HAMILTON, ONT. – Jewish community leaders are expressing anger at a scheduled talk by a United Nations special representative with a reputation for bias against Israel.
Michael Lynk, the UN’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, is set to deliver two lectures in Hamilton, Ont., one at McMaster University and one at Barton Stone-Mount Hope United Church, on Jan. 31, in an appearance sponsored by a who’s who of anti-Israel organizations.
His talks are being billed as a preview of his report expected in October on alleged abuses of Palestinian human rights. Lynk has already issued two such reports since his appointment in 2016, documents which have caused pro-Israel leaders to accuse him of bias that violates the UN’s code of conduct.
In an email, Martin Sampson, vice-president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), condemned Lynk’s history of engagement with “Canada’s most malicious anti-Israel activist groups.…
“His proximity to such actors raises reasonable questions about whether or not he is in violation of the code of conduct for special mandate holders.”
UN rapporteurs are supposed to remain “free from any kind of extraneous influence, incitement, pressure, threat or interference, either direct or indirect, on the part of any party,” and to “neither seek nor accept instructions from any government, individual, governmental or non-governmental organization or pressure group whatsoever.”
In addition to McMaster University’s political science department, Lynk’s appearance is being sponsored by the local chapter of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, the Palestinian Association of Hamilton, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights – McMaster, the social justice committee of the Hamilton Presbytery of the United Church of Canada, the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War, the Jewish Liberation Theology Institute, McMaster Muslims for Peace and Justice, Democracy Probe International and Independent Jewish Voices.
In his first report, released in October 2016, Lynk, who is also an associate professor of law at Western University, detailed the adverse impacts of the “occupation” on the Palestinians’ right to develop their own economy.
The second report urged economic and travel sanctions against Israel as a way of forcing a withdrawal from the West Bank.
Lynk did not respond to The CJN’s request for comment, but in a 2016 interview with the Globe and Mail, he said the only side he has chosen in the debate “is to international law, to human rights law.”
Hamilton-area Conservative MP David Sweet, vice-chair of the federal Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group, said Lynk’s history of anti-Israel bias has been well established over the years.
“Back in 2016 when he was initially appointed, organizations like UN Watch, CIJA and Honest Reporting strongly denounced his appointment because of what they considered his bias against Israel,” said Sweet.
“Everything I’ve seen so far has proved their point. There’s strong concern about his objectivity and I think those concerns are borne out in his own words. When he first took the office, he admitted that even when the office was created, it had been solely focused on Israel and never were the actions of Fatah or the Palestinian Authority or Hamas ever questioned. That’s a big concern to anyone who wants to see any kind of objectivity toward Israel’s right to defend itself and be safe and secure.”
Sweet, who held the federal riding that is home to the bulk of Hamilton’s Jewish population before the ridings were changed in 2012, said he was also concerned about McMaster providing a platform for such a controversial presentation, especially given the university’s reputation as “a hotbed of BDS and Israel Apartheid Week activity.”
Ilan Orzy, director of advocacy and issues management for Hillel Ontario, said the most troubling aspect on Lynk’s on-campus appearance is that he is being presented as an impartial expert on the Middle East.
“In addition to various statements demonstrating hostility toward Israel, Michael Lynk has long been connected to anti-Israel initiatives,” he wrote in an email exchange. “The troubling aspect of his upcoming lecture at McMaster and other university campuses is namely that he is being presented as an unbiased expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, when that is clearly not the case.”
Also troubling, Orzy said, is that the groups hosting the event are not providing a platform for the pro-Israel position. “This is problematic, as it will leave the audience with a biased and distorted perspective on the realities in Israel, which only furthers the anti-Israel, and often anti-Semitic, rhetoric on campus, which, in turn, has an extremely negative effect on Jewish and pro-Israel students.”
For the university’s part, McMaster public relations manager Wade Hemsworth said the school “is committed to open dialogue and civil discourse that are respectful of differing views and opinions.”
Rabbi Jordan Cohen of Hamilton’s Temple Anshe Sholom said he has rejected a request by Independent Jewish Voices to promote the event through his synagogue and wonders if the best response might be to ignore an event where “there will be no balance in the presentation.… It will be the same old people coming to hear him say what they already believe. It deserves no attention.”