Neal M. Sher posted to this site yesterday about the UN Human Rights Council’s decision to appoint anti-Israel activist Richard Falk as its “special rapporteur” on the Palestinian territories. But it wasn’t until today that I actually read, in detail, the Princeton University professor’s views on Israel — as encapsulated in this charmingly titled 2007 article “Slouching toward a Palestinian Holocaust.”
Here’s the nub of Falk’s article:
“It is especially painful for me, as an American Jew, to feel compelled to portray the ongoing and intensifying abuse of the Palestinian people by Israel through a reliance on such an inflammatory metaphor as ‘holocaust’ … [But] is it an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not.”
Later in the article, Falk accuses Israel of having “genocidal tendencies,” and calls the international response to the situation in Gaza “morally far worse” than its response to the 1994 Rwanda genocide (death toll: 800,000) and Srebrenica — despite the fact that there is not a single recorded instance of Israel implementing a program of deliberately killing civilians in Gaza, let alone mass murder. The article concludes by declaring that “To persist with [Israeli policies] is indeed genocidal, and risks destroying an entire Palestinian community that is an integral part of an ethnic whole. It is this prospect that makes appropriate the warning of a Palestinian holocaust in the making, and should remind the world of the famous post-Nazi pledge of ‘never again.’ ” What a scandal to imagine that this ignorant ideologue is the expert in whom the UN HRC has entrusted its fact-finding in Gaza and the West Bank.
In fact, notwithstanding his shrill opinions, Falk clearly doesn’t actually know anything about Gaza and West Bank. If he did, why would he write something like this: “For over four decades, ever since 1967, Gaza has been occupied by Israel in a manner that turned this crowded area into a cauldron of pain and suffering for the entire population on a daily basis”? Anyone who knows anything about the history of the region will realize this is complete garbage. As Prof. Efraim Karsh of King’s College, University of London, wrote in a devastating 2002 essay for Commentary Magazine, the Israeli presence in Gaza marked an unprecedented period of socioeconomic development in the area. It is worth quoting in detail (perhaps someone at Princeton will even be so kind to print it out and put it on Falk’s desk:
“At the inception of the [Israeli] occupation [of Gaza and West Bank], conditions in the territories were quite dire. Life expectancy was low; malnutrition, infectious diseases, and child mortality were rife; and the level of education was very poor. Prior to the 1967 war, fewer than 60 percent of all male adults had been employed, with unemployment among refugees running as high as 83 percent. Within a brief period after the war, Israeli occupation had led to dramatic improvements in general well-being, placing the population of the territories ahead of most of their Arab neighbours … During the 1970’s, the West Bank and Gaza constituted the fourth fastest-growing economy in the world — ahead of such “wonders” as Singapore, Hong Kong, and Korea, and substantially ahead of Israel itself. Although GNP per capita grew some what more slowly, the rate was still high by inter national standards, with per-capita GNP expanding tenfold between 1968 and 1991 from $ 165 to $1,715 (compared with Jordan’s $1,050, Egypt’s $600, Turkey’s $1,630, and Tunisia’s $1,440). By 1999, Palestinian per-capita income was nearly double Syria’s, more than four times Yemen’s, and 10 percent higher than Jordan’s (one of the better off Arab states). Only the oil-rich Gulf states and Lebanon were more affluent. Under Israeli rule, the Palestinians also made vast progress in social welfare. Perhaps most significantly, mortality rates in the West Bank and Gaza fell by more than two-thirds between 1970 and 1990, while life expectancy rose from 48 years in 1967 to 72 in 2000 (compared with an average of 68 years for all the countries of the Middle East and North Africa). Israeli medical programs reduced the infant-mortality rate of 60 per 1,000 live births in 1968 to 15 per 1,000 in 2000 (in Iraq the rate is 64, in Egypt 40, in Jordan 23, in Syria 22) … Even more dramatic was the progress in higher education. At the time of the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, not a single university existed in these territories. By the early 1990’s, there were seven such institutions, boasting some 16,500 students. Illiteracy rates dropped to 14 percent of adults over age 15, compared with 69 per cent in Morocco, 61 percent in Egypt, 45 percent in Tunisia, and 44 percent in Syria.”
Of course, much of this progress has been squandered since the Palestinians embarked on their mass-suicidal Intifada in 2000. But that is not material to Falk’s statement, which purports to describe “over four decades” of Israeli involvement in Gaza and West Bank. In any case, why should it be seen as Israel’s fault that a nihilistic death cult such as Hamas continues to wage a war against the Palestinians’ own interests, and which Israel would gladly cease waging if only the rocket attacks and suicide bombings stopped as well?
One last point: As a Canadian (and Torontonian), it is a special source of shame to me that this bigot has been awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws by York University’s Osgoode Hall law school in 2004. I wonder: Did he give a speech at convocation four years ago? If so, I can guess what it was about.
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