Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Lunatics and the Asylum*

Can you guess which asylum it is, and who the lunatics are?

Oliver Kamm explains why he takes issue with

"the appointment by the UN Human Rights Council of Professor Richard Falk to investigate violations of human rights by Israel."

...This appointment is worse than a disgrace: it is manifestly absurd when judged by the purposes of advancing liberal-democratic internationalism. It makes sense only in the context that David describes:

"The implication of this logic is simple. The UN Human Rights Council doesn't give a toss about the human rights of the Palestinians in the sense of wanting them upheld. Its majority is far more interested in using Israel as a stick to beat the US with, or - in the case of Islamic states - as a bogeyman to dampen down domestic discontent."

Kamm supplies two more reasons why he concurs with David Aaronovitch's opinion:

... Falk's expressed admiration for the 9/11 "truth" polemics...

and more fantastically (if possible) Falk's admiration for Khomeini,

... insisting that "the depiction of [Khomeini] as fanatical, reactionary and the bearer of crude prejudices seems certainly and happily false".

In a New York Times op-ed, on 16 February 1979, Falk expressed his view that, Khomeini,

"Having created a new model of popular revolution based, for the most part, on nonviolent tactics, Iran may yet provide us with a desperately-needed model of humane governance for a third-world country."

Kamm, rendered nearly speechless by such insight, "make[s] no comment on this beyond the fact that Falk is an extreme example of (in the literary critic Lionel Trilling's phrase) the adversary culture: a man so bitter about the failings (not all of them imagined) of liberal democracies that he will perceive salvation even in the most reactionary and despotic of movements overseas."

The New Centrist already observed these two points that Kamm is making a few days ago.

Just when you thought the personnel at the United Nations could not get worse, Eli Lake writes, “a new Human Rights Council official assigned to monitor Israel is calling for an official commission to study the role neoconservatives may have played in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.” Apparently it is not enough to claim that the “neoconservatives” led us into war in Iraq (as opposed to the actions of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, or the decisions of President Bush), now some liberal leftists feel the need join the 9-11 “truth” bandwagon.

The NY Sun article continues:

Mr. Falk’s selection to the post of rapporteur has already prompted the government of Israel formally to request that Mr. Falk is not sent to the country. The Israeli press has reported that he may even be barred from entering the country…One reason the Israelis are concerned about his appointment is that Mr. Falk has compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinian Arabs to the Nazi treatment of Jews in the holocaust.

In a review of the factually deprived documentary, “Occupation 101,” CAMERA on Campus (Vol. 18, No. 1. Spring 200 reports:

Richard Falk, who makes appearances throughout the film, is an emeritus professor at Princeton University with a long record of backing the wrong causes. In February [16] 1979, he published a piece in the New York Times titled “Trusting Khomeini,” extolling Ayatollah Khomeini, and ridiculing the notion that the Ayatollah was a religious reactionary.

I had a difficult time finding a copy of the article on the web. It is referenced in quite a few places but there are no links to the text. You can read Falk’s NYT article here but you’ll need a subscription.

So let's recapitulate:

Mr. Falk thinks that

-Israel’s treatment of Palestinian Arabs is comparable to Nazi treatment of Jews in the Holocaust;

- 9/11 was the work of the neoconservatives;

-was firmly confident that the Khomeini revolution would be a non-violent, humane regime, a model for third-world countries to happily follow.


Engage has a post , following which this commenter (Mark) tries to respond thoughtfully to the question, why the need for Nazi analogies?

I have been thinking about this "Nazi" accusation since the news about Falk became known. I wonder simply why the examplar here for colleective punishment is the Nazi one.

After all there are other examples. This being Britain one might reasonably expect one's audtors to know of the Malaya and the anti Mau Mau campaigns by the British army in the 1950s, both of which were acompanied by accusations of collective punishment. Or, this being April 2008 and Tibet being prominently in the news why not draw comparison with the alleged Chinese collective punishment of that territory. Moreover, insofar as there is any substance in the accusations made against Israel, they are surely closer to these examples than the Nazi ones which in its most extreme form collective punishment consisted in the immediate slaughter of whole communities (e.g of Lidice after the assassination of Reiner Heydrich) - something no one sensibly alleges against Israeli actions in Gaza.

One has got beyond the expectation of sensitivity to Jewish feeings in this matter (perhaps an indication of how bad things truly are) - something one might hope in more normal circumstances would militate aganst using this example merely to stir up feeling as Falk said he was tring to do.

I am led to the inexorable conclusion that these accusations are a further element in the campaign to delgitimise Israel. Its hope is that if you can identify the actions of the Jewish state with those of the Nazis then that furthers this campaign. And truth, to the promoters of this lie, is of course irrelevant. (Mark)

*From a comment to Kamm's blogpost


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