‘It is a grave disservice to Israel and Jews to confuse criticism of Israel’s behavior with anti-Semitism’ — Richard Falk

on 39 Comments
Richard Falk
Richard Falk

On December 24, Richard Prasquier, president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, published a screed (translation) against Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories. Prasquier accused Falk of antisemitism, self hatred, hatred of Israel, “indeed against all that is Jewish” and of being a madman (“Mais ce fou”).

Richard Falk has responded on his blog:

An Open Letter of Response to CRIF (Counsèil Représentif des Institutions juives de France)

I am shocked and saddened that your organization would label me as an anti-Semite and self-hating Jew. It is utterly defamatory, and such allegations are entirely based on distortions of what I believe and what I have done. To confuse my criticisms of Israel with self-hatred of myself as a Jew or with hatred of Jews is a calumny. I have long been a critic of American foreign policy but that does not make me anti-American; it is freedom of conscience that is the core defining reality of a genuinely democratic society, and its exercise is crucial to the quality of political life in a particular country, especially here in the United States where its size and influence often has such a large impact on the lives and destiny of many peoples excluded from participating in its policy debates or elections.

It is always difficult to negate irresponsible accusations of this kind. What follows is an attempt to clarify my honestly held positions in relation to a litany of charges that have been given currency by a campaign conducted by UN Watch ever since I was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to be Special Rapporteur for the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in 2008. What follows are brief attempts at clarification in response to the main charges:

–the attacks on me by such high profile individuals as Ban ki-Moon, Susan Rice, David Cameron were made in response to vilifying letters about me sent to them by UN Watch, and signed by its Executive Director, Hillel Neuer. The contention that Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, also attacked me is misleading. She regretted the posting of a cartoon on my blog that had an anti-Semitic cartoon, but she took note of my contention that it was a complete accident and that the cartoon was immediately removed when brought to my attention;

–it was the cartoon that has served UN Watch as the basis of their insistence that I am an anti-Semite. Their bad faith is demonstrated by their repeated magnification of the cartoon far beyond what I had posted on the basis of its size on the Google image page for the International Criminal Court. As I have explained many times, I was unaware when I posted the cartoon of its anti-Semitic character, and pointed out that the post in which was inserted was dealing with my argument that the ICC was biased in its use of its authority, in this instance by issuing arrest warrants against the Qaddafi leadership in Libya. Israel was not mentioned in the post the content of which had nothing whatsoever to do with Judaism or Jews. To ignore such an explanation is to my way of thinking and to reprint the cartoon in an enlarged form is a sign of malicious intent; any fair reading of the 182 posts on my blog, including one devoted to Jewish identity would make it very clear to any objective reader that I have not expressed a single sentiment that can be fairly described as an anti-Semite. It is a grave disservice to both Israel and Jews to confuse criticism of Israel’s behavior toward the Palestinians with anti-Semitism.

–the claim that I am a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, actually a leading one, is false, as well. I have consistently maintained that I have insufficient knowledge to reach any conclusions about whether there is an alternative narrative of the 9/11 events that is more convincing than the official version. What I have said, and stand behind, is that David Griffin and many others have raised questions that have not been adequately answered, and constitute serious gaps in the official version that were not closed by the 9/11 Commission report. I would reaffirm that David Griffin is a cherished friend, and that we have professionally collaborated on several projects long before 9/11. It should be pointed out that Griffin is a philosopher of religion of worldwide reputation that has written on a wide range of issues, including a series on inquiries into the post-modern world and the desirability of an ecological civilization.

–The recent UN Watch letter that led me to be removed from the Human Rights Watch SB city Committee also claims I am a partisan of Hamas, which is a polemic charge and is untrue. What I have encouraged is a balanced view of Hamas based on the full context of their statements and behavior, and not fixing on language in the Hamas Charter or a particular speech. When the broader context is considered of Hamas statements and recent behavior is considered, then I believe there exists a potential opportunity to work with Hamas leaders to end the violence, to release the people of Gaza from captivity, and to generate a diplomatic process that leads to a period of prolonged peaceful co-existence with Israel. I have never insisted that this hopeful interpretation is necessarily correct, but I do maintain that it is worth exploring, and a preferred alternative to the current rigid insistence on refusing to deal with Hamas as a political actor because it is ‘a terrorist organization.’ It was evident in the recent violence preceding the November ceasefire in Gaza that leaders throughout the Middle East were treating Hamas as the governmental authority in Gaza and as a normal political entity, and this helped bring the violence to an end.

–Finally, UN Watch charges that I am biased and one-sided in my treatment of Israeli behavior, and cites Susan Rice and others for support, as well as noting my failure to report on violations by Hamas, Fatah, and the Palestinian Authority. I can only say once more that I am trying my best to be objective and truthful, although unwilling to give in to pressure. I did make an effort in my initial appearance before the Human Rights Council to broaden my mandate to take account of Palestinian violations, but was rebuffed by most of the 49 governmental members of the Council for seeking to make such a change, and reasonable grounds were advanced for not changing my mandate. I have noted Palestinian violations of international law wherever relevant to the assessment of Israeli behavior, as for instance in relation to the launch of indiscriminate rockets. Palestinian abuses of human rights of Palestinians under their control while administering portions of Occupied Palestine is outside my mandate, and I have no discretion to comment on such behavior in discharging my responsibilities as Special Rapporteur.

It is my view that Israel is in control of the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, and is primarily responsible for the situation and the persistence of the conflict, especially by their insistence on undertaking provocative actions such as targeted assassinations and accelerated settlement expansions.

I would grateful if this account of my actual views and beliefs can be circulated widely in response to the CRIF repetition of the UN Watch attacks.

Richard Falk

29 December 2012

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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39 Responses

  1. justicewillprevail
    January 3, 2013, 10:31 am

    UN Watch, yet another arm of the Zio lobby (instigated by the AJC), posing as some sort of ‘independent’ organisation, and not revealing their bias or purpose. It is nothing but a predictable smear campaign against Falk for standing up for human rights in Palestine, and refusing to acquiesce to the Israel fantasy that is required by the lobby if you want to avoid their McCarthyite tactics and baiting. Sad to see, if entirely predictable, politicians immediately jumping to the tune of a well-funded bunch of hacks and witchfinders, speaking out against a man who, unlike them, can clearly demonstrate his integrity.


    • Talkback
      January 4, 2013, 8:21 am

      justicewillprevail says:
      “UN Watch, yet another arm of the Zio lobby (instigated by the AJC), posing as some sort of ‘independent’ organisation, and not revealing their bias or purpose.”

      Sounds as independent as the “American Center for Law & Justice”.

  2. American
    January 3, 2013, 10:49 am

    Lifted from a commenter on Falks site…..

    “In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
    (George Orwell)

    Nothing says more about the character and agenda of the zio attackers than who and what they attack.
    We need more Falks in high places.

  3. amigo
    January 3, 2013, 10:54 am

    So, a Jewish Person is allowed,(hell even expected) to criticise Syria/China/Rwanda/N Vietnam and all the other oppressive Regimes but not Israel.

    So when I criticise my Government does that make me Anti Irish.

    Hell no, it just proves we are a practising democracy.

  4. Edward Q
    January 3, 2013, 12:08 pm

    You hear the same rhetoric from white supremacists. Instead of “self-hating Jews” they talk about “weak whites” and “race traitors”.

  5. yourstruly
    January 3, 2013, 1:46 pm

    criticism of israel translates into self-hatred of myself as a jew?

    yet there’s freedom of consciensce as the core defining reality of a genuinely democratic society?

    israel’s refusing to deal with hamas?

    despite its having helped bring the violence to an end? –

    and gaza?

    one’s fear of experiencing a sudden violent death

    yet there’s still hope?

    for the just & peaceful world?

    for destiny

    survival or not?

    now up for grabs

    • yourstruly
      January 3, 2013, 2:17 pm


      when the necessity for such a world becomes self-evident, as in “wellwadayuknow, who’dathunkit; from then on, somehow, it’s as if i had known it all along”

  6. anonymouscomments
    January 3, 2013, 2:16 pm

    just quoting, and as a volunteer with architects and engineers for 9/11 truth, i do agree-
    9/11 and the Bush administration
    In 2004, Falk wrote the preface to David Ray Griffin’s book The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11 which maintains that the George W. Bush administration was complicit in the September 11 attacks.[76] In that preface he argued: “There have been questions raised here and there and allegations of official complicity made almost from the day of the attacks, especially in Europe, but no one until Griffin has had the patience, the fortitude, the courage, and the intelligence to put the pieces together in a single coherent account.”[37] Falk also wrote a chapter for Griffin’s 2006 book, 9/11 and American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out.[77]

    In November 2008, Falk wrote in The Journal, a student publication in Edinburgh, Scotland: “It is not paranoid under such circumstances to assume that the established elites of the American governmental structure have something to hide and much to explain… The persisting inability to resolve this fundamental controversy about 9/11 subtly taints the legitimacy of the American government. It can only be removed by a willingness, however belated, to reconstruct the truth of that day, and to reveal the story behind its prolonged suppression.”[78][79]

    In 2004 Falk signed a statement released by the organization 9/11 Truth that calls for a new investigation into the September 11 attacks. Falk confirmed his support for the statement in 2009.[80] In 2008 Falk called for an official commission to further study these issues, including the role neoconservatives may have played in the attacks, saying “It is possibly true that especially the neoconservatives thought there was a situation in the country and in the world where something had to happen to wake up the American people. Whether they are innocent about the contention that they made that something happen or not, I don’t think we can answer definitively at this point.”[37]

    • lysias
      January 3, 2013, 2:59 pm

      The U.S. government has been as honest about 9/11 as it has been about the JFK assassination. It has a history of this sort of thing.

      • seanmcbride
        January 3, 2013, 3:14 pm


        The 9/11 official story makes much less sense in 2013 than it made a decade ago (and it made no sense then). But I understand that this topic is off-limits here — for reasons that are justifiable from the standpoint of MW’s editorial agenda. Feel free to post at length on that subject here, if you are in the mood:


  7. lysias
    January 3, 2013, 2:57 pm

    Nearly 50 years ago, when I took a course in elementary Italian as a sophomore at Princeton (taught by future Commissioner of Baseball Angelo Bartlett Giamatti), Falk, as a junior professor of international law, was also a student in that class. He was a diligent and conscientious student.

    • seanmcbride
      January 3, 2013, 3:16 pm


      You learned Italian from Giametti at Princeton with Falk as a classmate? Awesome!

      His son turned out to be a hell of an actor.

      • lysias
        January 3, 2013, 7:04 pm

        Falk was in that class, but he was faculty at that point (Assistant Professor, I believe.) I was then a humble sophomore.

  8. ToivoS
    January 3, 2013, 4:20 pm

    Well with this long Falk quote you have opened the door to 911 truther nonsense as lysias and anonymouse have been quick to exploit. I thought your moderation policy considered that off topic. Griffen seriously discusses that the trade towers were were taken down by controlled demolitions. Falk not only wrote a forward for that book but defends its contents. He deserves to be ignored.

    • lysias
      January 3, 2013, 5:21 pm

      You consider it “truther nonsense” for someone to say that he does not believe the official account of 9/11?

      • ToivoS
        January 3, 2013, 6:05 pm

        I do not believe in the official account. However, any rational discussion of its problems have been sidetracked by idiotic controlled demolition ideas and the notion that an airliner didn’t hit the pentagon.

      • lysias
        January 3, 2013, 7:00 pm

        It’s been documented — by, among other things, a CIA document that came to light — that the CIA had a policy of contaminating the discussion about the JFK assassination by getting people, often in their pay, to espouse clearly wrong-headed theories that rejected the official account. In that way, they intended to discredit all “conspiracy theorist” views that rejected the Warren Commission Report. And for quite some time they succeeded with a lot of the American public.

        Then it was “conspiracy theorists”. Now the charge is against all “truthers”.

      • seanmcbride
        January 3, 2013, 7:22 pm


        I do not believe in the official account.

        Then you should be encouraging vigorous discussion and debate about 9/11 far and wide.

        Americans have dumped several trillion dollars down the drain on a “Global War on Terror” engineered by neoconservatives, and abandoned some of their most precious civil liberties, on the basis of a clearly bogus story that even leading 9/11 Commission officials have dismissed as absurd on its face.

        As of 2013, the government is *still* unable or unwilling to produce the testimonies of the 9/11 “masterminds” for public and objective scrutiny.

      • seanmcbride
        January 3, 2013, 7:56 pm


        This is standard operating procedure for sophisticated intelligence agencies — bury real conspiracies in a flood of false conspiracy theories — the method creates total confusion and people eventually just give up on trying to sort out the mess.

      • Annie Robbins
        January 3, 2013, 9:16 pm

        actually toivo, there is a way to discuss the criticisms against falk and his response without walking thru that door you mention. the comment policy specifies we don’t talk about the different theories. it goes on and on and never ends. falk didn’t have a theory.

        but it antagonizes the conversation to be slinging around insults (which you seem to be doing). falk is a friend of the site and i respect him. the official story of 9/11 was spoken verbatim on national tv within minutes of the attack. there’s really no compelling reason to believe it (hence i could claim anyone who does should be ignored or is idiotic, see how easy that was?). until there’s a thorough investigation (there wasn’t) it’s all speculative.

        either way, i hope we can discuss the charges against him as well as his response without getting deep into theories and insults about people whose opinions we don’t agree. if you can’t, just ignore the thread. i’d advise that for everyone.

        personally, when i read “indeed against all that is Jewish”
        i couldn’t believe it. what’s with this all or nothing mindset. it’s so ugly.

      • ToivoS
        January 4, 2013, 4:40 am

        Dear annie
        I appreciate your comments and I will stop my objections. I agree with you that MW is not the place to resolve charges that the 911 truthers have made. I have made my case quite clearly that I think they are totally nuts. Before leaving this issue I think it is relevant to note that I happen to be quite knowledgeable in physical sciences — things like thermodynamics, simple Newtonian physics and temperature sensitivity of structural steel to bear heavy loads. These are concepts that many here seem to be unable to understand.

      • Donald
        January 4, 2013, 8:23 am

        Toivo–I agree with you about truther nonsense (and also agree that the crazier 9/11 theories pretty much get in the way of anyone who might have serious questions about the event–just from basic common sense I would suspect that there are probably lies and coverups about who knew what or who should have known this fact or that fact). I also regret that Falk defends Griffin, but disagree that he deserves to be ignored. Unfortunately good people can be wrong, spectacularly wrong, on one issue and it doesn’t necessarily mean that everything else they say and think should be tossed out. This is basic. I don’t ignore everything in the mainstream press because some of what they publish is propaganda. I have one of Falk’s books on how the NYT has covered the I/P conflict and it’s very good–it’s not negated because he is friends with Griffin, though unfortunately it gives people an excuse for ignoring him.

        For me the point where I start ignoring someone is when they are clearly motivated by some unsavory sentiment and spout nonsense based on those sentiments. This doesn’t apply to Falk.

        OTOH, I don’t agree with Sean that vigorous discussion and debate means talking about every stupid idea that comes along. Sure, people should be free to talk about whatever they want, at their own websites. If I ran a science blog and questioned, say, string theory, it wouldn’t mean I wanted to see a vigorous debate about the merits of alchemy.

      • American
        January 4, 2013, 12:20 pm

        All I want from the 911 investigation is the ‘redacted names’ of those agents in the FBI office who deep sixed and ‘lost’ the 5 alarm bell pleas and demands from the other FBI agents following what was already red flagged as a suspicous group up to something by their activities from Flordia to Texas ……who were those FBI supervisors who ‘lost’ the warnings and rejected repeated and loud calls for warrants and questioning of some of these individuals….and where are they now, who were they?

        “If’ there was a conspiracy I believe it was one of “opportunity” rather than a ‘elaborate plan’ on it’s on. Some people or a network of people saw something coming or the possibility of it coming and because of their political or other ideologies they did their bit to remove ‘roadblocks’ so it could get through.

        The ‘official’ investigation laid all blame on “Incompetence”..failures down the line. I can believe in US agencies incompetence…but not failure in this case of every single agency from intelligence to the FAA failing both before the fact and all again failing at once on the very same day.
        And I particulary don’t buy the ‘Incompetence theory” because they were within those agencies other people screaming loud and clear something was on the way.

      • seanmcbride
        January 4, 2013, 1:15 pm


        Vigorous, open, free and public debate means that any propositions and claims can be discussed, challenged, promoted, rebutted, etc. That’s how things work in democratic societies. The best ideas rise to the top after running the gauntlet of rational and well-informed inspection and criticism.

        The reason why intense pressure has been exerted to censor all open debate about 9/11 is because some very smart people (including high-level government, military and intelligence officials), armed with facts and reason, were crushing defenders of the 9/11 official story in open and fair debate all across the Internet. The official story can be easily taken apart from literally hundreds of angles.

        I have read all of David Ray Griffin’s books, by the way — they are rock solid. Most of the important questions he has raised still have not been answered. The powers that be are desperate for the world to forget all about 9/11 — that is how weak the official story is. They are hysterical about where an honest investigation would lead.

      • Mooser
        January 4, 2013, 3:16 pm

        “sidetracked by idiotic controlled demolition ideas”

        In that case, you better stay out of curtain-wall skyscrapers. High winds exert much mopre force on those buildings than the airliners ever did. A zephyr could collapse them, in fact beat them to a powder.

        And stop trying to conflate what happened with who did it. The two questions are much better seperated until we find out what happened. Airliners don’t get any heavier when they are flown by terrorists.

      • Donald
        January 4, 2013, 3:19 pm

        “some very smart people (including high-level government, military and intelligence officials), armed with facts and reason, were crushing defenders of the 9/11 official story in open and fair debate all across the Internet. ”

        A list would be nice here.

      • Annie Robbins
        January 4, 2013, 3:26 pm

        donald, put cheney at the top. he’s very smart, access to high-level government, military and intel.

      • Donald
        January 4, 2013, 3:39 pm

        I don’t think Cheney is who Sean means–Cheney surely wasn’t appearing on the internet to shoot down the official 9/11 story.

      • Annie Robbins
        January 4, 2013, 4:16 pm

        sorry donald, i misread your comment. flipped it. there are lots of lists of military people etc crushing the official story. it’s been years since i looked into it but they were very out there publicly.

      • Mooser
        January 4, 2013, 4:30 pm

        That was one cruddy trio of buildings. I feel so sorry for those people, working in what they thought was a relatively safe place. And then one hit from an airliner shattered the entire building, top to bottom! (Must have been gravity acting on the impact. And the way the building stored the force, and crumbled a bit later!
        Me, I’m keeping my hooves on solid ground while I ruminate. No skyscrapers for me.

      • LanceThruster
        January 4, 2013, 5:34 pm

        the official story of 9/11 was spoken verbatim on national tv within minutes of the attack. there’s really no compelling reason to believe it (hence i could claim anyone who does should be ignored or is idiotic, see how easy that was?). until there’s a thorough investigation (there wasn’t) it’s all speculative.

        Beautifully stated, Annie (as was Mr. Falk’s response for that matter).

      • RoHa
        January 4, 2013, 9:08 pm

        “That was one cruddy trio of buildings.”

        Indeed. One of them fell down without being hit by an airliner.

  9. pabelmont
    January 3, 2013, 6:57 pm

    Apart from all the (fully justified) criticism and suspicion of the government’s hasbara and behavior w.r.t. 9/11, Falk relates

    I did make an effort in my initial appearance before the Human Rights Council to broaden my mandate to take account of Palestinian violations, but was rebuffed by most of the 49 governmental members of the Council for seeking to make such a change, and reasonable grounds were advanced for not changing my mandate.

    So, the Council can be blamed for his reports not treating PA and Hamas H/R violations, but falk himself cannot.

  10. pipistro
    January 3, 2013, 7:01 pm

    I think Prof. Falk tries to answer, diffusely, to most questions, in order to favour the dialogue and investigate solutions inherent to his field. So that it happens that one of the favourite hobbies of the hasbrats from all over the world seems to be: picking on him, trying to exploit his not due, extreme courtesy in replying even to rhetorical assessments, and sometimes to sheer provocation. But the preposterous accusation of anti-semitism reach the top of ignorance and – I guess – bad faith. Leave aside 911, too much for discussing.

  11. Shingo
    January 4, 2013, 5:42 am

    It amazes me that anyone would consider the opinion of a psychotic, amoral attack dig like Susan Rice to be worth anything.

  12. Talkback
    January 4, 2013, 8:18 am

    The Inquisition accuses Richard Falk not only of heresy by thought and word but also of treason against the people. It’s a clear case, because he allready confessed that the strongest scholarly virtue to him is to follow the path of evidence and reason wherever it leads.

  13. JaapBo
    January 5, 2013, 7:04 am

    The Simon Wiesenthal Center equates Anti-Semitism with Anti-Israel: Top Ten Anti-Semitic/Anti-Israel Slurs

    The inclusion of a German journalist is criticised in Germany: link

    • American
      January 5, 2013, 9:35 am

      Yikes!… those are really disgusting….truly anti semitic.
      However I don’t think Augstein’s comes up to the level of anti semitism becuase it’s true and about Israel…..not about Jews as Jews like the others. But it is a good example of how they try to label criticizm of Israel as anti semitism.

      Jakob Augstein
      owner / editor, der freitag weekly
      contributor, spiegel online
      “With backing from the US, where the president must secure
      the support of Jewish lobby groups, and in Germany, where
      coping with history, in the meantime, has a military component,
      the Netanyahu government keeps the world on a leash with an
      ever-swelling war chant.”
      “Israel’s nuclear power is a danger to the already fragile peace of the world. This
      statement has triggered an outcry.Because it’s true. And because it was made by a
      German, Guenter Grass, author and Nobel Prize winner. That is the key point. One must, therefore, thank him for taking it upon himself to speak for us all.”
      “Israel is threatened by Islamic fundalmentalists in its neighborhood. But the Jews also have their fundamentalists, the ultra-orthodox Hareidim. They are not a small splinter group. They make up 10% of the Israeli population. They are cut from the same cloth as their Islamic fundamentalist opponents. They follow the law of revenge.”
      “The fire burns in Libya, Sudan, Yemen, in countries which are among the poorest
      on earth. But those who set the fires live elsewhere. Furious young people burn the American, and recently, the German flag. They, too, are victims, just like the dead at Benghazi and Sanaa. Whom does this all this violence benefit? Always the insane and unscrupulous. And this time it’s the U.S. Republicans and Israeli government.”
      “Gaza is a place out of the end of times….1.7 million people live there on 360 sq.
      kilometers. Israel incubates its own opponents there.”
      all translated quotes from Spiegel Online
      – Jakob Augstein

    • American
      January 5, 2013, 9:59 am

      Hypocritical reasoning by the Wiesenthal group:

      “The Simon Wiesenthal Center refused to back down from its decision. “Just because he is a journalist, we are not giving Mr. Augstein license to say what he wants and to hide behind journalistic integrity,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the center, adding, “His statements are incorrect and baseless.”

      But they can falsely label someone anti semitic because they’re Jewish? I don’t think so. The push back on this sort of thing, just like the one on Hagel is getting stronger and it should. They should stick to actual anti semites– including this man discredits their organization and puts more attention on their ulterior motives than on anti semites.

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