Israel: UN Rights Envoy is ‘Unwelcome’

US Professor Was Detained for Over 20 Hours at Tel Aviv Airport Before Expulsion

by Jason Ditz, December 15, 2008

The Israeli government held UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Richard Falk for over 20 hours at a Tel Aviv airport, before eventually putting him on an airplane bound for Los Angeles. UN officials complained of the envoy’s treatment, saying “one doesn’t expect a UN special rapporteur to find himself in that position.”

But Israel defended the action, with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni declaring that Falk, a Princeton professor who condemned the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip, was “unwelcome in Israel.” A later statement from the Israeli Foreign Ministry accused Professor Falk of “legitimizing Hamas terrorism.” Israeli human rights group B’Tselem condemned the move, saying that barring the entry of the professor was “an act unbefitting of democracy.”

Israel was outraged at the appointment of Prof. Falk to the position in March, claiming his history of harsh criticism of Israeli policies made him unsuitable for the position. Falk compared Israel’s history of collective punishment in the Gaza Strip with that of Nazi Germany, of which he later said “if this kind of situation had existed for instance in the manner in which China was dealing with Tibet or the Sudanese government was dealing with Darfur, I think there would be no reluctance to make that comparison.”

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