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The Grey Lady Soft Pedals Richard Falk

Walter Russell Mead

The United Nations has released a report accusing Israel of practicing “apartheid”, the The New York Times reports:

The report was published by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, composed entirely of Arab member states; most do not recognize Israel.

One of the authors of the report was Richard Falk, an American law professor and former United Nations human rights investigator whom critics regard as an anti-Israel extremist. He has been refused entry to Israel for what Israeli leaders have described as his hostile point of view.

The report comes amid a hardening polarization on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with vastly diminished hopes for a two-state solution, a pillar of diplomatic efforts for the past two decades.

In blithely describing him only as someone “critics” have accused of bias, the Times fails to report that the author of the report, Richard Falk, is a 9/11 Truther with a deeply-felt animus toward Israel. Yair Rosenberg of Tablet has written about Falk’s rather troubling beliefs:

Falk is an equal opportunity advocate of conspiracy theories, not just about America, but about Jews. In 2011, he effusively blurbed a vicious book which called American Jews “the enemy within,” questioned the historicity of the Holocaust, and claimed that “robbery and hatred is imbued in Jewish modern political ideology on both the left and the right.” In Falk’s opinion, prominently showcased on the book’s front cover, such insights constitute “a transformative story told with unflinching integrity that all (especially Jews) who care about real peace, as well as their own identity, should not only read, but reflect upon and discuss widely.” Of course, in the opinion of everyone else–including Ali Abunimah and Omar Barghouti, leaders of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel–such ugly utterances constitute blatant anti-Semitism. As Andrew Sullivan, no Israeli apologist, put it, “Why would anyone blurb a book like this? I’m all for airing a variety of views, and provocative theories. That doesn’t mean you have to endorse poisonous, wounding hate.” And just in case you thought this was an odd aberration for Falk, he’s having lunch with the book’s author this week. It’s business as usual for the man who has dubbed the Jewish state “genocidal” and repeatedly compared it to Nazi Germany, and once posted a cartoon of a yarmulke-wearing dog urinating on Lady Justice while chewing on a bloody skeleton.

In no sense can Falk be called an impartial or fair minded writer. The Times can and should do better than paying lip service to unnamed “critics”.

Here at Via Meadia, we’re used to this crazy UN stuff. Our core criticism isn’t of predictable haters commissioning a predictable hit job, but of the NYT for failing to give its readers a clear understanding of just who it was who produced this piece. The Times‘ incomplete account also makes top UN officials’ response to the apartheid accusation look weak and potentially irresponsible rather than principled:

The leadership of the United Nations, sensitive to accusations by Israel and the United States over what they have described as a deep anti-Israel bias, moved quickly to distance itself from the report and described it as a surprise.

“We just saw the report today,” Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for Secretary General António Guterres, said at a daily news briefing. “It was done without any prior consultation with the secretary general. The report as it stands does not reflect the stance of the secretary general.”

Falk’s bias and animus are well known at the UN, and UN officials—who know much more about this than the Times decided to share with its readers—understood that this report was an ugly piece of junk and had no desire to be associated with it in any way. This probably wasn’t about appeasing Trump or Israel, but about a sense of professionalism and due caution asserting themselves.

What the Grey Lady’s readers won’t know due to the horrible framing is that what we have here is actually a good news story about the UN: a number of people in the organization have wised up to Richard Falk and want nothing to do with him. Instances of integrity and objectivity at the UN aren’t so common that they should be passed over in silence; the Times‘ readers deserve to know that the long process of reform at the UN actually shows some occasional signs of being successful.

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