Falk: ICJ should rule on Israeli ‘occupation’ as ‘ethnic cleansing’

UN special investigator on Palestinians gives personal legal opinion in his final report before exiting position.

UN Richard Falk 311  (photo credit: Reuters)
UN Richard Falk 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
The International Court of Justice at the Hague should issue an advisory as to whether Israel’s “occupation” of Palestinian territories meets the legal standard of  “colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing,” United Nation’s special investigator Richard Falk said in a report published this week.
It was posted on the website of UN’s Human Rights Council in advance of its 25th session in Geneva this March.
The report is Falk’s final one to the council before the end of his six-year term as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories.
The council is expected to replace him at the end of the session.
Falk, professor emeritus at Princeton University, is known for his many past controversial statements.
Among other things, he has compared Israel to the Nazis and endorsed conspiracy theories with regard to the September 11 attack against Manhattan’s Twin Towers in 2001. The US and Canada have called for his dismissal.
In his role as special investigator, the UNHRC accepts his reports and the UN publishes them. In the newest report, he provided his own legal argument as to why Israeli treatment of the Palestinians could be categorized as apartheid.
Apartheid is a form of racial discrimination, which the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination defined as being based on “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent or national or ethnic origin,” Falk wrote.
He further cited the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, quoting that the word “apartheid” could be applied to “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.”
The time has come to remove the word “occupation” from the lexicon of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when discussing legal implications of the issue and replace it with words such as “annexation” and “colonial ambitions,” he said.
“Such clarifications at the level of language reinforce the contention that it is a matter of urgency to pursue more concerted efforts within United Nations venues to implement the rights of the Palestinian people,” he said.
The UN should refer to Palestine as a state, in light of the General Assembly November 29, 2012, resolution accepting it as a non-member state, a move that de facto recognized it as a state but did not grant it full membership rights, Falk said.
“It seems appropriate to refer to territory under Israeli occupation as Palestine rather than as ‘Occupied Palestinian Territories,’” Falk wrote.
Palestinians are engaged in a “legitimacy war” against Israel, with the help of the international community, that has begun to sway public opinion, he said.
UN member states should ban settlement products, Falk said. He reiterated statements he made about the illegality of private corporate ties to settlements and added that this should include those with ties to Israeli activities with regard to the West Bank security barrier, the Gaza blockade, home demolitions and excessive use of force.
He repeated his claim that Gaza remains “occupied” in spite of Israel’s withdrawal from that territory in 2005, because the IDF had entered Gaza on numerous occasions and had maintained control of its airspace, coastal waters and most of its borders.
“The stark reality is that the beleaguered occupied people of Gaza, most of whom are children, are not receiving the protection to which they are entitled under international law,” he said.
The UN should seek ways to force Israel to comply with the advisory opinion to remove its barrier issued by International Court of Justice at the Hague almost 10 years ago, he said.
On Tuesday night he spoke about his conclusions at Princeton University in New Jersey.
He said there was “gathering momentum” behind the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Falk specifically discussed the American Studies Association’s December decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions, a move that Princeton’s president publicly condemned.
Jewish and pro-Israel organizations on campus criticized the university’s decision to host Falk, who taught at the university for 40 years.
But there were no protests outside or inside the lecture hall, in part because students apparently heeded entreaties not to draw further attention to the event.
In the report and speech, he did not talk about Hamas’s human rights violations against Israel or the people of Gaza.
When asked by The Jerusalem Post why he did not discuss the group by name, Falk said that he “didn’t deliberately omit Hamas.”
“I think if they were treated as a political actor [as opposed to a terrorist organization] there would be a much greater chance for some kind of Palestinian unity,” he added.
Falk faced brief interruptions from community members who argued backand- forth with him during the question-and-answer period. But there were no organized protests of the speech.
Tigers For Israel, the pro-Israel student organization, said in a statement it was “deeply concerned” by Falk’s invitation, but asked members not to conduct demonstrations or interrupt the lecture.
“Tigers For Israel believes publicly protesting Professor Falk’s lecture is not the most productive or effective way of opposing his concerning views,” the statement said.
The Center for Jewish Life, the campus Hillel, raised similar concerns. Rabbi Julie Roth, the executive director, said in a statement that “we are deeply dismayed... given his public record of anti-American, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic comments.”
Falk’s lecture was part of an annual series organized in memory of Edward Said, a Princeton graduate who served on the Palestinian National Council. It was additionally sponsored by the Princeton Committee on Palestine, a student group, and the English department.
Three English professors on Monday wrote a letter to the editor to the campus newspaper distancing themselves from the sponsorship.
“We find the choice of Falk, a tendentious critic of Israel and an inflammatory voice on Middle Eastern politics, to be an unfortunate one,” they wrote.