David Matas is a Canadian international human rights lawyer who in 2006 co-authored the first investigation into forced organ harvesting in China. Around the world, he addresses human rights issues such as the persecution of Palestinians in Gaza, Tamils in Sri Lanka, and Falun Gong practitioners. In Paris on October 21, 2023, on the occasion of the broadcast of a documentary on the real source of organs transplanted in China, he answered our questions about the conflict between Israel and Hamas and human rights issues in general.
EPOCH TIMES: The UN High Commissioner says he has evidence of war crimes committed by Hamas in the October 7 attack, but also by Israel in the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip. An investigation is to be conducted to determine possible violations of international laws governing armed conflict. What do you think about this?
DAVID MATAS: The problem is not in the UN in general, because the UN is a wide range of institutions and staff. This particular investigation is the problem. Its mandate and staff are not appropriate.
The people who lead it are used to unilaterally and blindfoldedly condemning Israel. They have already engaged in delegitimization and demonization campaigns, so this investigation is simply not credible.
In France, left-wing MPs continue to talk about Israel’s illegal occupation of territories that should belong to the Palestinians. It is a narrative that appears to justify the moral basis for attacking Israel and is being taken up by pro-Palestinian movements. How do you respond to such rhetoric?
The obvious answer is that there is no occupation. Hamas itself has declared that there is no occupation. The Israelis had troops in Gaza before 2005 and withdrew. They may return to pursue the terrorists who have been killing Israeli civilians. However, one cannot talk about occupation if there are no occupying forces.
This type of story in France really worries me. Innocent Israelis have been attacked and they are trying to protect and respond. Not only in France, but in many places there is a reaction that “everything is to blame for Israel, which is trying to keep itself alive”.
I think that needs to be changed. Israel does not need to change, the discourse in France must change. We need to stop talking about the occupation, just as the UN should stop investigating on the basis that both sides are equally to blame, one way or the other.
We have to start facing reality: there are genocidal murderers who want to kill Jews just because they are Jews, and they need to be stopped.
Regarding international refugee law, which is an area you have been working on for a long time, what is your analysis of the situation of Palestinians fleeing military operations? What are their options?
First, the Refugee Convention does not deal with the Palestinians. There is a separate regime, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East, which deals with them.
The Refugee Act states that there are three permanent solutions for refugees. Resettlement, local integration and repatriation. Hamas opposes resettlement and local integration. Canada has offered Palestinian refugees resettlement and Canadians have been threatened. Politicians have been threatened with death just for suggesting a solution for refugees.
Hamas is holding Palestinians captive in order to use self-inflicted persecution to provoke angry reactions against Israel. When Israel says, “Hamas is in the north, go south,” the Palestinians go south and Hamas goes with them.
Egypt also encountered similar problems with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is connected to Hamas. Egypt fears that Hamas will do in Egypt what it is doing in Gaza today. He enters there with refugees disguised as Palestinians and uses the Palestinians as human shields.
The only solution, the only real solution, is to eradicate Hamas completely.
Regarding organ harvesting, the first version of your investigative report was published 17 years ago. Since then, you’ve spent a lot of time speaking about these issues around the world. Can you tell us why this is so important to you?
For me, the need to fight against all human rights violations is important. I devote a lot of time to Falun Gong, but also to Tamils in Sri Lanka, Tigreans in Ethiopia, Eritreans and Cubans who fled their government, and Ukrainians attacked by the Russians.
I deal with human rights violations one case at a time. This is important to me, among other things, because I am Jewish, and although I and my family were not personally affected by the Holocaust, I realize that if the Nazis had won World War II, neither I nor any Jew would be alive today. People are still senselessly killed today because of irrational hatred, and I see that with Falun Gong and all the other victims.
I tried to learn from the Holocaust as much as possible. One of the lessons is how necessary it is for people around the world to speak out against human rights abuses wherever they occur. To stop them.
I am a lawyer, researcher and writer. Regarding Falun Gong and its persecution in China, I have found that a tremendous amount of research is needed to define its contours. It is a pursuit that is not immediately obvious.
You know, with some persecutions, you just see the photos of the victims, the photos of the corpses piling up, and it’s clear. But in the case of Falun Gong, bodies are cremated, victims do not survive, all witnesses are complicit in the crime, and archives are unavailable. You have to do a lot of research to get to the bottom of things.
I felt it was a task I could accomplish.
An expert who worked on the case noted that China is currently undergoing a cold genocide. Do you share this opinion?
It is a disguised persecution that is not talked about even today.
There is a narrative dictated by the Communist Party to counter the reality of the facts. People don’t necessarily know about China, about communism, and they don’t know about Falun Gong. You know, I’ve talked to people who have told me that they weren’t convinced, but with all the research that’s now being published on the subject, they’re starting to understand.
People have told me, “It took me a year to get through it all, now I know.” Most people can’t spend a year doing research just to come to that conclusion. That’s the problem when it comes to getting the facts out. It’s not insurmountable, I think progress is being made, but it’s very slow.
You mentioned the UN and Israel and the UN colluding against Israel. China on the other hand is the complete opposite, they approach China with a grain of salt. In my opinion, Israel is doing nothing wrong while China is doing everything wrong.
Yet the UN goes after Israel and does next to nothing with China. The UN itself is dysfunctional.
You can change that by changing people’s mindsets, one at a time. Information accumulates and with luck people will eventually realize the truth.
In France, two MPs tried to introduce a bill in parliament that would recognize the illegal harvesting of organs, but their attempts were unsuccessful. On the other hand, we see that there are other initiatives, for example the China Tribunal in Great Britain.
Do you think there is a push from the upper echelons that could lead to more awareness in parliament, where lawmakers could pass a definitive law outlawing forced organ harvesting in China?
Of course that will help.
But I don’t think things will happen by themselves. I think we need to plead, inform, persuade, contact and meet. We have to keep the information flowing.
You said that one of the main problems is that it is hard to believe that forced organ harvesting is still happening in China today. Did you see any hope coming from the inquiries or investigations of governments around the world? Or is the reaction uniform in all European countries?
Well, I would say that Israel is very good in this area. They passed a law that is beginning to be implemented to regulate transplant tourism in China. A number of Israeli doctors have done quality research in this area.
Taiwan has also been very helpful, knowing better than anyone what is going on in China. They helped us a lot. There used to be a lot of organ trading between Taiwan and China, but they have done a lot to stop it. They have created good monitoring systems.
There is also a Council of Europe treaty now, which did not exist before. As a result, 20 countries have legislation against transplant tourism to China or extraterritorial legislation. Canada did the same.
So there is movement, there is some awareness, the situation is not completely frozen like when we started. However, things are moving very slowly, but just because things have been slow for the past 17 years does not mean they will be slow for the next 17 years.
What I mean by that is that over time there will be enough people, enough awareness and enough activity to build things up to the point where they accelerate.
What do governments and various administrative bodies tell you when you talk to them?
There isn’t just one answer. Different governments tell you different things. Obviously, if you talk to someone who has any governments in charge of China affairs in the State Department, they know the situation well.
For some of them, of course, this is a diplomatic problem. Some diplomats become intellectual captives of the governments they work with. Someone who has been in China as a diplomat for 5 to 10 years tends to form opinions favorable to China.
And these governments are not acting alone in dealing with China. There are meetings, consultations, consensus, procedures, hierarchies. I can’t meet with them and say, “I want you to do this,” and they’ll say, “Yes, we’ll do that,” because they have to talk to other people. So it’s just a matter of giving the right information to help move things forward.
The most difficult task is to get information to a higher level, but this does not necessarily come from the government, because in democracies it can also come from the voters. If enough people want something that their vote will depend on, then the government will move.
Interview conducted by David Vives.
The article was originally published on the website of the French Epoch Times.