Commentary | Comment: Israel’s opaque politics

And the expulsion of UN Rapporteur Richard Falk

Israel’s bombing and occupation of Gaza has dominated the headlines since December 27. What escaped the headlines and was obscured from the public eye was Israel’s deportation of Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur, appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council, just a week before the bombing started.

The rapporteur recently condemned Israel for its “flagrant and massive violations of international law,” and the Israeli government claimed that they denied his entry because they disagreed with his appointment and stated that “the mandate of the rapporteur is completely distorted…and directed as a propaganda instrument against Israel.”

To clear things up, the Special Rapporteur’s job is to investigate the condition of human rights in a certain area. As of June 2008, when Richard Falk replaced John Dugard, Falk’s job became just that: to report on the condition of the people of Palestine, and to evaluate to what extent their human rights are being violated. Richard Falk was a good choice for the position, because he would write an objective report on the humanitarian problems Palestinians are facing, and his Jewish ethnicity would remove the (Isreali) question of racial favouritism.

Israel is, therefore, wrong to accuse Falk of being one-sided and biased, because it is his job to focus only on the humanitarian problems in Palestine. As Falk himself stated in a Democracy Now! interview, Israel’s complaints are clearly “part of a much wider and…insidious pattern of trying to shift the attention from their objections to the person.” Falk calls Israel’s method “politics of opaqueness;” by focusing on Falk, Israel’s government is “trying to make the realities of the occupation as obscure and as speculative as possible.”

By looking into Richard Falk’s deportation, we can more clearly understand the current situation and Israel’s long-lasting politics of deception. Take Israel’s recent bombing and full-scale invasion of the Gaza strip. They claim that it is justified, because Gaza has been shooting rockets at Israeli land for months, and when the barrage reached a level that was more than a slight irritation they reciprocated. Once again, Israel’s government shifts the attention away from itself to hide its own actions. By focusing the media’s attention on Hamas’ rockets, Israel can hide the fact that they actually provoked Hamas by punishing all Gazans collectively during a siege that lasted nearly a year. Israel, by allowing no more than a trickle of supplies to reach Gazans – barely enough to keep people alive – it’s almost as if Israel was waiting for an escalation so that they could be justified in their attack. It is natural for a people occupied to strike back at their aggressors, be it with ineffective rockets or with symbolic rocks.

Israel’s expulsion of Richard Falk is a prime example of the “opaqueness” with which they have been fooling the media and their own public for more than 20 years. When Palestinians are the “aggressors,” then Israel is legitimized. If Richard Falk’s words are twisted into new meanings, then Israel can justify his expulsion. What matters are the facts that Israel is trying to hide. I do not know the real reason for Falk’s expulsion – only select Israeli officials know that – perhaps they are afraid of a Jew criticizing Israel, perhaps they did not want a scathing UN report just before their invasion, or maybe they simply did not want a UN Rapporteur to be in danger during the occupation. The question, then, is not whether Israel was justified in attacking Hamas, but whether the international public will be fooled for long.

Israel is like a boy that accuses his schoolmates of doing wrong so that the teacher can see him as angelic in contrast. The public, and most importantly the Israeli public, has to look beyond the benign facade and be aware of Israel’s hidden wrongdoings behind every single accusation. The crimes of others (Hamas’s blind violence) should not legitimize their own: the Israeli army has victimized a whole people.

As a last resort, I would like to quote Robert Fisk, the Middle East correspondent of the Independent:

“Have we forgotten the 17,500 dead – almost all civilians, most of them children and women – in Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon; the 1,700 Palestinian civilians dead in the Sabra-Chatila massacre; the 1996 Qana massacre of 106 Lebanese civilian refugees, more than half of them children, at a UN base; the massacre of the Marwahin refugees who were ordered from their homes by the Israelis in 2006 then slaughtered by an Israeli helicopter crew; the 1,000 dead of that same 2006 bombardment and Lebanese invasion, almost all of them civilians?”

Aaron Vansintjan is a U1 Philosophy student and a Daily production & design editor. Send him your love to