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A small victory for genuine human rights: Extremist Richard Falk loses one gig, but keeps important UN post

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UN Watch, a Geneva-based NGO monitoring the UN, celebrated a little victory last week, when Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur on "the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967," was removed from Human Rights Watch's (HRW) Santa Barbara Committee.

On Dec. 17, UN Watch had published an open letter to HRW's Executive Director Kenneth Roth, urging him to remove Falk from the committee:

"Dear Mr. Roth,
We are shocked to discover that Richard Falk-the U.N. official whose antisemitic remarks and 9/11 conspiracy theories have been condemned by British Prime Minister David Cameron, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay-is a board member of your organization.
By legitimizing this racist and enemy of human rights, your organization undermines its own founding principles. We urge you to remove him immediately.
According to your website, Mr. Falk is a member of Human Rights Watch's prestigious Santa Barbara Committee, composed of prominent citizens who play a key role in your organization's global work.
We find it astonishing that Mr. Falk would be rewarded by such a prestigious position with Human Rights Watch, one of the world's largest human rights organizations."

In his letter, UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer provided evidence of Falk's controversial comments, expressing his support for Hamas, his links to 9/11 conspiracy theorists, and his highly disturbing views of the Holocaust:
Firstly, Falk's support for Hamas was exposed. This support led the Palestinian Authority (PA) to request Falk to resign from his UN position due to his pro-Hamas bias. This request by the PA was expressed in a Wikileaks cable:

"... PA DPR Zuhairi was visibly upset by Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories] Richard Falk's reference to Hamas in his draft report. In para 8, Falk states that UNGA resolution 64/10 calls on Hamas - vice the PA - to undertake investigations. Zuhairi argued that he had too often corrected Falk's many errors and that this latest misguided effort by Falk had gone too far. Zuhairi said he might use the February 18 HRC [Human Rights Council] organizational meeting to seek to block Falk's report from being presented to the HRC on the grounds that Falk overstepped his mandate, had addressed issues outside his brief, and had failed to appropriately recognize a UNGA resolution (not to mention the legitimate authority of the PA)."

Falk's antisemitic comparison of Israel's actions with those of the Nazi regime were also too much even for PA representatives:

"Zuhairi also said he wished Falk would drop his repeated suggestions that Israel's actions in the OPT be equated with the Holocaust. "

Later on, Zuhairi even asked Falk to resign, due to his position and recognition of Hamas:

" In light of the reference to Hamas, Zuhairi said he had called Falk personally and asked him to step down, something Falk angrily rejected."

According to Ma'an News Agency ('UN expert Richard Falk: PA told me to quit',9/3/10), Falk himself admitted that he was asked to resign from his UN position by the Palestinian Authority, acknowledging their opinion of him as a partisan of Hamas.

His support for Hamas was expressed as recently as last week, when he published a post reinterpreting Khaled Meshal's poisonous speech at Hamas' 25th anniversary in Gaza. Falk's intentional misinterpretation of the speech downplays Meshal's clear call for the annihilation of Israel through "armed resistance," meaning- terrorism.

The second ground for UN Watch's call for Falk's removal from the HRW committee is his antisemitic views. Last year Falk posted on his website an antisemitic cartoon depicting a dog, representing the USA, wearing a Jewish skullcap, urinating on a statue of "justice" while devouring a bloody skeleton. British Prime Minister David Cameron and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay both condemned Falk for posting the antisemitic cartoon.

Falk's endorsement of antisemitic ideas and authors reached its peak with his cover endorsement of Jazz musician Gilad Atzmon's controversial book "The Wandering Who?" which says Jews seek to control the world, blames them for the Global Financial Crisis, casts doubt on the Holocaust, and offers apologies to Nazis for comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, saying Israel was "in fact far worse." (see Alan Dershowitz's article about Falk's endorsement of Atzmon, a self-described "proud, self-hating Jew"- 'Why are John Mearsheimer and Richard Falk Endorsing a Blatantly Anti-Semitic Book?,' 4/11/11). The British Foreign Office again condemned Falk for this endorsement of antisemitic content, and even protested to the U.N. expressing "serious concerns."

Falk also degraded the memory of the Holocaust by accusing Israel of planning a "Palestinian Holocaust. "

The third ground for removal, according to the UN Watch letter, is that "Falk is one of the world's most high-profile 9/11 conspiracy theorists, lending his name to those who accuse the U.S. government of orchestrating the destruction of the Twin Towers as a pretext to launch wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."

UN Watch notes that Falk promotes, endorses and supports the writings and works of fellow conspiracy theorists such as Falk's disciple and close friend David Ray Griffin and 
"TruthJihad.com"'s Kevin Barrett, who is also a "Holocaust skeptic." 
For his views on 9/11, Falk was publicly reprimanded by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the Human Rights Council. Ban Ki-moon stated that Falk's remarks and views regarding 9/11 were "preposterous" and "an affront to the memory of the more than 3,000 people who died in that tragic terrorist attack."

US Ambassador Susan Rice also publicly denounced Falk's comments:

"I am appalled by the recent personal blog written by Richard Falk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on 'the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.'
In this blog post, dated January 11, 2011, Mr. Falk endorses the slurs of conspiracy theorists who allege that the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were perpetrated and then covered up by the U.S. government and media. 

Mr. Falk's comments are despicable and deeply offensive, and I condemn them in the strongest terms. I have registered a strong protest with the UN on behalf of the United States. The United States has in the past been critical of Mr. Falk's one-sided and politicized approach to his work for the UN, including his failure to condemn deliberate human rights abuses by Hamas, but these blog comments are in another category altogether.

In my view, Mr. Falk's latest commentary is so noxious that it should finally be plain to all that he should no longer continue in his position on behalf of the UN. I would note that U.S. and many other diplomats walked out in protest in September 2010 when Iranian President Ahmadinejad made similarly slanderous remarks before the UN General Assembly.

The United States is deeply committed to the cause of human rights and believes that cause will be better advanced without Mr. Falk and the distasteful sideshow he has chosen to create."

After listing Falk's past and recent expressions of support for terror organisations, his antisemitic views and his links to 9/11 conspiracy theorists, Neuer concluded the letter with the call to expel Falk:

"I am sure that all of this is already known to you, but we include this evidentiary record for the benefit of your board members, whom we trust will act swiftly to remove Mr. Falk from your organization. The cause of human rights, including the struggle against all forms of racism and antisemitism, requires no less."

According to UN Watch, HRW representatives confirmed that Falk "no longer" holds the position, and that their website "has now been updated to reflect that fact."
Richard Falk himself commented on the issue online, admitting that he was "asked to resign." However, he claimed that the reason behind this request was, supposedly, his "connection with the UN, which is contrary to HRW policy." Yet Falk was forced to admit that "Perhaps, there is more to the issue."

As noted by UN Watch, if the problem had been HRW policy regarding his position at the UN, Falk would have been removed from the committee a long time ago.
After Falk's removal from the committee, UN Watch congratulated HRW for its determined action:

"We commend Human Rights Watch and its director Kenneth Roth for doing the right thing, and finally removing this enemy of human rights from their important organization. A man who supports the Hamas terrorist organization, and who was just condemned by the British Foreign Office for his cover endorsement of a virulently antisemitic book, has no place in an organization dedicated to human rights."

Having won this mainly symbolic battle, Neuer is now calling on US Ambassador Susan Rice to act to remove Falk from UN position at the Human Rights Council.

However, only the Council itself has the authority to remove him, and unfortunately this is highly unlikely to happen. Shamefully, most members of the Council are not bothered by his antisemitic views, support of Hamas or conspiracy theories regarding 9/11. If anything, his anti-Western and anti-Israel bias is welcomed. This is evident in his Human Rights Council position, which is officially aimed at investigating "the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories," which theoretically would also include human rights violations by Hamas and the PA, but in practice his mandate is limited to the investigation of alleged violations only by Israel.

Or Avi-Guy

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