By Chandra Muzaffar
Once again, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian Territories, Professor Richard Falk, has shown tremendous courage and integrity in calling for the boycott of major Multi-National Corporations (MNCs) that have dealings with Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem “until they adhere to international rights, standards and practices.”
The call was made in Falk’s report to the UN General Assembly on the 24th of October 2012. In his report, he named companies such as Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard, Motorolla, the Volvo Group and Cemex, among others, as companies that have violated international human rights and humanitarian law by “exploiting Palestinian resources and helping Israel construct illegal settlements and providing security for them.” A boycott of these companies may compel them to pressurize the Israeli regime to change its behaviour towards the Palestinians. It may result in the withdrawal of Israeli settlers from the West Bank and in the dismantling of the settlements paving the way for a genuine peace founded upon justice.
As expected, United States and Israeli officials criticised Falk severely for proposing the boycott. The US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, for instance, dismissed it as “irresponsible and unacceptable.” A spokeswoman for the Israeli regime rubbished the proposal as “a distasteful sideshow.”
The Canadian government has gone even further. Its Foreign Minister, John Baird, has not only accused Falk of bias but has also called for his resignation as Special Rapporteur. His call echoes segments of the Western media and Western NGOs.
Rushing to the defence of Israel whenever its policies and actions are criticised has become an addiction for much of the West. It does not matter whether the criticism is legitimate or not. Often, the critic is savaged and vilified. There is no attempt to examine or evaluate the issue at hand in a dispassionate and objective manner. Richard Falk has been victim of this sort of irrational, almost fanatical obsession with Israel’s defence for a number of years now.
Falk’s boycott idea should have been viewed as a sincere attempt by a UN investigator on the plight of Palestinians living under occupation to lessen their pain and suffering by suggesting concrete, peaceful action that could be taken to force the occupier — the Israeli regime — to recognise the rights of the Palestinians and to be accountable to international law. He has proposed a measure which dovetails with a much larger international campaign — the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign— initiated some years ago by a number of NGOs which is now beginning to gain some momentum. Of course, boycotting powerful MNCs — as suggested by Falk— requires a lot of preparatory work and the mobilisation of public opinion which will take time. But it can be done.
By focusing upon boycott, Falk is sending an urgent message to the world. Take concrete action immediately to end Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. Or face decades of violence and turmoil in West Asia and elsewhere. It is significant that he is doing this in his capacity as UN Special Rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories.
For this is what a UN Rapporteur is supposed to do. Present an honest account of what is happening on the ground. Analyse the underlying causes. Propose tangible solutions.
Professor Richard Falk has done his duty. He has lived up to the ideals of the UN of protecting people from oppression and aggression and respecting the right of self-determination. He has fulfilled his mandate as Special Rapporteur.
The world should applaud him.
Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST)
29 October 2012.