Geneva, Aug. 25, 2008 — The UN Human Right Council’s expert on Palestine today praised a boat trip to Gaza by pro-Palestinian campaigners (see UN statement below), without revealing his own affiliation to the group. “Regrettably, this is the kind of questionable conduct that we have come to expect from Richard Falk, a UN official who repeatedly expresses support for the conspiracy theory that the U.S. was behind the terrorist attacks of 9/11,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, an independent Geneva-based monitoring group.
A June 26 report by the Palestine News Network reported that Falk was initially planning to be a participant on the boat to Gaza, revealing his close ties to the protesters and their campaign. Falk’s statement today called Israel “Tel Aviv,” a designation commonly used by countries that do not recognize the Jewish state.
* * *
UN OHCHR Press Release
25 August 2008
UN rights expert welcomes landing of relief vessels in Gaza
Geneva: The landing of two wooden boats carrying 46 human
rights activists in Gaza this past weekend is an important symbolic
victory said Richard Falk, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of
Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories. This non-violent
initiative of the Free Gaza Movement focused attention around the
world on the stark reality that the 1.5 million residents of Gaza have
endured a punitive siege for more than a year. This siege is a form of
collective punishment that constitutes a massive violation of Article
33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The siege, the coastal blockade, and the overflights by
Israeli aircraft all bear witness to the fact that despite Israel’s
claimed ‘disengagement’ in 2005, these realities on the ground
establish that Gaza remains under Israeli occupation, and as a result
Israel remains legally responsible for protecting the human rights of
its civilian population. By severely restricting the entry of food,
fuel, and medicine the economic and social rights of the people of
Gaza have been systematically violated. There is widespread deafness
among the people of Gaza that is blamed on the frequent sonic booms
produced by overflying Israeli military aircraft. For this reason the
peace boats brought 200 hearing aids to Gaza added Falk.
I strongly urge the international community to take action to
uphold human rights in the Gaza Strip. As with other humanitarian
catastrophes in the world, here is a situation where the
‘responsibility to protect’ norm endorsed by the Security Council
seems applicable, but has been ignored despite the overwhelming
evidence of deteriorating mental and physical health in Gaza that has
reached crisis proportions. With a cease-fire in effect since June 19,
perhaps the willingness of Israel to allow these boats to land without
interference signals a subtle change of approach by Tel Aviv that
includes a show of greater respect for international humanitarian law
and for the standards of international human rights.
Falk also called on the government of Israel to grant exit
permits to several Palestinian winners of a Fulbright Scholarship to
study in the United States who might be taken back to Cyprus on the
return voyage of the peace boats. If they are permitted by Israel to
reach their destination without interference this will be a further
sign of progress. Above all, what is being tested is whether the
imaginative engagement of dedicated private citizens can influence the
struggle of a beleaguered people for basic human rights, and whether
their courage and commitment can awaken the conscience of humanity to
an unfolding tragedy.