'I'm No Self-hating Jew'

UN official Richard Falk speaks out after row over his allegedly anti-Semitic blog post.

On June 29, Richard Falk, the 80-year-old United Nations special rapporteur to the Palestinian territories, posted a cartoon on his personal blog depicting a dog chewing on a pile of human bones while lifting his leg to relieve himself on Lady Justice. In the drawing, which Falk placed next to a short essay about the International Criminal Court, the dog is wearing a shirt that says U.S.A. and a yarmulke with a Star of David.

Falk removed the picture a week later, once a commenter on his blog pointed out that it could be construed as anti-Semitic. But the self-described slip - Falk said he initially thought the yarmulke was a helmet - did not go unnoticed by his main detractor, the American Jewish Committee’s UN Watch. On July 11, the Geneva-based organization succeeded in its campaign to get Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, to denounce the comic as anti-Semitic.

Richard Falk

Charges of anti-Semitism are not new to Richard Falk. A former Princeton University professor of international law, Falk has been publishing intermittently on Palestinian self-determination and what he considers Israeli military misdeeds for the past four decades of his 55-year career. His long record of criticizing Israel, claiming violations of international law, provoked Jewish groups to lambast his 2008 appointment to the U.N. as evidence of the international body’s anti-Israel bias.

To call Falk a “self-hating Jew,” however, would imply that Falk harbors a deep discomfort with his Jewish identity, and that this anguish manifests itself as anti-Semitism in his personal life and academic work. In reality, Falk says, his criticism of Israel is less a reflection of his Jewish identity than his posture as an American leftist, perennially dedicated to history’s underdogs - in his eyes, the Palestinians.

Falk cartoon

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