Last month, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appointed Canadian professor Michael Lynk as “Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.”
Ensuing debate has focused on Lynk’s suitability for the role. Critics of the appointment cite Lynk’s record of significant involvement in advocacy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including with organizations that are clearly biased against Israel.
Lynk’s may have an impressive career background in academia and law, therefore, there is nothing to suggest he lacks the knowledge or experience for such a position. But this is ultimately irrelevant to the question of whether Lynk is a suitable choice for Special Rapporteur.
First and foremost, the UNHRC itself has declared (in resolutions 5/1 and 16/21) that “impartiality” and “objectivity” are of “paramount importance” when selecting mandate-holders. The choice of any activist is a clear violation of this core requirement.
Lynk has served as an advisory board member to Palestinian advocacy organisations like CEPAL and Friends of Sabeel North America. These organisations have slandered Israel as an “apartheid state.”
Lynk has also accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing.” He has addressed “one-state” conferences, which — despite academic niceties — are premised on the notion that the world’s only Jewish state should be abolished.
He is on record as saying that Israel and Hamas should both be tried for “war crimes,” an allegation that attempts to equivocate the actions of the only liberal democracy in the region to the same moral level as jihadists who in their Covenant publicly call for the destruction of Israel.
Lynk has urged the president of Western University to reject an award from the Jewish National Fund, one of the oldest environmental organizations on earth. As long ago as 1996, Lynk testified before a parliamentary committee considering legislation to establish Canada-Israel free trade, arguing that the bill was “detrimental to the peace process.”
For decades, he has been actively and formally involved in advocacy initiatives that he would characterize as pro-Palestinian but others, with reason, would characterise as anti-Israel.
Lynk is, of course, entitled to hold strong opinions and advocate for them. But in so doing, he disqualifies himself from meeting the “paramount” test of impartiality and objectivity required — that seems to exist only on paper in the halls of the UNHRC.
All of which is to say that Lynk’s appointment is but one manifestation of the corroded nature of the UNHRC. In its most recent session, the UNHRC passed five resolutions against Israel compared to none against Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Russia, Burundi, and China. The Council’s Special Rapporteur for the Palestinians refuses to investigate violations of Palestinian rights by the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. It’s no surprise that 9/11 conspiracy theorist Richard Falk felt at home in the role. Nor can we be shocked the next time a brutal dictatorship like Iran or North Korea is appointed to chair a UN initiative focused on women’s rights or disarmament.
In November, the Trudeau government took a widely noted stand at the UN by maintaining Canada’s opposition to the annual series of General Assembly resolutions singling out Israel. In the same vein, its Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion has commendably raised legitimate concerns with the Lynk appointment and called for a review of the decision. Such a clear positive stance is all too often lacking from other democratic nations.
Indeed, just as hatred of Jews foreshadows the decay of an entire society, anti-Israel bias at the UNHRC reflects broader, systemic dysfunction at the UN — which affects the entire international community.
This article is adapted from an article by Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and published in The National Post.