Ex-UN Official Slams West’s Silence on Israeli Atrocities

A former official at the United Nations and professor of international law decried Western states’ silence on the Israeli regime’s recent crimes against Palestinians and said their behavior “is an undisguised display of moral hypocrisy”.

“…The non-response to Israeli deliberate and sustained atrocities by Western democracies, supposedly committed to human rights, is an undisguised display of moral hypocrisy,” Richard A. Falk said in an interview with Tasnim News Agency.  

“It demonstrates rather conclusively that when it comes to foreign policy, strategic interests prevail, and humane values disappear,” he added.

Richard Anderson Falk is the author or co-author of 20 books and the editor or co-editor of another 20 volumes. In 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed Falk to a six-year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on "the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967”.

The following is the full text of Interview:

Tasnim: On Friday, Israeli forces shot dead four Palestinians, including a 15-year-old boy, as more than 10,000 gathered in a mass demonstration in the besieged Gaza Strip demanding the right of return for Palestinian refugees. The latest deaths bring the number of Palestinians killed by Israel since the protests began in late March to 39. According to the health ministry, more than 4,000 have been wounded. For the past four Fridays, tens of thousands of Palestinians have gathered near the borders in the Gaza Strip for what has been dubbed the “Great March of Return”. Israel has responded with snipers firing live ammunition, as well as tank shelling and airstrikes. What do you think about the developments and the Israeli regime’s crimes?

Falk: It is too early to be very definite about these momentous events associated with Gazans mass protests near the border with Israel, but not too soon to take note of their significance. First and foremost, it dramatically reveals the level of mass discontent in Gaza for so many to risk death in circumstances of extreme vulnerability coupled with the realization that Israeli responses would likely be indiscriminately lethal causing many death and thousands wounded. A major uncertainty is whether this revitalization of Palestinian resistance will be maintained. It has the potential to mature in various directions so as to constitute a Third Intifada, amounting to a new phase in the Palestinian national struggle. It is well to recall that the First Intifada occurred in response to an exercise of Israeli violence in Gaza, which has been at the core of both Palestinian suffering and Palestinian resistance.

The over-reaction by the IDF is nothing new, of course, but seemingly more extreme and intentionally very violent, which may seem surprising in light of the fact that the whole world was watching Israeli snipers use live ammunition to kill and wound overwhelmingly unarmed Gazan protesters, many of whom were children. Whatever else, Israel’s reputation has taken a further heavy blow that both strengthens civil society solidarity around the world, lending support to the BDS Campaign and giving credibility to comparisons with the techniques of control in apartheid South Africa. I expect that the massacre of Gazan protesters will strike those with an active historical memory as comparable to the notorious Sharpeville Massacre in 1960 (killing at least 69 unarmed African protesters) that many commentators thought was a turning point in that epic struggle, revealing the true nature of the South African racist regime, inducing a shift of resistance tactics in the direction of armed struggle, and stimulating on a global scale the UN-led anti-apartheid campaign.

The agenda of the protests is also highly significant. By dramatizing the dispossession of Palestinians, reverting to the catastrophic events of 1948, Gaza is reminding the world that the essence of their struggle concerns the plight and the rights of the Palestinian people and not just about land or territory. In effect, the refugees matter, as does the right of return, and this is a warning to the Palestinian Authority not to accept any kind of settlement that partially ends the occupation while ignoring the rights of Palestinian refugees, a central aspect of the Palestinian inalienable right of self-determination.

Turning to Israel, if we wonder why Israel engaged in a manner that so seriously damaged its already tarnished international image, several explanations are worth noting. To begin with, Israeli hardliners believe that regional developments plus Trump create an opportunity to end the conflict with Palestine by achieving an Israeli victory, pushing the Palestinians to submit and surrender by conveying to them their utter helplessness and the futility of further struggle against the Israeli repressive juggernaut. There is also the more centrist view in Israel that seeks to deter a Third Intifada by exhibiting the willingness of Israelis to meet nonviolent opposition by Palestinians with great violence. Israel also tries to blame Hamas for hijacking the protest to pursue its supposed aims of destroying Israel, but it is clear to any objective observer that Hamas is in the background, naturally lending psychological support and allowing its militant followers to participate, yet clearly following, not leading the events. Similarly, real-time journalists have refuted the Israeli contention that it was meeting violence with violence, by showing video footage of IDF snipers shooting protesters in the back and by the absence of any credible evidence of Palestinians using weapons, a conclusion reinforced by the total absence of casualties on the Israeli side.

Tasnim: Israel has rejected international calls for probes into recent deaths and insisted that its open-fire rules for Gaza will not change. Some Western states, particularly the US and Britain, who call themselves champions of human rights, have supported the Tel Aviv regime’s crimes against Palestinians. The UN has also failed to restore the rights of the people. What is your assessment? What role can Muslim countries play in protecting the rights of the oppressed people of Palestine?

Falk: Sadly, the governments of the world and their institutions, including the UN, have been largely silent and certainly ineffectual, despite the Israeli refusal even to accept an international inquiry into the conflicting claims about the nature of the Gazan protests and Israeli tactics. Sadly, this silence includes the governments of the Arab world that seem perversely ready to collaborate with Israel even under these circumstances, especially valuing Israeli support of their intensifying confrontation with Iran. This warmongering triangle of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States threatens to make the tragic turmoil in the Middle East even worse.

As well, the non-response to Israeli deliberate and sustained atrocities by Western democracies, supposedly committed to human rights, is an undisguised display of moral hypocrisy. It demonstrates rather conclusively that when it comes to foreign policy, strategic interests prevail, and humane values disappear. It is depressing to realize that when it comes to Israel, geopolitics dominates human decency for many leading governments in the region and the world.

Tasnim: Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, has recently said that Israelis “have the right to have their own land” and that formal relations between Tel Aviv and Riyadh could be mutually beneficial. Given the fact that the Saudi regime once opposed Israel’s right to exist, what do the comments signal to the world’s public opinion? Do the remarks have an impact on the oppression against Palestinians?

Falk: It is always difficult to trace causal connections in international relations, but it does seem clear that the warming of Saudi relations with Israel, coupled with comparable developments in Egypt, have emboldened Israel to act as it wishes with regard to the Palestinians. The evident larger Israeli goal is to push now toward ending the conflict the one-sided terms decided upon in Tel Aviv, as likely filtered through proposals to be soon put forward by the Trump White House.

The comments recently made by Prince Mohammed bin Salman remove any ambiguity in the new Saudi approach to regional issues. Just as prevailing over the Palestinians dominates the Israeli agenda, organizing an anti-Iran coalition dominates the MBS approach in Riyadh. It is not a pretty picture, especially given the absence of countervailing forces dedicated to peace and justice for the peoples of the region.

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