Richard Falk (Photo: CEM TURKEL/AFP/Getty Images)
I feel about human-rights violations the way U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart felt about porn. Forget all the moral parsing and conflict resolution jargon -- you just know them when you see them.
That's why it's always puzzled me that the United Nations Human Rights Council has such trouble when it comes to calling a spade a spade. For decades, the old U.N. Human Rights Commission was the laughing stock of the international community for packing its membership with notorious human-rights abusers. When the U.N. reorganized the body as the Human Rights Council in 2006, things were supposed to change. Secretary-General Kofi Annan declared, "The Council's work must mark a clean break from the past."
But that's hardly been the case. First, the Council granted seats to such human-rights abusers as Azerbaijan, China, Cuba, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. Then it passed eight resolutions condemning Israel and spoke out against the "defamation of religion" (read: cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed unfavorably), while dropping inquiries into the worsening human-rights conditions in places such as Iran and Uzbekistan.
Now comes news that the Human Rights Council has appointed Princeton University Professor Richard Falk to a six-year term as the special investigator into Israel's actions in the Palestinian Territories. I've got nothing against appointing an investigator to keep tabs on this issue per se. But Falk? This is a guy who defended disgraced University of Colorado Professor Ward Churchill as "having made major contributions" to academia after Churchill called the innocent victims of the Twin Towers "little Eichemanns," arguing that they had deserved to die on 9/11. And how, by any reasonable standard, can Falk be considered an impartial observer on Israel-Palestine? This was Falk writing in an article entitled "Slouching Toward a Palestinian Holocaust" last June:
Is it an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not."
Surely there were better candidates out there.