Category Archives: United Nations

The railroading of Richard Falk

Professor Richard Falk is a distinguished academic expert on international law with some 40 books under his belt and a lifetime of learning and teaching that has taken him on a journey through some of the best universities in the United States. Naturally, he was not on the radar of what Jewish feminist Letty Cottin Pogrebin calls the “Pro-Israel Mafia” until he was appointed to several high level UN Palestine-related posts including the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories.

In these positions as a human rights watchdog he has proven himself perfectly willing to strongly criticize Israeli human rights policies. In 2007, he famously compared the Israeli treatment of Palestinians in Gaza with Nazi treatment of Jews- warning of a possible impending “collective tragedy” in an article than will only be judged in retrospect as either provocatively alarmist or prophetic, but certainly was morally sincere and rationally-driven.

Naturally, however, this is not allowed.

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UN Report on Cast Lead, Jewish Self-Hatred and Spin

The recent release of the UN study headed by the South African jurist Richard Goldstone is a watershed of sorts in the diplomatic history of Israel. An ardent supporter/friend of Israel with family living in Israel, Goldstone’s report is sober yet scathing regarding Israel’s actions in Gaza. The report details not just the slaughter of civilians but the seemingly planned destruction of civilian infrastructure that could, in no way, be considered militarily related (unless the futile goal was to make the bombed civilians turn against Hamas). The report also unequivocally condemns Hamas for the war crime of firing on civilian populations in Israel, and likely for that reason, both Israel and Hamas were finally able to agree on one thing, their condemnation of the report.

Further, the report goes on to describe Israeli governmental censorship efforts as well as government efforts to suppress dissent within Palestinian Israeli populations (obvious Muzzlewatch concerns) . Perhaps most importantly, the report goes into detail describing the effects of the occupation in the West Bank as well as the siege of Gaza. This contextualization is particularly damning and frequently completely missing from mainstream analysis. The fact that such a high profile report seamlessly includes this context is refreshing from the point of view of those working to stop the occupation, and conversely, quite galling for those who seek to keep the status quo.

The war crimes committed by Hamas, are deplorable and also described in the report, but they are also placed within the context of a people trying to fight occupation. Israel’s actions are allowed no such context. Israeli maximalist existentialist fears, whether heartfelt delusion or cold eyed cynicism, are simply not treated. Thus most of the responsibility, as it should be, is placed on the shoulders of Israel, whose firepower, and the resulting death toll, utterly dwarfed that of Hamas. (One is left to conclude, logically, that a government seeking to protect the citizens of Sderot and Ashkelon, as it should, would do so by ending the illegal siege of Gaza, not by making life even more intolerable for people who would, like Jews or anyone else in the same situation, fight back.)

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Ahmadinejad’s speech: Why it was a disaster.

I was at Ahmadinejād’s speech yesterday, and I have the crappy photos from the media area to prove it. It was dramatic, to say the least. Counter-protesters yelled (and were removed) throughout; applause lines invariably left half the room silent; there was obviously over exuberant applause from the Iranian delegates which made you wonder, and at a dramatic but expected moment at the beginning, the European delegates walked out.

I’ll quote from Human Rights Watch’s statement and the NYT, because, with one major exception regarding the Times, they roughly match my response to the speech. But I’ll add that somewhere in the middle of his talk, I suddenly felt anxiety coursing through my body and actually thought, “I wonder if this is how wars get started?” It was just a feeling, and may have no basis in reality, but it should be absolutely clear that- at times soaring rhetoric aside- this man has absolutely no interest in authentic peace and justice. And I do not trust either my own government or Israel to not start bombing.

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International law expert Richard Falk denied entry into Israel

Richard Falk explains his view on BBC\'s Hard Talk

Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton, may be able to make Aliyah in Israel should he choose to exercise his right to return as a Jew, but he can’t actually enter the country in his role as the UN’s special human rights rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories. BBC says this about the deportation of one of the world’s most respected experts in his field:

Mr Falk was stopped at Tel Aviv airport on Sunday and sent back to the United States on Monday morning.

An official accused him of following a distorted, anti-Israeli mandate.

“[He] does not try to advance human rights, but instead comes with his conclusions ready and those conclusions are of course extreme, methodic criticism of Israel and only of Israel,” said foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.

A spokeswoman for the interior ministry spokeswoman said the former Princeton University international law professor had been told he would be turned back if he flew to Israel.

Falk’s essay Slouching Toward a Palestinian Holocaust, has raised the ire of many who accuse him of comparing the Israelis to Nazis. Falk explained in an interview in The Nation earlier this summer:

The references to the Holocaust and to the Nazi policies were not meant to be literal comparisons but were intended to show that the policies being pursued, in Gaza in particular, had holocaustal implications if they were not changed. And the mind-set of holding an entire people responsible for opposition and resistance embodies a kind of collective punishment psychology that was very characteristic of the way the Nazis justified what they did to the Jewish people. But my intention was based on the feeling that you have to shout to be heard, and perhaps that was not the best way to make the argument. I would be quite prepared to abandon that terminology but not prepared to alter my concern about the character of the policies being pursued.

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The Forward has no sense of irony.

The Forward recently editorialized on the ill-conceived efforts of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, an association of Muslim nations in the United Nations, to call “for a ban on published material that defames or promotes disrespect for religion.” As the Forward points out, “The measure purports to defend all religions, but the only one cited by name is Islam.”

The Forward rightly condemns this effort which enables the silencing of critics of human rights violations done in the name of Islam. But they do so- amazingly- without once acknowledging the extent to which across the board anti-Islamic demonization has reached toxic levels and near total acceptance in the American political discourse. Clearly, leadership on this is badly needed, but passing such a resolution in the UN General Assembly, especially one pushed by countries with terrible human rights records, is not the answer:

Supporters of this initiative tout it as a defense of religious freedom. What it entails, however, is actually the opposite of freedom as understood in the West. It does not seek to defend the rights of individuals to believe and practice as they choose. Rather, it safeguards a faith community’s right to avoid insult or criticism by limiting other people’s’ rights of free expression. It is, in fact, a direct assault on a fundamental Western value, in defense of a different value: namely, protecting an existing doctrine from free inquiry and debate — the sort of thing that the West long ago rejected.

The Forward goes on, without the slightest sense of irony:

Sponsors say their overall goal is to ban speech that mocks or criticizes Islam. It is meant to counter what many Muslims see as a wave of anti-Islamic prejudice in the West in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. But clear-eyed Westerners see something more subtle and sinister. In the first instance, it is an effort to suppress criticism of Islam, making it more difficult for Western societies to conduct public debate on the challenges posed by radical, fundamentalist Islam. In that sense, it is a counter-thrust against those who call for an Islamic soul-searching or reformation, and those who demand that Islam confront its violent radicals.

Indeed. Here is a terrific object lesson on the evils of religious extremism, of all kinds.

While Israel is not a theocracy per se, but rather an ethnic-preferential state with some theocratic elements, it is precisely this same form of cloaking human rights violations in some kind of sacred veil that makes, to quote the Forward, “free inquiry and debate” as well as “soul-searching or reformation” about Israeli human rights violations nearly impossible in this country.

Neither Muslim states nor the Jewish state are above being held accountable for violating fundamental human rights standards.

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