‘Are you a rapporteur or an activist?’
Puzzled reporter asked UN investigator Richard Falk a straight question: “Are you a rapporteur or an activist?”
UN investigator Richard Falk. Photo: Reuters
After UN investigator Richard Falk submitted Thursday a report that targeted
companies that did business in West Bank settlements, puzzled Fox News reporter
Jonathan Wachtel asked him a straight question:
“Are you a rapporteur or an
“There are many conflicts around the world where companies play a
crucial role. This is the first time I have heard about a rapporteur pushing
like an NGO activist. It seems like a new thing,” he said.
among a number of reporters who, at a Thursday press conference in the UN
building in New York, were critical of Falk’s report, which called on the
international community to boycott such businesses.
In the report, Falk
warned that such companies and their employees could face criminal or civil
liability for their actions in the West Bank. He further suggested that
the UN General Assembly ask the International Court of Justice at the Hague to
issue an advisory opinion on the matter.
Among the companies listed in
his report was Caterpillar Inc. (US), whose vehicles are used in the
construction of the security barrier.
In response to Wachtel’s questions,
Falk said that his report was “an innovation.”
But, he added, he was not
sure if his call was the first of its kind for this sort of measure.
international community has failed for decades to stop Israeli building in the
West Bank, Falk said.
His initiative to target businesses, he said, was
“an effort to reach out beyond the traditional way that the UN condemns things.”
He added, “We should try to use what influence we have, to change behavior and
this is one way of changing behavior.
“The civil society initiatives
associated with the boycott divestment and sanctions movements has had
significant concrete successes,” Falk said.
Reporter Benny Avni of the
New York Post took Falk to task for solely focusing on Israeli actions in the
West Bank, while he ignored Palestinian violations of human rights.
are charged with the responsibility to judge Israel’s behavior in the occupied
territories, but your title is special rapporteur of the situation of human
rights in the Palestinian territories,” Avni said.
“As such have you
noticed during your travels to the region any violation of human rights by the
Palestinian Authority that is controlling most of the cities in the West Bank,
and even more so by Hamas that controls all of Gaza? “Do you think that the last
three days of [rocket] attacks from Gaza into Israel constitute any human rights
violations?” Avni asked.
Falk responded that this mandate limited him to
Israeli violations in the occupied territories.
“But not the title, it
does not mention Israel,” said Avni.
Falk said in response, “the fuller
formulation of the mandate does restrict it to Israelis’ violations. There has
been an attempt, including by me, to broaden the mandate to include
Palestinians. It was rejected at the human rights council.”
Israel has made his task more difficult, because since 2008 it has barred him
from entering the Palestinian territories.
“So Caterpillar is in your
mandate, but Hamas in Gaza is not,” Avni summarized.
Falk said he has
consistently condemned the indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israel from
In response to a query by Wachtel, Falk elaborated by calling the
rocket attacks, “a violation of international humanitarian law. If they are
concerted attacks in a context where there is no reasonable provocation and they
are not targeted, then it could constitute a crime against humanity, depending
on the magnitude of the violation,” he said.
But, he explained to both
Wachtel and Avni, Israel bore some responsibility for the attacks.
these incidents of violence do not acknowledge the degree to which Israel has
been the provocative actor in producing the violent interaction,” Falk
Falk has long been a controversial figure. In 2011 he wrote on his
blog that there had been an “apparent cover-up” by US authorities over the
September 11 attacks, and also posted an anti-Semitic cartoon, which was later
He was appointed in 2008 by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights
Council as the special investigator on the situation of human rights in the
His latest report, however, was submitted to the
24th meeting of a UN General Assembly human rights group – formally called the
Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee.
Reuters contributed to this