UNHRC rapporteur denied entry to Israel

Foreign Ministry calls rights envoy Richard Falk "completely unobjective," says he's "unwelcome."

checkpoint Falk 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
checkpoint Falk 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Richard Falk, the UN's Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, was barred from entering the country on Sunday after the Foreign Ministry charged him with "legitimizing Hamas terrorism" and "drawing shameful comparisons to the Holocaust." Falk, an American Jew, arrived at Ben Gurion Airport with his entourage Sunday to compile a report on the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories, although he'd been informed by Israel that he would not be allowed into the country. He plans to submit the report to the UN in March. Simona Halperin, the director of the Foreign Ministry's International Organization and Human Rights department, called Falk "completely unobjective," citing his comparisons of Israelis to Nazis and Israel's actions against the Palestinians to the Holocaust. As such, she said, he was "unwelcome." Last year Falk penned an article called "Slouching toward a Palestinian Holocaust," in which he wrote that it was not an "irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians" with the "criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity." A few months after that article was written, the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council appointed Falk, a professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, to the rapporteur position. Halperin said Israel sent Falk an e-mail on Saturday telling him that he would not be allowed entry, but he decided to make the trip in any case. In June, Falk was allowed to enter Israel, not as a rapporteur, but as an academic, to attend a conference at a Palestinian university. Nevertheless, Halperin said, Falk used the trip to go to Ramallah and file a full report to the UN in which he was extremely critical of Israel. Although Falk is a US citizen, Halperin said there would unlikely be any diplomatic fallout from the US, though an embassy official called to inquire about the incident. Halperin said all countries have the right to decide to whom to allow entry. Halperin said that Israel had no problems with criticism, and over the past three years had welcomed the visits of seven special rapporteurs of the UN Human Rights Council, one special representative of the UN secretary general and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that not only was the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories "biased and distorted" - since it "dictates pre-established conclusions to the report, regardless of any real inquiry and findings by the Rapporteur" - but that Falk himself was especially problematic. The statement said that in the case of Falk, "beyond the imbalance inherent in his mandate, the bias is further exacerbated by the highly politicized views of the rapporteur himself, in legitimizing Hamas terrorism and drawing shameful comparisons to the Holocaust." The statement said that in light of "his vehement publications in the past," it was hard to "square his appointment" with the UN's own internal procedures, which call for the appointment of rapporteurs who are "impartial, objective and possess the quality of personal integrity." Last week, Falk accused Israel of committing a crime against humanity with its policies in the Gaza Strip. In a statement issued last Tuesday, he said, "Preventive action must be taken immediately to offset the persisting and wide-ranging violations of the fundamental human right to life, and in view of the emerging situation that is producing a humanitarian catastrophe that is unfolding day by day. "Israel still maintains its Gaza siege in its full fury, allowing only barely enough food and fuel to enter to stave off mass famine and disease," Falk wrote. "Such a policy of collective punishment initiated by Israel to punish Gazans for political developments within the Gaza Strip constitutes a continuing flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law."