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The Second Time as Farce

Meet the UN's new Human Rights Council.

12:00 AM, Apr 23, 2008 • By NILE GARDINER
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IF FURTHER PROOF BE needed of the terminal decline of the United Nations as a world body that purports to advance human rights, look no further than the recent appointments of Richard Falk and Jean Ziegler by the UN's Human Rights Council (HRC). Both appointments should be of major concern to U.S. leaders disturbed by the UN's increasing failure in the arena of human rights and the blatant and widespread anti-American and anti-Israeli bias among key UN human rights officials.

Richard Falk, the Emeritus Milbank Professor of International Law and Practice at Princeton, is an outspoken, zealous critic of Israel and American foreign policy who has just been appointed the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian Territories by unanimous vote. Falk has compared Israeli policy to the actions of Nazi Germany, publicly defended the reputation of former Colorado University Professor Ward Churchill, and wrote the foreword to controversial theologian David Ray Griffin's 2004 conspiracy theory treatise The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11. Falk has written of an "American Empire" and a threat of "global fascism," and according to a report in the New York Sun has bizarrely called for an official commission to investigate the imaginary role of neoconservatives in the 9/11 attacks.

Jean Ziegler, a Swiss sociology professor and UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, has been an apologist for dictators such as Fidel Castro and Robert Mugabe, and once described the West Bank as an Israeli-run "immense concentration camp." As UN Watch revealed, Ziegler even co-founded the Muammar Gaddafi Human Rights Prize in honor of the Libyan dictator. He was elected to the HRC's advisory committee in March with the support of 40 of the Council's 47 members. Ziegler has rarely failed to raise eyebrows with his outspoken views, deriding the United States as an "imperialist dictatorship," rejecting the claim that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, and praising Zimbabwean tyrant Robert Mugabe by saying he "has history and morality with him." Ziegler opposed the U.S.-led military action against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, warning it would have "apocalyptic" consequences for the Afghan people, and spell "the end of the Afghan nation," and famously accused the Coalition in Iraq of cutting off food and water for Iraqi civilians in insurgent strongholds in 2005, a claim that was completely false and without foundation.

The highly controversial appointments further underscore why the United States made the right decision to boycott the new UN Human Rights Council for two years in succession, and to deny the organization future funding as well as credibility. The HRC is the successor to the spectacularly discredited UN Commission on Human Rights, an organization so reviled that even then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, a meek lamb when it came to condemning human rights abuses, somehow mustered the courage to describe it as an embarrassment. Despite inflated expectations that it couldn't be any worse that the Commission, the HRC has been a miserable failure, continuing many of the worst excesses of its predecessor, and firmly fixated upon condemning Israel at every turn.

The current Council includes several of the world's worst human rights violators, including Cuba, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Unsurprisingly, the Council has issued numerous resolutions attacking its favorite target, Israel, while largely turning a blind eye to massive human rights violations in dictatorships such as Zimbabwe, North Korea, Burma, Chinese-ruled Tibet, and Sudan. As the watchdog Eye on the UN has documented, in its first year, nearly three quarters of the Human Rights Council's resolutions and decisions were focused exclusively on the human rights record of Israel.

With his highly sensitive position as the UN's voice on Israeli-Palestinian human rights issues, Richard Falk's controversial views demand close scrutiny. Professor Falk has rightly been refused a visa by Israel, which will fortunately reduce his ability to carry out the task of UN adviser, which begins in May. The move by Tel Aviv is in direct response to an astonishing polemic Falk penned in June last year entitled "Slouching Toward A Palestinian Holocaust," published by the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research. In the article, which he refused to disavow in an interview with the BBC, the Princeton Professor begs the question: