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American Studies Association Members Defend Israel Boycott by Citing Anti-Semitic 9/11 Truther

It’s like they’re not even trying

Yair Rosenberg
December 26, 2013
Richard Falk gives the opening speech of the World Tribunal on Iraq's Istanbul session, July 24, 2005. (AFP/Getty Images)
Richard Falk gives the opening speech of the World Tribunal on Iraq's Istanbul session, July 24, 2005. (AFP/Getty Images)

It appears no one told the American Studies Association that when attempting to fend off accusations of bigotry, it’s best not to cite a bigot.

In a sign that the organization is feeling the heat from outside opprobrium, the ASA’s Caucus on Academic and Community Activism has posted a defense of its Israel boycott. The statement offers tacit acknowledgment of the fact that over 40 universities–including almost the entire Ivy League–have condemned the ASA’s action. In response, the ASA Caucus lists other academics who have endorsed the boycott and calls for supporters to renew their membership or join the ASA. Unfortunately for those attempting to exonerate the ASA from charges of prejudicial treatment of the Jewish state, one of the six scholars the ASA Caucus cites is Richard Falk, a known 9/11 truther and promoter of anti-Semitism.

By day, Falk serves as the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territories, where his support for the terrorist group Hamas has been so blatant that the Palestinian Authority tried to get him fired. The United States and Canada have also called for him to be dismissed, and he has been censured by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. But Falk’s most objectionable conduct has actually taken place outside the U.N.’s halls.

In 2004, he wrote the preface to a book by conspiracy theorist David Ray Griffin which argued that the Bush administration helped perpetrate the 9/11 attacks. “There have been questions raised here and there and allegations of official complicity made almost from the day of the attacks, especially in Europe,” Falk wrote, “but no one until Griffin has had the patience, the fortitude, the courage, and the intelligence to put the pieces together in a single coherent account.” In 2011, Falk mused on his blog about the “apparent cover up” of 9/11, and the “eerie silence of the mainstream media, unwilling to acknowledge the well-evidenced doubts about the official version of the events.” He reaffirmed these views this past June, when he told radio host and 9/11 truther Kevin Barrett that “questioning that deeply the official version of 9/11 does touch the third rail of American political sensitivities, and there is an attempt to discredit and destroy anyone that makes such a bold statement, and this has intimidated a lot of people.”

Falk is an equal opportunity advocate of conspiracy theories, not just about America, but about Jews. In 2011, he effusively blurbed a vicious book which called American Jews “the enemy within,” questioned the historicity of the Holocaust, and claimed that “robbery and hatred is imbued in Jewish modern political ideology on both the left and the right.” In Falk’s opinion, prominently showcased on the book’s front cover, such insights constitute “a transformative story told with unflinching integrity that all (especially Jews) who care about real peace, as well as their own identity, should not only read, but reflect upon and discuss widely.” Of course, in the opinion of everyone else–including Ali Abunimah and Omar Barghouti, leaders of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel–such ugly utterances constitute blatant anti-Semitism. As Andrew Sullivan, no Israeli apologist, put it, “Why would anyone blurb a book like this? I’m all for airing a variety of views, and provocative theories. That doesn’t mean you have to endorse poisonous, wounding hate.” And just in case you thought this was an odd aberration for Falk, he’s having lunch with the book’s author this week. It’s business as usual for the man who has dubbed the Jewish state “genocidal” and repeatedly compared it to Nazi Germany, and once posted a cartoon of a yarmulke-wearing dog urinating on Lady Justice while chewing on a bloody skeleton.

Falk’s inclusion in the ASA’s select shortlist of supportive scholars is no afterthought. Of the six academics adduced by the ASA Caucus in their defense, he is the only one quoted explicitly in their statement. Surveying Falk’s steady stream of conspiracy theorizing and anti-Jewish invective, one has to wonder: is this the best the ASA can do?

Yair Rosenberg is a senior writer at Tablet. Subscribe to his newsletter, listen to his music, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.