The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) special rapporteur on “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967” recently issued his annual report, accusing Israel of “inhuman acts” and “apartheid,” and has called on the UN to support a “legitimacy war” against the country.
But that shouldn’t surprise anyone: First, because the 47-member council, which includes in its membership Algeria, China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia and Saudi Arabia, has consistently singled out Israel for condemnation; secondly, because Richard Falk, author of the document, has a history of anti-Israel statements.
Falk, the Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law and Practice at Ivy-League Princeton University, is the author or coauthor of numerous books, including “Human Rights and State Sovereignty;” “Religion and Humane Global Governance;” “Revolutionaries and Functionaries;” and “The Declining World Order: America’s Imperial Geopolitics.”
So how did a well-regarded professor of international law and political science (and Jewish), become an inveterate enemy of Israel?
Falk, radicalized in the 1960s by the works of Karl Marx and the sociologists C. Wright Mills and Herbert Marcuse, was more than an “ivory-tower” scholar. He has described himself as a “citizen pilgrim” working towards “the gradual construction of a new world order that assures basic human needs of all people, that safeguards the environment, that protects the fundamental human rights of all individuals and groups without encroaching upon the precarious resources of cultural diversity.”
This led, as has been the case with so many on the left in recent years, to a fundamental opposition to America’s role in the world – and also to the activities of Israel.
Following his retirement from teaching, Falk became more active in the pro-Palestinian movement. In 2008, he was appointed to a six-year term as the special rapporteur. His reports have been consistently one-sided.
Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch, noted that Falk’s latest 22-page document “makes no mention of war crimes or human rights violations by Hamas, Islamic Jihad or the Palestinian Authority. In fact, the word ‘Hamas’ appears nowhere in the report.”
In 2007, Falk wrote “Slouching Towards a Palestinian Holocaust” for the Swedish-based left-wing Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, where he asked, “Is it an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not.”
Falk blamed last April’s Boston Marathon Bombings, which killed three people and injured more than 260 others, on the United States and Israel. In an article in the journal Foreign Policy, “A Commentary on the Marathon Murders,” he asserted that the “American global domination project is bound to generate all kinds of resistance in the post-colonial world.”
Furthermore, “as long as Tel Aviv has the compliant ear of the American political establishment, those who wish for peace and justice in the world should not rest easy.”
Susan Rice, the then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that she was “outraged” by Falk’s “highly offensive Boston comments. Someone who spews such vitriol has no place at the UN.”
British and Canadian diplomats also objected to his remarks.
Perhaps the most respected scholar who lent his name to the Palestinian cause was the late Edward Said, a Palestinian American professor of English at Columbia University. As an icon among an entire generation of teachers of literature, Said’s critiques of Israel have been disseminated far and wide.
So it was only appropriate that it was Falk who on Feb. 18 delivered the Edward Said Memorial Lecture at Princeton, entitled “Edward Said’s Legacy and the Palestinian Struggle.” Palestinians should continue to pursue self-empowerment, legal justice and peaceful resistance in their ongoing territorial conflict with Israel, Falk said during the lecture.
There is something strange about all this. While the head of the Palestinian Authority, President Mahmoud Abbas, seems like a relative voice of reason, declaring that he would accept a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside Israel, with perhaps NATO troops serving as a buffer between them, the forces in the international community represented by people like Falk are playing “bad cop” to his “good cop.”
They sound more like Abbas’ fundamentalist enemies in Hamas-ruled Gaza, even though most would consider themselves secular leftists.
Henry Srebrnik is a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island.