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Falk’s faux-pas

Jul 8, 2011 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

Falk's faux-pas
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The UN’s so-called “special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories”, Richard Falk, apologised this morning for publishing an antisemitic cartoon on his blog. The cartoon (below) depicts the United States as Lady Justice’s guide dog, wearing a Jewish skullcap and urinating on Justice whilst feeding on a human corpse.

As the Jerusalem Post has reported, the cartoon was initially discovered by UN Watch, an NGO that monitors the UN’s activities. UN Watch reported the cartoon to  the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Navi Pillay, however a spokesman, rather disgracefully, refused to comment and Falk even tried to paint the allegations as a fabrication.

OHCHR spokesman Rupert Coleville told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that the matter had effectively been dealt with, since Falk had apologized for the cartoon, and although it was “clearly unfortunate and shouldn’t have been there,” it was not the place of the OHCHR to comment on a special rapporteur who are appointed by the Human Rights Council.

UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer dismissed this claim, pointing to an incident in 2005 when the high commissioner at the time, Louise Arbour, strongly criticized an incumbent special rapporteur.

“This is a sham excuse,” Neuer said. “The OHCHR provides staff support for the special rapporteur and they work closely together. She [Pillay] can speak out about anybody is she so wishes.”

When made aware of the UN Watch complaint by a commentator, Falk called the claim a “complete lie.” He subsequently removed the cartoon from his blog, saying, “Maybe I do not understand the cartoon… I certainly didn’t realize that it could be viewed as anti-Semitic, and still do not realize.”

Antisemitic cartoon on Richard Falk's blog

Falk has since posted a bizarre apology on his blog, where he wanders off on a tangent about animal rights and environmentalism before blaming outrage at the cartoon on people who disagree with his stance on Israel.

To be clear, I oppose any denigration of a people based on ethnicity, race, religion, stage of development, and believe in the human dignity of all people in their individual and collective identity. Beyond this, if we are to have a sustainable human future we must also make peace with nature, and treat animals with as much respect as possible. This is both a sacred imperative of my idea of a spiritual life, but also an integral aspect of species survival on an increasingly crowded, overheated, and endangered planet.

Returning to the cartoon, I regret my carelessness, and apologize for any unintended hurt and outrage caused thereby. At the same time, I am quite aware that many of the messages were motivated to discredit me due to my views of Israeli policies and behavior.

As Commentary‘s Alana Goodman has noted, Falk has been exposed as having some rather questionable beliefs in the past. Perhaps it is time for a new rapporteur for the West Bank.

But honestly, even the most heartfelt apology from Falk wouldn’t change the fact the guy has to go. He’s been a problem for the UN for too long. Earlier this year, US Ambassador Susan Rice called for Falk’s resignation after he was accused of supporting the 9/11 “Truther” movement. This latest cartoon controversy seems to fit a pattern of extremely poor judgment and embarrassing mishaps.

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