A disgrace to McGill — By HILLEL NEUER – Nov. 8, 201
John Humphrey, the McGill University law professor who drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, must be rolling in his grave. By a gross lapse in judgment, the McGill human rights centre that Humphrey inspired is about to lend its platform to Richard Falk, a lifelong apologist for terrorists and a major 9/11 conspiracy theorist.
Before inviting Falk to speak next week, on the subject of U.S. drone killings, did the university do its homework?
At first glance, the former Princeton professor of international law, prolific author and UN expert appears highly qualified. And with Falk visiting Montreal this semester – while his wife, Hilal Elver, an advisor to the Turkish government, holds a fellowship at the university’s Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism – McGill saw an opportunity.
Yet a brief review of Falk’s record shows him to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Fluent in the language of human rights, Falk’s twisted judgment, morality and sense of reality promote the very opposite.
First, Falk was an energetic campaigner for Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini, both before and after the 1979 revolution. Days after the cleric arrived in Tehran to seize power, Falk reassured the world, in a New York Times op-ed titled “Trusting Khomeini,” that “the depiction of him as fanatical, reactionary and the bearer of crude prejudices seems certainly and happily false.”
Khomeini’s entourage, wrote Falk, had “a notable record of concern for human rights.” Indeed, the ayatollah’s “new model of popular revolution” offered the world “a desperately-needed model of humane governance for a third-world country.”
Only a month later, New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis called Falk’s assurances “outstandingly silly.” Yet in world politics, folly carries a price, and legions of Iranians – brutalized, tortured and raped by the Islamic Republic – continue to pay it.
Second, Falk is one of the figures responsible for turning the UN Human Rights Council – whose predecessor body Humphrey helped found – into a travesty.
In 2008, shortly after Falk accused Israel of planning a “Palestinian Holocaust,” a bloc of dictatorships, including Bashar al-Assad’s Syria and Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya, installed him as the council’s expert on Palestine.
The mission they gave him is so biased in its formulation, that Falk tries to obscure it. He calls himself the Special Rapporteur on “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories,” implying a regional jurisdiction that objectively treats all actions and parties. Yet his actual mandate is to investigate “Israel’s violations.” Not Hamas, not Fatah, not Islamic Jihad – just Israel.
When I was a student at McGill’s law faculty, the entrance was memorably engraved with the words “Audi alteram partem,” which stands for the natural justice obligation to hear both sides. Falk’s UN mission, created by tyrants and fully endorsed by him, stands for the very opposite.
Third, Falk uses his UN post to legitimize Hamas, systematically ignoring its open incitement to genocidal murder of Jews and the deliberate targeting of civilians.
Falk takes pains to portray Hamas as “the elected government” of Gaza – never mind that that the group seized power by throwing opponents off rooftops and shooting them in hospital beds. He speaks of a personal mission “to describe the actuality of Hamas’s position on contested issues.”
Falk’s support for the terrorist group is so extreme that even the Palestinian Authority – as revealed in a Wikleaks cable, and which Falk himself admits – has sought to remove him, on grounds that he is a “partisan of Hamas.”
Fourth, in July Falk published a cartoon showing a dog, with “U.S.A.” written on its body and wearing a skullcap marked with a Star of David, urinating on a depiction of justice while it devours a bloody skeleton.
Falk was globally censured. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay found the posting “anti-Semitic” and “objectionable” and Falk was strongly condemned by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron.
Fifth, Falk is one of the world’s most high-profile 9/11 conspiracy theorists, lending his name to those who accuse the U.S. government of orchestrating the destruction of the Twin Towers as a pretext to launch wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In particular, Falk actively promotes the writings of David Ray Griffin, a disciple and close friend, who has produced 12 books describing the World Trade Center attack as “an inside job.”
Not only did Falk contribute the Foreword to Griffin’s 2004 “The New Pearl Harbor” – praising the author’s “patience,” “fortitude,” “courage,” and “intelligence” – but Griffin credits Falk for getting the book published, and also specially thanks Falk’s wife.
Even after his UN appointment, Falk penned a 2008 article entitled, “9/11: More than meets the eye,” arguing that the crimes were committed by “the established elites of the American governmental structure.”
Falk has repeatedly appeared on the “TruthJihad.com” show of Kevin Barrett, a 9/11 conspiracy theorist and Holocaust skeptic who rails against the “ethnic Jews” who (he says) run Washington and the media. Falk endorsed Barrett’s “good work,” while also praising Iranian tyrant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In January, after Falk blogged more of the same, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon took the floor of the Human Rights Council to issue an unprecedented condemnation of a UN official. Falk’s remarks, said Mr. Ban, were “preposterous” and “an affront to the memory of the more than 3,000 people who died in that tragic terrorist attack.”
How can McGill now treat Falk as an authority on the war on terror? What message does this send?
U.S. ambassador Susan Rice, a strong defender of the UN, called Falk’s 9/11 remarks “despicable,” saying his “distasteful sideshow” harms the cause of human rights.
She’s right. And someone who consistently contorts reality to fit a preconceived political agenda – one that always ends up excusing the preachers of hate and perpetrators of terror – has no place in an institution of learning premised on the principles of rational and empirical inquiry.
Hillel Neuer graduated from the McGill Faculty of Law in 1997 and is now the executive director of UN Watch.