The UN pointman for Palestinian human rights launched a blistering attack on the international community Monday, accusing it of conspiring in Israeli settlement policies and branding the peace process a “trick”.
Richard Falk, the special UN rapporteur for human rights in the occupied territories, also took aim at the so-called Middle East Quartet’s peace envoy Tony Blair over his efforts in the region.
Falk, who spoke to reporters after addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, said Palestinians in the occupied West Bank were offered no protection in Israeli law and that their treatment was akin to apartheid.
“I think one has to begin to call the reality by a name,” he said, likening the “discriminatory dualistic legal system” in the West Bank to the former system in South Africa.
In his report to the council, Falk expressed his concern about Israel’s use of administrative detention, the expansion of settlements and violence by settlers.
Israel in March severed contacts with the council after the 47-member body said it would investigate settlements in the occupied territories, which are considered illegal under international law.
Peace talks between the two sides have been on hold since September 2010, with the Palestinians refusing to resume them without a moratorium on settlement building.
“The peace process is a trick rather than a way to find a solution to the problem,” Falk said.
He also criticised the work of the former British prime minister Tony Blair in the region.
“Tony Blair has not much to show for his 86 visits to the Middle East… (it is) an extension of the peace process which I regard as a failure because while time passes the settlement culture continues.”
“The international community is conspiring — maybe unwittingly — in a process that has no way of bringing justice to the people involved in this conflict,” he said of settlements.
At least 3,500 buildings were under construction in the West Bank in 2011, Falk reported, not including Israeli settlements in annexed east Jerusalem.
Such building on Palestinian land “more or less closes the book on the reality and feasibility” of a two-state solution to the conflict, Falk said.
“The credibility of the Human Rights Council is very much at stake if there is nothing that is done about the non-cooperation or non-compliance” by Israel with the council’s recommendations, he said.
“The language of censure doesn’t help the Palestinian people if there is no action.”
Settler violence against Palestinians was a new feature of the drive to occupy the Palestinian territories, especially around Hebron and Nablus, he added.
“Many people say the Israeli government is an extension of the settlers and I think that is an accurate description,” he said.
Falk said Palestinians were disillusioned by the international peace efforts and had resorted to extreme measures such as hunger strikes to raise awareness of abuses including illegal detention by Israel.
But such action was ignored in Western media, Falk said, sending “the unfortunate signal that only violent protests will be noticed internationally”.