By Richard Falk
December 20, 2008 “The Guardian”
When I arrived in Israel as a UN representative I knew there might be problems at the airport. And there were
On December 14, I arrived at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Israel to carry out my UN role as special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories.
I was leading a mission that had intended to visit the West Bank and Gaza to prepare a report on Israel’s compliance with human rights standards and international humanitarian law. Meetings had been scheduled on an hourly basis during the six days, starting with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, the following day.
I knew that there might be problems at the airport. Israel had strongly opposed my appointment a few months earlier and its foreign ministry had issued a statement that it would bar my entry if I came to Israel in my capacity as a UN representative.
At the same time, I would not have made the long journey from California, where I live, had I not been reasonably optimistic about my chances of getting in. Israel was informed that I would lead the mission and given a copy of my itinerary, and issued visas to the two people assisting me: a staff security person and an assistant, both of whom work at the office of the high commissioner of human rights in Geneva.