The recent conclusions to the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly has recalled a rather unsettling situation, where a UN Special Rapporteur has been refused entry on sensitive ideological/political grounds having made supportable submissions on the factual situations in the region. On March 26, 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed Falk to a six-year term as a special investigator on Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories. Falk replaces South African professor John Dugard, an expert on apartheid who will leave his post in June 2008 after seven years. On 25 August 2008, Falk presented his first report as a Special Rapporteur, which was recollected by the Secretary General in the General Assembly’s proceedings this past month.
The report notes that “[t]he Special Rapporteur has not yet been able to visit Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory so as to fulfil his mandate and offer a first- hand account of the degree to which international human rights and international humanitarian law are being observed. It is the hope and intention of the Special Rapporteur to do his best to secure entry in the future” (para. 1). Nevertheless, Falk’s account consists of twenty pages collated “upon reliable information gathered by human rights non-governmental organizations and international institutions, including the United Nations, which have a long record of objectivity and experience in relation to the conditions of the occupation” (para. 2).
Having stood by his submissions that compare the genocidal practices of the Israeli military occupation regime to the Nazis (see the BBC report here) in a number of articles (one of them can be access here), Rapporteur Falk was refused an entry Visa to the region by Israeli authorities who sustain a military administrative regime under the occupation of the West Bank, and continue to occupy the Gaza Strip holding it under siege and controlling a myriad of governmental authorities apart from maintaining a consequential troop presence on the ground (see further discussion of the the continued occupation, here; and a recent article, posted by Shany, on the debate over the status of Gaza, here).
Prof. Richard Falk (see his Bio here) is a man with a very intriguing past as well as some upstanding and supportable opinions. One may concede that it is a one-sided appreciation of the matter, but having been restricted from traveling to the OPT for the purpose of carrying out the mandate of his mission, he has contributed to highlighting the gravity of the present situation in the region in light of the absolute reluctance of the Israeli authorities to adhere to any kind of regulation or supervision, even from arguably the most authoritative mechanisms, as those of the UN. If Falk is unable to fully uncover the military regime sustained by the Israeli authorities, it is hoped that he would at least be able to bring the UN Security Council to issue a resolution demanding the respect of the ICJ’s and Human Rights Council’s conclusions and submissions, or else order for the issuance of smart sanctions against Israel.
Falk has numerously claimed that his use of the word “holocaust” and comparisons with the Nazi Regime are limited to the very factual basis of the practices that draw indisputable parallels between the two realities – the Nazis during World War II and the Israel military regime in the Gaza Strip, inter alia. Such remarks, alike his predecessor’s reference to the analogous practices of the Apartheid regime in South Africa, do not merely seek to provoke uproar and awaken the international community from its deep sleep – ‘a silence in the face of a great abyss’, as described by some local organisations. Most imminently, however, they draw sustainable fact-based comparisons between the policies and practices of the current situation in the OPT to those of similar regimes in the history of humankind, highlighting ostensibly the lessons that we have not been able to learn from past mistakes. Whether Falk’s characteristics present added value in this particular situation and can be strategically legitimised can become a rather contentious matter that, as it may be plausibly assumed, was contemplated by the relevant bodies before deciding upon Falk’s nomination.