By M.A. Saki

Professor Falk: Fakhrizadeh assassination ‘is an outrageous act of state terrorism’

November 30, 2020 - 11:34

TEHRAN – Richard Anderson Falk, an American professor of international law at Princeton University, says the assassination of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh “is an outrageous act of state terrorism”.

Fakhrizadeh was assassinated in a complicated terrorist attack in a small city 40 kilometers northeast of Tehran on Friday, Nov. 27.

Israel is the prime suspect for the assassination of the scientist.

“This act can be viewed as a provocation of sufficient magnitude to push tensions toward a regional war,” Falk tells the Tehran Times in an exclusive interview.

Professor Falk, who also served as the UN Special Rapporteur on “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967”, says U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited the occupied West Bank on November 19 to present himself as “the most ardent champion of Israel” as he intends to run for president in 2024.

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: On November 19, Mike Pompeo toured the West Bank and the Golan Heights. How do you analyze the visits to these two occupied lands in terms of international law?

A: Given the timing of the Pompeo visit, so shortly followed by the shocking assassination of the leading nuclear scientific figure, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, makes one whether the real strategic purpose of the visit was either to be told about the planned attack or to encourage it. We have no way of knowing beyond the circumstantial evidence suggesting some level of linkage between the visit and the assassination.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the weak responses to such prior unlawful Trump move as moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem, validating Israeli sovereign rights to the Golan Heights, and greenlighting the annexation of portions of the West Bank gave Netanyahu the backing he wanted to go further and further, including in this connection the assassination of Mr. Fakhrizadeh.”

As far as the secondary goals of the Pompeo visit are concerned, I would suggest the effort to reinforce the pro-Israeli legacy of the Trump presidency with the added goal of inhibiting the efforts of Biden’s presidency to undo any of the U.S. support for these unlawful territorial expansionist moves made by Israel since 2016. It also seems that Pompeo seeks to be the Republican nominee for president in 2024 and apparently supposes that acquiring credentials as the most ardent champion of Israel will attract Zionist money and backing in the U.S.  

Q: Pompeo said the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, which is only aimed at pressuring Israel to stop settlements of Palestinian lands, as “anti-Semitic” and as “cancer.” How do you interpret these remarks?

A: Such unacceptable efforts to brand BDS as anti-Semitic is a further effort by Pompeo to appease the most militant Zionist elements in the United States and should be understood in the context of my response to the prior question. During the BDS Campaign directed at South African apartheid 30 years ago, there was controversy about whether this form of global solidarity was helpful to the anti-apartheid struggle, but there was never any suggestion that the advocacy of BDS was other than a constitutionally protected form of nonviolent protest. To make BDS in the context of Israel a type of hate speech or even a crime is a means to discourage a rising tide of solidarity, including in the United States with the Palestinian struggle for basic rights, including the right of self-determination.  

Q: Pompeo also called settlements “part of Israel" and "a recognition of the reality." While in the Golan Heights, Pompeo also said, “This is a part of Israel and a central part of Israel." What are the ulterior motives behind such remarks? 

A: Such language, which overlooks and defies the UN consensus concerning the settlements and Syrian territory, is a further expression of the unconditional support of the Trump presidency for the most controversial encroachments on Palestinian territorial rights. Prior American leaders have more cautiously adopted similar kinds of positions by speaking approvingly of recognizing ‘the facts on the ground’ but refrained from claiming that these settlements were established in a manner consistent with international law, which is the salient feature of the Pompeo declarations.

Q: Don’t you think that Pompeo’s remarks about the occupied Palestinian and Syrian lands are an example of a Machiavellian approach toward issues?

A: Such affirmations of territorial aggression are a reversion to the worst readings of cynical realism attributed to Machiavelli’s The Prince, and in a context where intervening legal and moral developments have made respect for the sovereign rights of both a foreign country (Syria) and of an Occupied Nation (Palestine) foundational principles of peace and security in our world of the 21st Century. Such remarks should be viewed as expressions by Pompeo of complicity with the commission of Israeli international crimes.
Q: What is your opinion of his statement that “settlements can be done in a way that is lawful and appropriate and proper?”

A: This kind of opinion presupposes and necessitates Palestinian consent by a political body legitimately representing the Palestinian people. It is difficult to imagine such consent being given unless there is established one democratic state for both peoples based on complete equality between Jews and Palestinians (including Christians, Druse, Bedouin minorities), which means the abandonment of the Zionist project to establish a Jewish state.’

Q: Some view Pompeo as the ideologist who manipulates Trump and shapes his approach toward international issues such as the occupied lands, the Paris climate accord, or the 2015 Iran nuclear accord. What do you think?

A: It may be that Pompeo is entrusted with the implementation of the Trump approach to the Middle East, but I am not aware of any evidence that he exerts the kind of influence that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, exerted on Trump during recent years. Pompeo is a bureaucrat with his own ambitions, and an outlook, especially on Israel, that resembles that of Trump. We should keep in mind that Pompeo is a devout member of the Christian evangelist movement that has been fanatically pro-Israeli and pro-Trump.

Q: Are not Pompeo’s visits to the occupied lands viewed as a revitalization of colonialism?

A: To the extent that Israel is itself properly perceived as a product of late settler colonialism, which has been long delegitimized, Pompeo’s visits and shows of support are an anachronistic endorsement of colonialism. I would regard Israel as a remnant of colonialism rather than part of any wider political process of ‘revitalization.’ The remarkable achievement of the Zionist movement was to establish and legitimize, with geopolitical help from the West, a colonial state at a historical time when colonialism was in its death throes elsewhere, that is, contrary to the flow of history. I believe that we are living in a post-colonial world order, and this struggle around the future of Israel is the last major battlefield.

 Q: Some believe that inaction by the international community emboldened the Trump administration to go ahead with manipulation of facts and replace international law with violation of international law. What is your view?

A: There is no doubt in my mind that the weak responses to such prior unlawful Trump move as moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem, validating Israeli sovereign rights to the Golan Heights, and greenlighting the annexation of portions of the West Bank gave Netanyahu the backing he wanted to go further and further, including in this connection the assassination of Mr. Fakhrizadeh, which is an outrageous act of state terrorism. This act can be viewed as a provocation of sufficient magnitude to push tensions toward a regional war. There may well be the belief in Israel that Netanyahu should take advantage of these last days of the Trump presidency as he may not enjoy the same level of geopolitical support from Washington during the Biden presidency. 

Q: Such things are being done in 2020. The way the Trump administration treats the occupied lands reminds us of the colonialist era. How do the current and next generations will look into such illegal acts?

A: I believe more and more people in the West are viewing Israeli behavior as a toxic combination of settler colonialism and apartheid racism, and within that frame of reference are becoming more aware that Israel is setting a dangerous example of the persistence of colonial excesses, which have produced decades of suffering for the Palestinian people dispossessed from or victimized in their own society. Europe, too, has been complicit, less actively engaged than the U.S., but still complacent in not accepting their responsibility for leaving this legacy of colonialism insufficiently attended.  

Q: Don’t you think that Trump’s and Pompeo’s records have been a great blow to the Republicans? 

A: Unfortunately, not if the reference of your question is to the Middle East where Trump and to a lesser extent Pompeo are appreciated by both political parties in the U.S. for achieving normalization agreements with several Arab states, thereby weakening the effort to isolate Israel diplomatically and economically in the region until a genuine peace with the Palestinians is reached. Many Republicans, mostly privately, are critical of Trump for his mismanagement of domestic issues, especially the COVID pandemic, and for his unwillingness to concede defeat in the recent election, posing a serious constitutional crisis. There are also some muted concerns about stumbling into an unwanted war with Iran, but for most Republicans, the bipartisan consensus favorable to Israel remains unquestioned national policy.

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