US calls for UN’s Falk to step down… again

American response falls short of Canada’s demand for Falk’s removal after UN official accuses Israel of ‘genocidal intent’

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil is the Times of Israel's Washington correspondent.

Richard Falk (photo credit: AP/Keystone/Salvatore Di Nolfi/File)
Richard Falk (photo credit: AP/Keystone/Salvatore Di Nolfi/File)

WASHINGTON — A day after Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird called for the immediate removal of the Special Rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the US condemned Richard Falk’s statement that Israel had “genocidal intents.”

Although State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki blasted Falk’s statements as “despicable and deeply offensive,” the US stopped short of echoing Canada’s calls for Falk to be fired.

Falk’s latest firestorm erupted earlier this week, after the Princeton University professor emeritus gave a brief interview to Russia Today news in which he was asked to explain the claim that he made first in a 2007 article that Israel and its allies were “slouching toward a Palestinian Holocaust.”

In the interview, Falk elaborated that “when you target an ethnic group and inflict this kind of punishment, you are in effect nurturing a kind of criminal intention that is genocidal.”

Asked about Falk’s comments Friday, Psaki responded that the US “condemns and completely rejects Richard Falk’s latest outrageous statements” and reiterated previous calls for Falk “to step down from this role.”

Psaki noted that “the Administration has repeatedly condemned in the strongest terms his despicable and deeply offensive comments, particularly his anti-Semitic blog postings, his endorsement of 9/11 conspiracy theories, and more recently, his deplorable statements with regard to the terrorist attacks in Boston” and added that Falk’s “most recent remarks, however, represent a new low.”

Psaki emphasized that the US does not “support his mandate or his work, which has been one-sided and biased, nor do we believe he should continue to serve as independent UN rapporteur.” She explained, however, that while the US continues “to condemn in strongest terms his steps,” the “vast majority of HRC members do not agree on his stepping down.”

The State Department Spokeswoman also noted that Falk’s term will end in March 2014, at which point he cannot be reappointed to the position.

Shortly after Falk’s comments were publicized, Baird described Falk’s remarks as “appalling” and reiterated calls made by Canada “to remove Falk from his position immediately.”

“Canada has previously called for Falk to be fired for his numerous outrageous and anti-Semitic statements, and these comments underscore once more the complete and total absurdity of his service as a UN Special Rapporteur,” Baird explained in a statement issued on Thursday.

“Not only do these comments undermine the fundamental values of the United Nations, they also belittle the terrible genocides that have tragically taken place throughout history and around the world,” he complained.

The United States has been vocal in its condemnation of Falk in the past, but has always stopped short of explicitly calling for his firing. In October 2012, then-US permanent representative to the UN Susan Rice slammed a report by Falk in which he called for boycotting private Israeli companies. Rice labeled Falk’s call as “irresponsible and unacceptable” and accused Falk of being “highly biased” as well as having made “offensive statements, including outrageous comments on the 9/11 attacks.”

Rice said at the time that Falk’s recommendations did “nothing to further a peaceful settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and indeed poison the environment for peace.”

According to Rice, Falk’s “continued service in the role of a UN Special Rapporteur is deeply regrettable and only damages the credibility of the UN.”

In January 2011, Rice said that she was “appalled” by a blog post written by Falk in which, she said, Falk “endorses the slurs of conspiracy theorists who allege that the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were perpetrated and then covered up by the U.S. government and media.”

“Mr. Falk’s comments are despicable and deeply offensive, and I condemn them in the strongest terms,” wrote Rice, who at the time filed a “strong protest” with the UN on behalf of the United States.

Describing Falk’s approach to his UN position as “one-sided and politicized”, Rice expressed her hope that “Mr. Falk’s latest commentary is so noxious that it should finally be plain to all that he should no longer continue in his position on behalf of the UN.”

Even then stopping short of calling for Falk’s removal, Rice instead noted that “the United States is deeply committed to the cause of human rights and believes that cause will be better advanced without Mr. Falk and the distasteful sideshow he has chosen to create.”

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