Imagine the United Nations appointing David Duke to report on how blacks are victimizing whites, or Hugo Chavez to report on American foreign policy, or Mohammad Ahmadinejad to investigate whether the Holocaust occurred. The UN has done something comparable by appointing Richard Falk as its supposedly impartial “rapporteur” on Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.
For those of you who don’t know who Richard Falk is, he is a notorious crackpot who believes that the United States is hiding the truth about 9/11, implying that our government has “complicity” in that terrorist attack and that it’s role “taints the legitimacy of the American government” which he has characterized as “fascist.” His rants have become fodder for conspiracy nuts all over the world who claim that America and Israel orchestrated the attacks.
More relevant to his role in the Middle East, Falk, a retired professor, wrote—before he even began his job—that it is not an “irresponsible overstatement” to accuse Israel of perpetrating a “criminalized” Nazi Holocaust on the Palestinian people. This from a hard-leftist whose relative silence with regard to real genocides committed by communist nations such as Cambodia, and Arab nations such as Sudan, speaks volumes.
In making his comparison between Nazi Germany and democratic Israel, Falk ignored the Hamas rockets directed against Israeli citizens and the suicide bombs employed by Palestinian terrorists to blow up school buses, discos and religious ceremonies. Any comparison between Israeli efforts to defend its citizens from terrorism on the one hand, and the Nazi Holocaust on the other hand, is obscene and ignorant—unless one does not really believe that the Nazis murdered millions of Jews or unless one bizarrely believes that Israel has murdered million of Palestinians in gas chambers! Even if one believes that the Israeli military has overreacted to terrorist provocations, there is surely a difference between military actions taken in self defense, and the systematic policy of the Nazis to murder every Jewish man, woman and child living in Europe, though the Jews posed no danger to Germany. The Nazis even ingathered Jews from the far flung corners of Europe in order to gas them in Auschwitz and other murder camps. Despite these enormous differences, it has become conventional for anti-Israel extremists to compare the Jewish state of Israel to the Nazi government that came close to murdering all the Jews of Europe. That is why this allegedly false comparison is the province of anti-Semites, assorted nuts of the hard right and the hard left, and haters such as Richard Falk.
I propose a new rule for civil discourse in a civilized society: anyone who compares what the Nazis did to the Jews of Europe during the Holocaust with what the Israelis are doing with regard to the Palestinians, has disqualified from being taken seriously on any issue relating to Jews, Israel or the Middle East. Such people have a right to express their obscene and barbaric views, just as anti-Semites are entitled to express views denying the Holocaust. But they should be treated as pariahs by all decent people who believe in nuanced and calibrated consideration of complex and divisive issues. Comparison between the Holocaust and Israel is simply beyond the pale of reasoned discourse. It belongs to that genre of hate speech that includes claims that blacks are racially inferior, that women enjoy being raped and that all gays are pedophiles. No one who holds such views should ever be appointed to a position of trust and responsibility that requires fair judgment and an ability to distinguish truth from falsity—especially with regard to the Middle East. Richard Falk belongs in this category of bigoted crackpots. That he was selected by the United Nations to assess the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians tells us more about the United Nations than it does about Israel. Whether Israel was right or wrong, as a matter of principle or tactics, in excluding Falk from entering its borders, one can certainly understand why the Jewish state would refuse to cooperate with a rapporteur whose objectivity has been compromised by his bigotry.
What I am proposing in no way undercuts freedom of speech. Bigots and crackpots are free to set up soapboxes anywhere they choose, and everyone is free to accept or reject their ideas in the marketplace. Freedom of speech does not treat all ideas equally. Those that are rejected in the marketplace are still free to compete—as Holocaust denial, racist and sexist speech are competing today—but some ideas are so hateful, so demonstrably false, so ill-motivated and so bigoted that they belong in the trash bin of history. Encouraging decent people to toss those ideas into that waste bin is an important exercise of freedom of speech.
So let Richard Falk spew his hate-speech on the internet or other private soapboxes, but do not let his bigotry, anymore than that of David Duke, to receive the imprimatur and funding of the United Nations.