WH Blasts ‘Highly Biased’ UNHRC Appointee Who Wants Boycott of U.S. Companies

By Patrick Goodenough | October 26, 2012 | 5:31 AM EDT

Richard Falk, the U.N.’s “special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.” (UN Photo by Jess Hoffman)

(CNSNews.com) – Twenty-one months after the Obama administration called for the removal of one of the most controversial figures ever appointed by the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, it questioned his tenure again on Thursday, after Richard Falk urged a boycott of firms doing business in territories disputed between Israel and the Palestinians.

Falk, an international law scholar at Princeton who serves as the HRC-appointed “special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories,” also called for “legal and political” measure to be taken against such businesses, including major U.S. companies.

He made the recommendations in a report presented to the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Thursday.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said the United States rejects the report, and described the boycott call as “irresponsible and unacceptable.”

“Throughout his tenure as special rapporteur, Mr. Falk has been highly biased and made offensive statements, including outrageous comments on the 9/11 attacks,” she said in a statement.

“Mr. Falk’s recommendations do nothing to further a peaceful settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and indeed poison the environment for peace. His continued service in the role of a UN special rapporteur is deeply regrettable and only damages the credibility of the U.N.”

In January 2011, Rice called for Falk’s removal after he published comments on a personal blog referring to an “apparent cover up” over the al-Qaeda attacks on America in 2001.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also condemned the remarks but dismissed calls to fire Falk, pointing out that “special rapporteurs” are appointed by the HRC, not the secretary-general.

President Obama took the U.S. into the HRC in 2009, reversing the Bush administration’s policy of shunning a body which it said was badly flawed and disproportionately critical of Israel.

The administration has since then asserted that its leadership has helped to improve the Geneva-based body, and is standing for another term in elections scheduled for next month.

The report Falk presented on Thursday focused on companies which, either directly or through subsidiaries, benefit Israeli communities located in the West Bank. Israel captured the area from Jordanian forces in 1967, and it is regarded by the U.N. as “occupied Palestinian territory.”  The Palestinian Authority controls around 40 percent of the West Bank.

“[A]ll companies that operate in or otherwise have dealings with Israeli settlements should be boycotted, until such time as they bring their operations fully into line with international human rights standards and practice,” he wrote in the report.

“The special rapporteur calls on civil society to vigorously pursue initiatives to boycott, divest and sanction the businesses highlighted in this report, within their own national contexts, until such time as they bring their policies and practices into line with international laws and standards, as well as the Global Compact.”

(The Global Compact, an initiative of former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan launched in 2000, is a voluntary agreement by companies to implement socially-responsible policies. Its principles include respect for the protection of human rights.)

“The special rapporteur calls on civil society to actively pursue legal and political redress against non-complying businesses, where necessary in their own national legal and political frameworks,” Falk continued.

Among companies listed in his report are the U.S. information technology giants Hewlett Packard and Motorola Solutions, Caterpillar, Volvo and the European banking group Dexia.

In a prepared statement delivered to the General Assembly, Falk accused the companies of “profiting from the Israeli settlement enterprise.”

He said civil society should increase efforts to hold such companies accountable, including pursuing “legal and political initiatives in national and international contexts,” and said the International Court of Justice should also be approached for an advisory opinion on the matter.

In his full report, Falk said Hewlett Packard and Motorola Solutions’ Israeli branch provide surveillance, identification and biometric access-control systems used by the Israeli military and at checkpoints and in settlements.

He said Caterpillar has been accused of supplying the Israeli government with equipment “which is used in the demolition of Palestinian homes, schools, orchards, olive groves and crops,” and leveled similar charges at Volvo.

Dexia’s Israeli subsidiary “has consistently provided loans to Israelis living in illegal settlements,” he said.

Nazis, 9/11 ‘cover up’

Falk, an international law scholar at Princeton, is a longstanding critic of Israel who has compared Israeli treatment of Palestinians to Nazi Germany’s atrocities against Jews.

The HRC appointed him to the “special rapporteur” post in 2008, but Israeli authorities consider him to be so biased they have refused him entry into the country.

In his statement to the General Assembly Thursday Falk complained that the Israeli government “continues to refuse to cooperate with my efforts to fulfill my mandate. Such cooperation is a fundamental legal obligation incident to membership of the United Nations.”

At the time of his appointment, Falk told CNSNews.com that he done his best over the years to be objective about the Middle East conflict but that he “often felt that the Palestinian side of the story is told in a manner that is biased and misleading.”

“I do not believe that a one-sided and unbalanced endorsement of Israel’s approach to peace and security is in the interest of either the United States or Israel itself,” he said.

Falk’s official U.N. mandate, first created in 1993, is “to investigate Israel’s violations of the principles and bases of international law, international humanitarian law and the Geneva Convention … in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967.”

Critics say the mandate is inherently biased – whoever holds the post – because it does not call for an investigation into all aspects of the prevailing situation in the disputed territories. Palestinian terrorism or actions taken by Arab governments that may have a bearing on Israeli policies and actions are not covered by the mandate.

Apart from his views on Israel, Falk also has been criticized for flirting with 9/11 conspiracy theories. Early last year, writing on his personal blog, he referred to an “apparent cover up” over the al-Qaeda terror attacks and said mainstream media were “unwilling to acknowledge the well-evidenced doubts about the official version of the events.”

During the last U.S. presidential campaign, Falk wrote in a Scottish student publication that it was “not paranoid … to assume that the established elites of the American governmental structure have something to hide, and much to explain” about what occurred on 9/11.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow