Commentary Magazine


Richard Falk Thinks He’s the Victim

When UN rapporteur Richard Falk blamed the Boston Marathon bombing on Israel and on America’s “global domination project,” it renewed a longstanding debate. Was Falk the worst possible person for the United Nations to put in charge of a special investigating office dedicated solely to Israel’s supposed crimes? Or was Falk, as a conspiracy theorist with a penchant for blaming all the world’s ills on Israel, in fact the perfect representative of the UN in the Middle East?

It certainly depends on how you view whatever is left of the UN’s credibility. One group that does not want to give up quite yet on the UN is UN Watch, an NGO that holds the world body accountable to its own stated values. The organization blasted Falk’s remarks, and Falk responded by trying to force the closure of UN Watch. The U.S. on Friday said enough was enough, and called for Falk’s resignation. Naturally, though Falk has been trying to put his critics out of a job, he is painting himself as the victim. The Times of Israel reports:

A United Nations special investigator said his reputation was being smeared and he wouldn’t resign, despite calls for his ouster over provocative remarks on terrorism, the United States and Israeli policy.

Richard Falk, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, told reporters Tuesday in Geneva that he was only doing his job and “it’s important to distinguish criticism from this kind of smear campaign.”

Considering his obsession with anti-Israel propaganda and that his UN mandate excludes criticism of the Palestinians to focus solely on Israel, Falk’s entire job description could be considered a “smear campaign.” It is quite literally what he does for a living.

Falk has signaled his appreciation for 9/11 conspiracy theories, compared Israel to Nazi Germany, and two years ago republished a blatantly anti-Semitic cartoon on his personal blog. He even ran afoul of the Palestinian Authority for criticizing them for going too easy on Israel. Being too anti-Israel for Mahmoud Abbas should be a sign that Falk perhaps can’t be expected to present an evenhanded view of the facts. But that, as he told the Forward, misunderstands his mission. As he explained when denied entry to Israel to conduct a report:

“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 conducting an investigation on Israel, actually going to Israel would not change his “basic analysis or conclusion.” That is how Falk has always seen his responsibility: not to get the story right, but to write up a paranoid screed blaming Israel for everything under the sun from wherever he happens to be at the time. Why would he need to enter Israel, when he already knows what he’s going to say?

It’s that kind of honesty from Falk that has been both refreshing and maddening. Refreshing, because at least no one has to spend time or energy arguing over his motives, and maddening, because the United Nations cannot espouse moral influence on the many very pressing human-rights crises around the world while vesting Falk with the authority to act in its name.

As long as Falk remains at his post, the UN’s reports on Israel will lack even a hint of legitimacy. After all, even Falk acknowledges that we already know what they are going to say.

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