Biden Nominee Dropped After ‘Israel Apartheid’ Comment

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.

U.S. State Department in Washington, Feb. 13, 2023. (State Deptartment /Chuck Kennedy)

By Julia Conley
Common Dreams

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Cavallaro said on social media that he’d been informed by the U.S. State Department that the nomination had been withdrawn “due to my statements denouncing apartheid in Israel/Palestine.”

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 InternationalHuman 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.”

“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.”

“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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19 comments for “Biden Nominee Dropped After ‘Israel Apartheid’ Comment

  1. Vera Gottlieb
    February 19, 2023 at 10:59

    Mmmm I wonder…would criticizing Hitler also have been considered ‘anti German’ or ‘anti Protestant’???

  2. Barbara B. Mullin
    February 19, 2023 at 10:09

    Years ago I noticed that the organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State does not get into Israel and Zionism and their many claims about antisemitism. Why is that? How clever to avoid any dissent or criticism by claiming discrimination.

  3. S.P. Korolev
    February 19, 2023 at 04:15

    It would be interesting to know Mr. Cavallaro’s views on the so-called “Troika of Tyranny” in Latin America, also known as the independent, socialist states of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. As an advisor for the OAS on “human rights” from 2014-17 he was probably neck deep in the Yankee campaign to bring these countries to heel. But like Kenneth Roth, he has discovered that even an illustrious career in the service of US imperialism is not enough to protect him from the Israel Lobby.

  4. CaseyG
    February 17, 2023 at 17:05

    I think that Israel does what it wants, and America just goes along with what they want. That was true when reading about LBJ and the USS Liberty , where Israel bombed and attempted to completely destroy the ship and crew. I have read too, that LBJ and the US government refused to let any of the military who were bombed by Israel to make any comments at all. Dying for one’s country can certainly seem ridiculous.

    And too, when the man on the caterpillar ran over Rachel Corrie who was standing guard for the Palestinian family home—–no one in the American government seemed to care that the caterpillar ran over her on purpose. Even although her parents finally got a trial re: her death—-Israel found no problem— with the
    end result of ” the usual answer, of Israel did nothing wrong. Then too the flotilla people were murdered in international waters, and today we have Israelis attacking Palestinians of all ages—and no matter what harm they cause–Israel never seems to have responsibility. Add to this another horrifying murder with reporter Shireen too.

    The Holocaust was a horrible event in history—but why is Israel repeating this horror—-and why Joe Biden and much of America’s government—why are you supporting this horror too?

    • Robert Sinuhe
      February 18, 2023 at 13:14

      Israel has been doing these things since its existence. The Rabbi Kahane massacre of 40 Palestinians in a mosque many years ago, the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps massacre, though not perpetrated by the Israeli Army, they were involved, the USS Liberty attack, the 260 marines in Lebanon during President Reagan’s term, again not perpetrated by Israel but the Mossad failed on purpose to notify the American officials. This is only the short story. The history of Israel is littered by massacres and dirty dealing. They get away with this because of the enormous influence of AIPAC and other Jewish organizations in the US and other countries.

  5. Marc Shulman
    February 17, 2023 at 15:33

    Cavallaro’s tweets saying that Hakeem Jeffries and Joe Manchin were “bought and sold” were very insulting. The article quotes Cavallaro as saying that his nomination was withdrawn because he had described Israel as an apartheid society. But I have to wonder whether the real reason was his incredibly gauche accusations about Jeffries & Manchin. Those tweets would have done it for me, were I in charge of nominations. (Everybody knows that Israel runs an apartheid society , at least in the West Bank).

    • samm
      February 17, 2023 at 20:03

      Oh how gauche, the thought Palestinians are human beings!

    • Dan Yazbek
      February 18, 2023 at 13:02


  6. Nathan Mulcahy
    February 17, 2023 at 14:58

    ZOG comes to mind (Zoinist occupied government).

    • peter tusinski
      February 17, 2023 at 16:45


  7. Lois Gagnon
    February 17, 2023 at 14:57

    The message being sent here is that the cause of human rights is lower on the State Department’s list of priorities than geopolitical power games. It has always been thus. It’s just become more obvious over time.

  8. February 17, 2023 at 10:56

    The Emperor Has No Clothes

    “Based on Sufi wisdom, Hans Christian Andersen tells the tale in his “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, the story this expression derives from. In it. there existed an emperor who loved wearing fine clothes and spent all of his people’s money on them. He had a different set for each hour and was, without doubt, the finest dressed man in the land.

    One day, two swindlers claiming to be weavers entered the Emporer’s city and proclaimed they were capable of making the finest, lightest, most magnificent cloth the world has ever seen. So extraordinary was this cloth, it was invisible to anyone who was incompetent or stupid.

    Hearing of the weaver’s amazing “talent”, the foolish Emporer thought he could use such cloth to weed out undesirables in his city. He paid the swindlers an enormous sum & they set out to “create” the clothes; knowing they would only need go through the motions.

    The Emperor sent several advisors to guage their progress and all the advisors reported the cloth magnificent, not wanting to appear unworthy for seeing nothing at all; the cloth didn’t exist!

    Finally the clothes were “finished”, the swindlers already having counted the gold and jewels they had received. A procession was arranged to show off the Emporer’s new clothes and the entire city gathered in the center to view them. Having been “dressed” by the swinglers, who remarked how wonderful he looked, and how light the cloth appeared on him, he appeared before his people.

    The people, having heard of the weaver’s abilities and the cloth’s fictious properties, were amazed and offered thunderous applause to the now beaming Emperor. None of them were willing to admit that they hadn’t seen a thing; for if anyone did, then he was either stupid or unfit for the job he held. Never before had the emperor’s clothes been such a success.

    While expressing admiration at their Emporer’s new “invisible” clothes, a small boy cried out… “But the Emperor has no clothes!”

    Joe Biden has no clothes!

  9. Michael O Malloy
    February 17, 2023 at 10:39

    Whoa, be unto to thee that would call out the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. Blatant apartheid!

  10. February 17, 2023 at 10:20

    Given that the United States has refused to even ratify the Interamerican Convention on Human Rights and refuses to recognize the jurisdiction of the Interamerican Court of Human Rights, it ought not even have any right to representation on its Commission. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the action of the State Department is an Orwellian travesty. Evidently, respect for human rights disqualifies one from serving as a United States representative on anything having to do with human rights, which says a great deal about the Biden Administration and Democratic Party.

  11. robert e williamson jr
    February 17, 2023 at 08:14

    We can only hope that this Chief executive who got elected as being the lesser of two evils works himself so deep into the rat hole in the corner that the democrats nominate, someone anyone better.

    I would like to add that Renate could have chosen two words that would have better described our situation here, ‘have lost’ instead of “are losing”.

    Oh no Joe , tell me it ain’t so!

  12. JonnyJames
    February 16, 2023 at 20:19

    US and “human rights”? that’s a good one! Cavallaro was perhaps a bit naive: even in a symbolic role, the truth is not allowed. It’s not good for the PR narrative. Israel is a beacon of human rights and democracy, as is the USA and KSA.

    Let’s have a “human rights” commission with the US, KSA, Israel, and UK (with some EU vassals thrown in). Then let’s ask the folks in Afghanistan, Yemen, Cuba, Venezuela, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Palestine…about how their “human rights” were respected when their gold, resources and central bank reserves are stolen, their countries under siege warfare (illegal unilateral “sanctions”), and/or getting bombed into the Stone Age, with 100s of thousands of innocent people mass murdered.

    • peter tusinski
      February 17, 2023 at 16:52

      J it;s worse than you stated by a longshot . tyranny by a minority.

  13. Renate
    February 16, 2023 at 19:52

    Official institutions and organizations are losing their integrity because corrupt politicians are in control.

    • Me Myself
      February 17, 2023 at 00:06

      Lost their integrity? Did they really ever have any?

Comments are closed.