Jewish-American activist Phyllis Bennis, who supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, has reported that she is on a shortlist to replace United Nations Human Rights Council investigator Richard Falk.
“I’m now on the shortlist of candidates to succeed my great colleague and friend Richard Falk as the next United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories,” Bennis said on Saturday, in an article she wrote for the Real News Network.
The official shortlist of three to five experts, culled from a longer pool of ten candidates who applied for the position, is expected to be published by the UNHRC later this week.
A final decision will be announced on March 28th in Geneva, at the end of the UNHRC’s 25th session.
Falk, a Jewish professor emeritus at Princeton University, ends his six-year term as UNHRC special rapporteur this year.
He is known for his contentious comments on Israel and the Boston marathon bombing, and for his support of conspiracy theories about the September 11, 2001, attack on the US. The US and Canada have in the past called for his dismissal.
In December, Falk told Russia’s English television news program RT that Israel had genocidal intentions toward the Palestinians.
“When you target a group, an ethnic group, and inflict this kind of punishment upon them, you are in effect nurturing a kind of criminal intention that is genocidal,” Falk said.
In 2012 Falk issued a report to the council in which he warned that international businesses operating in West Bank settlements may face criminal and civil liability under international law.
In her article on Saturday for the Real News Network, Bennis, a native of California, listed under her description of good news “Oxfam’s decision to sack superstar Scarlett Johansson because of her high-visibility endorsement of SodaStream.”
Johansson came under fire because SodaStream has a factory in an Israeli industrial park in the West Bank, Mishor Adumim, which is located next to the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement.
Bennis, a former journalist and activist, is the author of eight books on foreign policy, covering such topics as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the US role in the Middle East and American domination of the UN. She now heads The New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, located in Washington.
UNHRC spokesman Rolando Gomez said he could not comment on the shortlist until it was published. It will be compiled by a UN Consultive Group composed of ambassadors from five countries: the Republic of South Korea, Morocco, Lithuania, Peru and Canada, he said.
But the final candidate is picked by UNHRC President Baudelaire Ndong Ella, the ambassador of Gabon, according to Gomez.
He explained that the council would appoint 19 rapporteurs on March 28, including one for the Palestinian territories.
In total the UNHRC has 37 rapporteurs, of which 15 are for specific countries. But Israel is the only country to which a rapporteur is permanently assigned. On its website, the council states that the position is active until “the end of the Israeli occupation.”
The mandate itself limits the investigator to only examine Israeli actions against Palestinians over the pre-1967 lines, and does not seek information on Palestinian violation of human rights against either Israel or its own people.
Hillel Neuer, executive director of Geneva-based nongovernmental organization UN Watch, said that even Falk had complained the mandate was one-sided.
He published a blog post this week in which he examined the background of six of the ten candidates, who he said made up a “rogue’s gallery” of applicants.
“Anyone applying for such a tainted post already demonstrates his or her disregard for the very principles officially required of Human Rights Council nominees: impartiality, personal integrity and objectivity,” he said.
Included in the list of ten applicants is Christine Chinkin, who was on the panel that wrote the Goldstone Report against Israel’s military actions in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009. According to Neuer, she applied for the same post back in 2008, and was shortlisted in second place after Falk.
Also on the list is Christine Chanet, who served on the UNHRC 2012 investigatory panel on West Bank settlement activity.