The Demonization of Richard Falk

by Apr 26, 2013Foreign Policy2 comments

It is clear from the hysterical reactions to Mr. Falk’s commentary on the Boston bombings that his own sin is in speaking uncomfortable truths many Americans don’t want to hear.

FPJ — The Zionist organization UN Watch has cited a commentary by Professor Richard Falk on the Boston bombings in a letter to U.N.  Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon demanding that that Prof. Falk be reprimanded for it. Mr. Falk, who serves as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, originally posted the commentary on his blog and I republished it, as I often do his writings, with his kind permission, in Foreign Policy Journal, which version UN Watch cites in its letter. As one should expect, the letter from UN Watch is characterized by its dishonesty and vain attacks on Prof. Falk’s character that deflect attention away from and fail to address the substance of what he wrote.

The UN Watch letter begins with the lie that Prof. Falk in his article “justifies the Boston terrorist attacks”. The UN Watch letter also falsely claims that Prof. Falk blamed the Boston terrorist attacks on Israel and characterized the attacks as “due ‘retribution’ for American sins”. Where Mr. Falk discusses Israel in the article, it is in the larger context of blowback for U.S. foreign policies, including the 9/11 attacks, which, as the 9/11 Commission noted in its report, were motivated in no small part by U.S. support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. Nowhere in his commentary did Mr. Falk blame Israel for or otherwise connect Israel to the bombings in Boston.

Mr. Falk has since written a follow-up post on his blog clarifying, “I had no intention whatsoever to connect any dots as to whether there was a causal linkage between what the U.S. or Israel have done in the world and what happened in Boston. My only effort was to suggest that in addition to grieving and bringing the perpetrators to justice, this could also become an occasion for collective self-scrutiny as a nation and as a people.”

As for the word “retribution”, where it appears in Mr. Falk’s article, it is in the context of a quote from someone else. What Falk actually wrote was:

Listening to a PBS program hours after the Boston event, I was struck by the critical attitudes of several callers to the radio station: …. Another caller asked “is this not a kind of retribution for torture inflicted by American security forces acting under the authority of the government, and verified for the world by pictures of the humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib?”

Nowhere did Falk say the attack was “due” or “justified”. The letter goes on this way with its fabricated charges against Falk’s character.

At the UN Watch blog, the letter is prefaced with the remark that Falk “was recently expelled by the Human Rights Watch [HRW] organization”. The link directs readers to a video embedded in another UN Watch blog post claiming that Falk was “Removed For Anti-Semitism”, the source for that claim being none other than Hillel Neuer, the Executive Director of UN Watch and author of the letter to the Secretary-General. In fact, the reason Mr. Falk left HRW’s local support committee in Santa Barbara, California, was because of HRW’s “longstanding policy, applied many times, that no official from any government or UN agency can serve on any Human Rights Watch committee or its Board. It was an oversight on our part that we did not apply that policy in Richard Falk’s case several years ago when he assumed his UN position.” But the truth just doesn’t serve Neuer’s or his organization’s agenda, so he prefers to make up lies to demonize an honorable man.

The UN Watch’s lies have been parroted elsewhere by unscrupulous so-called “journalists” who don’t let little things like honesty or integrity get in the way of an opportunity to manufacture a sensational headline.

Anne Beyefsky, for example, at Breitbart, unashamedly lies that “Richard Falk has published a statement saying Bostonians got what they deserved in last week’s terror attack” before accusing him of “antisemitism” for his criticisms of Israeli policies in his role as Special Rapporteur for the U.N. The fact that Mr. Falk is himself Jewish shouldn’t cause anyone to be surprised that he would face such a charge; indeed, this kind of intellectually and morally bankrupt accusation is standard fare for apologists of Israel’s constant violations of international law. It certainly comes as no surprise that Beyefsky is unable to produce any quotes from Mr. Falk to back up any of her disgraceful lies about him.

Bayefsky also wrote another piece for Fox News titled “Antisemitism, anti-Americanism are UN Human Rights Council official’s job description”, where she repeats the lie that Falk “announced that Boston had it coming” and denounces his true sin of describing the bombing as “blowback”.

Fox News elsewhere repeated the falsehood that “Falk also blamed Israel for the unrest he believes prompted” the Boston attacks.

A Washington D.C. CBS affiliate ran the sensational headline, “Falk: Boston Marathon Victims ‘Have To Die’ Because of American-Israeli Relations”. The quoted words, “have to die” do appear in Mr. Falk’s article, where he asks how many more innocent civilians have to die as a result of terrorist attacks motivated by the U.S. government’s criminal foreign policies (e.g., the illegal war on Iraq, etc.). The CBS hit piece then leads with the lie that Falk “said that Bostonians who were injured or killed in the Boston Marathon bombing were deserving of their collective fate.”

Curiously, CBS links to Mr. Falk’s actual article at Foreign Policy Journal, but cites Global Dispatch as the source for this false claim, indicating that the anonymous author(s) of the CBS piece never bothered to check for themselves what Falk actually wrote, while repeating the lie headlined by Global Dispatch that Falk “Says Boston Got What It Deserves” as a fact. So it isn’t clear whether those responsible at CBS are incompetently lazy or just willfully dishonesty like the rest of them.

Sohrab Ahmari in the Wall Street Journal likewise jumps on the bandwagon and repeats the lie that Falk blamed Israel for the Boston bombings while denouncing him for “political lunacy”.

In an online Journal video titled “U.N.’s Resident Anti Semite”, Ahmari talks with editorial board member Mary Kissel about the latest “embarrassment” for the U.N. from Falk, who “has been active for years saying all sorts of crazy things, your typical anti-American demagogue of the academic sort.” Kissel quotes Falk as saying, “(A)s long as Tel Aviv has the compliant ear of the American political establishment, those who wish for peace and justice in the world should not rest easy”, which the video displays under the words “Falk on the Boston Bombings”. However, this quote was not in reference to the Boston attacks. The sentence from which it was pulled in fact began, “The war drums are beating at this moment in relation to both North Korea and Iran, and as long as Tel Aviv….” This context was willfully omitted by the dishonest Ms. Kissel and Mr. Ahmari, who proceed with their show of manufactured controversy. Kissel, after reading the quote out of its context, feigns shock: “So let me get this straight. So, he’s linking Israel to the terror attacks in Boston?” To which Ahmari replies, “That’s right.” No, that’s not right. It a deliberate lie, as can easily be seen simply by placing the quote back into its actual context. The duo proceeds from there to blast Falk for his heresy of describing the Boston bombing as blowback for U.S. foreign policies and accusing him of “anti-Americanism” and “anti-Semitism”.

(When I confronted the pair on Twitter about their lies, asking “Don’t you have any real journalism to be doing?” the best Ahmari could do in reply was, “Don’t you have crackpot theories about Jews and the NWO to be formulating?” Kissel’s response was, “I think exposing crackpot theories about Israel is a very worthy use of time”. Ahmari then added, “The trouble is that Mr. @jeremyrhammond is an originator of such theories”, to which I replied, “I sense a strawman argument coming on. Come on, then, let’s have it.” He proceeded to block me on Twitter, and Kissel did not respond to my further reply, “Do you think making up lies to demonize #RichardFalk is a very worthy use of your time?”)

Michael Goodwin in the New York Post calls Mr. Falk’s commentary “a rancid piece of trash” and repeats the lie that he “basically calls the Boston terror attack just deserts”. As for his real sin, Mr. Falk committed the heinous apostasy of urging “politicians to ‘connect the dots’ between US foreign policy and terrorism at home”. (Mr. Falk’s “new assault appears in Foreign Policy Journal”, Goodwin adds, “where nearly every other article attacks Israel.” Perhaps he had some of my own articles, such as “Rogue State: Israeli Violations of U.N. Security Council Resolutions” or “The Myth of the U.N. Creation of Israel”, in mind?)

The New York Daily News repeats the lie that “Falk blames Boston Marathon attack on Israel” while calling him a “Jew-basher”, “United Nations anti-Semite-in-chief”, and “a loon”.

Mitch Wolfe in The Huffington Post criticizes Mr. Falk for daring to suggest that the Boston bombings were motivated by U.S. foreign policies; never mind that, as the Washington Post has reported, “The 19-year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has told interrogators that the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated him and his brother to carry out the attack”.

Not to be outdone, Lauren Izso in the Jerusalem Post takes the lie a step further, writing that Falk “implies” that the bombings were “largely due to Obama’s recent trip to Israel”.

A JTA (Jewish Telegraph Agency) headline repeats the lie that Falk “pins blame for Boston Marathon bombing on ‘Tel Aviv’” and the falsehood that Falk “called the Boston attack ‘retribution’ for the actions of the U.S. military in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan”, which leads one to wonder whether the author of the JTA story even bothered to read Falk’s article or relied entirely on UN Watch’s distortions of it for its own reporting.

The Times of Israel also picked up the story, stating that Falk “has a history of provocative and outrages [sic, i.e., “outrageous”] statements, both supporting Islamic terror and bashing Israel.” The Times of Israel would have a very hard time indeed finding any substantiation for its lie that Falk has made statements “supporting Islamic terror”; and “bashing” Israel is the usual euphemism for legitimately criticizing Israel’s constant violations of international law. Just as instructively, the “outrageous” statement referred to in this case is Falk’s remark that “The American global domination project is bound to generate all kinds of resistance… the United States has been fortunate not to experience worse blowbacks”. The Times of Israel spins this observation into the dishonest headline, “UN official says US had Boston attack coming”; the idiom “to have it coming” meaning, of course, that the outcome is deserved. This headline is just another lie. Yet Mr. Falk neither said nor implied that the U.S. deserved the attacks in Boston.

An Arutz Sheva (Israel National News) headline also repeated the falsehood, “UN Official Attempts to Blame Boston Bombings ‘On Tel Aviv’. The article quotes Anti-Defamation League (ADL) National Director Abraham H. Foxman decrying Falk as “a wildly conspiratorial and highly biased extremist” with a “notorious record of anti-Israel and anti-American propaganda.”

Dr. Phlip Brodie, in an Arutz Sheva op-ed, condemns Falk for daring to point out that U.S. foreign policy, including its support for Israel, increases the threat of terrorism and results in blowback such as the 9/11 attacks.

The JC ran a headline repeating the lie, “US-Israel ties factor in Boston bombing, says UN man”.

Mark Leon Goldberg at UN Dispatch calls Falk’s commentary a “dumb” “diatribe” and feigns not to understand Mr. Falk’s rather elementary point that the U.S. government’s policies create hatred towards the country and result in blowback such as the 9/11 attacks.

John Hinderaker at the Power Line blog repeats the lie that Mr. Falk said “Boston had it coming”. Hinderaker reveals his remarkable ignorance by saying that Falk’s statement that “the neocon presidency of George W. Bush, was in 2001 prior to the attacks openly seeking a pretext to launch a regime-changing war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq”, among others, is “false” (the truth of that and other of Mr. Falk’s statements is hardly a secret and not in the least bit controversial). Hinderaker goes on to dismiss Falk as “a lousy writer”, “insane”, “a psychopath” who has a “demented frame of reference, that we associate with mental illness”, “a nut; a crank”, “a mental case”, someone who “should seek treatment for his mental illness.”

Bryan Preston at PJ Media similarly repeats the lies that Falk “Justifies” the bombing in his article and said that the U.S. “had this coming”.

Noga Gur-Arieah at The begins an article on the matter by lying, “Richard Falk, a UN official, referred to the Boston Marathon in a column he wrote for the Foreign Policy Journal, saying the US ‘had it coming’ because of its policy around the world and specifically in the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, that’s right.” No, that’s a deliberate lie, complete with fabricated quote.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice tweeted in response to Mr. Falk’s article, “Outraged by Richard Falk’s highly offensive Boston comments. Someone who spews such vitriol has no place at the UN. Past time for him to go.” Whether Ms. Rice is outraged over things Mr. Falk never actually said or the truth he did tell isn’t entirely clear, though we may perhaps reasonably assume both.

A spokesperson for Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, instead of rejecting the deliberate distortions of Mr. Falk’s piece, said that “The Secretary-General is hopeful that special rapporteurs such as Mr. Falk understand that while they have independent status, their public comments can undermine the credibility and the work of the United Nations.” This was reported by Reuters in a rare objective and honest piece, which accurately states that Falk “suggested the Boston bombings were a response to U.S. foreign policy” before pointing out that federal law enforcement officials have indeed told reporters “that the Tsarnaev brothers had been motivated by the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq”—in other words, that Mr. Falk is correct in his observation.

One is just not supposed to tell the public that U.S. foreign policy results in what intelligence analysts call “blowback”. This is a forbidden truth, reminiscent of the 2007 presidential debate when Rudy Giuliani condemned Ron Paul for making the completely uncontroversial statement that the 9/11 attacks were “blowback” for U.S. foreign policy, to which Dr. Paul replied by standing firm and repeating the uncomfortable truth before the audience. It is a point that Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit, Alec Station, has also made in a commentary on the Boston bombings published at Foreign Policy Journal, in which he remarks that “it is blatantly obvious from the evidence the authorities have presented to date that the attackers were motivated by what the U.S. government does in the Muslim world”.

It is clear from the hysterical reactions to Mr. Falk’s commentary on the Boston bombings that his own sin is in speaking uncomfortable truths many Americans don’t want to hear about their government’s policies, as well as for his courageous stand against Israel’s lawlessness in the face of such demonization by its Zionist apologists.

This is an updated and extended version of an article originally published in Counterpunch.

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About Jeremy R. Hammond

About Jeremy R. Hammond

I am an independent journalist, political analyst, publisher and editor of Foreign Policy Journal, book author, and writing coach.

My writings empower readers with the knowledge they need to see through state propaganda intended to manufacture their consent for criminal government policies.

By recognizing when we are being lied to and why, we can fight effectively for liberty, peace, and justice, in order to create a better world for ourselves, our children, and future generations of humanity.

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  1. Drew

    The problem, Jeremy, is that there is a very real but submerged ideological connection between adhering to the blowback theory and the goal’s of the jihadists. There i an implicit, normative statement in the words and tone of Falk and his ilk. They are adopting the same narrative: The U.S. is out to conquer the world and oppress Muslims and Muslims are reasonably lashing out to that oppression via terror. It seems that Falk, and you, buy into that narrative – nevermind the fact that the terrorists’ motives are religious. They are not political, because there is no political dimension in their worldview, or, at least, “the political” is subordinate to the religious.

    So while many journalists are indeed wrong to put words in Falk’s mouth, they are justified in reacting to the implication, which is that the terrorists are cavalier challengers of oppression and imperialism, when in fact they are the ones who want a reconquista of the caliphate and all of its inhabitants and who retaliate against the deaths of the members of jihadist movement in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, etc.

    • Jeremy R. Hammond

      1) To deny that terrorist attacks like 9/11 are a response to U.S. foreign policy is willful ignorance.

      2) Your assertion that Falk thinks such a criminal response is “reasonable” is a blatant lie — anyone may read what he actually wrote to see otherwise. You agreed that it is “indeed wrong to put words in Falk’s mouth”. It is incumbent on you not do do the same.


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