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November 13: The UN Special Rapporteur

November 13, 2014
UN Special Rapporteur on occupied Palestine Falk addresses a news conference in GenevaInternational jurist Richard Falk, an emeritus professor at Princeton who served as a controversial United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories from 2008-2014, was born in New York on this date in 1930. Falk has caused great thunder on the right by lambasting Israeli occupation policies as “genocidal,” drawing analogies between them and Nazi Germany’s collective punishment policies and South African apartheid, and calling for investigations of Israeli leaders as war criminals by international courts. In turn, the Israeli government has denied him visas and expelled him. Falk, who has more than fifty books to his credit and sits on the editorial boards of The Nation and The Progressive, was a vehement opponent of the Vietnam War and of U.S. military actions in Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere. He has invoked the Nuremberg War Crimes trials to defend the political bombing by Karl Amstrong in the 1970s at the University of Wisconsin (in protest of the Vietnam War) as a lesser crime designed to derail greater crimes. Some in Israel have interpreted this to be a justification of suicide bombings. While Falk at his most heated has strayed into anti-Semitic territory by blurring boundaries between the Israeli government and Jews in general, perhaps his “lesser crimes” can be excused by his intention to prevent “greater crimes.” To see him on the BBC discussing his own inflammatory language at the start of his appointment as Special Rapporteur, look below (parts 1 and 2). To see him musing at the end of his six years as Rapporteur, look below that. “My overriding concern is to foster an abolitionist movement against war and aggression as social institutions, which implies the gradual construction of a new world order that assures basic human needs of all people, that safeguards the environment, that protects the fundamental human rights of all individuals and groups without encroaching upon the precarious resources of cultural diversity, and that works toward the non-violent resolution of intersocietal conflicts.” —Richard Falk