Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Israel to bar UN official

JERUSALEM: The Israeli Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that it will not allow the U.N. official appointed to investigate Israeli-Palestinian human rights to enter the country, after he stood by comments comparing Israelis to Nazis.

Richard Falk is scheduled to take up his post with the U.N. Human Rights Council in May, but Israel's Foreign Ministry said it will deny Falk a visa to enter Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, at least until a September meeting of the council.

At that meeting, Israel intends to ask the council to expand the envoy's mission to include investigating Palestinian human rights abuses against Israelis. The mandate currently allows him to monitor only human rights violations by Israel in the Palestinian territories.

Israel will also express its displeasure with the council's choice of Falk as investigator. "If he already believes Israel is like the Nazis, how fair will he be?" said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel.

Israel has objected for years to what it perceives as anti-Israel bias by many U.N. bodies.

According to a Tuesday posting on the BBC's Web site, Falk defended statements he made last summer equating Israel's treatment of Palestinians with Nazi treatment of Jews during the Holocaust. He told BCC News that Israel has been unfairly shielded from international criticism.

About 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War II in an effort to liquidate all of Europe's Jews. Mekel called Falk's comments "unacceptable and, in fact, a little strange."

"To compare Israel to the Nazis is not just a total falsehood, it's also a personal insult to everybody," he said.

Mekel said the choice of Falk is indicative of the Human Rights Council's negative attitude toward Israel. "Of all the people to be able to appoint, to find somebody who compares Israel to the Nazis is very bizarre and outrageous," he said.

The council's previous investigator, John Dugard from South Africa, compared Israeli treatment of Palestinians to apartheid, the discriminatory policy of the previous white regime in South Africa toward blacks.

Falk, a professor emeritus at Princeton University, could not be reached for comment.


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