Dog Bone in the Throat

Boston, Palestine, and Santa Barbara

Thursday, May 2, 2013
Article Tools
Print friendly
E-mail story
Tip Us Off
iPod friendly
Share Article

I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM: I was watching a popular prime-time TV talk show the other night when the host made passing reference, as part of a gag, to the anatomical real estate occupying the no man’s land between the scrotum and the anus. Wow, I remember thinking, we really aren’t in Kansas anymore. Even more striking was the utter lack of reaction. No eyebrows were raised. No phone lines got lit up. No plugs got pulled. Not one person mentioned it the following day. Nothing. But imagine if someone on that same show ​— ​on any show ​— ​were to speak critically of Israel and that nation’s treatment of the Palestinians. Hell would have to freeze over and the icicles be sucked dry before we could pencil in time for that discussion. At least in this country.

Angry Poodle

I make this admittedly awkward rhetorical point only because Richard Falk, a certified Santa Barbara Big Brain, international law professor cum laude, and United Nations factotum, finds himself ​— ​yet again ​— ​in serious hot water about remarks made in a recent blog about the Boston Marathon bombing and the United States’ “obsequious” support for the government in Tel Aviv and the “Beltway ethos of Israel first.” For these critical remarks, Falk has been predictably denounced as an anti-Semite. Because Falk happens to be Jewish himself, he is, naturally, castigated as the proverbial “self-loathing Jew.”

What else could he possibly be?

We already have a black man in the White House.

We’re on the verge of gay marriage.

Maybe in my lifetime, we can debate the Palestinian issues without having to duck incessant accusations of anti-Semitism. At some point in the distant future, scientists will discover that it is, in fact, theoretically possible for the human brain to simultaneously support the state of Israel while vehemently opposing the policies of its government. But by then, I’ll have pushed up my last daisy.

Having read Falk’s 1,500-word commentary, I can tell you it doesn’t say what its detractors allege; it does not, for example, blame the Boston bombing on the United States’ one-sided support for Israel. It’s also not nearly as incendiary as a lot of what Falk has written over the years. Falk’s defenders in town describe their friend as both a passionate defender of the Palestinians and a delightful genius. One might think a delightful genius would better calibrate his words for strategic effect. Given the shock value of Falk’s language over the year, he’s effectively helped marginalize Israel’s critics. In several instances, for example, Falk has compared Israel’s Palestinian policies to that of the Nazi Holocaust. He’s sought to temper such comparison with qualifications, but once you drop the N-bomb, you can’t walk it back. At that point, the argument is officially over, and you lost. In other words, with enemies like Richard Falk, Israel’s hawkish Prime Minister “Bibi” Netanyahu might not need that many friends.

Normally I don’t waste my breath on the Middle East. Even despair is a finite resource. And besides, what would be the point? But we’ve just fought two wars in that region and appear on the brink of a third and even possibly a fourth. In this context, it might be in our self-interest to do what we can to turn the volume down. All strife does not magically disappear if and when Israel and the Palestinians work things out. But a whole lot does. In this context, we can no longer afford the luxury of allowing our friend Israel to continue pretending all its oppressions are justified in the name of national security. We need to have a serious discussion. There need to be peace talks. Hell, even the new Pope says so.

Falk enters the discussion because in 2008, the United Nations appointed him “Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.” He got that position not just because he’s a passionate advocate of Palestinian rights, but because he’s got the credentials to make his opinions matter. Falk didn’t just teach international law during the last 50 years ​— ​mostly at Princeton and more recently at UCSB  ​— ​he wrote all the text books on the subject. In Falk’s latest missive, he expresses chagrin that the Obama Administration has given up pushing Netanyahu to the peace tables. As long as the United States is so aligned with Israel, he suggested, “the American global domination project is bound to generate all kinds of resistance in the post-colonial world.” An uncomfortable proposition, perhaps, but seemingly radical only in the United States. In light of the Boston bombing, he does suggest some reflection on America’s global role is in order, noting that we’ve been lucky that the “blow back” to date hasn’t actually been worse. In closing, he asks, “How many canaries will have to die before we awaken from our geopolitical fantasy?”

For this, the Wall Street Journal demanded with indignant incredulity, “What the Falk?” The U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said she was “outraged” by Falk’s “vitriol.” Her Canadian and British counterparts denounced Falk as an anti-Semite, as has United Nations Watch, a knee-jerk pro-Israel outfit that’s been offended by anything Falk has ever said. Falk’s point, of course, was valid, if not obvious. But his timing was stupid. Perhaps he could have waited ’til the blood had dried from the streets of Boston. Over the years, Falk has used his United Nations post to preach to the choir. Comparing Israel to the Nazis may play well in Beirut or Ankara. But in places like Kansas, it’s a certified conversation killer. I know we don’t live in Kansas anymore. But if invading Syria or Iran is seriously on the table, I’d like to preserve the option of moving back.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

"But his timing was stupid. Perhaps he could have waited ’til the blood had dried from the streets of Boston."

There's the answer regarding the vitriol. No matter where one stands on the many complexities of the Israel/Palestine "issue," Falk's painfully ill-advised comments can only be seen as providing yet more fuel for those who rail against the myopia of "academic leftists" and such. Demagoguery of any political stripe should be challenged although the knee-jerk "anti-Semite" stuff is beyond tiresome and always needlessly clouds any attempt at honest debate.

zappa (anonymous profile)
May 2, 2013 at 9:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Remember the old ad friends don't let friends drive drunk? Friends don't let friends act like the Israeli government has. Netanyahoo is a bloodthirsty crypto-Fascist in the same league as Ahmadinejad. They deserve each other frankly.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 2, 2013 at 10:14 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Ahmadinejad is loony and a garden variety wing-nut. Netanyahoo is neither.
There are only a handful of educated middle east critics that take an honest look at ill advised Israeli expansion AND the refusal of the other Arab states to offer ANY of their land.
Falk is neither objective nor even particularly interesting. This current crap was tremendously ill advised and seemed instead released to create controversy.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
May 3, 2013 at 6:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Falk clearly doesn't get it. The Man in the Sky (who has a name but we aren't allowed to utter it) gave Palestine and certain other land to the Jews. It is that simple. Non Jews aren't welcome, now or ever. And we Goyim (not full humans), for having been around during the Holocaust, owe the Jews of Israel (fully humans) our unlimited support, financial, political, and military. And the Man in the Sky agrees.

dontoasthecoast (anonymous profile)
May 3, 2013 at 7:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Thanks for the yapping! Richard Falk is a most exceedingly boring speaker, predictable in his opinions. Indeed, the timing of his latest was poor, just as poor as the over-reaction, civil liberties tramplings of the Boston police force and FBI.

As for Falk, he helps give the UN a bad name, costs it support in this country --- and that's greatly unfortunate.

at_large (anonymous profile)
May 3, 2013 at 8:05 a.m. (Suggest removal)

yeah, Falk has his foot in his mouth. Benny Morris is good, as is G. Gorenberg (THE ACCIDENTAL EMPIRE)...
genuine supporters of Israel wish they would trade a return to 1967 borders AND acceptance of a Palestinian State for genuine peace. Netanyahoo is too far right even for most Israelis...Peres, the President of Israel, clearly thinks N. is over the top. Peres has said N's defense of Israeli colonization in the occupied territories (including E. Jerusalem) is bad for the survival of their beloved country.
As a goy, I do NOT agree with dont.. that we goyim "owe the Jews of Israel (fully humans) our unlimited support, financial, political, and military." I imagine you are being sarcastic??

DrDan (anonymous profile)
May 3, 2013 at 9:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

FWIW, Benny Morris has changed his tune significantly in recent years re Israel/Palestine.

Am no fan of Netanyahu, but the attempted play on his name reminds me of the teabilly-types who refer to the President as "Obummer" and such things.
Lame is lame.

zappa (anonymous profile)
May 3, 2013 at 9:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"Ahmadinejad is loony and a garden variety wing-nut. Netanyahoo is neither. " -italiansurg

I think it's the opposite.

Ahmadinejad just got reprimanded by his own government for speaking out against it. He has no real power in his government, he is just a figurehead, sort of like the Queen of England. Just that fact alone should tell you something about his opponents in the media.

On top of that, he has had a lot of quotes and ideas that have been mis-attributed to him. He's really just a figure that the US and Israel uses as a propaganda tool. He never said he wanted to wipe Israel off the map, he said he wanted the Israeli state to be erased from the sands of time and he wants all of the people who live there to live peaceably with each other.

He doesn't think that the Holocaust was invented or didn't exist, but he questions why some people in Europe have been put in prison for questioning certain facts about the specific numbers, figures and methods used by the Nazis in their apparent extermination effort. He wonders why this crime of the German government against Jewish people is an excuse to go in and displace Palestinians and steal their land and resources when they had nothing to do with it.

I'm not trying to portray him as a great guy, he has his faults I am sure. But I heard he also sleeps on the floor in a very modest dwelling. Which I guess could also be propaganda, but who knows. Maybe he is nothing like he is portrayed in the media.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
May 3, 2013 at 11:06 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Why don't American interests interest Americans?

Adonis_Tate (anonymous profile)
May 3, 2013 at 1:38 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Falk is just a person with an opinion, and those who don't like what he says can either A: Use facts to refute his comments. B: Admit he's correct.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
May 3, 2013 at 2:58 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I doubt that Falk is a crypto Zionist intentionally "poisoning the well." Much more likely, he's just frustrated by the muchedumbre. Your average American fears Jews as much as he fears black ppl, but for different reasons. Who wants to be singled out publicly by some articulate Jew of social prominence, and have one's name juxtaposed with Hitler's? Instead, propaganda is embraced and internalized. Omerta rules. Fear of reprisal is inverted into a badge of honor. Watch the politicians (especially) show off their little gold stars. Falk possibly just hikes up the rhetoric as a response to the maddening silence of the crowd, which doesn't care if their ship goes down, as long as they all go down together. (But what resentments will ensue?)

Adonis_Tate (anonymous profile)
May 4, 2013 at 1:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Nick Welsh didn't say Falk was a crypto anything, of course. There's more than the usual amount of counterproductive speech in the air on political issues in general, isn't there....

Adonis_Tate (anonymous profile)
May 4, 2013 at 1:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

so Falk had the balls the speak the unspeakable: "“the American global domination project" -- and with it comes jealousy and hatred and "blowback". Yeah, plenty of posturing and blather on political issues in general.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
May 4, 2013 at 2:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Sorry, but it takes no "balls" to make such a pronouncement from a tenured academic position at a university. It was a grossly intemperate remark, from which he has tried to backtrack, and it was more than appropriate that he's been called out and castigated for it.

zappa (anonymous profile)
May 4, 2013 at 2:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I didn't know who Richard Falk was, but just read the blog post everyone's talking about (you've read it too, right?):

It seems to me Falk's theme was our energy is best spent reversing the course of neo-conservatism accelerated during the Bush administration.

That Falk's citings of the Boston Marathon incident and our acquiesence to Israel's political leaders have caused so much wailing probably demonstrates we don't have the cool heads needed to make things right.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
May 4, 2013 at 3:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Yes, I read it and I erred in referring to a "remark," when timing, intent and overall tone are the key issues. You do know that he issued a retraction of sorts ( a "clarification") denying he intended any "causal linkage" between the bombing and U.S. policy.
I also thought it was incredibly weaselly that in his original essay he quoted anonymous callers to a PBS radio show as evidence of what he seemed to believe was a more enlightened attitude, viz. seeing the Marathon bombing as a form of "retribution" and not "surprising" in light of US policies.

zappa (anonymous profile)
May 4, 2013 at 3:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

well, zappa, to put out such a statement and call the American imperium what it is..and face the backlash he knew he'd get...courageous, or stupid, depending on your position.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
May 4, 2013 at 3:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

yes, EB, I read F's post and "clarification" .... F. correctly thinks that in these moments of fear and sadness, "this could also become an occasion for collective self-scrutiny as a nation and as a people."
Somewhere the great historian Thucydides writes that once Athens turned its defensive [Delian League] organization of city-states into an Empire then matters changed, and after a time Athens was seen as bad, as tyrannical (like Xerxes and Persian Empire they had all feared), and blood was on the hands of the citizens.
Honestly, with the actions we take across the globe it feels somewhat "lucky" that we haven't had more blowback here in the sacred "homeland". No, of course I do not want that to happen!!
We might change some of our international policies which would then cause less hatred/fear/jealousy of "America". We could start by pressuring Bibi Netanyahu to stop increasing illegal Israeli colonies in E. Jerusalem, and pull out of the occupation of territories that do not belong to Israel, and which Israel officially never sought until 1967. Just one example.
OK, zappa, I can say I respect Falk's hutzpah to make his statement.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
May 4, 2013 at 3:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Bringing Up Bibi

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 4, 2013 at 4:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Do they hate us because of our Military-Industrial Complex? Not "should they," but do they?

Adonis_Tate (anonymous profile)
May 5, 2013 at 2:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

some, I'd guess, "hate" us because we are the Empire. Others hate us because WE get these beautiful individual rights guaranteed us in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, but inferiors in the imperium get fewer rights or no rights...if you're in NATO, you get some rights (remember, we still have 30,000 soldiers in nominally sovereign Germany, as 65 other countries)... some dislike us because of Guantanamo...some hate us because our aerial assassinations policy [drone killings] use signature strikes and with over 4000 killed...all their relatives hate us etc.
When you run an empire, your hands inevitably get bloody.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
May 5, 2013 at 2:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Drone killing and extraordinary rendition is not a good way to make friends around the world.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
May 5, 2013 at 3:29 p.m. (Suggest removal)

NPR broadcast a relevant story today

hodgmo (anonymous profile)
May 5, 2013 at 8:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Maybe in my lifetime, we can debate the Palestinian issues without having to duck incessant accusations of anti-Semitism."

I know how you feel Barney.

Maybe in my lifetime, we can debate the immigration issues without having to duck incessant accusations of racism.

Botany (anonymous profile)
May 6, 2013 at 7:14 a.m. (Suggest removal)

A former head of Pakistan's intelligence service said regarding captured jihadis that "they always mention" the Israel-Palestine issue. Forgive me if I presume that jihadis have trouble overlooking the role of USA's pro-Israel lobbies in propagandizing for war up on Capitol Hill, where "our" politicians strive to please... the NRA, AIPAC, etc, etc. Well, we're now past the point where Iran is ever-so-graciously surrounded. Would Halliburton, Blackwater & Exxon have cashed in without the Wolfowitzes, PNAC's, etc, ad nauseam who adore Israel more than life itself? Naw, they provided all the PR (and Americans ADORE PR). What's easier for the Islamosphere to hate - the "The Empire's" Military-Industrial Complex, or the unpatriotic (to USA) Jews who do so much to corrupt USA (and claim Moses vs Muhammad as Celestial Realtor)? Point is, USA can excuse ourselves from that eternal spat by dumping treacherous Israel. Israel was breathing down M. Atta's neck long before the WTC attack (to cite just one example). Let the bigmouths go fight Arabs in person, or send their precious gelt, overseas. USA doesn't need the impoverishment or bloodshed. Somebody please define "ally."

Adonis_Tate (anonymous profile)
May 6, 2013 at 9 a.m. (Suggest removal)

maybe in my lifetime we can debate the inequalities in our society without being accused of being anti-American, a leftie, or a hater of the wealthy, Botz.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
May 6, 2013 at 9:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

great column nick

redbunz (anonymous profile)
May 9, 2013 at 6:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

event calendar sponsored by: