Princeton professor emeritus of international law and United Nations rapporteur Richard Falk has been widely criticized and asked to step down from his position at the UN because of a blog post he published on April 19, "A Commentary on the Marathon Murders." Accused of anti-Semitism and of blaming the bombings on the victims themselves, he and his family have received hate mail and threats, according to Falk.
Falk noted in an interview that he had been highlighting the way in which the United States' global actions and military foreign policies, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan, have created growing anti-American sentiment. As a result, the United States has seen acts of resistance, which may continue unless the United States reconsiders its international role, Falk explained.
"The U.S. is really the only country that projects its military power to all parts of the world," Falk said. "There is a sense of tension between the West and the non-West and … engaging in military undertakings around the world is bound to produce some kinds of resistance, and that resistance as in the Boston incident can assume a pathological form … but it connects with this projection of power globally in ways that no other country does, and for that reason it's worth considering whether this kind of global approach to security is really working."
Falk has been the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Palestinian territories since he was appointed in 2008. Many readers of the blog post, such as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, have called for Falk to step down from his position at the UN. However, Falk said that he did not feel that his actions have justified a resignation. In addition, only the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council has the authority to remove Falk from his position.
Falk's statements have been criticized by media outlets and politicians alike. This is not the first time Falk's comments have sparked controversy: His critical views on Israel have drawn strong opposition.
One recent New York Daily News headline read, "United Nations Jew-basher Richard Falk blames Boston Marathon attack on Israel." Through her Twitter account on April 23, Rice wrote that she was "outraged by Richard Falk's highly offensive Boston comments." She further said, "Someone who spews such vitriol has no place at the UN. Past time for him to go."
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon did not initially comment on Falk's post, with his spokesman telling reporters that Falk "speaks independently" of the UN. However, five days later, on April 24, Ban positioned himself against Falk with a statement by his spokesman that Falk's words "undermine the credibility and the work of the United Nations."
In response, Falk said he felt that much of the critical reaction to his blog post was not due to the essay itself, but to residual anger toward Falk's stance against Israel's occupation policies concerning Palestinian territories.
Falk described the widespread criticism of his post as a sign of the emotional fragility of the country. He said that certain lessons from the Vietnam War could have been used to avoid the repetition of foreign policy failures such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Falk said that one of the main ideas in his original essay was that events like those in Boston should cause the American public and government to reexamine how the United States is using its power and pursuing security.
"One would have thought and hoped that these kinds of experiences would give rise to more self-awareness, self-scrutiny — looking at the mirror and seeing how others perceive what we're doing in the world," Falk said. "But I don't know what would generate that awareness."
As of 2002, Falk has been a research professor in the Global & International Studies Program at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is also the director of the "Global Climate Change, Human Security, and Democracy" project. Prior to this, Falk was a professor at the University for 40 years.