Jeremy Newmark: British Academy Funds Conference Featuring Richard Falk

JLC CEO Jeremy Newmark writes about a British Academy funded conference featuring Richard Falk in an op-ed for the Jewish News.

Have you ever wondered where 9/11 conspiracists spend their time on the anniversary of the day itself, the 11th of September? This year, we know about at least one. To mark the tragic day Professor Richard Falk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Palestine and a ‘9/11 truther’, will be the opening speaker at a conference, "Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,  at the Australian National UniversityThe conference is sponsored by the British Academy, meaning that British and Australian taxpayers’ money will be funding a platform for a man who believes that the US Government was behind 9/11 and who has been linked to the crassest form of antisemitism.

Prof. Falk has repeatedly accused the US government for being complicit in the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001,positing that “there was a situation in the country and in the world where something had to happen to wake up the American people. Whether they are innocent about the contention that they made that something [the 11 September attacks] happen or not, I don't think we can answer definitively.”

Falk wrote the preface for a 9/11 conspiracy book, The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11 praising the editor for his ‘courage’ and ‘intelligence’ in raising ‘allegations of official complicity’. Unsurprisingly, a UN official accusing the US Government of the terrorist murder of 3000 Americans and other was poorly received by the US Ambassador to the United Nations, and both she and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon condemned him for it.

The Boston bombings earlier this year allowed Falk to cause international outrage once again when he claimed that they were a natural ‘resistance’ to ‘the American global domination project’ and that we should be grateful there haven’t been worse ‘blowbacks’. Falk was again criticised for his inflammatory rhetoric by Ban Ki-Moon and the US, UK and Canadian Governments.

Between offending victims of terror, Falk has found the time to publish a number of antisemitic cartoons and public statements. Professor Falk's personal blog has drawn significant criticism. In a post opposing intervention in Libya, Falk published an antisemitic cartoon which depicted the USA as a dog wearing a Jewish skullcap, implying Jewish control over America. The use of this cartoon was condemned by Prime Minister David Cameron as well as UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay and others.

Similarly, on the 20th July 2012 Falk published racist remarks against Jews by claiming that “the organized Jewish community” worldwide is “responsible for the massive and enduring confiscation of Palestinian land and rights”. Last year, Professor Falk provided a public endorsement of an antisemitic book The Wandering Who, a book which suggests that "Hitler might have been right after all" and contains sustained ethnic and racial attacks against Jews and 'Jewishness'. This quite rightly drew condemnation from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Prof Falk’s work as a Special Rapporteur is also suspect. After his June address at the UN Human Rights Commission, the European Union condemned Falk’s report, stating that “the EU continues to regret the unbalanced mandate of the Special Rapporteur.” Similarly, the US ambassador to the UN, Eileen Donahoe, called for his removal.

Of course the UN Human Rights Council is dominated by regimes like Russia, Bahrain and Egypt -- not known for their strong commitment to Human Rights. So despite Ban-Ki Moon’s condemnation, Prof Falk’s position on the Council is probably pretty safe.

However it’s still surprising that the British Academy has agreed to support and sponsor the upcoming event at the Australian National University, given that Falk will be its opening speaker.

The Academy gets 90% of its funding from the UK Government's Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. The British Academy’s funding of Falk as a key note speaker at this event is more than a misuse of British taxpayers’ money; it’s an embarrassment. For over a hundred years, the British Academy has been a beacon of British research in the humanities and social sciences.

Under pressure, the British Academy say it isn’t organising the conference directly, but admitted that Academy grant money was ultimately being used to pay for it . The Academy has merely asked for a disclaimer to be put on the event’s publicity that “The British Academy has provided funding for the project with the aim of encouraging debate and understanding. Views expressed should not be taken as those of the British Academy itself”. But the British Academy logo remains prominent on the conference’s website, and the Academy’s money - British taxpayers’ money - is underwriting the event.

Supporting an event on September 11th which will be opened by someone like Falk runs contrary to all that the academy represents, linking its name and Britain’s name to racism and extremism. I urge the British Academy to remove its name and its funding from the project unless Falk is removed from the list of speakers.