UN rep probing IDF abuses wants bigger mandate

Richard Falk admits his job description is biased; Israeli officials doubt his motives.

checkpoint Falk 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
checkpoint Falk 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
A UN expert charged with investigating Israeli human rights abuses against Palestinians says his role is biased and should be widened to include violations carried out by Palestinians, as well. Richard Falk, a professor emeritus at Princeton University who angered Israel by comparing its treatment of the Palestinians with Nazi atrocities against Jews, asked the UN Human Rights Council on Monday to address persistent criticism of his post by changing the job description. "I think the idea of investigating violations of international humanitarian law only make sense if all the relevant parties are included," Falk told The Associated Press after the meeting. Attention has been diverted from Israel's human rights abuses in the Palestinian territories by those who argue his role is one-sided and biased, he said. "One exposes the real character of the occupation much more effectively if one responds to that criticism, which I think is, in any event, a fair criticism," Falk said. Israel has accused the UNHRC of singling it out while overlooking abuses by other countries, particularly in the Arab and Muslim world. During its two-year existence, the council has condemned Israel some 20 times - more than any other country - for abuses in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon. Widening the mandate given to him by the 47-nation council would make his job both more effective and fairer, Falk said. But Israel remains skeptical of his intentions, said the permanent representative of Israel to the United Nations in Geneva, Yitzhak Levanon. "Israel has been calling for an expanded mandate for the last seven years without any results," Levanon said. "[Falk] says he wants to expand his mandate to deal with Palestinian violations, but he wants to show the world that those are minor [in the face of] Israel's violations," he added. Levanon believes the request is a way for Falk to satisfy his hidden agenda by showing asymmetry between Israeli and Palestinian behavior. "He would like to stress the difference between 'oppressor' and 'oppressed,'" Levanon said. Falk has previously criticized the UN and the Secretary General for insufficiently supporting the Palestinians. At Monday's session, UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer questioned Falk's credibility, citing the professor's support for 9/11 conspiracy theories. "Could you tell us what credibility you expect your reports to have, when leading newspapers such as The Times of London are commenting on your support for the 9/11 conspiracy theories of David Ray Griffin, who argues, and I quote from the Times article of April 15, 'that no plane hit the Pentagon,' and that 'the World Trade Center was brought down by a controlled demolition'?" Neuer asked. Egyptian representative Amr Roshdy Hassan made a failed attempt to have this comment removed from the books. "The reference to September 11 is not part of the [agenda] item, it's not part of the Palestinian issue. And I think it should be deleted from the records." AP contributed to this report.