Princeton University hosted Richard Falk on Tuesday, February 18, 2014. He was invited to deliver the annual Edward Said lecture, named after the late Palestinian activist and member of the Palestinian National Council who taught at Columbia University. Falk's tenure as the United Nations Human Rights Council's Rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories, which recently ended, was, to quote Sohrab Ahmari of the Wall Street Journal, "An embarrassment, even judging by the U.N.'s rather peculiar moral standards. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has twice censured Mr. Falk for his anti-American and anti-Semitic rhetoric, and western powers have repeatedly called for his removal."
Given the nature of today's academic institutions and the faculty that serve in them, especially in the Ivy League schools, radical anti-American and anti-Israel agitators are heralded as heroes, in the name of "progressivism."
This reporter attended Falk's lecture, who addressed a crowd of about 150, mostly Arab and Muslim students and faculty. Falk, in monotonic cadence, spent a good part of his hour long lecture praising Edward Said, who had used his academic post as a professor of English and comparative literature to agitate for the Palestinian cause. Falk conceded that Edward Said had become highly critical of the Oslo Peace Process, between the Palestine Liberation Organization (P.L.O.) and Israel during the early 1990's, which culminated in the Oslo Accords signing on the White House Lawn in September, 1993.
According to Falk, "The Six Day War revitalized the anti-colonial struggle of the Palestinians." Falk neglected to round out the historic picture by noting that the P.L.O. was founded on June 2, 1964, three years before the Six Day War of June, 1967, by Egypt's dictator Abdul Nasser and Yasser Arafat. In proclaiming the organization, the P.L.O. leadership declared "the right of the Palestinian Arab people to its sacred homeland Palestine and affirming the inevitability of the battle to liberate the usurped part from it…" In other words, the P.L.O. declared its intention to destroy the Jewish State long before the Six Day War.
The State of Israel was not a colonial power. Its historical connection to the Land of Israel was reaffirmed by the League of Nations in 1922, and the 1947 U.N. vote on Partition, which the Arabs of Palestine rejected, and the Jewish community in Palestine accepted. Falk, in his efforts to link Israel with colonialism (which he knows is reviled, especially by progressives on campus) has deliberately perverted the facts.
As a voice for the Palestinian cause, Falk invoked U.N. Resolution 181, the 1947 Partition of Palestine resolution, as the "right of the Palestinians to a state." He ignored the uncomfortable fact that the Palestinians could have had a state of their own in 1947, had they chosen to live side by side with the Jewish State in peace instead of attempting to destroy the nascent State of Israel. Shimon Peres, Israel's current president aptly described such references as "Trying to bring the Cemetery to the Maternity Ward." Rewarding the Palestinian Arabs with a state despite their continued aggression, in the form of armed struggle, aimed at destroying the Jewish State is a non-starter. The unrelenting terror of the 1950's that was waged by the Palestinian Fedayeen and continues today under the guidance of Hamas (to a lesser extent Fatah) is not a recipe for peace and reconciliation.
Falk asserted that the 1967 U.N. Resolution 242 called for "complete Israeli withdrawal from the territories, and called for the Palestinian refugees 'right of return' to Israel." That is a blatant distortion. The resolution does not make Israeli withdrawal a prerequisite for Arab action. Moreover, it does not specify how much territory Israel is required to give up. The Security Council did not say Israel must withdraw from "all the" territories occupied after the Six-Day war. This was quite deliberate. The Soviet delegate wanted the inclusion of those words and said that their exclusion meant that part of these territories can remain in Israeli hands. The Arab states pushed for the word "all" to be included, but this was rejected.
U.N. Resolution 242 clearly called on the Arab states to make peace with Israel. The principal condition was that Israel withdraws from "territories" occupied in 1967, meaning that Israel must withdraw from some, all, or none of the territories still occupied. Since Israel withdrew from 91% of the territories when it withdrew from the entire Sinai Peninsula, it has already partially, if not wholly, fulfilled its obligation under 242.
The Palestinians are not mentioned anywhere in Resolution 242. They are only alluded to in the second clause of the second article of 242, which calls for "a just settlement of the refugee problem." Nowhere does it require that Palestinians be given any political rights or territory. In fact, the use of the generic term "refugee" was a deliberate acknowledgment that two refugee problems were products of the conflict – one Arab and another Jewish. In the case of the latter, more Jews fled Arab countries than Palestinians left Israel. The Jews, however, were never compensated by the Arab states, nor were any UN organizations ever established to help them.
Falk claimed that Edward Said supported the 1988 Algiers PNC resolution which "recognized Israel." This reporter was at the U.N. Geneva headquarters in December, 1988, and Arafat deliberately omitted the phrase that asserted he recognized Israel's right to exist. The U.S. State Department conditioned reopening dialogue with the Palestinians on Arafat stating clearly that he "recognizes Israel" at an announced press conference.
He mumbled some words, which none of us in the audience could make sense of, and he got a pass from the State Department.
Arafat supposedly accepted Resolution 242, renounced terrorism, and promised to recognize Israel's right to exist. Six months after the U.S. began its dialogue with the P.L.O., Arafat authorized the terror attack on the Palmachim Beach, located south of Tel Aviv.
Falk refused to refer to Jerusalem as Israel's capital and instead made references to the Tel Aviv government. He labeled the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria as "armed settlements." He claimed that Edward Said believed that "Arafat was too eager to please the U.S.," charging that the Oslo Accords were "a humiliating defeat for the Palestinians," because there was no mention of a Palestinian State or the "illegality of the Jewish settlements." Again, Falk, a former professor at Princeton, was agitating rather than providing facts.
According to Eugene Rostow, the former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in the Johnson Administration, U.N. Resolution 242 gives Israel a legal right to be in the West Bank. Rostow noted that, "Israel is entitled to administer the territories" it won in 1967 until "a just and lasting peace in the Middle East" is achieved. The United States, Canada, and Australia do not consider settlements illegal.
Falk advocated what he called a "legitimacy war" and soft power militancy against Israel. He suggested that the tactics used against the White South African "Apartheid" regime be used against Israel. He maintained that international law was on the Palestinian side, and dismissed the Oslo Accords as "power based" rather than "rights law." Falk said that the Palestinians were disillusioned with their leadership and with the "armed struggle." He lauded the BDS campaigns, encouraging their continuance, and asserted that these campaigns are gaining momentum in Europe.
Falk chose to agitate against Israel instead of delivering a balanced and factual lecture. His presentation did not advance the cause of peace and reconciliation, and spewed instead anti-Israel hatred. The Princeton academic community was not enriched by honoring Falk, it was disgraced.