Netanyahu’s Anti-Iran Claims Aim to Cover Up Israeli Crimes: Ex-UN Official

A former official at the United Nations and professor of international law deplored Israeli Prime Minister’s recent anti-Iran remarks at the UN General Assembly and said the Tel Aviv regime tries to divert world attention from its “daily crimes”. 

“Netanyahu (and Trump) level allegations against the sovereign state of Iran in provocative and insulting language that makes a series of accusations about the behavior of the Iranian government, and its regional policies, without bothering to provide meaningful evidence,” Richard A. Falk said in an interview with the Tasnim News Agency.

“The allegations also take no note of the daily crimes against humanity committed against the Palestinian people and Israel’s acts of war against several neighboring countries,” he said.

“Certainly, Israel wants to shift world attention away from its excessive and inhumane uses of lethal force against the people of Gaza every Friday for the last six months,” the former UN official said.

Professor 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 him 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 the Interview:

Tasnim: In a speech to the UN General Assembly on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once again accused Iran of developing a nuclear weapons program. He claimed he was revealing the existence of a “secret atomic warehouse” in Tehran but offered no proof of the claim or details. In response, Iranian officials dismissed the claim as a despicable lie and said such lies are aimed at covering up the Tel Aviv regime’s heinous crimes against the defenseless people of Palestine. This is while Israel is the only possessor of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, but its policy is to neither confirm nor deny that it has atomic bombs. The Tel Aviv regime is estimated to have 200 to 400 nuclear warheads in its arsenal. What do you think about Netanyahu’s comments?

Falk: I agree with the implications of the question. As long as Israel has its own secret arsenal of nuclear weapons it has no basis in law or morality to raise questions about Iran’s nuclear activities. Israel persuaded Trump to repudiate the 2015 international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, which continues to be endorsed and upheld by the other five signatories. Netanyahu (and Trump) level allegations against the sovereign state of Iran in provocative and insulting language that makes a series of accusations about the behavior of the Iranian government, and its regional policies, without bothering to provide meaningful evidence. The allegations also take no note of the daily crimes against humanity committed against the Palestinian people and Israel’s acts of war against several neighboring countries. Whether Israel’s diplomatic assault against Iran, backed by the United States and several Arab governments, is itself a violation of international law is a serious question. Such an assault seems to be encouraging the destabilization of the Iranian governing process and to be threatening Iran with military attacks. It is widely agreed that this kind of coercive diplomacy violates international law and endangers regional and global peace.

Certainly, Israel wants to shift world attention away from its excessive and inhumane uses of lethal force against the people of Gaza every Friday for the last six months. The permissive Israeli rules of engagement should be held responsible for killing at least 191 Palestinians and injuring many thousands. It is an ongoing atrocity in circumstances where Israel has a primary obligation under international humanitarian law to protect the civilian population of Occupied Palestine. Israel claims that its disengagement from Gaza in 2005 relieves it of humanitarian responsibilities under international law. The UN and most international law experts think differently. They continue to regard Israel as an occupier in control of Gaza’s borders, restricting entry and exit, and periodically mounting massive attacks on Gaza without any efforts to impose procedures of accountability. This control exercised by Israel entails legal responsibility and should lead to criminal accountability as appropriate.

Tasnim: As you know, Israeli troops on Friday killed seven other Palestinians, two of them children, and wounded dozens more in the deadliest day in recent weeks as Gazans stepped up protests along the border fence. Since March 30, Israeli forces have killed at least 191 Palestinians during the demonstrations dubbed the “Great March of Return” along the Gaza border. Most of the dead and the thousands wounded were unarmed civilians against whom Israel was using excessive force. What is your opinion about the developments and the Israeli regime’s crimes?

Falk: As I suggested in responding to the prior question, Israeli uses of excessive force are violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention governing belligerent occupation and constitute a continuing Crime against Humanity by virtue of its persistence in situations in which nonviolent means of crowd control should have been relied upon by governing Israeli authorities to the extent that genuine security threats were posed.

It should be appreciated that Great March of Return is a continuing demonstration against the denial of the fundamental rights of Palestinians to return to their homes inside of Israel from which they were dispossessed in 1947, and subsequently. These Palestinian attempts to mount a protest close to the fence separating Israel from Gaza seemed a reasonable form of resistance under the circumstances and have so far not inflicted any civilian casualties in Israel. The one-sided casualty statistics is enough by itself to identify the locus of violence in this confrontation.

To meet such a political demand for basic rights long delayed with lethal force seemed excessive from both legal and moral viewpoints, and has been so assessed by world public opinion. To brush aside Israeli responsibilities by invoking vague claims of Israel’s right to defend itself is also unacceptable, especially when non-lethal methods of crowd control seem available and have not been put to the test. To dismiss these demonstrations as the work of ‘terrorists’ or an undertaking of Hamas is to misrepresent the character of the initiative as a largely civil society initiative that became symbolically violent only after Israeli security tactics inflicted heavy casualties on demonstrators, including medics and journalists standing clearly apart from those engaged in the demonstrations. It also evades even the consideration of whether the basic Palestinian contention of a right to return is well founded in international law, which I believe it is.

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?

Falk: The situation described by this question underscores the inability of the UN to protect innocent and vulnerable people when, as here, geopolitical forces are lined up in support of the wrong doing State. It is up to member states to do their best to call attention to such a situation and call for action. Not even this has been done effectively.

It should be recalled that the UN Security Council affirmed the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ or R2P norm a few years ago. The situation of the entrapped population of Gaza denied basic rights for decades, is a seemingly perfect case for R2P applicability, and prompt urgent consideration of significant responses in the General Assembly and Security Council, as well as calls for action by the Secretary-General. This has not happened. Instead, there is silence and the futile gaze of frustrated onlookers. Once again we are confronted with this ugly truth: the UN is no better (or worse) than the policies and priorities of its most powerful members.

This remains the sad truth: Israel is effectively shielded by the United States no matter how greatly its policies and practices do violence to international morality and international law.

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