Joel Brinkley

‘Special rapporteur’ Falk needs to take a walk

Updated: 2013-05-03T23:29:09Z

By JOEL BRINKLEY

Tribune Media Services

If you’re looking for someone to loathe, I have a strong candidate to offer: Richard Falk, the United Nations Human Rights Council’s “special rapporteur” for the Palestinians.

Falk has pursued a long and, shall I say, controversial career since he retired from Princeton University 12 years ago.

But he capped it off recently when he wrote that victims of the Boston Marathon bombing had it coming because the United States is “a menace to the world and to itself.” He added: “Should we not all be meditating on W.H. Auden’s haunting line: ‘Those to whom evil is done/do evil in return’?” After all, “how many canaries will have to die before we awaken from our geopolitical fantasy of global domination?”

For good measure, he blamed Israel, too.

That got him into more trouble than he could imagine — though any normal person could have predicted that before writing it. After all, senior American officials have been denouncing Falk over offensive comments and malapropisms for many years.

In 2008, shortly after his U.N. appointment, he made it clear he’s a 9/11 denier, one of those people who believe former President George W. Bush’s administration faked the attacks 12 years ago to give Bush a pretext to launch “international wars” and enact policies that “led to widespread denials of rights under the pretext of homeland security,” he wrote then. To me, he sounded like those people who believed Neil Armstrong didn’t really land on the moon in 1969; that was actually just a performance carried out in a big water tank.

At the time, I asked Falk about this. He told me his U.N. position is part-time and unpaid, and “I’ve been trying to balance different agendas and roles,” meaning that his freelance writing and blogging have nothing to do with his U.N. work.

A short time earlier, he had written something equating Israel with Nazi Germany, and then last summer a cartoon appeared on his blog featuring an angry dog wearing a USA vest and a yarmulke emblazoned with a Star of David, gobbling the remains of a dead person — while the dog was also urinating on “Lady Justice,” a blindfolded woman holding a sword and scale, symbolizing the idea that justice is blind.

That brought immediate denunciation from Eileen Donahoe, the U.S. Human Rights Council representative, who said, “I am repulsed by the recent cartoon posting to the personal blog written by Richard Falk,” adding: “I am registering a strong protest” on behalf of the United States, and “we hope that he will resign.” Falk then deleted the cartoon.

Last fall, he posted a U.N. Human Rights Committee report calling for a worldwide boycott of any firms whose products are used in West Bank Jewish settlements — like Caterpillar tractors, as an example.

This time, Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, slashed at him, saying his idea “is irresponsible and unacceptable. Throughout his tenure,” Falk “has been highly biased and made offensive statements, including outrageous comments on the 9/11 attacks.”

Then early this week Congress began circulating a letter urging U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to push for Falk’s immediate dismissal. Falk responded with a blog that offered an indirect, begrudging apology: “It should have been clear from my post that I regard the Boston Marathon massacre as a despicable” and “horrifying” crime.

But given how many controversial moments he has spurred over the last five years, many people in important positions will be most pleased when his U.N. appointment expires next year — if he’s not fired sooner.

Joel Brinkley is the Hearst professional in residence at Stanford University and a Pulitzer Prize-winning former correspondent for The New York Times.

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