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Op-Ed: UN Special Rapporteur on "Palestine" Bans Free Speech

Those who fight for human rights also ban free speech. Seems impossible? At the UN, it seems anything is possible.
Published: Tuesday, April 02, 2013 11:39 PM


United Nations Special Rapporteur on "the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967" - Professor Richard Falk - has taken the extraordinary action to ban posts on his blog page "Citizen Pilgrimage".

This has happened to myself and at least one other person when we attempted to post comments in response to an article written by Professor Falk titled " What was wrong with Obama's speech in Jerusalem".

My detailed comment sought to point out what was right with President Obama's speech in Jerusalem. It had been published as an article on many Internet pages around the world and reproduced on the web sites of scores of others without editorial amendment.

I presented a considered and reasoned analysis of what President Obama had said. It was not couched in inflammatory or defamatory terms. It considered aspects of President Obama's speech not referred to in Professor Falk's article and came to an entirely different conclusion to the views expressed by Professor Falk.

To my amazement Professor Falk's response to my post was:

"My blog is no longer open for this sort of polemics on the Israel/Palestine conflict. There are many other more important venues to carry on these discussions."

My reply to Professor Falk - pointing out his decision amounted to the banning of free speech and requesting he reconsider his decision - went unanswered.

I subsequently sought to post an entirely different response to another contributor's comment - but it was also not published.

One person who sought to post a comment to Professor Falk's article received the following response:

"Mr. Skolnik: My blog is no longer open for this sort of polemical responses that insult either me or others who submit comments. There are many other venues for this sort of debate."

Stangely Professor Falk had no similar qualms in publishing the following comment from one of his readers:

"I have been following events in Israel and Cyprus closely, and stand by my assertions. I find it both fascinating and terrifying that Germany is the force behind the Cypriot haircut, in which unscrupulous jewish industrialists, all of whom hold Israeli passports, are having their bank accounts seized and money transferred to Germany. Who would have predicted this turn of events, but really, once you spot the pattern, it becomes impossible to deny this jaw-dropping turn of events, and its ominous implications."

It is clear that there are many readers of Professor Falk's blog who would be grossly offended by this Jew-hating language - yet it was published.

I do not seek to silence these Jew-haters airing their views on Professor Falk's blog. Better the world should be aware such views exist and are exposed to critical comment.

My articles sometimes attract vile and repulsive comments. Never would I seek to have them expunged. I prefer to respond to such comments or let my readers do so.

But why should a UN Rapporteur concerned with human rights seek to ban the views of others like myself and Mr Skolnik - if he allows such a vile post as this to appear as a comment on the same blog page?

Intrigued by the Professor's totally unexpected and unexplained reaction to my post - I contacted other sites where his article had been published.

One was a virulently Jew-hating web site called "Shoah - The Palestinian Holocaust" It had no problem posting the identical response that I attempted to post on Professor Falk's web page

Another was "Ramy Abdeljabbar's Palestine and World News" - not what one would call a pro-Israel site. It published my response to Professor Falk's article without indulging in the histrionics and petulance displayed by Professor Falk.
 

A third site was "Transcend Media Service" - which describes itself in the following terms:

"TRANSCEND International is an experiment in promoting peace by peaceful means throughout the world. Traditionally, institutes have been centered around a building where the people who work together meet on a regular basis. Since many people who share common interests in helping transform conflicts nonviolently and creatively are geographically scattered and cannot usually be physically together, our solution is to create an electronic network of members. This, in addition, diminishes our carbon footprints and contributes to attenuate the global warming crisis."

Professor Falk is a member of the Transcend Network.

Transcend saw nothing objectionable in posting my response to Professor Falk's article (http://www.transcend.org/tms/2013/03/what-was-wrong-with-obamas-speech-in-jerusalem/)

Professor Falk needs to understand that attempts by him to ban freedom of expression and free speech on his web site demean himself and his position as a UN Special Rapporteur.

Those in authority at the UN who repeatedly express their support for the protection of human rights must be prepared to act against one of their own by denouncing Professor Falk's actions in the strongest terms with a view to ending his crass attempt to deny the inalienable right of every human being to speak out and be heard.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and members of the UN Human Rights Council - are you listening or do you endorse Professor Falk's outrageous conduct?


Appendix: David Singer's article on Obama's speech:

President Obama's use of just one word - "Annapolis" - stands out among the thousands he uttered during his three day visit to Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman.

His highly significant use of this keyword on 21 March at the Jerusalem International Convention Centre constituted a diplomatic milestone in America's quest to end the long running Jewish-Arab conflict.

I know Israel has taken risks for peace. Brave leaders – Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin –reached treaties with two of your neighbors. You made credible proposals to the Palestinians at Annapolis. You withdrew from Gaza and Lebanon, and then faced terror and rockets.

What were the "credible proposals" made to the Palestinians at Annapolis?

Why was the mention of "Annapolis" thought far more important to include in President Obama' speech - rather than "Camp David" and the attempts to broker a two-state solution between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat by President Clinton in 2000?

The answer is to be found in the following statement made by Israel's then Prime Minister - Ehud Olmert - at the international conference convened by President Bush on 27 November 2007 in Annapolis in the presence of some 40 world leaders including many from the Arab world:

The (resumption of) negotiations will be based on previous agreements between us, UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the Roadmap and the April 14th 2004 letter of President Bush to the Prime Minister of Israel.

On conclusion of the negotiations, I believe that we will be able to reach an agreement which will fulfill the vision of President Bush: two states for two peoples.

A peace-seeking, viable, strong, democratic and terror-free Palestinian state for the Palestinian people.

A Jewish, democratic State of Israel, living in security and free from the threat of terror – the national home of the Jewish people.

President Obama's Jerusalem speech is the closest he has come to publicly acknowledging that the following commitments laid out in President Bush's letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on 14 April 2004 constitute "credible proposals" to end the Jewish-Arab conflict:

  1. s part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338.

  2. The United States is strongly committed to Israel’s security and well-being as a Jewish state.

  3. It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair, and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.

  4. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.

  5. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.

Yet President Obama has appeared to have given up one fundamental requirement of President Bush' s Road Map - that any Palestinian Arab state that emerges as part of the two-state solution must be "democratic"

In a carefully worded and crafted speech that spoke in glowing terms of Israel's vibrant democracy - President Obama was noticeably silent in failing to endorse the same outcome as being necessary for the successful implementation and conclusion of President Bush's two-state solution.

To this extent President Obama seems to have rejected as unnecessary the express Annapolis commitment made by Prime Minister Olmert to achieve one of President Bush's most cherished objectives.

The PLO will no doubt see this concession by President Obama as a plus - since it appears to be the inevitable consequence of Hamas and the PLO being unable to end their six years long internecine struggle that has denied the Palestinian Arabs having any say in determining their own future.

America is apparently set on pressuring Israel to give us this demand as a condition of resolving the two-state solution.

Yet in another respect President Obama's following statement has come down firmly in favour of the commitment made by President Bush in his letter to Prime Minister Sharon - endorsed in specific terms by Prime Minister Olmert at Annapolis - that the Arab world - and Jew-haters around the world - recognize that the Jewish people are entitled to a Jewish state in their ancient, historic and biblically recognized homeland.

For the Jewish people, the journey to the promise of the State of Israel wound through countless generations. It involved centuries of suffering and exile, prejudice, pogroms and even genocide. Through it all, the Jewish people sustained their unique identity and traditions, as well as a longing to return home. And while Jews achieved extraordinary success in many parts. of the world, the dream of true freedom finally found its full expression in the Zionist idea – to be a free people in your homeland.

That is why I believe that Israel is rooted not just in history and tradition, but also in a simple and profound idea: the idea that people deserve to be free in a land of their own. And over the last 65 years, when Israel has been at its best, Israelis have demonstrated that responsibility does not end when you reach the promised land, it only begins.

President Obama reinforced that message with an unequivocal one liner:

Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state.

The steadfast refusal by the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab world at large to acknowledge this simple proposition has been the major impediment to peace ever since its possibility was first suggested in 1920 at the San Remo Conference and confirmed in the 1922 Mandate for Palestine - then actually proposed in 1937 by the Peel Commission and endorsed by the United Nations in 1947.

Are the Palestinian Arabs now seriously ready to take up President Obama's challenge to resolve their conflict with the Jews in accordance with the credible proposals made by Israel at Annapolis in 2007 - tempered with just one important concession by President Obama dispensing with the need for any agreement on the question of democracy?

That is the message President Obama has sent to President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad - persons whom President Obama personally identified as true partners for Israel in achieving the two-state solution during his Jerusalem speech.


 

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