Dion crumbles before CIJA attack on UN nominee as Palestinian human rights “rapporteur”


UWO law professor Michael Lynk was named by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) as a “Special Rapporteur on Palestine”. Within 24 hours, the Israel lobby was in full attack mode, claiming Lynk had a long record of hostility toward Israel and demanding the Government of Canada oppose the nomination. Shortly thereafter, Global Affairs Minister Stephane Dion tweeted that he would ask the UN to review his appointment. But has Dion really checked out Lynk’s background? Read more

On Wednesday, March 23, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) named Canadian law professor Professor Michael Lynk to be its “special rapporteur for the Palestinian Territories”. According to his bio, Lynk is well published in the fields of labour and international law.

The UHRC frequently names “special rapporteurs’ to make investigation of human rights abuses (or allegations of abuses) in different countries around the world. At present there are more than a dozen of these “special rapporteurs” named to investigate the situation in countries as different as Cambodia, the Central African Republic and Syria. These rapporteurs are usually lawyers with considerable experience in the area of international law and are NOT from the country involved. No country likes being investigated.

Almost as soon as Lynk’s nomination was made public, Israel was on the attack. “UN nominates pro-Palestinian legal expert to investigate Israel”, said an article in the Jerusalem Post. In Canada, Israel’s key allies took up the refrain. Bnai Brith said it was “outraged” over the appointment”. Opposition Foreign Affairs Critic Tony Clement argued that the Government of Canada should “disqualify” Lynk.

We strongly denounce the appointment of Michael Lynk to this role,” said Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs CEO Shimon Fogel. “Despite the specific requirement that candidates for the position demonstrate impartiality and objectivity, Mr. Lynk has a long record of involvement with anti-Israel initiatives and has repeatedly made public statements that demonstrate hostility towards Israel.” Fogel called on the Government of Canada to object to Lynk’s appointment.

“Lynk’s crime? According to CIJA, Lynk is on record as critical of Israel, even going so far as to claim in an op ed in the Toronto Star that Israel should be investigated for possible war crimes following the 2014 Gaza war.

trudeau dion

Did Dion check his facts or was he bullied by the lobby?

Apparently the attack by the pro-Israel lobby was so powerful that it intimidated Hon. Stephane Dion, who rapidly tweeted that he thought the appointment should be “reviewed”.

But a backlash against the “public hanging” of Professor Lynk is developing. A number of Lynk’s professional colleagues have pointed out that CIJA has used a very selective reading of Lynk’s writings to build a case of bias. In a powerful open letter written to Minister Dion, Osgoode Hall law professor and former NDP member of Parliament Craig Scott, castigates Dion for folding so quickly in the face of CIJA’s allegations.

The speed with which your condemnation came out makes me very worried that your appreciation came as a consequence of rushed advice.  I cannot imagine that properly trained lawyers in Global Affairs Canada would have objections to Professor Lynk if they had truly assessed his scholarship and contributions to public-policy debate, so I can only assume that assessment was somehow short-circuited,” wrote Scott.

Read the whole letter here: March 26 2016 – Email Letter to Dion re Lynk

Scott notes that a careful reading of Lynk’s public statements and his academic writings over the last 20 years show that he has been careful to hew to international law. In the specific case of the Israeli war crimes allegation, Scott shows that in fact Lynk had argued that both Israel and Hamas should be investigated.

Scott recommends to Dion that he make better use of professional advice before caving into unfair allegations about Professor Lynk.

The harsh criticism directed at Professor Lynk should not surprise. Israel and its supporters could be expected to oppose the nomination of any independent legal expert. In fact, in his statement condemning Lynk, CIJA’s Fogel outlined that his real demand is to stop the UN from investigating any human rights issues in the Palestinian territories.

“Bodies like the UNHRC must be fundamentally restructured to ensure they are no longer abused as platforms for extreme agendas,” wrote Fogel. “This requires shutting down the position of a Special Rapporteur for the Palestinians – an office that reflects the UNHRC’s systemic prejudice against Israel.”

However, if Canada really wants a seat on the Security Council, trying to shut down the UNHRC’s ability to independently investigate claims of Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians is not a good way to show that “Canada is back”..

Comments: Agree? Disagree? Think I have left out something important? All polite, respectful and thoughtful comments are welcome.


    1. I second Diana’s comment, Peter. There’s a long way to go, but my impression is that these bullying tactics by pro-Israel lobbyists may cow anxious politicians and university presidents, but are increasingly wearing thin on the public. Do you have any polling or other evidence to support this?

      1. I have anecdotal evidence of CIJA fatigue from meeting with a couple of Liberal MP’s since the vote. there were 44 Liberal abstentions (significant since the leader had taken a strong position). The only Ottawa area MP to vote was Andrew Leslie who is a cabinet member and pretty well forced to do. They are also letting it out quietly that Dion’s tweet was actually done by a staffer… as if to detach a bit.

  1. So Minister Dion is at odds with appointment of a respected Canadian academic to head a desperately needed UN investigation of the situation in Palestine. Is he worried that the appointee might be less willing to pander to the views of lobbyists for Israel … to the extent that many of his fellow Liberal MPs added their ‘yeas’ to the recent Conservative anti-BDS motion in Canada’s Parliament?

    Minister Dion’s complaint does seem a bit rich, especially when he concurrently continues to defend the large shipment of armored vehicles to another nation noted for defying international law.

  2. I’m surprised anyone is surprised about this! OF COURSE Israel is not going to want any truly well known independent impartial lawyer to come sniffing about.. he will humiliate them with all he will find! I would be very skeptical if they DIDN’T try to put pressure on anyone to toe the line.. It’s up to us who believe in Humanity and the defense of powerless peoples to encourage these leaders and let them know they’re doing the right thing! We have to thank them and reassure them that many of the populace applauds this decision so they don’t retract it! Onward we go!!

  3. The previous rapporteur, the Indonesian Makarim Wibisono, resigned, 2 months ago. During all his mandate [from june 2014 until january 2016] Israel denied him to access to the Palestinian Occupied Territories… !
    … And, falsely neutral, Trudeau and Dion did not criticize it.
    On Radio-Canada (french). + 90% comments are in favor of Mr. Lynk and against Trudeau/Dion.

  4. Your last point is a particularly good one, Peter: “if Canada really wants a seat on the Security Council, trying to shut down the UNHRC’s ability to independently investigate claims of Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians is not a good way to show that ‘Canada is back.’”

    People might want to read about the last time the Israel lobby went after a Canadian appointed to a UN position: “Israel has succeeded in getting the Canadian law professor William Schabas to resign from his post as head of a UN inquiry panel into potential war crimes in Gaza.” (at: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.640830)


    1. “if Canada really wants a seat on the Security Council…” was my first thought also. I seem to remember that Canada was not very welcoming to the rapporteur on Canada’s treatment of indigenous people. The very purpose of a rapporteur is to review and comment on the issue for which they were appointed – and that by its very nature will not be welcomed by those on the “wrong” side of the issue. However, I asked myself, “What advantage is there for Canadian politicians like Dion to oppose the appointment unless they were afraid of being implicated in the rapporteur’s findings?”

  5. A disgusting and embarrassing reaction of the Canadian government under lobby pressure.

  6. Perhaps the appointment of Mr Dion should be “reviewed”…. Or the election of the Libs might be next time round

  7. Mr. Dion says in his tweet (from the link in the article): [[ We call on @UN_HRC President to review this appointment & ensure Special Rapporteur has track record that can advance peace in region #HRC ]]

    Very interesting: Does a lawyer have a responsibility to advance peace in an occupied territory more than the occupation itself? If a lawyer is that dangerous to Israeli occupation, should not we review what the occupation is doing rather the lawyer?

    Mr. Dion, Harper put Israel above the law, and damaged the reputation of Canada. Are you doing the same thing? Your position is unacceptable and outrageous.

  8. The slavish following by Canada of American policies toward Israel, supportive of every inhumanity toward the Palestinians soils the history and the professed values of both countries. One hoped for a return to the more or less neutral position that Canada adopted until the Conservatives took over a decade ago. That the Liberals, (and the NDP for that matter) have fallen under the influence of AIPAC so completely is a tragic disappointment. Our policy should be at least as militant in support of peaceable efforts to persuade Israel, as the occupying and offending power, to accept the right of return of the Palestinians to their homeland, in a shared secular one state solution through BDS, and otherwise, as it was in the case of Apartheit South Africa decades ago. Lester Pearson would have done no less, were he alive today.

  9. Yes, the objection by CIJA and others to the appointment of Professor Lynk to the position of UNCHR special rapporteur on Palestine is to the position itself and it’s scrupulous application of international law to the situation in the Palestine and not to any vague and unproven anti Israel bias. Any fair minded review of the appointment by Minister Dion will reveal that support of this UNCHR position and full cooperation with it by Israel will indeed advance the “peace process” towards an internationally supported “two state” or other solution of Israel Palestine. Only this outcome will ensure the achievement of full human security and political rights for Israelis and Palestinians in Israel and Palestine. It would be useful for Canada and all Canadian organizations interested in Middle East peace to get behind Professor Lynk one of ot its expert nationals in trying to advance this outcome in Israel Palestine.

  10. Very sad that our government appears to be “caving in” to CIJA pressure tactics so easily without having taken the time to investigate Professor Lynk’s background thoroughly.

  11. But of course CIJA would not object to a pro- Israeli candidate… So much for balance and objectivity. It is far better to have someone like Michael Lynk who has a deep knowledge base of international law than a person with only superficial knowledge and skills that CIJA would consider”safe”. We can’t always play safe when peoples lives are at stake!

  12. Sadly, Mr. Dion has a history of bending to whatever wind is blowing. He seems to lack the fortitude to confront the Saudis on their human rights record as sufficient cause to cancel Harper’s arms deal. He now lacks the courage to confront the displeasure of Israel in supporting a man that may only be accused of an inclination to do the right thing.

  13. I’m an American not a Canadian. I’m not sure how Canada being in favor or opposed to the UNHRC being “independent” would help or hurt Canada in getting a seat on the security council. I don’t even see how they are related. Nor am I really clear why Canada would want a seat on the council if the cost of such a seat is having to vote against its interests or its conscience. The Security Council is supposed to be a forum for countries to diplomatically solve what they would otherwise solve militarily. The whole point of such a seat would be to represent Canada’s interests so as to avoid having to arm non-state actors, position troops, sell weapons….

    FWIW I think there is justifiably such a high degree of mistrust between the UNHRC and Israel the best investigator would be an ardent Zionist. Criticism from someone who’s pro-Israel credentials couldn’t be questioned would be likely to stick and not be dismissed as more anti-Israel hate from the UN. Israel is in the process of forcibly incorporating territory that the UN doesn’t recognize as its territory and containing a population that despises the Jewish government. Of course their are going to be human rights “abuses” according to the UN! What is it that you want the investigation to show?

    1. I feel compelled to reply to our American friend.

      Our PM was just down in New York last month lobbying for a Security Council seat with no less than Ban Ki-Moon. That we didn’t get one in 2010 for the first time ever was a reflection of our anti-humanitarian government, certainly not least on the Palestine question, having shamefully abdicated on our traditional role internationally. Dion’s unfounded criticism of the UN appointment of a Canadian over which he has no say contradicts the very purpose of Trudeau’s trip. If he wanted a say, it would be through the member Western European allies of UNHRC — but they voted unanimously in favour of Lynk’s appointment.

      The highly respected South African Jewish judge Goldstone was pilloried by Israel after he issued his UN report. Let’s be honest: Israel and it’s Lobby here do not support Palestinian human rights in territories that they wish to ethnically cleanse, and will stop at nothing to try to prevent anyone saying so.

      Dion’s few months on this file has already sent the high-flying Liberal stock crashing.

      1. @Robert —

        Thank you for the context regarding 2010. That makes sense. OK well then clarify the second point, what does Canada do with its security council seat? What’s it for?

        — If he wanted a say, it would be through the member Western European allies of UNHRC — but they voted unanimously in favour of Lynk’s appointment.

        Here we do disagree. By undermining Lynk and indicating that Canada won’t consider his reports to be unbiased (and thus won’t support resolutions based upon them) he’s most certainly having a say. I imagine this analogy won’t go over well here but it is a the most recent and likely best analogy to what Canada might be doing.

        Consider the situation at the start of Bush-43’s and America being thrown off the UNHRC itself. When Bush rejected the ICC (IMHO a constitutional imperative given the treaty’s final decision not to allow for trial by jury) and Kyoto (no support in the Senate, it simply could never be ratified) the USA was thrown off the body as punishment. This was meant to be a strong symbolic act. Eleanor Roosevelt had been a huge advocate for the formation of a global human rights body, it was arguably here #1 policy objective. The existence of such a body had moved anti-UN Americans who were concerned about human rights towards support. The CIA and State Department both independently do tremendous research that went into findings of the UNHRC and often meant that their findings of fact had full American support. America had always consider a voice in this body important, though mainly symbolically.

        The United States responded by simply ignoring the UNHRC it had no effect on debates internally. The State Department and CIA produced their reports and UNHRC produced theirs and if they disagreed on matters of fact their was no discussion of this. This upended the role of the UNHRC. Traditionally the UNHRC debated the facts and the Security Council debated the response to the facts. Now suddenly USA concerns about the facts of various human rights situation blocked the Security Council. When the Security Council tried to treat the matters of fact as decided the USA refused to go along. The CIA’s annual reports became definitive for the USA’s vote (and often actions), and those of course weren’t subject to any international review

        Rather than America becoming irrelevant the UNHRC found itself demoted from a group with direct access and authority to render final judgement on questions of fact, to just another human rights group that produces reports that the CIA or State Department might choose to consider for their reports which still did meaningfully affect policy. The UNHRC was damaged the USA was not humbled by this sanction. Moreover and importantly this set the tone for later acts. The international community having seen the Bush response to the minor blow up over the ICC/Kyoto and the UNHRC didn’t push any kind of further sanction with regards to Iraq and the UN in general (though many countries and activists asked for anti-USA sanction in response to America deciding to engage in pre-emptive war against explicit UN instruction). There was real fear that if there was a showdown the effect might not be to bring the USA into compliance but rather for the USA to abandon the post-WWII international system entirely and permanently.

        Now obviously Canada lacks quite that much international juice. But that applies in both directions. So both in the impact of their criticism and the impact of their support.


        — Israel and it’s Lobby here do not support Palestinian human rights in territories that they wish to ethnically cleanse

        I don’t know that they intent on ethnically cleansing the territories. I think they want to pacify. Ethnic cleansing is at most a means to pacification. Both major instances of ethnic cleansing in Israel’s history occurred during full on wars. So I’m not sure I’d agree with you that ethnically cleansing the territories is a final goal rather than just a policy option for Israel.

        And your comment is exactly the kind of thing that most “neutral” observers believe and my response is why they don’t tend to get believed. I read the Goldstone report and I honestly believed there were quite a lot of assumptions that never should have been in a finding of fact. It was horrifically biased (at least IMHO). Conversely I think many more moderate group’s criticism carry more weight. A findings of fact that doesn’t end the debate about facts isn’t successful. Goldstone is too far to the left. If he were doing a human rights report on any country I wouldn’t find it credible simply because I disagree far too often with his interpretation of human rights laws. (And mind you I’m a moderate Democrat not a Republican).

  14. It seems that everyone here agrees that the appointment of Professor Lynk, who has a long record of expressing hostility to Israel is an appropriate choice for the special rapporteur position, even though one of the stated requirements of the position are that the appointee be impartial. I respectfully disagree.

    Please consider the words of former Liberal Senator Irwin Cotler in the article at the following link. http://www.algemeiner.com/2016/04/04/irwin-cotler-laundering-antisemitism-corrupts-our-common-humanity/ Senator Cotler identifies a dire development which is a threat to the liberties of all. The international human rights institutions have been perverted from their original purpose to the promotion of antisemitism.

    These institutions were founded for a noble purpose, to promote the rights and dignity of all peoples. Consider what might have been achieved if the zeal and efforts devoted to the defamation of Israel over the past five years had instead been channeled into denouncing the genuine human rights violations and war crimes of Bashar Assad, who has killed half a million Syrians. Please consider Senator Cotler’s words. We all lose when international law and international human rights organizations are highjacked for the defamation of Israel and the promotion of antisemitism.

    Very respectfully yours.

    1. Hey David, thanks for your thoughtful reply, and the link to Mr. Cotler’s presentation. You and I have exchanged enough emails to know that we don’t agree. Why don’t we see what others think?

      I would invite you to have a public discussion about whether BDS is in fact anti-semitic, or whether the criticisms of Israel do really amount to “the new anti-semitism” as Mr. Cotler contends. (Frame the question as you want.)

      A debate or discussion could be done at the Jewish Community Centre, or any other venue you think appropriate. You could choose the format and the moderator.

      I think these things deserve to be discussed seriously. I see that you are a serious person, which I also try to be. What do you say?

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