Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Whitewashing Richard Falk

The Forward presents a sympathetic portrait of Richard Falk, the UN special rapporteur to the Palestinian territories, after he had embroiled himself in a scandal by posting an anti-Semitic cartoon on his blog. Even Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, has denounced the cartoon Falk propagated as anti-Semitic. Only in passing does the Forward mention the controversy surrounding Falk’s embrace of 9/11 conspiracy theories.

The Forward presents Falk as an ethical man, deeply considered by social justice and the plight of the underdog. Citing Falk’s own explanations, the Forward explained, “His criticism of Israel is less a reflection of his Jewish identity than his posture as an American leftist, perennially dedicated to history’s underdogs — in his eyes, the Palestinians. Throughout his life, Falk has maintained a cool detachment from his own faith that has allowed him to critique Israeli policy with the same standards he brings to bear in his assessment of the U.S. military and its foray into Vietnam.”

Alas, the Forward refuses to challenge Falk on his record.  Falk was a favorite of the Carter administration, somewhat akin to the Samantha Power of his generation. On February 16, 1979, he penned an op-ed in the New York Times encouraging the Carter administration to embrace Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution.  “The depiction of him as fanatical, reactionary, and the bearer of crude prejudices seems certainly and happily false,” Falk explained, adding, “His close advisers are uniformly composed of moderate, progressive individuals…who share a notable record of concern with human rights.”

Naomi Zeveloff, however, appears not to challenge Falk on his record.  Perhaps she might have asked him to explain on what basis he came to believe Khomeini was a paragon of human rights virtues; when (or if) Falk recognized he was mistaken in his assessment of Khomeini; whether Falk still believes the Islamic Republic is an underdog; and, if so, whether that should excuse Tehran’s noxious behavior.

Then again, Falk and the Forward article unwittingly illuminate what the UN is after: “My role is less presenting the facts than interpreting their legal significance,” said Falk. “That doesn’t depend on me having access. It would be humanly helpful to, but it wouldn’t alter my basic analysis or conclusion.”  In other words, for the United Nations, facts are extraneous; the decision to bash Israel is made without regard to them.

 


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