Interview responses by Richard Falk to questions regarding his Annual Reports as Special Rapporteur for the occupied Palestinian Territories on behalf of UN Human Rights Council

Interviewed by C.J. Polychroniou, a freelance journalist, mainly published in Athens

CJP: Upon whose request was this report submitted and what are its main findings?

RF: As Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories (West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza Strip) on behalf of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), I have an obligation to submit annually two reports, one to the HRC and the other to the General Assembly. The most recent report was to the HRC, covering the period June-December 2009, and is addressed to Israeli violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law in the course of its occupation of the Palestinian territories occupied during the 1967 War. It does not cover violations of human rights law by the Palestinian Authority (PA) on the West Bank, nor by Hamas in Gaza. The report’s presentation to the HRC had been originally scheduled for presentation and discussion in March 2010 but was postponed at the initiative of the (PA) that had sought revision of the original text. Some modifications were made, but the PA continued to be dissatisfied, but their attempt to postpone again the consideration of the report was rejected by the parliamentary official who determines the HRC agenda. The report was presented and discussed at a session of the HRC on June 14, 2010. There was no serious friction although the substance of the report was generally criticized by the representative of the United States, who also complained that the framework of inquiry was biased because it only referred to Israeli violations.

The report’s major findings can be described in summary form:

* urgent emphasis was placed on the continuing humanitarian catastrophe resulting from the Israeli blockade of Gaza, which continued to deny the civilian population basic necessities in sufficient quantities and shut down the flow of goods and materials in such a way as to destroy 90-95% of the Gaza economy, causing massive poverty and widespread unemployment. This blockade, established in June 2007, constitutes collective punishment that is unconditionally prohibited by Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention dealing with the rights and obligations of belligerent obligation. Israeli officials have not defended the blockade on security terms, which would be impossible, but as an initiative intended to undermine the authority of Hamas as the governing presence in Gaza or to supply leverage to negotiate the release of the single Israeli military personnel held captive. Such national goals do not provide a legal or moral justification for subjecting the 1.5 million civilians in Gaza to the rigors of this blockade;