Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"Just One More Thing ..."

It's hardly a surprise that "A new U.N. Human Rights Council official assigned to monitor Israel is calling for an official commission to study the role neoconservatives may have played in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks." It's possible that this is one of those cases where "neoconservatives" is code for "Certain shadowy American Jews seeking to influence foreign policy." But it need not be. The two things -- Israel-bashing and trutherism -- can converge on their own.

Richard Falk, Milbank professor of international law emeritus at Princeton University, said in an interview with truther radio host Kevin Barrett: “It is possibly true that especially the neoconservatives thought there was a situation in the country and in the world where something had to happen to wake up the American people. Whether they are innocent about the contention that they made that something happen or not, I don’t think we can answer definitively at this point. All we can say is there is a lot of grounds for suspicion, there should be an official investigation of the sort the 9/11 commission did not engage in and that the failure to do these things is cheating the American people and in some sense the people of the world of a greater confidence in what really happened than they presently possess.”

Mr. Barrett, who is the co-founder of the Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth, said in an interview yesterday of Mr. Falk, “I would put him on a list of scholars who are sympathetic to the 9/11 truth movement.”

He added, “Unlike most public intellectuals today, he is both honest and very, very knowledgeable in that he understands the probable reality of 9/11. He understands that the evidence that it was a false flag operation is very strong.”

And so forth.

Two points, however. One is that Falk is not calling for a U.N. or Human Rights Council investigation of 9/11. The other is that he is not "new" to the HRC. He's been popular with the council well before that. In March 2001 it appointed him to a three-member "human rights inquiry commission established pursuant to Commission resolution S-5/1 of 19 October 2000."

S-5/1 was "to establish a human rights inquiry commission to gather and compile information on violations of human rights and acts which constituted grave breaches of international humanitarian law by the Israeli occupying power in the occupied Palestinian territories. It also requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to undertake an urgent visit to the occupied Palestinian territories to take stock of the violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people by the Israeli occupying power."

The other two on the commission were John Dugard (South Africa), Kamal Hossain (Bangladesh). It gave a report here, dated March 29, 2001, in which Falk called for vigorous U.N. action against Israel, whose actions and policies he blamed entirely for the lack of "peace." He sought an international occupation of the West Bank.

Earlier in the English translation of the report, Richard Falk is refered to as Peter Falk.

At the end of the discussion, Peter Falk [sic!] a member of the commission of inquiry into the situation in the occupied territories, said that there was no doubt that Israeli forces had resorted to excessive force in responding to the second intifada.

Here is his conclusion, this time under his correct name.

RICHARD FALK, member of the commission of inquiry, said the commission was encouraged by the strong support for the main conclusions which were contained in its report, and its general recommendations. The commission of inquiry had faced a challenge in conducting an inquiry without the help of the Government of Israel. Nevertheless, it did its best to understand the Israeli arguments. The commission had made an effort to lean over backwards to take into account Israel's position. There was no doubt about the conclusions that had been reached. Israel had resorted to excessive force in responding to the second intifada. The Israeli policy and response had produced an intolerable situation for the entire Palestinian population. The way in which the occupation was continued produced a daily ordeal for each Palestinian person, even those who were not involved in the intifada.

Both Israelis and Palestinians sought peace and security, they yearned for it. But peace, security and justice could not be achieved without respect for human rights and international law. The notion that was prevalent during the Oslo process, that human rights and international law could be put aside for the negotiating process, was a dangerous deception. It was necessary at every point to affirm that human rights and international law were as important as the peace that was being sought.

Mr. Falk said that the time for talk was over, and the time for action was now. Repeatedly, the commission of inquiry had heard expressions of disillusionment about the impact of resolutions passed by international bodies. The credibility of the United Nations was challenged by its inability to implement the resolutions which it passed. There was no reasonable excuse to defer any longer in dealing with these issues. The main direction of the conclusions were supported by the non-governmental organizations, the senior civil society personnel dealing with the Palestinian people, and other representatives. On all fronts, there was a consensus as to what was responsible for this violence. And there was a sense as to what was necessary to reverse this process.

The most useful step that could be taken by the international community at this time was to provide an international presence of a monitoring character in the West Bank and Palestine that would provide these beleaguered people with some kind of transparency. It was hoped that those who had abstained from a resolution calling for such a presence, and the United States, which had vetoed it, would reconsider. Israel had had ample opportunity to take steps to uphold international law, but had been unable and unwilling to do so. If the elementary provisions of the Geneva Conventions were to be upheld, almost all of the violence would cease overnight. Steps should be taken to examine the vulnerability of the Palestinian refugees. There needed to be new initiatives taken in that direction. It was the responsibility of this Commission to show that the international community was able to act.

And he is a member of the editorial board of "The Nation." Shocka! All in all, he seems to be a familiar type.

In a June 2007 article called "Slouching toward a Palestinian Holocaust," Falk compared some Israeli policies with regard to the Palestinians to the Nazi-Germany record of collective punishment. Identifying himself as an American Jew, Falk stated that his use of the term "holocaust" "represents a rather desperate appeal to the governments of the world and to international public opinion to act urgently to prevent these current [Israeli] genocidal tendencies from culminating in a collective tragedy [for the Palestinians]." Falk also stated that "the comparison should not be viewed as literal, but ... that a pattern of criminality associated with Israeli policies in Gaza has actually been supported by the leading democracies of the 21st century."

Falk's predecessor on United Nations Human Rights Council, John Dugard, had made controversial statements comparing Israeli actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories with apartheid and colonialism. In response to Falk's past comments, Yitzhak Levanon, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, criticised Falk's appointment by the United Nations Human Rights Council in an address to the council, stating: "He has taken part in a UN fact-finding mission which determined that suicide bombings were a valid method of 'struggle'. He has disturbingly charged Israel with 'genocidal tendencies', and accused it of trying to achieve security through 'state terrorism'. Someone who has publicly and repeatedly stated such views cannot possibly be considered independent, impartial or objective." The Israeli government announced that it will deny Falk a visa to Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, at least until the September meeting of the Human Rights Council.

Falk responded to the criticism by saying, "If this kind of situation had existed for instance in the manner in which China was dealing with Tibet or the Sudanese government was dealing with Darfur, I think there would be no reluctance to make that comparison." He attributed the reluctance to criticise Israel's policies on the sensitive history of the Jewish people, as well as the state's ability to "avoid having (its) policies held up to international law and morality."