The (Continuing) Vilification of Richard Falk

Richard Falk served as UN Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council for Occupied Palestine between 2008-14. (Photo: File)

By Jeremy Salt

In one of his blogs Richard Falk, who has made many trips to Africa, talked of his love of giraffes. They have no vocal cords, which cannot be said of him, but they stick their necks out and they have a powerful kick, both of which can be said of him.

Falk has an outstanding record as an academic (professor of international law at Princeton University for 30 years) and as a defender of Palestinian and other human rights. From 2008-2014 he was the UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967.  In his reports during this period, he produced evidence of massive Israeli war crimes.

Unlike the former South African judge Richard Goldstone, who accused Israel of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, following its 2008 Operation Cast Lead against Gaza, only to back down after a campaign of slander and vilification by Zionists everywhere, Falk has never backed down.

In December 2008, Falk flew into Ben-Gurion airport to fulfill his responsibilities as UN rapporteur. Israel had warned that it would not let him in and it did not but instead of simply denying him a visa and turning him away it locked him in a room “that smelled of filth and urine” as he later described it and kept him there for 15 hours.   The clear purpose was humiliation.

In 2017 he co-authored an academic study of conditions in the occupied territories. Virginia Tilley, his co-author, had written widely on apartheid in South Africa and they concluded that Israel was guilty of the same crime against the Palestinians although, as Falk noted later, “only a ruling by an international tribunal in that sense would make such an assessment truly authoritative.”

The report was issued in December, 2017, by the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, under the heading “Israeli Practices Towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid” but was ordered to be removed from the commission’s website by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres after protests by Israel and the US. Rima Khalaf, the commission’s executive secretary, refused and resigned in protest before the report was removed.   

Falk is a hate figure for Zionists. He has stood up to their malice and slander but admits that  it has “left imprints in the mud.” He is called anti-semitic, a self-hating Jew, an Iranian sycophant, the “Iran-loving, Zionist-bashing  9/11 truther” (Elliot Kaufman, National Review, July 2017) and, by Alan Dershowitz “a traitor to the Jewish people” and “an evil, evil man.” Shimon Peres called him “a small man devoid of any sense of justice,” an interesting accusation coming from a small man without any sense of justice. He has been accused of glorifying “jihadi terrorism and endorsing a “virulently anti-semitic book,” Gilad Atzmon’s book The Wandering Jew.

The smears flow endlessly and it takes a strong person to stand up to the tide.  Wherever Falk is scheduled to speak, the Zionists try to stop him and even have him expelled, which is what the Zionist front organization, UN Watch, sought in March 2017, when Falk was giving lectures in Britain.

The latest attempt to shut him up has taken place in Australia, where Falk went to give talks on behalf of the local BDS movement and where a Zionist activist, Dvir Abramovich, doubling as an academic and head of the country’s Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC) asked the Immigration Minister to deny him a visa.

Australia has a powerful Zionist lobby. There are few Australian politicians who have not spent time in its pocket. It is noisy, well-organized on and off campus, excellent at fabricating outrage and piling pressure on the government, on individual ministers, on universities and on the media when it steps out of line, explaining why only rarely has the media dared cross it.

When it does there is always a price to pay.  In 2014 leading Sydney Morning Herald columnist Mike Carlton resigned after being upbraided by the editor for telling readers who had called him “Nazi scum” to “fuck off.”  The cause was a column he had just written after the latest Zionist assault on Gaza headed “Israel’s rank and rotten fruit is being called fascism.”   Bounteous apologies were made to the local ‘Jewish community’ by the SMH’s editor.

In the Australian campaign of vilification of Falk let us be absolutely clear about who is in the right and who is in the wrong. It is Falk who is upholding international law and the Australian Zionists who are treating it with contempt through their justification of everything Israel does, from its onslaughts on Gaza and its attacks on Lebanon to its illegal occupation and settlement of Jerusalem and the West Bank. It is Falk who is defending the victim of crime and the Zionists who are defending the criminal.

The report in the Australian Jewish News on the Falk visit (‘Furore Over Falk Visit,’ June 20, 2019) is worthy of parsing for what it tells the reader about the Zionist modus operandi.

It begins “A US academic who endorses conspiracy theories …..” Well, no, Richard Falk does not endorse conspiracy theories but like many people,  including many New Yorkers, he does not accept the official version of what happened on 9/11. The article continues “…. And is widely accused of anti-semitism …” Accused widely by whom?  Only by the Zionists and their camp followers.

The report says Falk has “constantly maligned Israel with anti-Jewish tropes.” In fact, Falk does not deal in tropes, has constantly upheld his Jewish identity, has never maligned Jews as Jews anywhere but has held up a mirror which reflects Zionist practices in all their ugliness. As Zionists are also Jews they hasten to misrepresent his criticism of Zionist behavior as a criticism of Jews.

Jeremy Liebler, the president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, asked “Where is the public interest test to host a character like Falk? ”

In such a manner is a Professor Emeritus from Princeton University, author of some 20 books, an acknowledged expert in international law and UN consultant on a variety of human rights issues, an outstanding record by any measure, cut down by this Antipodean nobody to a “character like Falk.

In Liebler’s view Falk’s speaking tour “will do nothing to promote meaningful discourse and dialogue and objectivity and rational discussion of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.”

In fact, these were the precise objectives of Professor Falk’s speaking tour, just as it was Liebler’s objective to disrupt them and prevent Australians from learning more about Israel’s occupation and settlement of Palestinian lands, its ceaseless brutality, and its apartheid policies.

Colin Rubenstein, a blinkered defender of Israel for many decades, called on the Immigration Minister to see whether Professor Falk met the good character test to be allowed to visit Australia.  (Considering that Israeli visitors to Australia over the decades include Benyamin Netanyahu and Moshe Dayan, clearly, the good character test is never applied when it comes to Israeli visits).

Of course, Rubenstein was only thinking of protecting the public interest.  In his view, no  public good could be served by someone with Falk’s record coming to Australia “to spread divisive and ugly rhetoric.”

In fact, Professor Falk’s record is the whole point.  He has an international reputation in the study of international law and when it comes to the Palestinian-Israeli he knows what he is talking about.  He serves the public good by talking firsthand of Israeli brutality, racism, and apartheid. That is why he so dangerous and why the Zionists try to shut him down wherever he speaks.

Rubenstein was interviewed on Radio National on February 20, 217, ahead of a visit to Australia by Netanyahu, and his remarks, when parsed, remain a wonderful example of how the Zionists continually try to package shit like candy.   

Rubenstein thought Netanyahu would present the view that the settlements were far from the major issue “preventing the development of a two-state outcome,” which 80 percent of Israelis still support, in the Rubenstein view, while being disillusioned because the Palestinians continually refuse to engage in negotiations.

Reminded of a recent UN resolution condemning settlements,  Rubenstein said the international view on settlements was based on a falsehood.  Indeed, the resolution recently passed set things back “quite a lot” in his view, because it simply rewarded “Palestinian intransigence.” (How many times over how many decades do we have to hear this cliché?).

The settlements had not geographically expanded since 2004 and anyway, the growth is within existing settlements “which,  as you know,  are overwhelmingly suburbs of Jerusalem” (therefore ours, of course, so no problem here).

About the same time Rubenstein was speaking, Yesha, the settler council, was releasing figures (February 10, 2017) showing that the settler population of the West Bank had increased by 3.9 percent since 2015, more than double the growth rate of the Israeli population and now stood at 421,000, not counting the 200,000 settlers in occupied East Jerusalem.

Yaakov Katz, a settler leader said settler numbers now put a two-state solution out of consideration. Since 2012, the settler population had increased by about 23 percent. Just before Rubenstein blamed the Palestinians for the failure of the two-state “outcome” the Israeli government, on February 10, approved the construction of 5500 settler “units” on the West Bank and a further 500 in east Jerusalem.

Almost simultaneously the Knesset retroactively ‘legalized’ settler houses built on privately-owned Palestinian land. As for Rubenstein’s geography, the settlements always included enough land within their ‘security’ perimeter to ensure there would be no need to expand beyond it for a very long time.

The UN resolution to which the Radio National interview referred and which Rubenstein abused was UN Security Council Resolution 2334, passed unanimously on December 23, 2016, by all 14 permanent or temporary members of the council,  including the US. 

The resolution reaffirmed that the establishment of settlements in the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, including east Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and is “a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution.”

The resolution demanded the cessation of all settlement activities and underlined that it would not recognize in any way any changes to the June 4, 1967, armistice lines, including with regard to East Jerusalem.

Against this background of continual settlement expansion and international condemnation, the ability of Zionists like Rubenstein to blame Palestinian “intransigence” for the failure to reach any kind of peace settlement points to a mindset that is commonly encountered in bizarre cults that persevere in believing whatever they want to believe irrespective of the rational factors standing in the way.   

In fact, the Zionists are in trouble. The bullying and bluster continue to work with governments and the media but even the media is finally showing signs of resistance, while more people than ever, and not just well-informed students on campuses, are no longer buying Israel’s propaganda.   

A Roy Morgan public opinion poll held on March 31, 2017, again not long after Colin Rubenstein was giving Radio National the benefit of his deep insights, showed that 73 percent supported a Palestinian state, 55 percent supported the BDS movement (as against 25 percent who thought it was unreasonable), 61 percent opposed West Bank settlement (as against 17 percent in support) and 53 percent opposed the Turnbull government’s rejection of UNSC resolution 2334. Asked how much they knew about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict 44 percent said they knew “a lot” or “a fair amount.

The smears and the slander and the attempt even to keep Richard Falk out of the country this year did not work. He gave his lectures and media interviews and a lot of people would have heard him and been impressed by what he had to say.     

The shift in opinion revealed by the Morgan poll is dramatic and permanent, as the only way the trend could be reversed would be for Israel to withdraw from the territories it occupied in 1967, which of course it is not going to do now or ever, at least not voluntarily. 

As the Morgan poll shows, the Zionist lobby has lost the battle for public opinion in Australia and is losing ground in many other countries.

It is still trying to defend what is indefensible on historical, moral, ethical and legal grounds and like any crank haranguing people on a street corner, soon people won’t even bother listening.         

– Jeremy Salt taught at the University of Melbourne, at Bosporus University in Istanbul and Bilkent University in Ankara for many years, specializing in the modern history of the Middle East. Among his recent publications is his 2008 book, The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands (University of California Press). He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

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1 Comment

  1. What always strikes me is that, when zionists are challenged to explain what is antisemitic about an accused’s behaviour or comments, they are invariably unable to answer the question. Instead, they repeat the accusation with the implied justification “I am Jewish so I know what I am talking about and don’t anyone dare to challenge me”.

    The fact that they try to block a reputable authority on human rights like Richard Falk from talking and discussing, is further confirmation that all their accusations are baseless.

    Unfortunately, many governments and media (the so-called MSM) simply lack the courage to call out the zionists for fear of the same “nuclear” accusation: antisemitism.

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