The withdrawal of James Cavallaro’s nomination to a human rights commission was decried by rights advocates as a clamp-down on criticism of the Israeli government’s violent policies in Palestine.
Human rights advocates are warning that the Biden administration’s decision to withdraw its nomination of law professor James Cavallaro to serve on a human rights commission could be the latest incident that chills free speech regarding violent Israeli policies in Palestine after Cavallaro said he was shut out of the position due to his condemnation of Israel’s apartheid regime.
Cavallaro was nominated last Friday to sit on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a watchdog within the Organization for American States which he previously served on from 2014-17.
The nomination was met with applause from the human rights advocacy community, but on Tuesday Cavallaro said on social media that he’d been informed by the U.S. State Department that the nomination had been withdrawn “due to my statements denouncing apartheid in Israel/Palestine.”
It was an honor to be nominated last Friday by the US to serve as a Commissioner on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. I had already devoted four years of my career @CIDH, as a Commissioner (2014-2017) and as President (2016-2017). (2/11)
— James (Jim) Cavallaro (@JimCavallaro) February 14, 2023
Cavallaro, the founder and executive director of the University Network for Human Rights at Wesleyan University, said he responded to the State Department’s news by noting that mainstream human rights groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Israeli organization B’Tselem have all stated that Israel’s illegal settlements, restriction of Palestinians’ movement, and other policies amount to apartheid.
The United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Palestine also said last year that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is apartheid.
The Algemeiner, a newspaper the UNHR called “a fringe, Trump-affiliated media outlet,” reported on Cavallaro’s comments about Israel as an “apartheid state” on Monday. Its article focused on a tweet written by Cavallaro in December saying that U.S. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) has been “Bought. Purchased. Controlled” by the anti-Palestinian rights lobby.
That tweet was written in response to a Guardian article detailing Jeffries’ close ties to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and other pro-Israel lobbying groups, which donated $460,000 to the Democratic leader last year. Cavallaro also tweeted that right-wing Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) was “bought and paid for.”
Cavallaro acknowledged on Wednesday that he removed some of his tweets “proactively and in good faith,” to address the State Department’s concerns about his public statements on his “personal views on U.S. policy.”
Ned Price, the U.S. State Department spokesperson, had said on Tuesday that the department was “not aware of the statements and writings” of Cavallaro. The State Department has apparently given no public reason why it withdrew his nomination.
In 2019, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) received criticism for her comments on the pro-Israel lobby giving millions of dollars to like-minded lawmakers annually in order to advance pro-Israel legislation. Jewish Voice for Peace denounced the criticisms as “disingenuous” at the time, noting that “lobbies influence politics.”
Omar was removed earlier this month from the Republican-led House Foreign Affairs Committee because of her remarks on Israel.
The withdrawal of Cavallaro’s nomination comes a month after the Harvard Kennedy School, under pressure, reversed its decision to rescind a fellowship invitation to former Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth. The longtime rights campaigner accused the school of retaliating against him for his statements about apartheid in Israel.
The decision to withdraw Cavallaro’s nomination, said Roth, “suggests that only Israeli apologists are acceptable” for human rights positions. He noted that the University Network for Human Rights’ director’s views on Israel are “a completely mainstream position for any human rights defender.”
Another example of the #PalestineException on the heels of the Harvard/Ken Roth affair that suggests that, for the @StateDept, believing that Palestinians deserve basic rights disqualifies one from serving on a human rights body. Shameful & yet US foreign policy in a nutshell 2/2 pic.twitter.com/VJ9kCTklZf
— Omar Shakir (@OmarSShakir) February 14, 2023
“There is consensus today across the human rights movement on Israel’s system of apartheid, and many other prominent voices — from the former U.N. secretary-general and director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry to the South African government and French foreign minister — have referenced apartheid in relation to Israel’s systematic subjugation of Palestinians,” said the University Network for Human Rights. “When it comes to human rights in Israel/Palestine, the U.S. State Department is the outlier.”
Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU’s Human Rights Program, warned that the State Department’s decision “sends a dangerous message and chills speech critical of Israel.”
David Kaye, a former U.N. special rapporteur on free expression, called the withdrawal “a huge and totally unjustified mistake.”
we should just be clear here: @JimCavallaro has been a leading human rights educator, scholar, lawyer, leader, activist for decades. few are as committed to human rights in the americas as jim. this is a huge & totally unjustified mistake. https://t.co/LLpY09rQtG
— David Kaye (@davidakaye) February 15, 2023
“While Cavallaro’s potential participation on the commission would have absolutely no impact on U.S. policy on Israel, the withdrawal of his nomination will have real consequences for human rights in the Americas,” said the University Network for Human Rights.
“Cavallaro has been a courageous and committed voice for justice for victims of human rights abuse across the region; as an experienced commissioner in his second term, he would have advanced the cause of human rights in the hemisphere significantly,” it said.
Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams.
This article is from Common Dreams.
The views expressed in this article and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
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