FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Michael Lynk’s UN Report on Israeli Settlements Speaks the Truth, But the World Refuses to Listen

Photograph Source: Yakob Ben-Avraham – CC BY-SA 2.0

He’s a very tall man with bright eyes and a broad smile, and he holds out a great paw when he greets you. But Michael Lynk is no gentle giant.

He may teach human rights law at the Western University in London, Ontario, but as the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, he has to endure the fury of Israel and its acolytes abroad – not least in his native Canada – and, two years ago, even the enmity of his own country’s foreign minister.

In his latest UN report, he reminds readers that the creation of Israel’s “civilian settlements” in occupied territory is a breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and a “war crime” under the Rome Statute. So you can see why the 67-year old Lynk, a labour lawyer by training, has been having a tough time since his appointment to the voluntary, unpaid UN post three years ago.

When Lynk was appointed special rapporteur, Stephane Dion, then Justin Trudeau’s foreign minister, spotted that UN Watch, a pro-Israeli lobby, had called Lynk “antisemitic” – the usual slur for anyone who criticises the actions of the Israeli government – and suggested that he be forced to resign. Dion soon lost his foreign minister’s job and his career went downhill.

Lynk’s went in the other direction. He became a gadfly to all who stand accused of breaking international law in the Middle East. Hamas is certainly not spared in his report; he accuses the Islamist militia in charge of Gaza of “beatings, arbitrary arrest and detentions, and torture and ill treatment” of hundreds of Palestinian protestors. But the opposition to him wasn’t about his even-handedness.

Dion took these shoddy arguments [from UN Watch] and used them to re-tweet his opposition to my appointment,” Lynk told me. “I would have thought a former academic would have looked at my writings before saying this – but I guess he was just the ‘politician Dion’. I always find it surprising that someone could be deemed radical for insisting on the functioning of international law.”

Lynk rather disingenuously told me he’s just “a stodgy absent-minded law professor with two kids” – which may or may not be true – but in his report, he is far from stodgy in his attacks on the decades of Israeli occupation.

Try this paragraph, for example: “No occupation in the modern world has been conducted with the international community so alert to its many grave breaches of international law, so knowledgeable about the [Israeli] occupiers’ obvious and well-signalled intent to annex and establish permanent sovereignty, so well-informed about the scale of suffering and dispossession endured by the protected [Palestinian] population under occupation, and yet so unwilling to act upon the overwhelming evidence before it…”

Reading this and subsequent paragraphs in his 23-page report, it’s clear that Lynk not only writes the truth; even more dangerously, he knows how to write. Eloquence is only rarely discovered in the UN’s house of cards.

The Israeli government has not even replied to Lynk’s requests to visit the Palestinian lands occupied since 1967 – most of his first hand-witness accounts are acquired in Amman or via video-conference between Jordan and Gaza – but he concentrates not so much on the wilful suppression of the Palestinians but on the moral question of accountability.

Here he is, for example, on Israel’s failure to account for its exercise of power: “The enemies of accountability are impunity and exceptionalism,” he writes, “…Those who maintain that they are exempt from the directions of our international legal and diplomatic order not only defy the rule of law, but they also fail the test of political realism. For no country can sustain for long its standing and influence among the community of nations if it asserts special arguments forbidden to others … Impunity anywhere is a danger to justice everywhere.”

Israel, Lynk adds, “has rightly assessed that the international community – particularly the western industrial nations – has lacked the political will to compel an end to its impunity.” He even quotes the Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, who wrote that “no country is as dependent on the support of the international community as Israel, yet Israel allows itself to defy the world as few dare”.

What Lynk calls the “occu-annexation” of Palestinian territories is “endlessly sustainable without decisive international intervention”. He suggests – and here is the nub of the matter – that the world should “take the necessary steps to collectively construct a list of effective countermeasures … Should the [Israeli] occupying power remain unmoved”, the range of “targeted countermeasures would be escalated.”

This sounds to me very like sanctions; the ghost of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement hovers over these words, although Lynk makes no reference to it. The real message of his report, however, seems quite clear: this impunity must end.

But we all know that the Lynks of this world, and the old UN donkey, will have no effect on the Trumps and the Kushners and their fantasy “deal of the century” which impoverishes the Palestinians into compliance and destroys any last hope of self-determination.

There will be no Palestinian state. And if Trump is re-elected next year, Israel may indeed claim ownership of all the land between Jerusalem and the Jordan River, and that will be the end of “Palestine”.

It might also – if this is an apartheid state with no votes for the Palestinians – be the end of a “democratic” Israel too.

More articles by:

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

August 12, 2020
Melvin Goodman
Trump’s War On Arms Control and Disarmament
P. Sainath
“We Didn’t Bleed Him Enough”: When Normal is the Problem
Kenneth Surin
The Decrepit UK Political System
Robert Hunziker
Freakish Arctic Fires Alarmingly Intensify
Riva Enteen
Kamala Harris? Really? Desperate Times, Desperate Measures
Ramzy Baroud
The Likud Conspiracy: Israel in the Throes of a Major Political Crisis
Sam Pizzigati
Within Health Care USA, Risk and Reward Have Never Been More Out of Kilter
John Perry
The US Contracts Out Its Regime Change Operation in Nicaragua
Binoy Kampmark
Selective Maritime Rules: The United States, Diego Garcia and International Law
Manuel García, Jr.
The Improbability of CO2 Removal From the Atmosphere
Khury Petersen-Smith
The Road to Portland: The Two Decades of ‘Homeland Security’
Raouf Halaby
Teaching Palestinian Children to Love Beethoven, Bizet, and Mozart is a Threat to a Depraved Israeli Society
Jeff Mackler
Which Way for Today’s Mass Radicalization? Capitalism’s Impending Catastrophe…or a Socialist Future
Tom Engelhardt
It Could Have Been Different
Stephen Cooper
Santa Davis and the “Stalag 17” Riddim
August 11, 2020
Richard D. Wolff
Why Capitalism is in Constant Conflict With Democracy
Paul Street
Defund Fascism, Blue and Orange
Richard C. Gross
Americans Scorned
Andrew Levine
Trump and Biden, Two Ignoble Minds Here O’erthrown
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Nationalism Has Led to the Increased Repression of Minorities
Sonali Kolhatkar
Trump’s Presidency is a Death Cult
Colin Todhunter
Pushing GMO Crops into India: Experts Debunk High-Level Claims of Bt Cotton Success
Valerie Croft
How Indigenous Peoples are Using Ancestral Organizing Practices to Fight Mining Corporations and Covid-19
David Rovics
Tear Gas Ted Has a Tantrum in Portland
Dean Baker
There is No Evidence That Generous Unemployment Benefits are Making It Difficult to Find Workers
Robert Fantina
War on Truth: How Kashmir Struggles for Freedom of Press
Dave Lindorff
Trump Launches Attack on Social Security and Medicare
Elizabeth Schmidt
COVID-19 Poses a Huge Threat to Stability in Africa
Parth M.N.
Coping With a Deadly Virus, a Social One, Too
Thomas Knapp
The “Election Interference” Fearmongers Think You’re Stupid
Binoy Kampmark
Mealy-Mouthed Universities: Academic Freedom and the Pavlou Problem Down Under
Mike Garrity
Emperor Trump Loses Again in the Northern Rockies in Big Win for Bull Trout, Rivers and the ESA
Alex Lawson
34 Attorneys General Call to Bust Gilead’s Pharma Monopoly on COVID Treatment Remdesivir
August 10, 2020
Gerald Sussman
Biden’s Ukrainegate Problem
Vijay Prashad – Érika Ortega Sanoja
How the U.S. Failed at Its Foreign Policy Toward Venezuela
Daniel Warner
Geneva: The Home of Lost Causes
Mike Hastie
The Police Force Stampede in Portland on August 8, 2020 
Jack Rasmus
Trump’s Executive Orders: EOs as PR and FUs
Rev. William Alberts
Cognitive Without Conscience
David Altheide
Politicizing Fear Through the News Media
F. Douglas Stephenson
Is Big Pharma More Interested in Profiteering Than Protecting Us From Coronavirus?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Money Plague
Howard Lisnoff
Revolutionaries Living in a System of Growing Fascism
Ralph Nader
Donald Trump is Defeating Himself
Lynnette Grey Bull
The Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women Human Rights Emergency is Not a Photo-Op for Ivanka Trump
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail