Richard Falk: U.N. human rights envoy, or political kook? The Washington Post: a credible source of Arab-Isareli news or — compared to The New York Times, Washington Times or San Francisco Chronicle coverage of Falk versus Israel — biased by omission?
The Post’sSwiss cheese reporting
In “Israeli Authorities Detain, Expel U.N. Human Rights Envoy” (December 16), The Post’s veteran United Nations’ correspondent Colum Lynch reported that “Israeli authorities detained a U.N. human rights envoy for more than 20 hours at the Tel Aviv airport before expelling him ….” Richard Falk, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, “has a long history of criticizing Israel, and Israel contended that his mandate, which provides him with the authority to examine only Israeli abuses against Palestinians, is fundamentally unfair.” Israel “defended the decision, saying that Falk had been repeatedly warned that a visit would not be welcome.”
The Postarticle then mentioned U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s meeting with representatives of the “quartet” – the United States, U.N., European Union, and Russia – overseeing Israeli-Palestinian talks, and a clash between Israel and the anti-Israeli U.N. General Assembly president, Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann.
Like Swiss cheese, Post coverage was full of holes, as comparisons with The New York Times, Washington Times, and San Francisco Chronicle, for example, demonstrated.
News that should have fit
According to The New York Times “U.N. Rights Investigator Expelled by Israel” (December 16), Falk, a professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, “has compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to Nazi atrocities and has called for more serious examination of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Sept. 11 [2001 terrorist] attacks …. In his capacity as a United Nations investigator, Mr. Falk issued a statement this month describing Israel’s embargo on Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas [the terrorist Islamic Resistance Movement], as a crime against humanity, while making only cursory reference to Hamas’ rocket attacks against Israeli civilian centers. Israeli officials expressed outrage.”
In addition, when Falk’s appointment was announced by the U.N. last spring, Israel “said it was ‘impossible to believe that out of a list of 184 potential candidates,’ the members [of the Human Rights Council] had made ‘the best possible choice’ …. The American and Canadian representatives also expressed concerns about Mr. Falk’s possible bias.”
In an Associated Press article headlined “Palestinians rejoice as Israel frees 224 inmates” (one paragraph of a two-paragraph brief in The Post), The Washington Times (December 16) added that the Israeli foreign ministry said Falk “does not try to advance human rights, but instead comes with his conclusions ready, and those conclusions are of course, extreme, methodic criticism of Israel and only of Israel.”
Opinion more informative than Post
In his San Francisco Chronicle Op-Ed column, “9/11 conspiracy theorist should leave U.N. job” (December 14), Stanford University journalism professor and former New York Times foreign correspondent Joel Brinkley focused on Falk. Brinkley says the professor has written that millions of Americans believe the Sept. 11, 2001 destruction of the World Trade Center, attack on the Pentagon, and another, aborted attack on Washington, D.C. were not the work of Muslim fundamentalists. Rather, they were a conspiracy planned and executed by the Bush administration. Why? So the administration could launch wars and carry out “widespread denials of rights under the pretext of homeland security.”
Brinkley notes that “Falk’s supporters on the [U.N. Human Rights] council — Egypt, Pakistan and other members of the Islamic conference – are not bothered by any of this. That should be no surprise. If the Bush administration actually perpetrated the September 11 attacks, then the world’s distrust of Islam would be largely unfounded.”
What does 9/11 paranoia have to do with Israel? “The Human Rights Council is already an embarrassment to the United Nations,” Brinkley writes. “Certainly reasonable people can criticize Israel, just as they can find fault with the Palestinians. But the council’s pathological obsession with Israel is its defining characteristic, and Falk is its embodiment,” helping Islamic states “pursue their vendetta against Israel ….”
But wait, there’s more …
Martin Peretz, publisher of The New Republic, measured both Falk and D’Escoto Brockmann in a December 10 posting on his New Republic blog, “The Spine.” Headlined “If You Trust The U.N. On Anything You’re A Fool,” it read, in part:
Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, former foreign minister of Nicaragua and ‘liberation theology’ Roman Catholic priest, is now the president of the U.N. General Assembly. He has attached to himself a special panel of ‘senior advisers,’ among whom are Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Ramsey Clark and Richard A. Falk, the latter being an enthusiast of the theory that America was behind the 9/11 atrocity at the Pentagon and World Trade Center. [Zinn and Chomsky are left-wing American academics, Chomsky an anti-Zionist who, among other things, has met with Hezbollah leaders. Clark, U.S. attorney general under President Lyndon Johnson, subsequently has championed a number of anti-American causes.] Falk, whose dottiness proves that even the Milbank Professor of International Law at Princeton can be stupid, also has a special appointment at the U.N. Human Rights Council. Guess what is his portfolio. Yes, you got it. Israel and the Palestinians. Israel is guilty of 99 war crimes. Why not a hundred? one asks. Well, maybe Falk didn’t want to overreach. In the meantime, the Palestinians are the most victimized people on earth. Not the Darfurians or the people of Zimbabwe or, for that matter, the moderate folk in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Wednesday was the 60th anniversary of the proclamation by the U.N. of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Commemorative speeches were to be given in the name of various regional groupings in the General Assembly. Israel happened to be the rotating chairman of the representation called ‘Western European and other.’ As such, its ambassador to the U.N., Gabriella Shalev, was designated to give the address.
Uh, uh. Brockmann said no. Not the lady from that state. Europe dug in its heels.
So D’Escoto Brockmann added anti-Israeli speakers to over-balance Shalev.
What’s wrong, what’s at st ake
It would have taken only two or three additional sentences for The Post to inform readers than Richard Falk has a history of extreme anti-Israel views and isn’t too reliable on other issues, two or three more for D’Escoto. By noting only that “Falk has a long history of criticizing Israel, and Israel contended that his mandate … is fundamentally unfair,” the paper equates the two as rival disputants. Mentioning Israel’s complaints against D’Escoto but not their origins in extremist ideology or the falseness of his charges – contrary to blacks under South African apartheid, Israeli Arabs exercise full civil rights – does the same.
Unlike reporting by the New York Times and Washington Times and commentary in the San Francisco Chronicle, Post coverage gives readers at most a superficial picture of the biased U.N. system and its hostility to the Jewish state. That Swiss cheese approach, lacking context and not minimally comprehensive, is itself biased by omission.