For various reasons Israelis take badly to being compared to the people who attempted to eradicate Jewish life in Europe, and I understood Falk's remarks to have been provocative, as he himself admitted. He had made them, he explained, to wake America “from its torpor”. Speaking about Gaza, Falk said that only the sensitivity of Jewish people prevented the parallel being observed more widely.
“If this kind of situation had existed for instance in the manner in which China was dealing with Tibet or the Sudanese Government was dealing with Darfur,” he said, “I think there would be no reluctance to make that comparison.”
In international terms, this is odd. The body for whom Falk will soon begin work (work that is hardly necessary since he already knows exactly what he thinks before undertaking a moment's UN-authorised monitoring) is famous for its excoriation of Israel and its comparative silence over Tibet and Darfur. Kofi Annan criticised them for it before his departure, Ban Ki Moon criticised them for it on his arrival. All to no avail. The council's website begins with a page entitled “Highlights”, on which only one country's “human rights violations” are mentioned by name. And it isn't Andorra.
So, what did the 40-plus members of the Council see in the professor? As far as I can tell his attraction lies in the following. He is American; he is Jewish; and more deliciously in light of the first two, he blames Israel for just about everything - as opposed to those who (rightly, in my opinion) blame it for quite a lot. This, for example, is Falk in 2002, on the second intifada: “Palestinian resistance gradually ran out of military options, and suicide bombers appeared as the only means still available by which to inflict sufficient harm on Israel so that the struggle could go on.”
There are three problems with this analysis. The first is that suicide bombing began in Israel in 1994, when Hamas saw the Oslo peace process as threatening to succeed. Secondly, the suicide bombs were obviously utterly counterproductive in terms of procuring peace, and indeed helped to destroy the Israeli peace movement. And thirdly, other “resistances” (Tibet, Darfur?) seem to have avoided the “only means” of suicide bombing aimed at civilians - family restaurants, buses, schools, discos, and groups of teenagers, to be more specific.