Ron Radosh

Richard Falk: The UN's Professor is a Flake

It is something of a joke that the United Nations Human Rights Commission has appointed Richard Falk, Milbank Prof. Emeritus at Princeton University as its “Special Rapporteur” on investigating human rights violations in the Palestinian territories.  Falk’s appointment was made, not surprisingly, by the chairman of the UN General Assembly, Father Miguel D’escoto Brockman of Nicaragua, the Sandinista liberation theologian who was himself appointed by Daniel Ortega. Throughout D’escoto’s entire career, he has been a left-wing ideologue, whose anti-Americanism is legendary.

But even for the UN, whose concern for human rights seems to extend only to abuses supposedly undertaken by Israel alone, the appointment of Falk is a mockery of any pretensions to objectivity. Falk made his views on the situation in the Middle East well known years before his current appointment. Writing in The Nation in 2002, he explained that the state terrorism he believes Israel is engaged in is not only the moral equivalent of Palestinian terrorism, but is in fact greater. Israel, he writes, is engaged in “state sponsored terrorism,” while what many people consider actual terrorist acts by Palestinians- such as the suicide bombings that regularly occurred in Israel before it built its protective wall-were called by Falk “reactive and understandable” responses. When the Palestinians blew up a private Passover celebration at Netanya,  Falk called it “horrifying,” but Israel’s response was “the equally  horrifying Israeli incursion…throughout occupied Palestine.”

Falk argues that Palestinian acts like suicide bombings took place only after their cadre “ran out of military options” in response to the Israeli occupation, “and suicide bombers appeared as the only means still available by which to inflict sufficient harm on Israel so that the struggle could go on.” So way back in 2002, Falk was already declaring that such barbarism by Palestinian extremists were a just response to Israeli defensive actions.  It is, he writes, simply “the right of resistance…enjoyed by an occupied people,” which “would seem to legitimize some armed activities.”

A few days ago, Falk was turned back at Ben Gurion airport and denied entry into Israel.  Given his writing, the Israeli charge that his UN mandate was, as an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said, “profoundly distorted and conceived as an anti-Israeli initiative,”  was completely justified. 

Reading a more recent Falk article, “Slouching Toward a Palestinian Holocaust,” provides even more evidence for Falk’s lack of impartiality. In this now famous screed Falk writes that he is “compelled to portray the ongoing and intensifying abuse of the Palestinian people by Israel” as itself a “holocaust.” Is this, he rhetorically asks, “an irresponsible overstatement?”  Falk’s answer: “I think not.” He calls the situation in Gaza- from which Israel withdrew and handed the area over to the Palestinians-a “deliberate intention on the part of Israel…to subject an entire human community to life-endangering conditions of utmost cruelty.”

Falk continues to argue that the Western powers as well as other Arab states are associated in a “pattern of criminality” akin to those who let Hitler oppress the Jews in the 1930’s. As to the withdrawal by Israel from Gaza and the dismantling of Israeli settlements, Falk argues they were but a “sham” in which 300 Gazans were killed since Israel’s “supposed physical departure.” Somehow, no words appear anywhere in Falk’s account of the continued Hamas rocket attacks on Israel, the concurrent Hezbollah incursions against Israel, or their  refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist . In his lexicon, it is only Israel who attacks the Palestinians, and only Palestinians who respond in self defense. 

As for Hamas, Falk attacks those who castigate it “as a terrorist organization” when in fact, he assures his gullible audience, that Hamas always “was ready to work with other Palestinian groups” like Fatah and to “move toward an acceptance of Israel’s existence.”  The trouble is caused only by Israel, which “seems more determined than ever to foment civil war in Palestine.” Falk concludes, before any investigation he was to carry out for the UN commission, that Israel has brought Gaza to “the brink of collective starvation,” imposing a “sub-human existence on a people” by “collective punishment.” All this, he concludes, is “indeed genocidal.”

This is the man who supposedly was to conduct an investigation into Israeli abuse of human rights.  As if this was not enough, Falk recently reiterated his view that the Al Qaeda attack of 9/11 is not a “closed book.” Referring to conspiracy theorists of the so-called “9/11 Truth Movement” like David Ray Griffin, for whose book Falk wrote an introduction,  Falk writes that “it is not paranoid…to assume that the established elites of the American governmental structure have something to hide, and much to explain.” Indeed, he calls the view that the conspiracy theorists have- that the Bush administration brought down the twin towers to find an excuse to go to war-as a “convincing counter-narrative.”

Falk, in other words, reveals himself to be a plain vanilla nutcase.  He is happy that Barack Obama won the Presidency, but distraught that the supposed conspiracy was ignored during the campaign. The reason is that both Democrats and Republicans have a “widely shared fear of what sinister forces might lay beneath the unturned stones of a full and honest investigation of 9/11.” Obviously, the much praised 9/11 report does not fulfill that goal for Falk. Without a full investigation of the conspiracy theorists charges, Falk concludes, “the legitimacy of the American government” is tainted.  It can only gain back legitimacy by a willingness to “reconstruct the truth of that day.” Obviously, that “truth” can only put the blame not on Bin Laden, but on George W. Bush.

Israel was right to refuse entry to Richard Falk. His appointment reflects the hypocrisy of the United Nations and instead reveals its lack of concern for doing anything about genuine tyrants like Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe and others, who are actually engaged in the obliteration of their nation’s people.