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Humbug and Hogwash: Human Rights Watch Expels "racist and enemy of human rights" Richard Falk

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I just learned that my former colleague and longtime friend, Richard Falk, has been pushed out of Human Rights Watch (HRW). Here's how it went down, as I understand it : Kenneth Roth of HRW received a letter from Hillel Neuer, the Executive Director of an organization called UN Watch, dated December 17 th , attacking Richard as a "racist and enemy of human rights," and, of course, an anti-Semite 1 (since -- surprise! -- UN Watch is an offshoot of the neocon American Jewish Committee and part of the uber-Zionist watchdog network). Roth and HRW then turned to Richard, and, without telling him about this letter, asked him to resign because his UN position as Special Rapporteur 2 conflicts with an HRW policy that members (of its "regional support committees"?) should not have any official position with an intergovernmental agency like the UN. Apparently, HRW had forgotten about this policy during the four years since 2008, when Richard was appointed, but just happened to remember it within 24 hours of receiving the UN Watch letter. Good and trusting person that he is, Richard agreed to comply with this newly-unearthed policy. Only when a commenter on his blog 3 asked him about it, did Richard realize that there was "more to the issue" than what he had been told:

Ms. Açelya Danoğlu

December 18, 2012 at 3:34 am #

Dear Professor Dr. Falk,

I heard that the Human Rights Watch removed you from their board of directors! Is it true? Your name is no longer listed on the website:

Did you resign because of the pressures from the UN Watch NGO which accused you of "antisemitism"? Did the board remove you? I do not understand.

In peace,


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Richard Falk

December 18, 2012 at 7:30 am #

I was asked to resign, but supposedly because of my connection with the UN, which is contrary to HRW policy. Perhaps, there is more to the issue than what I have been told.

Look at the time stamps here. Remember that the UN Watch letter is dated December 17. That's some fast customer service!

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Having learned that there was "more to the issue" than he had been led to believe, Richard, as I understand it, then went back Roth, et. al., for clarification. Was HRW asking him to resign because of the newly discovered a policy conflict, or because they were accepting and endorsing the UN Watch complaint? If not the latter, then would HRW make a statement supportive of him, and give him some assurance that he would be welcomed back once his mandate at the U.N. expired? Of course, no such statement of support or respect was forthcoming from HRW. UN Watch has no doubt about what happened, and why: "'You're Fired': Richard Falk Expelled from Human Rights Watch ." 

And neither should we. Everybody knows what HRW was responding to. Ardent Zionists, who are increasingly isolated in the world, are desperate to shut up and shut off anyone -- especially anyone in the US, especially an impeccably articulate American Jewish intellectual -- who dares provide a voice for the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people. Richard Falik's is precisely the kind of calm, reasonable voice of critique that is most threatening to the Israeli colonial (and the American imperial) project. HRW's act is a capitulation to UN Watch and all that it stands for. The weasly vision of Roth, et. al., rooting around in the HRW by-laws for something to tell Richard that would make it seem as if they were doing something other than capitulating to UN Watch should be called what it is: a flimsy, pathetic excuse. Let them at least have the courage to own what they've actually done, and say: "Yes, Richard, despite how well we know you and the work you've done with us, and throughout the world, for decades, we take seriously the charge that you are a "racist and enemy of human rights,' and, for that reason, we are asking you to leave.." Let HRW, and Richard Falk, be judged on that.

There is no question who will be found wanting. That anyone would pay any heed to people who would characterize Richard Falk in this way is ludicrous, and -- to those who are less inclined than Richard to a sense of calm and patience -- infuriating. It's especially so for HRW, an organization which claims to be independent and progressive. Anyone who knows Richard -- and there are just too many whom he has taught and touched for this to go down any other way -- knows that it is he who should be proud, and HRW which should be ashamed. It is their credibility, which voices like Richard Falk's gave them, that has been undermined. It's their loss, not his.

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Former college professor, native and denizen of New York City. Blogging at, aiming to be intellectually rigorous, politically challenging, and occasionally snarky, from a left-socialist perspective.

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I've been told an open letter is being circulated ... by Jim Kavanagh on Sunday, Dec 30, 2012 at 1:11:00 PM
When any individual for any reason gives up his or... by molly cruz on Sunday, Dec 30, 2012 at 3:09:31 PM
to hear that the HRW hasn't the ability to stand u... by Archie on Sunday, Dec 30, 2012 at 4:37:03 PM
Imperialism isn't courageous, it's insidious and n... by Rico D. on Sunday, Dec 30, 2012 at 5:40:34 PM