Standing with Hamas: Richard Falk

Richard Falk

UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk’s ban from Israel – and from the Palestinian territories under its control – didn’t prevent him from submitting so-called reports about the human-rights situation in those territories. In a 2009 report, he called Israel’s Gaza offensive a war crime – a judgment that was dismissed by the U.K. government as partisan. In a 2010 report, he accused Israel of committing apartheid. In 2011, he used the term “ethnic cleansing.” In 2012, he criticized Israel for its military response to rocket attacks from Gaza. Repeatedly, he called on international bodies to condemn, investigate, and prosecute Israel for its purported crimes – and repeatedly he turned a blind eye to the barbaric terrorist actions by Hamas and others to which Israel’s “crimes” were a thoroughly defensible defensive response.

Susan Rice

He also called for boycotts of Western companies – such as Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Volvo – that had even the remotest ties to Israeli West Bank settlements, and even threatened to initiate lawsuits against them. The then U.S. representative at the UN, Susan Rice, reacted with anger to Falk’s high-handed nonsense, describing his call for a boycott as “irresponsible and unaccceptable” and saying that his “continued service in the role of a UN Special Rapporteur is deeply regrettable and only damages the credibility of the UN.” Israel agreed, calling Falk’s report “grossly biased” and demanding his dismissal. Canada’s Foreign Ministry weighed in too, describing Falk’s report as “biased and disgraceful” and saying that if he did not withdraw it, he should resign.

Hamas: victims

But he didn’t quit. And he didn’t withdraw any of his reports or alter any of his conclusions. He stayed on the job, and kept using it as a platform from which to bash Israel – and to paint Hamas and other terrorist groups as victims. For good measure, he also demonized UN Watch, an independent human-rights NGO that monitors the lies and outrages that are daily fare at a Human Rights Council run by countries that don’t know the meaning of the term.

Ban Ki-moon

Even as Richard Falk was systematically savaging Israel, he continued to shift the blame for 9/11 from its jihadist perpetrators to George W. Bush and, perhaps, unnamed others in Bush’s political orbit. These comments not only brought more criticism from Susan Rice, who again called for his dismissal. Even Ban Ki-moon, the then Secretary-General of the UN (and a man who was usually restrained, often maddeningly so, on such matters), spoke up, calling Falk’s claims “preposterous” and “an affront to the memory of the more than 3,000 people who died in that tragic terrorist attack.” But Ban added that he was in no position to fire Falk – only the UNHRC itself could do that.

John Baird

Falk also offered his opinions on later terrorist acts. After the Boston Marathon murders, he described them as “blowback” from U.S. actions – an implicit defense of the Tsarnaev brothers and an affront to their victims. This obscene remark drew angry criticism from Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, who said that the UN “should be ashamed to even be associated with such an individual,” and, once again, from Susan Rice, who said that it was “[p]ast time for him to go.” In 2011, Falk posted online an anti-Semitic cartoon depicting a dog in a yarmulke (although he later insisted it was not a yarmulke but an IDF helmet). There ensued yet another round of calls for his resignation. This time even Falk’s supervisor at the UNHCR, Navi Pillay, recognized the cartoon as anti-Semitic, but she didn’t fire him – because, she said, he had apologized. Any questions?

Richard Falk’s war on Israel

Richard Falk

Richard Falk (b. 1930) is a famous Princetonian, although his fame doesn’t derive primarily from his connection to Old Nassau. Rather, his worldwide celebrity is rooted mainly in his nefarious activities in association with the UN.

Now a professor emeritus at Princeton (as well as a research professor at UC Santa Barbara), Falk boasted the grand-sounding title of Special Rapporteur for the United Nations Human Rights Council from 2008 to 2014. His job, specifically, was to look into “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967.”

John Bolton

The Rapporteur became a subject of controversy even before he got around to issuing his first report. Jewish groups opposed his appointment, as did the Israeli ambassador to the UN. A former US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, was outspoken about the selection, complaining that Falk had been picked “not to have an objective assessment” but “to find more ammunition to go after Israel.”

What was it about Falk that gave Bolton such an impression? Well, let’s just say that Falk had a long track record. He started teaching at Princeton in 1961, by which time he’d already publicly identified himself as Communist, expressed his hostility to the concept of nation states, and declared his fealty to world government. He’d been a big macher in such groups as the American Movement for World Government and the World Federalist Institute.

Ayatollah Khomeini

In 1973 he’d served as defense counsel for an activist who had bombed an army research lab at the University of Wisconsin, killing one and injuring four; in the murderer’s defense, Falk stood up for the use of violence by war resisters. In 1979, after visiting the Ayatollah Khomeini in France, Falk wrote a New York Times op-ed declaring that the widespread “depiction of him as fanatical, reactionary and the bearer of crude prejudices seems certainly and happily false.” On the contrary, Khomeini was surrounded by a “moderate, progressive” entourage” and would likely provide Iran with a “model of humane governance.”

George W. Bush

Years later, he’d compared America’s 2003 intervention in Iraq to the Nazis’ actions in World War II. In 2004, he’d written an introduction to a book claiming that George W. Bush was behind the 9/11 attacks. In 2008, he’d suggested that American neoconservatives might have helped plan those attacks. During much of this time, Falk had served on the editorial board of The Nation and written for Al Jazeera and for that kookiest of radical rags, CounterPunch.

And he’d made clear, over and over again, that he was one more Jew who despised the State of Israel. Only a year before his appointment by the UNHRC, he had written an article, “Slouching toward a Palestinian Holocaust,” in which he used the word “Holocaust” to describe actions by Israel.

Ben-Gurion Airport

He assured his critics that he’d be objective. But Israeli authorities weren’t fooled – especially after he publicly declared their blockade of Gaza a “flagrant and massive violation of international human law.” Falk went on and on about the subject, while remaining silent about Palestinian actions. A few days later, when he flew to Ben Gurion Airport on the first leg of what was supposed to be his first UN fact-finding mission to Gaza and the West Bank, Israel threw him out of the country. And banned him from coming back.

The New York Times and other major media had conniption fits. How could Israel subject such an august personage, dispatched by such an unimpeachable organization, to such abominable treatment? Never mind that the UNHRC has been dominated from its inception by countries considered “unfree” by Freedom House and that, as of 2008, when Falk took up his UN job, those members included Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Zambia, Senegal, Mali, Qatar, Pakistan, and several other countries whose names, when it comes to human rights, do not even deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Israel.

More tomorrow.

Vivian Gornick’s eternal Stalinist nostalgia

Vivian Gornick

We last discussed Vivian Gornick a couple of months ago, when we took note of a piece she’d written for the New York Times romanticizing Stalinism. Gornick’s exercise in nostalgia, we observed, was pretty much a boiled-down version of her repulsive 1978 memoir The Romance of Communism. In her piece, as in her book, she portrayed American Communists as superior souls, driven by convictions that the non-Commie rabble were too ignoble to possess.

When we weighed in on Gornick’s Times essay, we hadn’t yet caught up with another recent item bearing her byline – namely, an article for the Nation entitled “Getting Even.” The subject was Diana Trilling (1905-96), the occasion a new biography of Trilling by Natalie Robins entitled The Untold Journal.

Diana Trilling

Who, you ask, was Diana Trilling? She belonged to a circle of midcentury Manhattan writers who went by various names – sometimes the New York intellectuals, sometimes the Partisan Review crowd, and sometimes (by insiders) The Family. Among her fellow Family members were Irving Howe, Alfred Kazin, William Phillips, Dwight Macdonald, Philip Rahv, Delmore Schwartz, and, not least, Trilling’s own husband, Lionel, who was a professor of literature at Columbia University and a highly respected literary critic.

Most of the New York intellectuals were leftists, but none of them were, like Gornick, Stalinists; several of them would have identified, for a time anyway, as Trotskyites, although the Trillings were more moderate in their politics, pretty much personifying the mainstream liberal anti-Communism of the day. Lionel’s most celebrated book, indeed, was a collection of essays entitled The Liberal Imagination.

Lionel Trilling

And Diana? She started out reviewing fiction for The Nation and went on to write social and cultural criticism and to publish three collections of essays, a biography (of a famous murderess), and a memoir. During her marriage to Lionel (who died in 1975), she also, as Gornick puts it, “kept house, organized their increasingly busy social life, and took an active hand in aiding her husband with his work.” That aid was by no means inconsiderable: Lionel was a subtle thinker but not a fluid writer, and Diana, by all accounts, edited him heavily and made him readable.

She called herself a “family feminist.” Any reasonable person would admire her as a model professional woman, one who managed to combine a respected career with a responsible family life. But this doesn’t do it for Gornick. In Gornick’s view, Diana Trilling wasn’t enough of a feminist – or, perhaps more accurately, wasn’t the right kind of feminist.

But even more troubling for Gornick than Diana’s take on feminism was her (and Lionel’s) view of Communism. Now, for any sensible person, the Trillings’ rock-solid anti-Communism is self-evidently admirable, especially given the tendency of many members of the New York crowd to look fondly on the Soviet Union (or, at the very least, to refuse to judge it harshly). Diana’s later distaste for the New Left and all its epiphenomena (hippies, student revolts, sit-ins, campus takeovers, the Black Power movement) also seems sane, mature, and prescient – especially, again, when viewed alongside the desperately puerile efforts by Family members like Norman Mailer to become a part of the youth movement and thus be seen as au courant, hip, with-it.

Joseph Stalin

It’s no surprise that Gornick, an old Stalinist, has a problem with Diana’s politics. Here’s what Gornick has to say on the topic:

Communism in the United States was the great bugaboo of Diana’s life. From the mid-’30s on, she saw it as a threat to American democracy worthy of the highest moral outrage. Making no distinction between communists in the Soviet Union and those in the United States, she described the Communist Party USA as the evil within that operated under a “chain of Communist command” and that was bent on “the entrapment of innocents.”

Whom does Gornick think she is fooling? It has long since been established that the American Communist Party’s every move was indeed directed by the Kremlin. Its members were, in a very real sense, in the service of evil. They were the tools of a monstrous totalitarianism. There was no operative distinction between Communists over here and over there. Diana Trilling understood that more than half a century ago; Vivian Gornick, now in her eighties, is still in some perverse kind of denial about it. Gornick’s indictment of Diana’s politics continues:

The Trillings

She often thought it more important to fight this evil within than to secure and protect civil liberties, and she could truly never understand why this made others see her as a reactionary. To read her today on communism (with either a lowercase or capital “C”) is jaw-dropping, alternately ludicrous and frightening. Not once in all of her red-baiting diatribes does an insight emanate from anything that might resemble an emotional imagination.

What is Gornick criticizing Diana Trilling for here? She’s criticizing her, apparently, for seeing Communism precisely for what it was, for looking at it with unblinkered eyes, for refusing to buy into any of the rose-colored propaganda that filled so many of the intellectual and literary journals of the time, for seeing through the efforts of American Communists to hide behind freedoms they had sworn to destroy. Gornick, whose view of Communism has been befogged by sentiment throughout her adult life, is criticizing Trilling for not sharing her own repellent delusions. Good for Trilling. Shame on Gornick. 

The American left’s favorite jihadist?

At least in terms of turning herself into a household name, Linda Sarsour has come a long way in a very short time.

Linda Sarsour

She first came to the attention of most of us on January 21, the day after the presidential inauguration, when she was one of the major speakers at the Women’s March in Washington. As executive director of the Arab American Association of New York and a spokesperson for the National Network for Arab American Communities, she was one of the event’s four co-sponsors.

Sarsour (right) with Gloria Steinem

Sarsour might have come and gone without making much of an impression on viewers around the country except for a couple of things. She wore a hijab. She began her speech with the words “as-salāmu ʿalaykum.” She said she would not respect Donald Trump. And she charged that Americans Muslims had been “suffering in silence for the past fifteen years” – in other words, 9/11. While omitting to mention any of the countless acts of jihadist terror that have taken place during those fifteen years, she painted a picture of post-9/11 America as a nightmare of Islamophobia.

Bernie Sanders

Sarsour presented herself as a progressive feminist. But it soon emerged that she is a champion of Hamas, of the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia, and, not least, of the introduction of sharia law into the United States. That didn’t keep her from being praised by Bernie Sanders, being named a “Champion of Change” by the Obama Administration, and being cheered on by a wide range of major figures and organizations on the left.

Tony Kushner

In response to criticism of Sarsour, much of it coming from the right, a group of 100 prominent Jewish figures, including Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner, signed a letter defending her. A gay Israeli actually felt obliged to pen an article for the Forward headlined “On LGBTQ rights, Linda Sarsour Is No Ally,” while Judea Pearl, the father of Daniel Pearl, wrote a similar piece for the same publication entitled “Why Linda Sarsour Is a Fake Feminist.”

Siraj Wajjah

Amid all the chaos and controversy, Sarsour has since moved from triumph to triumph. In June she delivered the commencement speech at the City University of New York School of Public Health. And in early July, she made headlines with a speech given at the convention of the Islamic Society of North America. She began the speech by thanking an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center – one Siraj Wajjah. She went on to savage the Trump administration, whose members she described as “fascists and white supremacists and Islamophobes,” and spoke darkly of “the potential chaos that they will ensue [sic] on our community.” She then suggested that she and her audience – and, presumably, Muslim-Americans generally – would “stand up to those who oppress our communities” and expressed the hope that “Allah” would accept that resistance “as a form of jihad.” Rejecting the idea of assimilation, she affirmed that Muslim-Americans’ “top priority” is “to please Allah, and only Allah.”

Matt Duss

Matt Duss, a foreign policy adviser to Sanders and contributor to The Tablet, actually defended Sarsour’s appalling remarks, specifically her use of the word “jihad.” He tweeted: “If you’re a journalist shaming @lsarsour’s choice of words instead of helping readers better understand them, you’re bad at your job.”

Kathy Griffin

Lee Smith, writing in The Tablet, compared Sarsour with comedienne Kathy Griffin, who had recently received extensive media atttention by posing with a bloody Trump mask. Like Griffin, suggested Smith, “Sarsour wanted to have it both ways – get lots of attention for having done something sensational, and then play the role of victim when some of the attention invariably turned critical.” In short, Sarsour “has become a very adept self-promoter.”

Another jihad enthusiast from Salford University

Salford University

When we saw the headline and subheads of a July 1 article in the Daily Mail about an unsettling development at Salford University, the first thing we did was look up Salford University, because we weren’t even sure which country it was in. It turns out to be in England – specifically, in Manchester. In fact, Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who took 22 lives at that Ariana Grande concert, was a student there.

The Mail story was about another Muslim student at Salford – one Zamzam (yes, Zamzam) Ibrahim, the president of Salford’s Student Union. Zamzam, a recent recipient of a Bsc degree in Business and Financial Management, was elected to her Student Union office in March. She has also been elected to a leadership position in the National Union of Students (NUS). During her campaign for the latter office, she claimed that there had been a 41% rise in anti-Muslim hate crime in the UK since the Brexit vote and opposed the “PREVENT” strategy, a UK government policy that is intended to keep terrorist events from taking place and that Zamzam calls “racist.”

Zamzam Ibrahim

But that’s nothing. The Mail discovered that during the last few years, Zamzam has shared a good many strong opinions on social media. Specifically, she has expressed a desire to “oppress white people,” has said that she considers “friendship between men and women…un-Islamic,” and has wished that everyone would read the Koran, because it would lead to “an Islamic takeover!”

After the Mail‘s discoveries were picked up by other news media, another British newspaper, the Independent, gave Zamzam space to defend herself. She argued as follows. First, she’d made the comments quoted by the Mail back in 2012, when she was only 16; they were, in other words, the “adolescent comments of a young girl” who was “struggling with my view of the world and my place in it” and “grappling with the deep injustices I could see around me and trying to figure out how I could make the world a better place.”

Second, the Mail had “twisted” her comments “to make them seem far more sinister than they ever were intended to be.” Third, she has since grown up, and the comments cited by the Mail “do not reflect my views today.”

One reader who commented on Zamzam’s article noted a couple of important details in her piece. First, an apparently deliberate error: in 2012, she was 18, not 16. Second, some of her offensive messages don’t date back to 2012 – they’re only a few months old.

Another reader noted that Zamzam, although given plenty of space by the Independent, hadn’t explicitly rejected any of the assertions she’d made in her social-media messages. Instead, she’d made use of the opportunity to slam the image of Islams served up by the “right-wing media” and to play the victim – not just any victim, mind you, but one belonging to an intersectional bonanza of officially recognized identity groups: a woman, a black, and a Muslim.

Zamzam with unidentified friend

“The question to Zamzam,” stated the reader, “is whether she has changed her beliefs in this period or she continues to hang onto them. Has she for example changed her views on whether males and females can mix in public and private places?….Does she for example still feel that Muslims are the oppressed and not the oppressors of Jews, Christians, yazidis, Armenians, converts to other religions, disabled and LGBT communities and many others living in their midst?”

Indeed, those are the questions. It seems clear even from Zamzam’s Independent article that she still views Muslims as an oppressed group. What, one wonders, did she post on social media after a student from her university committed that massacre at the Ariana Grande concert? We’ve tried to find out, but without success, because Zamzam – who, in every picture and video we can find of her, is wearing a hijab – appears to have deleted her social-media accounts.

Punker turned ISIS recruiter. Cool!

Useful stooges come in a wide range of varieties, but the kind that starts out as a British punk rocker – a female one, no less – and ends up as an ISIS recruiter is a special breed.

Sally Jones

Her name – her birth name, anyway – is Sally Jones. She’s from Chatham, Kent, and used to be a guitarist in an all-girl band called Krunch. But then she went to Syria with her son, Joe “JoJo” Dixon, to marry an ISIS fighter (and computer hacker) named Junaid Hussain. The heart, after all, wants what it wants.

After marrying Hussain, Sally came to be known, to her new comrades anyway, as Umm Hussain al-Britani. We’ve seen her also identified as Sakinah Hussein. And while he was still alive, the two of them were known as “Mr. and Mrs. Terror.” She was a big recruiter in Raqqa, and was involved in a couple of plots to kill Americans.

Too bad Brad and Angelina have split up – it sounds like a great idea for a movie project.

Sally in 2004

But then, in 2015, Sally’s hubby was taken out by a U.S. drone. Did that bring Sally down? No way. After cursing America (“the greatest enemy of Allah”) for killing her man, Sally, according to a September 2016 report in the New York Post, was named head of the female wing of something called the Anwar al-Awlaki battalion. Known by the monicker “The White Widow” (great title for a sequel, no?), she led “a secret army of female jihadis hellbent on launching a bloody wave of suicide attacks in the West – with their kids in tow.” Sally, noted the Post, “pledged to destroy” her native land “with the help of her deadly new brigade of femme fatales.” Part of Sally’s value to ISIS, apparently, was that her reputation as a former punk rocker helped them bring Western females into the ISIS fold.

No, forget it, this is starting to sound too improbable for a movie. At this point in a pitch meeting, surely the Warners execs would already have tossed us out.

Sally, back when she was torturing people with music

Anyway, the idea was that Sally and her brigade of female jihadis – who, like Sally, were “mainly war widows” – planned to “use the fact they are female to slip under the radar before launching their bloody attacks.” The Post noted that the women might “even bring their children on their merciless missions in an attempt to foil the security services.”

In addition to leading that gang of war widows, Sally also kept busy providing her fellow terrorists with training “in combat and strategies” for suicide missions that were to be carried out in the West.

Thus did Jones become “the world’s most wanted woman.”

A recent picture

But that was last September. In July of this year, the Post had a new story about Sally. It would appear that she’s been through some kind of crisis. Or change of heart. Or something. In any case, she’s been doing a lot of crying. She “desperately wants to return home to the UK,” reported the Post, but can’t because leaders of the terror group won’t let her go.” One of Sally’s colleagues, a woman identified as Aisha, told Sky News that Sally “was crying and wants to get back to Britain.”

It wasn’t clear, however, whether Sally wanted to take her son back to the UK with her. Now 12 years old, “JoJo” is now 12, described by the Post as “a child fighter who is believed to carry out executions.” A few years ago, we would have doubted his ability to adapt to an ordinary school in the UK, but nowadays we suspect he’d find a whole bunch of classmates eager to hear about, learn from, and be inspired by his experiences.

Von Karajan and other musical Nazis

Not long ago, with reference to Jonathan Petropoulos’s recent book Artists under Hitler: Collaboration and Survival in Nazi Germany, we looked at the lives of a few painters, writers, filmmakers, and composers who, faced with the prospect of working under the Nazi regime, chose either to flee the country or to stay and pursue various degrees of collaboration – some of them accepting Nazi oversight with shame and reluctance, others becoming ardent followers of the Führer.

Fritz Trümpi

Our coverage of these Nazi-era artists, of course, wasn’t comprehensive. Another new book, The Political Orchestra by Austrian scholar Fritz Trümpi, provides a highly illuminating pendant to Petropoulos’s. Trümpi’s subject, as stated in his subtitle, is “The Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics During the Third Reich.” As Terry Teachout put it in a review of Trümpi’s book for the June issue of Commentary, “The story of European classical music under the Third Reich is one of the most squalid chapters in the annals of Western culture, a chronicle of collective complaisance that all but beggars belief.” Teachout makes a crucial point:

Terry Teachout

Without exception, all of the well-known musicians who left Germany and Austria in protest when Hitler came to power in 1933 were either Jewish or, like the violinist Adolf Busch, Rudolf Serkin’s father-in-law, had close family ties to Jews. Moreover, most of the small number of non-Jewish musicians who emigrated later on, such as Paul Hindemith and Lotte Lehmann, are now known to have done so not out of principle but because they were unable to make satisfactory accommodations with the Nazis. Everyone else—including Karl Böhm, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Walter Gieseking, Herbert von Karajan, and Richard Strauss—stayed behind and served the Reich.

Wilhelm Fürtwangler

Both orchestras were equally prepared to compromise with the Nazis, firing Jewish musicians and removing compositions by Jews from their repertoires. Nor did either orchestra undergo any major postwar denazification: Helmut Wobisch, executive director of the Vienna Philharmonic from 1953 to 1968, was known to have been in both the SS and Gestapo; Herbert von Karajan – who, as musical director of the Berlin Philharmonic from 1956 to 1989, was one of the preeminent names in classical during the second half of the twentieth centuries – had also had Nazi ties. At least in the early decades after the war, neither institution was terribly open about its tarnished history, but the folks in Vienna were even worse than the ones in Berlin, keeping a lid on their archives until Trümpi finally managed to pry it off in 2008; both orchestras now have substantial sections on their websites fessing up to their wartime collaborationist zeal.

Herbert von Karajan

When Hitler came along, as Teachout notes, the Berlin and Vienna ensembles were considered the two greatest symphony orchestras on the planet; they still are. Each had its own distinct “sound.” But they shared, in Teachout’s words, “a nationalistic ethos, a belief in the superiority of Austro-German musical culture that approached triumphalism.” This was a conviction they shared with Hitler himself. One consequence of this attitude was that even before Hitler came to power, both orchestras weren’t eager to employ Jews. In 1933, Berlin had four Jewish players; in 1938, when the Nazis marched into Austria, Vienna had 11, all hired before 1920 (seven of them ended up directly or indirectly dead at the hands of the Nazis). Despite the institutional anti-Semitism, the famous Jewish conductors Otto Klemperer and Bruno Walter were able to work in Vienna for some time after the Anschluss.

Leonard Bernstein

We’ve spent some time on this website revisiting Leonard Bernstein’s enthusiasm for the Black Panthers and other radical-left phenomena. He figures significantly in Trümpi’s account, too. Despite the known Nazi histories of both the Berlin and Vienna philharmonics, Bernstein not only chose not to boycott them (a position in which he was far from alone) but, as Teachout puts it, “went so far as to affect a flippant attitude toward the morally equivocal conduct of the Austro-German artists whom he encountered in Europe after the war.” Writing to his wife from Vienna, Bernstein told her he’d befriended von Karajan, “whom you would (and will) adore. My first Nazi.” Writing to his parents, he acknowledged: “you never know if the public that is screaming bravo for you might contain someone who 25 years ago might have shot me dead. But it’s better to forgive, and if possible, forget.”