard Falk, the HRC’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory.

In an “advanced unedited” copy of the report, dated 17 March 2008, Falk took issue with Israel’s contention that the 22-day IDF military operation against Gaza was in “self-defense”. This document can be read in full here .

Falk, in the report, questioned the legal justification for Israel’s use of force, given the circumstances (particularly, the nature of the Palestinian threat to Israel), and the diplomatic alternatives available. The IDF Operation may have been a crime against peace, Falk said.

To determine whether or not this was so, Falk said, there should now be an “expert inquiry” — and not just another further “investigation”. And, he wrote, “despite the apparent one-sidedness of the Gaza attack, allegations of war crimes on both sides of the conflict should be taken into account”.

Falk stated that “Ideally, Israel, as the sovereign State exercising control over the territory where the alleged offences took place, should be the locus of judicial assessment, whether by its normal criminal law procedures or through the establishment of a special ad hoc process – but … this is extremely unlikely to take place”.

In addition, he said, it is “disquieting” that the Government of Israel has declared its intention to shield members of its armed forces from any repercussions for their war-time conduct: “Such sentiments seem inconsistent with any expectation of serious official cooperation with a proposed investigation. It may be necessary, given this prospect, to place greater reliance on respected nongovernmental organizations compiling evidence and submitting reports, and on formal interviews with qualified observers and witnesses”.

Falk also wrote that “It is further recommended that the underlying claim of Israel that it was acting in self-defence be evaluated in relation to the contention that such an attack violated Article 2 paragraph 4 of the Charter of the United Nations and amounted to an act of aggression under the circumstances, and whether the reliance on disproportionate use of force or the inherently indiscriminate nature of the military campaign should be treated as a criminal violation of international customary and treaty law.”

He wrote that “It is a requirement of international customary law, as well as of the Charter of the United Nations, Article 2 paragraph 4 interpreted in the light of Article 1 paragraph 1 that recourse to force to resolve an international dispute should be a last resort after the exhaustion of diplomatic remedies and peaceful alternatives, even in circumstances where a valid claim of self-defence exists, absent a condition of urgency, assuming for the moment that an occupying power can ever claim a right of self-defense … In the context of protecting Israeli society from rockets fired from Gaza, the evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that the ceasefire in place as of 19 June 2008 had
been an effective instrument for achieving this goal, as measured by the incidence of rockets fired and with regard to Israeli casualties sustained”.

And, he stated, “The continuing refusal of Israel to acknowledge Hamas as a political actor, based on the label of ‘terrorist organization’ has obstructed all attempts to implement human rights and address security concerns by way of diplomacy rather than through reliance on force. This refusal is important for reasons already mentioned, namely, that the population density in Gaza means that reliance on large-scale military operations to ensure Israeli security cannot be reconciled with the legal obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention to protect to the extent possible the safety and well-being of the occupied Gazan population”.

Falk wrote that “If for the sake of argument, however, the claim of self-defence and defensive force is accepted, it would appear that the air, ground, and sea attacks by Israel were grossly and intentionally disproportionate when measured against either the threat posed or harm done, as well as with respect to the disconnect between the high level of violence relied upon and the specific security goals being pursued. This legal sentiment is authoritatively expressed in Article 51(5)(b) of the Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, in which prohibited disproportionate attacks are defined as ‘an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated’. Israel did little to disguise its deliberate policy of disproportionate use of force, thereby acknowledging a refusal to comply with this fundamental requirement of international customary law. The Prime Minister of Israel was quoted after the ceasefire by the press agency Reuters as saying: ‘The Government’s position was from the outset that if there is shooting at the residents of the south, there will be a harsh Israeli response that will be disproportionate’. To the extent that the Prime Minister’s comment reflects Israeli policy, it was a novel and blatant repudiation of one of the most fundamental aspects of international law governing the use of force“.

Falk noted that “There exists here a complex and unresolved issue as to whether an occupying power can claim ‘self-defence’ in relation to an occupied society, and whether its use of force, even if excessive, and of a border-crossing variety, can be regarded as ‘aggression’. Israel seems to be barred from relying on its status as occupier considering that it claims that the occupation has ended, but of course the inquiry report need not respect that interpretation of the legal” …

On the nature of Israel’s occupation of Gaza, Falk wrote elsewhere in the report that “With regard to Gaza there is a further concern with respect to the nature of the legal obligations of Israel towards the Gazan population. Israel officially contends that after the implementation of its disengagement plan in 2005 it is no longer an occupying power, and therefore is not responsible for observance of the obligations set forth in the Fourth Geneva Convention. That contention has been widely rejected by expert opinion, by the de facto realities of effective control, and by official pronouncements by for instance the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General (A/HRC/8/17), the General Assembly in its resolutions 63/96 and 63/98 and the Security Council in its resolution 1860. Since 2005, Israel has completely controlled all entry and exit routes by land and sea and asserted control over Gazan airspace and territorial waters. By imposing a blockade, in effect since the summer of 2007, it has profoundly affected the life and well-being of every single person living in Gaza. Therefore, regardless of the international status of the occupied Palestinian territory with respect to the use of force, the obligations of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as those of international human rights law and international criminal law, are fully applicable”.

Falk also wrote that “Not every violation of human rights or infraction of the Geneva conventions constitutes a war crime or a crime of State. Moreover, criminal intent, by way of mental attitude or through circumstantial evidence, must be established. In essence, ‘grave breaches’ of the Geneva Conventions as defined in article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention normally provide a legal foundation for allegations of war crimes. It is to be noted that the role of international criminal law is to identify and implement the fundamental obligations of international humanitarian law in wartime, but also to take account of severe violations of human rights arising from oppressive patterns of peacetime governance”.

Falk stated that the pre-existing Israeli military-administered blockade of Gaza is in massive violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, suggesting the presence of war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.

And, Falk wrote: “the most important legal issue raised by an investigation of the recent military operations concerns the basic Israeli claim to use modern weaponry on a large scale against an occupied population living under the confined conditions that existed in Gaza. This involves trying to establish whether, under the conditions that existed in Gaza, it is possible with sufficient consistency to distinguish between military targets and the surrounding civilian population. If it is not possible to do so, then launching the attacks is inherently unlawful, and would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law. On the basis of the preliminary evidence available, there is reason to reach this conclusion. Considering that the attacks were directed at densely populated areas, it was to some extent inevitable and certainly foreseeable that hospitals, religious and educational sites and United Nations facilities would be hit by Israeli military ordinance, and that extensive civilian casualties would result. As all borders were sealed, civilians could not escape from the orbit of harm. For authoritative and more specific conclusions on these points, it will be necessary to mount an investigation based on knowledge of Israeli weaponry, tactics and doctrine to assess the degree to which, in concrete cases, it would have been possible, given the battlefield conditions, to avoid non-military targets and to spare Palestinian civilians to a greater extent. Even without this investigation, on the basis of available reports and statistics, it is possible to draw the important preliminary conclusion that, given the number of Palestinian civilian casualties and degree of devastation of non-military targets in Gaza, the Israelis either refrained from drawing the distinction required by customary and treaty international law or were unable to do so under the prevailing combat conditions, making the attacks impossible to reconcile with international law”.

Falk said, in the report, that “There is no way to reconcile the general purposes and specific prescriptions of international humanitarian law with the scale and nature of the Israeli military attacks commenced on 27 December 2008. The Israeli attacks with F-16 fighter bombers, Apache helicopters, long-range artillery from the ground and sea were directed at an essentially defenceless society of 1.5 million persons. As recent reports submitted to the Council by the Special Rapporteur emphasized, the residents of Gaza were particularly vulnerable to physical and mental damage from such attacks as the society as a whole had been brought to the brink of collapse by 18 months of blockade that restricted the flow of food, fuel, and medical supplies to sub-subsistence levels and was responsible, according to health specialists, for a serious overall decline in the health of the population and of the health system. Any assessment under international law of the attacks of 27 December should take into account the weakened condition of the Gazan civilian population resulting from the sustained unlawfulness of the pre-existing Israeli blockade that violated articles 33 (prohibition on collective punishment) and 55 (duty to provide food and health care to the occupied population) of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Considering the obligation of the occupying Power to care for the well-being of the civilian occupied population, mounting a comprehensive attack on a society already weakened by unlawful occupation practices would appear to aggravate the breach of responsibility described in the above owing to the difficulties of maintaining the principle of distinction … It is not a matter of mistakes and fallibility, but rather a massive assault on a densely populated urbanized setting where the defining reality could not but subject the entire civilian population to an inhumane form of warfare that kills, maims and inflicts mental harm that is likely to have long-term effects, especially on children that make up more than 50 per cent of the Gazan population”.

And he wrote that not allowing civilians in Gaza to have an option to seek refuge by leaving the war zone during the operation was unlawful In addition, unlawful weapons and combat tactics may have been used.

Falk stated that “In an unprecedented belligerent policy, Israel refused to allow the entire civilian population of Gaza, with the exception of 200 foreign wives, to leave the war zone during the 22 days of attack that commenced on 27 December. As the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stated on 6 January 2009, Gaza is “the only conflict in the world in which people are not even allowed to flee.” All crossings from Israel were kept closed during the attacks, except for rare and minor exceptions. By so doing, children, women, sick and disabled persons were unable to avail themselves of the refugee option to flee from the locus of immediate harm resulting from the military operations of Israel. This condition was aggravated by the absence of places to hide from the ravages of war in Gaza, given its small size, dense population and absence of natural or man-made shelters.

“International humanitarian law has not specifically and explicitly at this time anticipated such an abuse of civilians, but the policy as implemented would suggest the importance of an impartial investigation to determine whether such practices of ‘refugee [maybe this should instead read refuge] denial’ constitute a crime against humanity as understood in international criminal law. The initial definition of crimes against humanity, developed in relation to the war crimes trials after the Second World War, is “murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhumane acts done against any civilian population”. More authoritative is the definition contained in Article 7(1)(k) of the Rome Statute, according to which crimes against humanity includes “inhumane acts (…) intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.” Refugee [Refuge would probably be a better word here] denial under these circumstances of confined occupation is an instance of “inhumane acts”, during which the entire civilian population of Gaza was subjected to the extreme physical and psychological hazards of modern warfare within a very small overall territory. It should be kept in mind that this restriction on free movement, to escape from the war zone, was imposed on a population already severely weakened by the effects of the blockade.

“The small size of Gaza and its geographic character also operated to deny most of the population remaining within its borders of an opportunity to internally remove itself from the combat zones. In this sense, the entire Gaza Strip became a war zone, although the actual combat area on the ground was more limited. In effect, leaving Gaza was the only way to remove oneself to a position of safety. In this respect, the option to become an internally displaced person was, as a practical matter, unavailable to the civilian population, although some civilians sought relative safety in shelters that were made available on an emergency basis for a tiny fraction of the population, mainly through the efforts of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and other United Nations and Non-Governmental Organizations’ efforts. In some situations the shelters were not always treated as sanctuaries by the Israeli armed forces. Six UNRWA emergency shelters were damaged during Operation Cast Lead.

“Furthermore, given such emergency conditions, it seemed feasible to establish temporary refugee camps either in southern Israel or in neighboring countries for the duration of the attacks. This course of action had allowed almost one million Kosovars (almost half the civilian population) to obtain temporary refuge in the neighbouring former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia during the bombing by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1999. It seems evident that, had Serbia denied the Kosovo population such a refugee option by controlling egress, it would have been accused of inhumane behaviour and criminality by the world community. It would seem that the law of war and international human rights law, for the sake of the protection of civilian innocence in wartime situations, needs to affirm the right of every non-combatant civilian to become a refugee, or at least to have the right to seek such a status, especially if the conditions for an internal “refugee” option are not present.

“Such an affirmation does not address the related question as to whether neighbouring countries have a legal duty to accommodate, to the extent feasible and at least temporarily, civilians seeking to escape from an ongoing war zone. It would seem at the very least that Israel as occupying Power and belligerent party had such a legal obligation. In a general way, such an obligation is set forth in articles 13 to 26 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Especially relevant are article 15 which looks to the establishment of ‘neutralized zones’ to shelter the civilian population from ‘the effects of war’, article 16 which imposes a special duty to accord the sick and wounded, as well as expectant mothers, ‘particular attention and respect’, and article 24 which imposes a duty on the occupying Power to protect any children under 15 who are orphans or separated from their families, and obliges it to ‘facilitate the reception of such children in a neutral country for the duration of the conflict’…

“Confining the civilian population to the war zone also makes it more difficult, if not impossible, to sustain consistently the distinction between military and civilian targets, in combat situations. It also complicates an assessment of claims made by Israel that Hamas used civilians as human shields, and used civilian sites such as schools and mosques from which to engage in resistance. If civilians could not leave the war zone under such crowded conditions, some degree of intermingling would necessarily occur, especially in life and death situations”.

Falk stressed that “Israeli security and the realization of the Palestinian right of self-determination are fundamentally connected, and that the recognition of this aspect of the situation suggests the importance of an intensified diplomatic effort, respect by all parties of relevant international law rights, and implementation of the long deferred Israeli withdrawal from occupied Palestine as initially prescribed by the Security Council in its resolution 242 (1967). Until such steps are taken the Palestinian right of resistance within the limits of international humanitarian law and Israeli security policy will inevitably clash, giving rise to ever new cycles of violence”.

Falk said that “As long as Palestinian basic rights continue to be denied, the Palestinian right of resistance to occupation within the confines of international law and in accord with the Palestinian right of self-determination is bound to collide with the pursuit of security by Israel under conditions of prolonged occupation. In this respect, a durable end to violence on both sides requires an intensification of diplomacy with a sense of urgency, and far greater resolve by all parties to respect international law, particularly as it bears on the occupation as set forth in the Fourth Geneva Convention. Furthermore, it is important to acknowledge that the time has long passed for the implementation of Security Council resolution 242 (1967) requiring Israel to withdraw from Palestinian territories, for Israel to close unlawful settlements, desist from efforts to alter the demographics of East Jerusalem, respect the advisory opinion on the Wall of the International Court of Justice of 2004, and bring the occupation to a genuine end, either through negotiations or by unilateral action”.

Falk recommended that “It be recognized that the Palestinian right of resistance under international law within the limits of international humanitarian law continually collides with Israeli security concerns as occupying Power, requiring basic adjustments in the relationship of the parties premised on respect for the legal rights of the Palestinian people; and that sustainable peace in Gaza requires the permanent lifting of the blockade in the short term, and a diplomatic process that seeks peace in accordance with the requirements of international law in the long term”.

The Special Rapporteur also called for “action in response to the denial by Israel of entry to him on 14 December 2008”. See our earlier posts on 15 December here and on 19 December
here. In his conclusion, Falk recommended that “An advisory opinion on the obligations of a Member State to cooperate with special procedures of the Human Rights Council in relation to the application of Article 56 of the Charter of the United Nations and the relevant provisions of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations be requested”

After the presentation of his report, and some discussion in the Human Rights Council, Falk will be giving a press conference in Geneva from 18:15 – 19:00 tonight.

Professor Richard Falk sceptical about war crimes proceedings on Gaza operation

Richard Falk, an American professor of international law who is now the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in the occupied Palestinian territory — and who was deported when he tried to come to Israel a few month’s ago — has written in the current edition of the monthly Le Monde Diplomatique that he is sceptical about eventual war crimes prosecutions over the recent Israeli military operation in Gaza.

He wrote that he believes there is a basis for such prosecutions, but that chances are slim that trials or judicial proceedings would happen, in the real world. But, he wrote, “the surfacing of criminal charges against Israel during and after its attacks on Gaza resulted in major gains on the legitimacy front for the Palestinians”.

Falk is due to present a report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 23 March on the IDF’s three-week war on Gaza, which Israel called “Operation Cast Lead” in reference to a Hanukkah toy.
Continue reading Professor Richard Falk sceptical about war crimes proceedings on Gaza operation

Falk: "Israel could have either refused to grant visas or communicated to the UN that I would not be allowed to enter, but neither step was taken"

Richard Falk — who travelled this past week to Israel in order to get to the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza on a UN human rights mission — has written his own account of his being barred from entry into Israel and then deported early the next morning. It is published today in the Comment is Free section of The Guardian newspaper here:

“On December 14, I arrived at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Israel to carry out my UN role as special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories … Meetings had been scheduled on an hourly basis during the six days, starting with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, the following day.

“I knew that there might be problems at the airport. Israel 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. [But] I would not have made the long journey from California, where I live, had I not been reasonably optimistic about my chances of getting in. Israel was informed that I would lead the mission and given a copy of my itinerary, and issued visas to the two people assisting me: a staff security person and an assistant, both of whom work at the office of the high commissioner of human rights in Geneva.

To avoid an incident at the airport, Israel could have either refused to grant visas or communicated to the UN that I would not be allowed to enter, but neither step was taken

After being denied entry, I was put in a holding room with about 20 others … 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.

“I was separated from my two UN companions who were allowed to enter Israel 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.

“Of course, my disappointment and harsh confinement were trivial matters, not by themselves worthy of notice, given the sorts of serious hardships that millions around the world daily endure. Their importance is largely symbolic.

I am an individual who had done nothing wrong beyond express strong disapproval of policies of a sovereign state.

“More importantly, the obvious intention was to humble me as a UN representative and thereby send a message of defiance to the United Nations.

“Israel had all along accused me of bias and of making inflammatory charges relating to the occupation of Palestinian territories. I deny that I am biased, but rather insist that I have tried to be truthful in assessing the facts and relevant law.

“It is the character of the occupation that gives rise to sharp criticism of Israel’s approach, especially its harsh blockade of Gaza, resulting in the collective punishment of the 1.5 million inhabitants … The blockade of Gaza serves no legitimate Israeli function. It is supposedly imposed in retaliation for some Hamas and Islamic Jihad rockets that have been fired across the border at the Israeli town of Sderot. The wrongfulness of firing such rockets is unquestionable, yet this in no way justifies indiscriminate Israeli retaliation against the entire civilian population of Gaza …

“Although denied entry, my effort will continue to use all available means to document the realities of the Israeli occupation as truthfully as possible”.

• Richard Falk is professor of international law at Princeton University and the UN’s special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories