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February 13, 2023 3:36 pm

US Nominates Activist to Human Rights Post Who Accused House Minority Leader of Being ‘Purchased’ by Pro-Israel Groups


avatar by Andrew Bernard

Professor James Cavallaro at an IACHR meeting, 24 March 2014. Photo: Wikipedia

A human rights activist who recently accused US House Minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) of being “Bought. Purchased. Controlled” by pro-Israel groups has been nominated by the US government to a post with the Organization of American States (OAS).

The candidacy of Prof. James Cavallaro for a commissioner’s post with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) – an agency within the OAS – for the 2024-2027 term was announced on Friday by the State Department.

Cavallaro, a co-founder and executive director of the University Network for Human Rights, was described as a “leading scholar and practitioner of international law with deep expertise in the region as well as the Inter-American human rights system,” in a State Department release.

However, a survey of Cavallaro’s social media activity by The Algemeiner revealed a multi-year history of incendiary posts critical of US foreign policy, Israel, and pro-Israel elected officials.

In one Dec. 2022 tweet, now deleted, Cavallaro invoked language and imagery often associated with antisemitic claims of pro-Israeli political and financial control over US domestic politics.

“Bought. Purchased. Controlled,” Cavallaro wrote alongside a link to an article about the funds raised for Rep. Jeffries by AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups.

In other tweets, Cavallaro characterized Israel as an “apartheid state” and accused the US and Israel of “atrocities.” 

Cavallaro began deleting the offending tweets from his timeline on Monday after The Algemeiner reached out to him for comment. A reply had not been received by press time.

Photo: Screenshot

Cavallaro teaches courses on human rights law and practice at Wesleyan University, Yale Law School and UCLA Law School, and he has previously taught at the law schools of Harvard and Stanford. The University Network for Human Rights supervises “interdisciplinary engagement in human rights practice at universities across the country and beyond,” according to its website.

Announcing him as the US candidate for the IACHR seat on Friday, State Department Deputy Spokesman Vedant Patel said Cavallaro would “would bring valuable expertise to the Commission’s work,” but other posts from Cavallaro’s social media feed express views consistently at odds with Biden administration positions.

In February 2022, responding to Rep. Ro Khanna’s (D-CA) visit to Ramallah where he met with Palestinian students, Cavallaro asked “did they say anything about high-level, US congressional delegations legitimating and praising the Israeli apartheid state?”

Cavallaro has also promoted the views of Rhania Khalek, a journalist and prominent anti-Israel activist who is also a supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  

In April 2021, he tweeted at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes that she should watch one of Khalek’s videos to “help you figure out *what* and *how* [sic] is going on in Palestine.” While the video is no longer available on Twitter, it appears that Khalek was promoting her video “Two-State Delusion: Israel Is A Racist One State Nightmare,” in which she claims that Israel is committing ethnic cleansing, is not a democracy, and “does not belong in the f—ing 21st century.”

The IACHR is an organ of the OAS, a regional body headquartered in Washington, DC, that promotes security, democracy, and economic development in the Americas. While it focuses on the Western hemisphere, in May 2021 Cavallaro asked why the OAS was labelling Hamas a terrorist organization and suggested that support for human rights was contrary to US foreign policy.

“Substance aside, why does the OAS (Organization of *American* States) have a position on Hamas?” he wrote. “If you’re promoting global solidarity, how about supporting human rights instead of US foreign policy?”

While the IACHR commissioner role is not a Senate confirmed position, he has also made inflammatory comments about the character of both Democrats and Republicans, calling Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) “bought and paid for” and labeling Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) as “pedantic, self-righteous and pompous,” urging her to “learn from the Palestinian people,” and to resign over her “repeated moral failings.”

In November 2021, he wrote of Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) that “I don’t know whether to call you Senator or Shameless Motherf*cker [sic]. Actually I do.”

Cavallaro’s comments are similar to those that plagued the nomination of Sarah Margon, who withdrew her nomination to a human rights post in the State Department in January over Republican objections to her anti-Israel comments, and to Neera Tanden, whose Twitter trolling of senators cost her the directorship of the Office of Management and Budget.

The Algemeiner reached out to Rep. Jeffries, Sen. Collins, Sen. Manchin, Sen. Kennedy, and the State Department, but they did not immediately reply to The Algemeiner’s request for comment.

Member states of the OAS will vote to fill four IACHR seats, including the one Cavallaro has been nominated to, during elections at the June 2023 General Assembly in Washington, DC. Commissioners serve in a personal capacity and do not receive a salary either from the US or OAS, but the OAS does provide them with a per diem when traveling on IACHR business.

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