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Middle East - interview

Israel hides Gaza reality by banning me, says UN investigator

Article published on the 2008-12-18 Latest update 2008-12-18 18:58 TU

Palestinians enter the United Nations hq in Khan Younis refugee camp in the  Gaza Strip(Photo: Reuters)

Palestinians enter the United Nations hq in Khan Younis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip
(Photo: Reuters)

UN human rights investigator Richard Falk claims that Israel is trying to conceal the effects of its blockade of the Gaza Strip by preventing him from reporting on the situation. Falk was kept at Ben Gurion airport for more than 20 hours on Monday and then expelled from the country.

Israel accused Falk of "legitimising Hamas terrorism", objecting to statements, such as his description of the blockade as "a crime against humanity".

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, is to end a truce with Israel tomorrow. The ceasefire had not prevented rockets being fired from within the strip or Israeli operations against the area.

Falk claims that his expulsion is part of an Israeli policy "to keep people out who could describe more credibly the actual reality of the occupation as far as the Palestinian people are concerned".

"So it’s a very clever policy of deflecting attention from what, in my view, should be the real issue which is what is happening day by day during this occupation," he told RFI, adding that the policy does not   conform to human rights standards and to international humanitarian law.

Reaction: UN human rights rapporteur Richard Falk

18/12/2008 by Salil Sarkar

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay described the Israeli ban as "unprecedented" and "deeply regrettable".

"It is a violation of Israel’s obligations as a member of the UN to co-operate with the UN," Falk says.

The UN special rapporteur, who is a professor in international law at Princeton University and visiting professor at Chapman Law School, is bitter about some of the coverage of his case in the US news media.

"Unfortunately from my point of view, the New York Times, the most influential single newspaper, wrote the least sympathetic account of this incident and essentially repeated Israel’s allegations," he says.

He denies claims that he compared the Gaza blockade to the Nazi holocaust of Jews, although he described such collective punishment as having a resemblance to Nazi practices.

"In my view if the New York Times is the gold standard of American journalism, then it’s time to sell the gold."

Shortages caused by the closures have forced the UN to suspend distribution of food assistance to about half of Gaza's 1.5 million population, the UN Works and Relief Agency said on Thursday.