The Biden administration has withdrawn its choice of a human rights activist for a position at the Organization of American States after he attacked a leading House Democrat as being “bought” and called Israel an “apartheid state.”
James Cavallaro’s candidacy for a position as an independent member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a body that monitors the Americas, was announced by the United States on Friday.
They praised him as a “leading scholar and practitioner of international law” with extensive knowledge of the region.
However, the State Department stated on Tuesday that Cavallaro’s nomination was withdrawn as a result of a piece published by a Jewish daily located in New York, the Algemeiner, which exposed Cavallaro’s history of posts critical of Israel and American support for the Jewish people.
Cavallaro claimed that House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, a Democrat from New York, was working for pro-Israel lobbyists in a tweet from December 2022 that was later removed as the Algemeiner article was being prepared for publication.
“Bought. Purchased. Controlled,” commented Cavallaro with a link to a report on Rep. Jeffries’ contributions from AIPAC and other pro-Israel organizations.
Ned Price, a spokesperson for the State Department, stated on Tuesday that Cavallaro’s prior remarks on Israel before announcing his candidacy were unknown to the Biden administration and that they didn’t reflect American policy and were “inappropriate.”
The former commission member from 2014 to 2017 Cavallaro rebuffed the accusation that he was insensitive.
He claimed that his opinions on Israel align with those of international organizations and organizations that support human rights and that they have no bearing on his efforts to advance human rights in the Americas.
Following a meeting with the State Department on Tuesday, he said in an interview, “It’s evident I hit a sensitive nerve.
He further emphasized that elected commissioners serve personally and are not expected to represent the views of the governments that supported their candidacy in foreign policy.
Before his candidacy was publicized, he claimed to have discussed his active social media presence with the State Department, if not individual tweets.
He promised to thoroughly clean up his timeline and desist from speaking out if elected to the commission.
Cavallaro’s brief run for office is reminiscent of the controversy surrounding Harvard University’s rejection of a fellowship awarded to a different human rights worker for making similar critiques of Israel.
Kenneth Roth was chosen as a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. Roth formerly served as HRW’s executive director until last year. According to Roth, the invitation was withdrawn because of HRW’s protracted history of denouncing Israel for alleged war crimes against Palestinians.
The Algemeiner’s examination of Cavallaro’s now-deleted social media activity reveals that the co-founder and executive director of the University Network for Human Rights, who previously taught at Harvard, Stanford, and Yale law schools, has also charged Israel with perpetrating “atrocities.”
The OAS’s 34 member states were scheduled to vote on his nomination to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights during a meeting this summer.