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UN Official Takes a Final, Parting Shot at Israel

avatar by Paul Schneider

Opinion

The Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room of the Palace of Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland. The room is the meeting place of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Photo: Ludovic Courtès via Wikimedia Commons.

Last month, before ending his six-year term as UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, Canadian lawyer Michael Lynk issued a report to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), accusing Israel of the crime of apartheid in the West Bank and Gaza.

As The New York Times reported, “the claim is the first time that a UN-appointed investigator has accused Israel of apartheid in such an unequivocal way.”

We should not be surprised.

Lynk was known for his anti-Israel bias well before his term began. (We can assume that’s why he was picked.)

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In 2016, opposing Lynk’s appointment, UN Watch stated: “Mr. Lynk equally fails the impartiality requirements set forth in Human Rights Council resolution 5/1 and resolution 16/21. He has been an ardent anti-Israeli activist for at least three decades, plays a leadership role in groups that advocate against Israel, and participates in political campaigns that use demonizing language against Israelis.”

UN Watch noted that “Lynk cited Nazi war crimes in his call for ‘legal strategies’ to prosecute Israelis;” served on the boards of Arab and Palestinian lobbying groups; supported Israeli Apartheid Week; favored a “one-state solution” that would undo Israel’s creation; and “called for ‘a victory in the International Criminal Court’ that would isolate Israel.”

In response to Lynk’s appointment, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion tweeted: “We call on @UNHRC to review this appointment & ensure Special Rapporteur has the track record that can advance peace in the region.”

Lynk is true to form in his report to the UNHRC, where his inflammatory rhetoric again shows his bias. For example, he characterizes Israel as “a covetous alien power” caught in “the fever-dream of settler-colonialism.” In Gaza, he says, Israel subjects the population to a “medieval military blockade” aimed at the “indefinite warehousing of an unwanted population.” Overall, Israel’s “intent is for the Palestinians to be encased in a political ossuary, a museum relic of 21st century colonialism.” Sounds like a calm, objective analysis, doesn’t it?

Lynk rests his argument on what can charitably be called a creative reading of the law. He notes that the Convention Against Apartheid and the 1998 Rome Statute both speak in terms of race. Thus, the essence of the crime of apartheid, he says, is one race oppressing another. This raises some inconvenient questions. For example, are Israeli Jews a race? Or are they a nation with a diverse population? Are Palestinians a separate race? And didn’t the UN resolve this whole matter when it repealed the “Zionism is racism” resolution?

Clearly, Lynk is uncomfortable with these questions, and would rather not deal with them. Instead, he tries to rely on a novel theory proposed by Norwegian professor Carola Lingaas, who “argues that race in international criminal law should be constructed according to the perpetrator’s perception of the victims’ ostensible otherness. The perpetrator’s imagination as manifested through his behavior defines the victims’ racial group membership.”

Strict definitions of race should be avoided, she says. Imagination is what matters. Is that what the drafters of the Convention Against Apartheid and the Rome Statute had in mind? Not likely.

In any event, as historian Benny Morris recently said when he addressed the apartheid issue in The Wall Street Journal, the conflict is not about race: “Instead, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is essentially national, a struggle between two nations over the same tract of land.” And that goes straight to heart of Lynk’s argument: the issue of Palestinian self-determination. As Lynk would have it, Israel’s apartheid regime has denied Palestinians a state of their own. Of course, the world community offered Palestinians a state in 1947. They rejected it, and tried to murder every Jew in Israel.

And, of course, except for their intransigence, the Palestinians could have had a state several other times since then. Instead, they opted for continued violence and the maximalist goal of Arab dominion “from the river to the sea.”

As Lynk notes, his mandate only extended to the West Bank and Gaza. So he says nothing about Israel proper. Therefore, he sees no need to acknowledge that Israeli Arabs are full citizens, serve in the ruling government coalition, the Knesset, Supreme Court, IDF, and in every facet of private and public life.

None of this has to do with race, much less anything that could be called apartheid. Nevertheless, as Morris notes, “The use of terms like racism and apartheid is a way to engage and influence readers in the US and Europe, where race is a burning issue.” The apartheid claim helps spread the narrative of Palestinian victimhood. Certainly, it supports the BDS movement. But most importantly, for Lynk and his fellow travelers, it delegitimizes the Jewish state. For the “human rights” crowd at the UN, that’s what it’s all about.

Paul Schneider is an attorney, writer, and member of the Board of Directors of the American Jewish International Relations Institute (AJIRI), an affiliate of B’nai B’rith International.

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