Steve Apfel is Director of the School of Management Accounting, Johannesburg. He is the author of the book, 'Hadrian's Echo: The whys and...
Sat,Mar 8,2014 6 AdarII 5774
Richard Falk is a one-off type. What other law officer polices a whole people, is duty-bound to bring them to book, and obliged to blow the whistle before he sets off on his beat.
If that sounds like a freak cop, there’s more. How many servants can there be of diplomat lounge-abouts who expect their hiring to slap criminal charges on a predetermined felon?
That’s Richard Falk, the UN cop for Israel. An old Princeton law professor, with a caricature face that Herr Goebbels plastered around the Reich to drum up the oldest hatred in the world, Falk an American Jew, is a troublemaker without par.
“Israel has genocidal intentions against the Palestinians,” he lately declared on Russian television. It could be the final straw. Canada has called on the UN Human Rights Council to remove Falk from the honorary position it gave him.
But then again there have been ‘final straws’ aplenty. Only this year the global NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) removed Falk from its Board after a string of freaky un-policeman acts.
Falk is definitely not your policeman’s policeman. There was the cartoon he posted of a Jew in the guise of a slavering dog; his likening of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to Nazi methods; his cozy partisanship for the Hamas terrorist group; his boycott-Israel advocacy; the oddball book he recommended, titled The wandering Who? and, really way-out, his conspiratorial beliefs. How many Western law professors can there be who espouse the view that the American government was behind 9/11?
No, it’s not a portrait one expects of a human rights protector. Anyhow, HRW looked long and hard at Falk’s doings before showing him the door.
Yet poison for one body can nourish another. Members of the UN Human Rights Council, including the member for the US, receive and debate Falk’s indictments of Israel, and see in their appointed cop nothing to render him unfit for the job. So he gets to keep the grandiloquent title: ‘Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.’
A mouthful of a title, but broken up into chunky bites it yields the full story – the evolutionary beliefs and commitments that lawman Falk brings to the job.
Bite one – ‘situation’ in the title cosmetically replaced the former ‘violation’ of human rights,’ but not the old mission. No different to his predecessors, Falk is duty-bound to bring home a bagful of Israeli crimes. Not for our UN lawman the principle, ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ he would deliver from the podium at Princeton.
Bite two – human rights, when Palestinians violate them, fall outside Falk’s ambit. Indeed, he’s obligated to turn a blind eye. ‘What Palestinian crimes – I don’t see any?’ is virtually engraved on his badge of office. Why tell the Human Rights Council what Palestinians get up to? They want to hear about Israel breaking laws. Remember, they appointed Falk to find Israel guilty.
Hence the UN cop is duty-bound to look away from Palestine’s youth on the front lines. In Gaza City and Ramallah he must walk past street corner justice meted out to suspected informers; ignore weapon stores in classrooms and mosques; shut his ears to clerics exhorting mothers to let children be human bombs. No matter what Palestinians get up to, Falk’s job is to ‘see no evil, hear no evil, report no evil.’
Bite three: Falk’s job title has more legal flaws than a UN resolution. No law provides for Palestinian territories, which in any case meets a problem of chronology. In 1967 the Palestinians were still a year away from being born. Egypt and Jordan, which lost the territories in their 1967 defeat, could make a song and dance – a token one – but not Palestinians. Falk’s title reflects a political wish. It anticipates a settlement between two parties, of which Israel, the holder of the ‘West Bank,’ is one. His title with ‘Palestinian territories’ is more than premature, it’s presumptuous. What entitled Falk to remove Israel from the equation?
All in all the UN cop’s title is a mine of disinformation: historically empty, legally flawed, overtly anti-Israel.
What qualified Falk for the cop job? What does it mean to be a rapporteur for the Human Rights Council? Looking into it you’d find that a rapporteur is a kind of honorary person. And he seems to be a free, not to say loose, canon. Falk does not represent the Council head, nor is he a Council employee. Member states appointed him, and he reports directly to them.
They are supposed to select the rapporteur on six criteria: (a) expertise; (b) experience in the field of law and human rights; (c) independence; (d) impartiality; (e) personal integrity; (f) objectivity. Supposed. Because of Falk, how diligently members apply the criteria is no longer a question.
In going about his work of digging up the dirt on Israel, Falk could not possibly be independent of UN Council members – chiefly the Arab bloc – that appointed him. Nor, by any stretch of meaning could he be impartial.
To begin with, Council members would have to select Falk from candidates short-listed by ideology. Before any other quality, the rapporteur would have to be anti-Israel. Why else would he take on a job that obligated him to find one party guilty and the Palestinians blameless? Why would he be willing to turn a blind eye to intra-Palestinian abuses? By his own, extra-legal, title he must be ideologically-driven.
Hence the problem: how can selection based on ideology be squared with a cop meant to be independent, objective and impartial? Are the qualities not mutually exclusive – ideology vs. objectivity and impartiality?
So the job designation tells all, fairly yelling at Falk not to be objective or impartial. Another thing, why would Falk volunteer his expensive time? A rapporteur is not paid. A man who is prepared to work for nothing would have to be driven by beliefs – articles of faith, ideology.
All things considered, how is it possible for a man driven by ideology to conduct himself with integrity? And there are still his methods and sources. Where would Falk get his information on ‘Settler violence?’ Or on ‘Detention and imprisonment?’ He’s fed by the UN agency UNWRA, effectively a grand employment agency for Palestinians; and by NGO entities whose flow of cash would dry up without their continuous supply of Israeli ‘crimes.’
So, when Falk throws the book at Israel it’s ideology at work, not the international law he taught at Princeton.