UN investigator Falk says he won’t step down over remarks

UN investigator Falk says he won’t step down over remarks

Investigator of human rights in Palestinian territories says he’s being ‘smeared’ for doing his job, rejects calls for his ouster

Richard Falk (photo credit: AP/Keystone/Salvatore Di Nolfi/File)
Richard Falk (photo credit: AP/Keystone/Salvatore Di Nolfi/File)

A United Nations special investigator said his reputation was being smeared and he wouldn’t resign, despite calls for his ouster over provocative remarks on terrorism, the United States and Israeli policy.

Richard Falk, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, told reporters Tuesday in Geneva that he was only doing his job and “it’s important to distinguish criticism from this kind of smear campaign.”

In public remarks and reports sharply critical of Israel’s settlement policy, Falk has repeatedly run afoul of advocacy groups such as UN Watch, which accused him of anti-Semitism, and the United States, which called for his resignation.

The US representative to the Human Rights Council, Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, called for Falk’s resignation Friday ahead of the investigator’s annual report on Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights, presented to the HRC Monday, in which he sought an investigation of UN Watch that he hoped would lead to its closure.

Donahoe strongly denounced Falk’s report, saying it “would threaten the independent voice of civil society at the United Nations” if given legitimacy.

“His views and behavior, both official and unofficial, are offensive and provocative and do nothing to advance peace in the Middle East or to further the protection and promotion of human rights. We again call for his resignation,” she said.

For his part, Falk accuses the Geneva-based NGO of “demeaning” and “defaming” his character, damaging the “credibility,” “effectiveness” and “substantive intention” of his mandate. He says this “diverts attention from the message” and “shifts public interest away.”

UN Watch was established in 1993 “to monitor the performance of the United Nations by the yardstick of its own Charter,” according to the group’s website.

Falk’s comments came less than a month after UN Watch’s draft resolution to remove him from his position — in the wake of his comments blaming the Boston Marathon bombings on “the American global domination project” and “Tel Aviv” — was published by the United Nations as an official document.

On Monday, UN Watch director Hillel Neuer addressed Falk at the HRC session, saying the investigator sought to silence dissent.

“In reprisal, you now seek to muzzle our voice, to avoid being held accountable,” he said according to a transcript published on the group’s website. “The real issue is whether your work, conducted under the banner of human rights, actually exonerates and exculpates the perpetrators of terrorism.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, too, rejected Falk’s written commentary suggesting the Boston Marathon bombings could be explained in part as resistance to “American global domination.”

In a 2008 op-ed in the UK-based The Journal, entitled “9/11: More than meets the eye,” Falk speculated on American complicity in the 2001 attacks, writing that it “is not paranoid under such circumstances to assume that the established elites of the American governmental structure have something to hide, and much to explain.”

In his annual report on human rights in the Palestinian territories, Falk slammed what he calls Israel’s continued occupation of the Palestinians.

“Israel continues to annex Palestinian territory; Israel persists in demolishing Palestinians’ homes and populating Palestine with Israeli citizens; Israel maintains a policy of collectively punishing 1.75 million Palestinians through its imposition of a blockade on the Gaza Strip; and Israel prosecutes its occupation with impunity, refusing to accept the world’s calls to respect international law,” he wrote.

Falk also repeated his prior call for a boycott of companies conducting business with Israel or Israelis in the West Bank.

Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said his organization agrees with Donahoe’s conclusion that Falk “is unfit to serve in his role as a UN special rapporteur.”

“If he does not leave voluntarily, the Human Rights Council should remove him,” Foxman said.

“Mr. Falk’s attempt to paint himself as the victim of an Israeli government-sponsored defamation campaign, carried out by UN Watch, has echoes of classical anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.”

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