An open letter to Ban Ki-Moon – Richard Falk

An open letter to Ban Ki-Moon – Richard Falk

Shooting the messenger is part of a broader Israeli strategy to avoid giving any visibility to substantive criticisms of its behaviour. Ban Ki-moon is merely the latest victim...

Israel shoots the messenger

While I was special rapporteur for Palestine, you chose to attack me in public on several occasions. Now Israel has turned its fire on you

United Nations Special Rapporteur on occupied Palestine, Richard Falk .
United Nations Special Rapporteur on occupied Palestine, Richard Falk .

Dear UN Secretary General,

Having read of the vicious attacks on you for venturing some moderate, incontestable criticisms of Israel’s behaviour, I understand well the discomfort you clearly feel.

Richard-Goldstone-HRWNot since Richard Goldstone chaired the group that released the report detailing apparent Israeli war crimes during its massive attack on Gaza at the end of 2008 have Israel’s big political guns responded with such unwarranted fury, magnified as usual by ultra-Zionist media commentary.

Netanyahu has the audacity to claim that your acknowledgement that it is not unnatural for the Palestinians oppressed for half century to resist and resort to extremism is tantamount to the encouragement of terrorism, what he described as giving a “tailwind to terrorism.”

The fact that your intention was quite the opposite hardly matters. And your repeated denunciation of terrorism will be disregarded by these irresponsible critics whose sole objective is to take attention away from the issues raised.

Israel and its keenest supporters have found that there is no better way to do this than by defaming their critics, branding them as soft on terrorism or even as anti-Semites. And it makes no difference whatsoever that you have leaned over backwards, almost falling to the ground, to deflect criticism of Israel during your time as leader of the UN.

It is not surprising that you should respond to such behaviour in a New York Times opinion piece by imploring Israel and its friends to refrain from “shooting the messenger” and instead heed the message.

What intrigues and appalls me is that while I was special rapporteur for Occupied Palestine during the period 2008-2014, you chose to attack me personally in public on several occasions, joining with US and Israel diplomats calling for my dismissal and doing the utmost to undermine my credibility while discharging this unpaid UN job under difficult conditions.

At the time, I was doing my best to bear witness to some of the same truths about Israel’s unlawful and immoral behavior that recently got you in similar hot water. My UN mandate was to report upon the reality of Israeli violations of international law while sustaining their apartheid regime of oppressive control over the Palestinian people.

The Palestinians need and deserve such a voice as provided by the UN to make governments of the world more aware of their responsibility to take steps that will bring this unprecedented ordeal to an end. In carrying out these duties, it is my hope that future UN special rapporteurs receive the support that they need from future secretary generals.

In my case, hurt and offended by being so unfairly attacked by you, the highest UN official, I was encouraged to seek some kind of explanation from your office, and hopefully even an apology. You never criticised my reports on Palestine or their criticisms of Israel’s policies and practices, but rather focused your venomous remarks on some comments attributed to my views, as expressed on my personal blog, that were concerned with the 9/11 attacks and the Boston marathon bombings.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, Israel’s faithful watchdog NGO in Geneva.
Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, Israel’s faithful watchdog NGO in Geneva.

It was obvious from the content of your attack that you relied on a letter written by Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, Israel’s faithful watchdog NGO in Geneva, that gave my rather carefully qualified blog comments an inflammatory twist. But it appeared that you seemed wary of engaging in any debate about the substance of my criticisms of Israel’s policies and practices in my reports.

I called your office, and was referred to your affable aide de camp, whom seemed immediately apologetic, before I was even able to register a complaint and explain to him my actual position on these controversial issues. After listening to what I had to say, he obliquely accepted my concerns by admitting that “we didn’t do due diligence,” by which he evidently meant that the secretary-general and his advisors relied on Neuer’s letter rather than reading what I actually wrote on the blog, which was nuanced and rather moderate in tone and content.

This UN official volunteered a further explanation to the effect that “we were under great pressure at the time from the US Congress, and this was an opportunity to show that we were not anti-Israeli.”

This incident happened to occur while you were campaigning successfully for a second term as secretary-general, and apparently wanted to reassure Washington that you would not rock the boat if reelected. I venture to say that if you had back then voiced such strong criticisms of Israel’s settlement policy or indicated a similar empathetic understanding of Palestinian resistance, you would never have received Washington’s blessings for a second term as secretary-general.

In light of this experience, I felt at the time that you were joining with others in shooting a messenger who was seeking to convey some inconvenient truths about Israel’s behavior. These truths are rather similar to your own comments about the denial of Palestinian rights, especially with respect to the right of self-determination.

The folk wisdom of “what goes around comes around” seems to fit your plight. You who expediently took shots at the messenger are now taking umbrage when the tactic is directed at you. This response is reasonable in this instance but inconsistent with your own past behavior. You say, “..when heartfelt concerns about shortsighted or morally damaging policies emanate from so many sources, including Israel’s closest friends, it cannot be sustainable to keep lashing out at every well-intentioned critic.”

True, of course, but why only now? And only you?

Actually, although your critical stress on settlements and resistance is welcome and important, your overall stance still falls far short of adopting a helpful way forward. You continue to insist misleadingly that compromises are called for by both sides in pursuing the goal of reaching a sustainable peace based on the establishment of a Palestinian state.

I find puzzling the assertion in your article that “I am so concerned that we are reaching a point of no return for the two-state solution.” In your statement of 26 January to the Security Council, you urge Palestinian unity as necessary so that the Palestinians “can instead focus their energies on establishing a stable state as part of a negotiated two-state solution.”

Have you forgotten that every step taken by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to establish unity has been opposed by punitive pushback on Israel’s part, a response endorsed by the United States? And wasn’t that “point of no return” reached some time ago, and certainly after what the American Secretary of State, John Kerry, proclaimed as “the last-chance” negotiations broke down in the spring of 2014 after a year of trading allegations and achieving not a single positive result? And how, Mr. Ban, is a two-state solution to be achieved over the opposition and resolve of more than 600,000 Israeli settlers, with more expansion underway and even more promised?

You acknowledge being “disturbed by statements from senior members of the Israeli government that the aim [of a Palestinian state] should be abandoned altogether.” What you don’t say is that these “senior members” include Israel’s elected prime minister, its president, and its current ambassador to the UN.

In light of this unified opposition to a two-state approach by Israel’s highest governmental leaders, how can you encourage reliance on this discredited diplomatic path that has resulted over and over again in severe encroachments on occupied Palestine and intensified suffering for the Palestinian people?

Clinging to the two-state mantra is not neutral. Delay benefits Israel, harms Palestine. There is every reason to believe that this pattern will continue as long as Israel is not seriously challenged diplomatically and by the sorts of growing pressures mounted by the international solidarity movement and the BDS campaign.

More widely, and fundamentally, shooting the messenger is part of a broader Israeli strategy to avoid giving any visibility to substantive criticisms of its behaviour. You are merely the latest victim, and one of the most highly placed.

The intensity of defamation seems to be roughly proportional to the perceived impact of your criticism. In this sense, Mr Secretary General, you have scored highly, especially due to your reminder to the Security Council that the UN will “continue to uphold the right of Palestinians to self-determination”.

This is not the language Israel’s leaders hope to hear from your lips, and hardly consistent with your record of steadfast support for Israel. To be meaningful beyond a ritual affirmation, self-determination must be understood, given present realities, as something more and other than another delusionary embrace of a diplomatically negotiated two-state solution.

You also tell the Security Council that “incitement has no place, and that questioning Israel’s right to exist cannot be tolerated.” Fair enough, but challenging Israel’s postures, policies and practices should be placed high on the UN agenda of unfinished business if what you propose on behalf of the Palestinian people is ever to have a chance of being achieved.

Palestine Flag UN

We need all to realise what else should not be tolerated: while the Palestinian flag flies outside UN headquarters, the Palestinian people have lived for almost 70 years under the daily brutalities of occupation, refugee camps, Gazan captivity, and involuntary exile.


Richard Falk

UN Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council for Occupied Palestine

Professor of International Law

– Richard Falk is an international law and international relations scholar who taught at Princeton University for 40 years. In 2008 he was also appointed by the UN to serve a six-year term as the Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.


  1. Mahatma Gandhi said 65 yeas ago: “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct. If they [the Jews] must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British gun. A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb.”

    “They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs.. As it is, they are co-sharers with the British in despoiling a people who have done no wrong to them. I am not defending the Arab excesses. I wish they had chosen the way of non-violence in resisting what they rightly regard as an unacceptable encroachment upon their country. But according to the accepted canons of right and wrong, nothing can be said against the Arab resistance in the face of overwhelming odds.”

    Times have not changed much as what Gandhi said still rings true.

    Israel continues to build walls across occupied territories the UN said Israel must give back. Israel continues to bulldoze homes, farms, orchards. Israel continues its “extra-judicial” assassinations —including on foreign soil and usually taking “collateral” civilians with it.

    Israel does not have a moral leg to stand on with regard to its treatment of Arabs now or ever. Bombing innocents as revenge for real wrongs committed is also wrong. In that sense, two wrongs do not make a right and Arab terrorism is just as wrong as Israeli terrorism.

    There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they grow up in peace. – Kofi Annan, former secretary general United Nations

    Kofi Annan, however finely he spoke, was still at heart a world class politician, as evidenced by the fact that he did no visible harm, and was caught doing even less visible good; yet he has withdrawn from high office retaining if not the highest regard of most of the world, little of the opprobrium which leaders usually carry into retirement.

    The inability of the world community and the United Nations to challenge Israel only frustrates hopes for a stable and peaceful world..

    Ironically, one of the poems gracing the entrance to the Hall of Nations of the UN building in New York is written by an Iranian:

    “The children of Humanity are each other’s limbs.

    That share an origin in their creator

    When one limb passes its days in pain

    The other limb cannot remain easy.

    You who feel no pain at the suffering of others,

    It is not fitting you be called Human” – Saadi

    On a final note, I quote the befitting lines of Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, President of the UN General Assembly:

    “It makes no sense to wage wars of aggression that kills hundreds of thousands of people with the purported aim of supporting democracy, while at the same time using every imaginable means and pretext to prevent a process to democratize the United Nations itself,”- d’Escoto told delegates at the 63rd General Assembly session in Geneva.

    “We will continue to stress that the decentralization which the United Nations so urgently needs will entail decentralizing the power accumulated in a small group of states,” d’Escoto added.

    Yes, and it is all so obvious, yet demoralizing, to see how the forces of power in the world undermine the effectiveness of this World Body, bulldoze aside all the altruism and ideals, as fast as they are thrown up and in the way of their profiteering and central powerizing objectives.

    Blessed are the Peace Makers that help keep our families and children safe from those who seek to oppress us and exploit us! Blessed are the Peacemakers, and they shall find it necessary to enter into the Kingdom of God before they discover lasting or even momentary Peace!

    • Those articles are just more of the same hasbara that has plagued the discussion ever since Zionists concocted the false narrative of Khazar Convert Jews’ entitlement to Palestine. The first article repeats the false claim (via allusion) that the Balfour Declaration “promised” Eastern European Jews a homeland in Palestine. The several White Papers that issued forth after the Balfour Declaration putting that claim to rest are, of course, not mentioned.

      It repeats the worn “Palestinians refuse compromise” when reams of documentation precisely capture the Zionist push to take what they wanted via deceit and force.

      It repeats the false premise that Israeli occupation is within the statutes of International Law when that law is violated every day by Israel.

      It falsely claims that Israel has a right to “defend” itself from those it’s occupying.

      But this sentence, in particular, is loathsome: ” Whatever the provocation, it is not ‘human nature’ to set out to murder as many innocents as possible, including women and children.” It is applied NOT to Israel’s asymmetrical response in Gaza murdering innocents by the thousands. It is applied to Palestinians ACTUALLY defending THEIR homeland.

      Such is the way of Israelis and American Israel apologists, no deceit is too far, no violence is too much. Yet, the world is to believe the outlandish narrative of falsehoods peddled by Zionists or be slandered with the charge of anti-Semitism.

      Israel IS an illegitimate state. It self-declared itself a state. The UN NEVER voted on Israel’s statehood. UN Resolution 181 garnered a positive vote to accept the UNSCOP report putting forth a partition plan with the proviso for more in depth study of the issue. By the way, who among you would accept an offer– after having had your home thieved from you –to accept 45 percent of it back? At the time of the proposal, only 33 percent of the population was Jewish via illegal immigration. The plan called for giving 55 percent of Palestine to that 33 percent of illegally entered Jews from Eastern Europe. Also, by the way, the UN has no authority to “give” any party land that belongs to others.

      Israelis are on the edge of destruction. It is their own doing. They’d rather use every disgusting trick in their book to make Eretz Yisrael (Greater Israel of the Bible) a reality throughout ALL of Palestine than settle for a secure homeland within some of Palestine.

      That the US unequivocally supports, aids and abets the continuing criminality of Israel is pathetic. But, the mood is shifting here. Americans from all walks of life are more and more becoming aware of the long history of deceit that has perverted this issue. More and more Americans are beginning to wake up and smell the blood on their collective hands.

  2. I read the open letter to Ban Ki-Moon and considered it as just another confirmation that the UN has become an absurdity and the best thing one can hope is a complete paralysis not only in the Security Council but also in all associated organizations.

    Ban Ki-Moon was hand picked by the USA and is the worst Secretary General the UN has ever had. The decay of the UN under his leadership may now be terminal. Regional groups of nations have to install parallel organizations who are free from US influence, organizations which gradually take over the useful work which many UN-organizations do.

    I personally have not paid much attention to the Palestinian cause in the last years because when Hamas and other factions joined the war against Syria I considered this as an utter betrayal. Syria under Hafez al-Assad and Dr. Bashar al-Assad was the greatest supporter and benefactor of Palestine. Palestinian refugees in Syria had nearly the same rights and possibilities as native Syrians, the Yarmouk Camp was the most affluent Palestinian settlement in the world.

    When Palestinian youth in Yarmouk, Sbeineh, Homs, in the Lebanese camps Burj el-Shemali, Rashidieh, and in various other refugee camps joined the Islamic insurgents and fought against the very government which unwavering had supported their struggle for half a century I closed the book on the Palestinian cause, but not without registering the continuing crimes against humanity committed by Israel.

    Israel tries to make the lives of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank as miserable as possible with the clear visible goal to either exterminate them or chase them away into surrounding Arab countries. This is genocide, and the fact that Jews themselves were victims of Genocide is another proof that “the only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history” (paraphrasing Hegel).

    I was for many decades a fervent supporter of Israel and admired the socialist culture of the Kibbutzim. It took years to overcome my positive bias toward Israel and it was a painfully slow learning process, during which I had to force myself to even look at evidence that contradicted my positive views about Israel.

    I cheered the Six-Day War and never doubted Israel’s claims that it responded to an attack by Egyptian forces. I dismissed the information about the preceding water disputes between Syria and Israel and viewed the occupation of the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula and the West Bank including East Jerusalem as a necessity to secure Israel’s existence. I heard about the 300,000 Palestinian and 90,000 Syrian refugees and I heard the reports about military executions of Arab civilians and POWs (Prisoners of War), but it didn’t change my mind.

    It took several years and a constant stream of disturbing news about constant harassment, oppression, and atrocities to make me observe the Middle East situation from a different angle. I started to look for alternative sources of information beyond the mainstream media and I discovered bewildering and disturbing discrepancies between these new informations and the official approved narrative.

    First I was confused, but as the bits and pieces of the information puzzle suddenly formed a coherent picture it felt like a veil had been lifted from my eyes. It was an epiphany and I suddenly understood!

    We are brainwashed. We are lied to and dumped down. I knew that before and I should not have been astonished to find out that it holds true even more for an emotionally charged issue like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Looking back at all these years when I was unwavering and unquestioning defending Israel against any criticism is quite sobering and disillusioning. I considered myself to be open minded, tolerant, free from prejudices and intelligent enough to look behind the scenes and lift the curtains and sort out the lies.

    I was not immune to misinformation, propaganda, media brainwashing, I fell in a trap like so many others!

    I write this long text because this blog and the very appropriate and helpful comment from Debbie deserve attention and support. The comments from the Israeli troll are just a confirmation of the despicable nature of Israeli propaganda. Hasbara, not meant to convince, but to cause disgust, aversion, and hate.

    Hate is a painful and very unhealthy mental condition and we have to take care that they will not make us hateful and that they have to consume their hate by themselves.

    Remembering Rachel Cory.

    • Thank you Wolf. Precisely. Well written.

      And how Americans have been conned by the Zionist Lies and Hidden agendas.

      Utterly Reprehensible.

      I wish the American public would wake up to reality sooner rather than too late and act to change things around.

      Et Voila