Here's a summary of the latest unfortunate episode of Israel rejecting norms of the international community and the United States sitting by and watching, sent by a colleague Lisa Hajjar, Law and Society Program, UC Santa Barbara.
Richard Falk was elected/appointed to be the UN Special Rapporteur forRichard is a friend and colleague with whom Balakrishnan Rajagopal and I co-edited a special issue of Third World Quarterly that was published this year as a book, International Law and the Third World. In describing the challenges to his appointment by Israel and the United States Richard has always sounded more bemused than than surprised. You can read his own statements about his current work in a BBC report from December 10, 2008 here.
Palestine in June 2008. He released his first report about the human rights situation in the Palestinian Occupied Territories (OPT) in October. Since he was appointed, the Israeli government has stated its opposition to him, citing his criticisms of Israeli human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza. The US government also opposed his appointment for the same reasons, and both governments had lobbied--unsuccessfully--to block his appointment.
He received an invitation from Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas to study the situation in the West Bank, and the Geneva office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights authorized his mission. He left the US on Friday, via Geneva, where he was joined by an assistant and a UN security detail.
When they arrived in Israel, the assistant and the security official were permitted to enter but Richard was detained at the airport, questioned and searched. He was informed that he would be denied entry, and was held for hours before being temporarily transported to some place beyond the airport (a VIP detention facility?).
The US Embassy was alerted to this situation by Richard's wife, from California, after Richard made a quick call from the airport before going into an incommunicado situation. It took more than 12 hours for people to learn what Israel's plans were--sending him to the US, via Newark, on a flight that departs at 11:15 a.m. Israel time.
This is a situation that begs political and diplomatic intervention. The incoming Obama administration should, at minimum, issue a strong and unequivocal endorsement of Falk's status as the UN Special Rapporteur for Palestine, and should exert diplomatic pressure on Israel to grant him entry when he next seeks to travel to the country to pursue his UN mission.
Those who know Richard understand that his scholarly turn of mind and genteel manner can be a provocation only to those who care little for truth or the rule of law. Richard is the author of more than 30 books on international law; it is erudition and expertise that lead him to his political positions. To reject his appointment is to refuse a place for truth and justice in the Middle East peace process.