By Iqbal Jassat
Having read Angela Mudukuti’s insightful reflection on the International Criminal Court, “ICC hunting for Gaddafi aide“, I cannot but link it to the recent experience of a highly respected International jurist Richard Falk.
Along with professor Virginia Tilley, Falk was assigned by the UN’s Social and Economic Commission of West Asia to investigate Israeli practices towards the Palestinian people. Their report concluded that it amounted to apartheid as defined in international law.
What followed next illustrates Mudukuti’s stinging criticism of the unequal power-relations at the UN Security Council. She points out that while the UNSC has the power to refer cases to the ICC, the five permanent members also have the power to veto referrals. And three of them, Russia, China and the US are not even signatories to the Rome Statute.
She correctly describes the UNSC as a political animal regulated by national interest and political stratagem: “The interests of justice, or prevention of impunity clearly do not govern the decisions made at that level.”
Spot on! Its a neat commentary on how unfair distribution of justice, coupled with smears, vilification and censorship resulted in the withdrawal and nullification of the Falk/Tilley report – notwithstanding the fact that it was commissioned by an organ of the UN.
Falk’s experience a few weeks ago in London and Scotland to launch his new book Palestine’s Horizon: Toward a Just Peace which was published by Pluto in Britain, reveals this glaring problem.
According to Falk’s account there was a strong pushback by Zionist militants threatening disruption. These threats were sufficiently intimidating to academic administrators, that his talks at the University of East London and at Middlesex University were cancelled on grounds of ‘health and security.’
“In all my years of speaking on various topics around the world, I had never previously had events cancelled, although quite frequently there was similar pressure exerted on university administrations, but usually threatening financial reprisals if I was allowed to speak. What happened in Britain is part of an increasingly nasty effort of pro-Israeli activists to shut down debate by engaging in disruptive behavior, threats to security, and by smearing speakers regarded as critics of Israel as ‘anti-Semites,’ and in my case as a ‘self-hating,’ even a self-loathing Jew.”
It didn’t end there.
Returning to the United States he encountered a new tactic. The very same persons who disrupted in London, evidently together with some likeminded comrades, wrote viciously derogatory reviews of Falk’s book on the Amazon website in the U.S. and UK, giving the book the lowest rate possible rating.
“This worried my publisher who indicated that how a book is rated on Amazon affects sales very directly. I wrote a message on my Facebook timeline that my book was being attacked in this way, and encouraged Facebook friends to submit reviews, which had the effect of temporarily elevating my ratings. In turn, the ultra-Zionists went back to work with one or two line screeds that made no effort whatsoever to engage the argument of the book. In this sense, there was a qualitative difference as the positive reviews were more thoughtful and substantive. This was a new kind of negative experience for me. Despite publishing many books over the course during this digital age I had never before had a book attacked in this online manner obviously seeking to discourage potential buyers and to demean me as an author. In effect, this campaign is an innovative version of digital book burning, and while not as vivid visually as a bonfire, its vindictive intentions are the same.”
Falk’s experiences, the London cancellations and the Amazon harassment, led him to reflect more broadly on what was going on. And by extension, my own reflection based on Mudukuti’s concerns about the disproportionate power wielded by the UNSC, converges. In short it is described by Falk as well-financed efforts to punish the UN for its efforts to call attention to Israeli violations of human rights and international law, to criminalize participation in the BDS campaign, and to redefine and deploy anti-Semitism so that its disavowal and prevention extends to anti-Zionism and even to academic and analytic criticism of Israel’s policies and practices.
To illustrate the damning imbalance dominant in the UN, Falk reminds us that 100 U.S. senators recently overcame the polarized atmosphere in Washington to join in sending an arrogant letter to the new UN Secretary General, António Guterres, demanding a more friendly, blue washing, approach to Israel at the UN and threatening financial consequences if their outrageous views were not heeded.
If consideration is given to the latest UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) resolution which reaffirms its previous position that Israel’s occupation of Jerusalem and attack on al Aqsa is illegal and in violation of international law, in light of Mudukuti’s analysis it will be far fetched to expect the UN to impose any punitive measures on Israel.
Notwithstanding the demands and firm position adopted by UNESCO which criticised Israel’s refusal to cease persistent excavations, tunneling works and projects in occupied East Jerusalem, its highly unlikely that the ICC will attempt to initiate a prosecution.
Part of the text is explicit and emphatic: “All legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying power, which have altered or aim to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular the ‘basic law’ on Jerusalem are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith.”
Clear-cut, unambiguous and unadulterated. Yet as in the case of over 1600 Palestinian Prisoners who are on a hunger strike to protest inhumane and unjust conditions, the current UNSC configuration renders it impossible to have Israel account and punished for its crimes.
Indeed the very fact that legitimate resistance to a host of Israel’s illegal policies is criminalized as “terrorism”, is adequate evidence of a perverse sense of justice, whether it emanates from the UNSC or the ICC.
Coupled with Mudukuti’s profound observations, Falk’s prognosis is equally intense: “The real institutional scandal is not that the UN is obsessed with Israel but rather that it is blocked from taking action that might exert sufficient pressure on Israel to induce the dismantling of apartheid structures relied upon to subjugate, displace, and dispossess the Palestinian people over the course of more than 70 years with no end in sight.”
– Iqbal Jassat is an Executive Member of Media Review Network, an advocacy group based in Johannesburg. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.