- Richard Falkco-author of the report titled “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid” and author of several books, including Palestine: The Legitimacy of Hope. He is professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University. He previously served as the U.N. special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.
For the first time, a United Nations agency has directly accused Israel of imposing an “apartheid regime” on the Palestinian people. The report also urges governments to “support boycott, divestment and sanctions [BDS] activities and respond positively to calls for such initiatives.” The findings come in a new report published by the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, which is comprised of 18 Arab states. For more, we speak with the co-author of the report, Richard Falk. He’s professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and previously served as the U.N. special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: For the first time, a United Nations agency has directly accused Israel of imposing an apartheid regime on the Palestinian people. The report also urges governments to, quote, “support boycott, divestment and sanctions activities and respond positively to calls for such initiatives.” The findings come in a new report published by the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, which is comprised of 18 Arab states. This is the head of the U.N. agency, Rima Khalaf.
RIMA KHALAF: [translated] The importance of this report is not only because it is the first of its kind, one that is published by one of the United Nations’ bodies that clearly and frankly concludes that Israel is a racist state that has established an apartheid system that persecutes the Palestinian people, but also it sheds light on the essence of the Palestinian cause and the conditions needed for accomplishing peace.
AMY GOODMAN: The report met with immediate condemnation from Israel and the United States. U.N. spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told reporters in New York the report was published without any prior consultation with the U.N. Secretariat.
STÉPHANE DUJARRIC: If we just saw the report today, which, as you say, was published by ESCWA, it was done so without any prior consultations with the Secretariat. And the report, as it stands, does not reflect the views of the secretary-general.
AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about the report, we go, not to The Hague, but to Edinburgh, Scotland, to talk to Richard Falk, co-author of the report that’s titled “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid.” He has written a number of books, including Palestine: The Legitimacy of Hope, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University. He previously served as the U.N. special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.
Professor Falk, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about the main findings of your report and how unusual this report is within the United Nations?
RICHARD FALK: Yes. As the head of the commission indicated, this is the first time that a comprehensive and systematic inquiry has been carried out into the allegation that Israel is responsible for maintaining an apartheid regime in relation to the Palestinian people. One of the distinctive features of the report is to treat the Palestinians as a whole, and that’s quite innovative as far as the discussions of the applicability of apartheid to the Palestinian circumstances is concerned. And that means distinguishing between Palestinians that live under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza or as permanent residents in Jerusalem or as a Palestinian minority in the state of Israel, and, finally, as refugees or involuntary exiles.
What the report argues is that Israel has pursued a policy of fragmenting the Palestinian people in order to maintain the domination of a Jewish state over these different categories of Palestinians, and has done so in a way that is systematically discriminatory and is responsible for deep suffering over a very long period of time, with no end in sight. Unlike other forms of international criminality, this is an ongoing crime, according to the analysis in the report, and there is no end in sight, nor no political process that can adequately challenge this set of policies and structures that have been applied to the Palestinian people.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Professor Falk, I’d like you to say something about the agency that commissioned and published the report, the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. The membership of this agency, there are 18 Arab members, a number of whom don’t recognize Israel. So, do you think that that might raise questions about the legitimacy of the report?
RICHARD FALK: Well, all the—these Arab members of ESCWA did was to ask that such a report be prepared. And Virginia Tilley, professor at the University of Southern Illinois, and myself were asked to prepare this report on a contract basis. It doesn’t represent a U.N. finding as such. It is a report commissioned by the U.N. that has been received, with approval, but there’s been no formal endorsement of it. It’s possible that it will be endorsed, or efforts will be made to obtain an endorsement at the General Assembly or in other parts of the U.N. system. But as of now, it’s a scholarly report undertaken by independent scholars. And there is a kind of disclaimer that the U.N.—this U.N. commission made, that the report doesn’t necessarily represent even ESCWA’s views. It is the views of the two of us who prepared the report.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon issued a statement saying, quote, “The attempt to smear and falsely label the only true democracy in the Middle East by creating a false analogy is despicable and constitutes a blatant lie.” The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the former South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, said the U.S. is “outraged by the report.” In a written statement, she said, quote, “That such anti-Israel propaganda would come from a body whose membership nearly universally does not recognize Israel is unsurprising. That it was drafted by Richard Falk, a man who has repeatedly made biased and deeply offensive comments about Israel and espoused ridiculous conspiracy theories, including about the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is equally unsurprising.” Can you respond to this? She said that the U.N. should withdraw the report altogether.
RICHARD FALK: Well, this is, of course, nothing new in terms of the way in which Israel and the United States respond to any kind of criticism, no matter how well grounded in fact and careful, reasoned analysis. I would ask that people look at the report, look at the evidence, and then come to a conclusion. Whatever else it is, it isn’t an effort to smear Israel or to in any way give aid and comfort to anti-Semitism. In fact, the report makes a clear statement that it—that the authors are unconditionally opposed to anti-Semitism as a form of racism. And it tries to draw a distinction between criticizing Israel as a state, or Zionism as a movement, from any kind of hostility to the Jewish people. But, unfortunately, American diplomacy, including under the Obama—during the Obama period of leadership, and Israel don’t want to deal with the substantive issues that are raised.
AMY GOODMAN: So talk about those substantive issues that you raised in this report, Professor Falk.
RICHARD FALK: Well, the essence of the substantive issues are policies and practices that impose a discriminatory—a discriminatory pattern of behavior that has greatly—greatly contributed to Palestinians suffering over the years on a daily basis. It is a situation that appalls most of the governments in the world, and is not something that is in any way dealt with in this report in an emotional way. It looks at the policies and practices. It looks at the structures by which Israel has justified the way in which it addresses the Palestinian presence in these four domains, and generally tries to make an objective appraisal of how these policies and practices stand up against the international definition of apartheid that is in the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and—
AMY GOODMAN: And what did you conclude?
RICHARD FALK: We concluded that there is a integrated regime of apartheid that is victimizing the Palestinian people in a collective manner, and that it should be acted upon by the United Nations and by other institutional mechanisms to bring this crime to an end. That’s the essential—
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Professor Falk, very quickly, before we conclude, can you say, what do you expect to happen? What’s the effect of this report, given that the U.N. has already distanced itself from it?
AMY GOODMAN: We have 10 seconds.
RICHARD FALK: Well, the Secretariat has distanced itself. Other organs of the U.N. haven’t responded so far as I know. Our hope is that this report will lead to a careful inquiry by appropriate organs of the U.N., and that if our analysis is persuasive, that it will have some political consequences.
AMY GOODMAN: Richard Falk, we want to thank you for being with us, joining us from Edinburgh, Scotland, co-author of the report, “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid.” Thanks for joining us.