The United Nations must “review Israel’s status as a law-abiding member of the United Nations” by declaring its “occupation as illegal,” UN Human Rights Council special investigator Michael Lynk said on Thursday.
Such a move would isolate Israel internationally by forcing it to end its “occupation” of Palestinian territories, Lynk said.
He spoke at a United Nations press conference in New York where he outlined a get-tough strategy to force Israel to withdraw from the West Bank.
“Israel is not North Korea,” in that its economy is dependent on international trade, particularly the US and Europe, Lynk said. “This fact can empower the global community to force change,” he added.
What if, “all of a sudden Israelis wanting to travel abroad needed to have visas [or if] Israel wouldn’t get preferential trade agreements with the EU?” Lynk asked. “What if the many forms of military, economic or academic cooperation with Israel would now end?” If that would come to pass, there would be a sea change in Israel’s attitude toward the Palestinians, he said.
Lynk was at the UN on Thursday and Friday to push member states to formulate a resolution that would give the international body a wider tool box to use against Israel.
This would include a General Assembly resolution that asks the International Court of Justice at The Hague to issue an advisory opinion on whether Israel’s “occupation” was illegal, Lynk said.
He explained that there is a vast difference between a legal and an illegal occupation, particularly with regard to sanction tools that the UN could use against it. “Now we regard Israel as the lawful occupant of the Palestinian territories, albeit with a range of illegal features,” Lynk said.
“If we now change that from being a lawful occupant to an illegal occupant, that raises the pressure on what the international community would now be obliged to do under its [new] obligation on non-cooperation with Israel,” Lynk said.
Such a declaration is unusual, but was done in 1971 when the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion that South Africa’s administration of Nambia was illegal, Lynk said.
Should Israel’s “occupation” be declared unlawful, the UN could consider making use of the Uniting for Peace resolution (General Assembly resolution 377A), which would give the GA the power to sanction Israel in the absence of a strategic consensus among the Security Council’s five permanent members: the US, UK, China, France and Russia.
Lynk is a Canadian legal expert who holds the post of special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories for the UN Human Rights Council and is mandated to look exclusively at Israeli actions, not Palestinian ones.
Lynk clarified that his position was not anti-Israel. This mandate is not aimed at Israel, but at its occupation of a territory that is not its own, he said. Those who believe that his words or his mandate are anti-Israeli are just trying to confuse the issue, Lynk claimed.
The NGO UN Watch took issue with the one-sided nature of Lynk’s statements.
“By any definition of human rights, morality and logic, if Mr. Lynk is a United Nations human rights monitor for the Palestinian territories, he must address Palestinian Authority and Hamas torture and arbitrary arrests committed against their own people, and Palestinian stabbings, car-ramming attacks and shootings committed against Israelis,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based human-rights group UN Watch.