Why Do I Persist?

12 Mar



I have been asked recently why do I persist in working hard for the things that I believe in, knowing that I will die in the next several years, and am almost certain not to be around for the catastrophic future that seems to cast its dark shadow across the road ahead, and can only be removed by a major transnational movement of the peoples of the world. Similarly, why do I accept the defamation and related unpleasantness that accompanies my efforts to be a truthful witness of the sufferings endured by the Palestinian people in the course of their struggle for freedom and in violation of their fundamental rights? Some friends pointedly suggest ‘why don’t you just sit back, enjoy the pleasures of an easy life, and if still restless and alert enough, devote yourself to the narcissisms of producing a memoir?’ Or at least, why not at least indulge the self-exploratory pleasures of proving to myself that I am a decent poet or that I can still improve my chess or that, appearances to the contrary, I am still not too old to learn Turkish? At worst, I could continue to write barbed comments on the passing scene from the relative safety and comfort of the blogosphere, and to relieve the monotony of a virtual life, take occasional cruises to exotic destinations seeking out ‘ships of fools.’


Several prominent philosophers have attempted to answer such generic questions in a book recently published with the alluring title of Death and the Afterlife (Oxford University Press, 2013). It contains three lectures given by Samuel Scheffler, two at the Berkeley campus of the University of California and the third at the University of Utah, as well as a series of generally laudatory commentaries by four other distinguished philosophers and a response at the end by Scheffler. The core argument developed by Scheffler is that human beings care more about the collective survival of humanity than they do about either their own personal immortality or even about the survival of those that they love and befriend, that is, those who are closest to us in our present life.


This rather novel line of inquiry investigates the implications of a thought experiment that supposes the extinction of the human species either due to ‘a doomsday scenario’ in which life on the planet is brought to an end or ‘an infertility scenario’ in which all women stop having the capacity to bear children. On this basis the contention is made by Scheffler that most of what we value in our present lives would be undermined as we act on the assumption that life will go on after we die more or less in the same manner than it has while we were alive. Why work toward a cure for cancer or climate change when there is no humanity around to benefit from such developments? I suspect that the appeal of such an argument is its cerebral fascination for philosophers, and others who seem to me to often confuse ‘the life of the mind’ with ‘life.’ I find very little illumination relevant to genuine existential questions from the elaborate back and forth between these ratiocinating philosophers who make many fine points of assessment, but seem to miss altogether the question of why caring for the future of humanity motivates someone such as myself, or for that matter might be quite irrelevant to my motivation.


In the end, and maybe admitting my own limitations and prejudices as a thinker, I find this contemporary Anglo-American philosophical approach to be unhelpful, and not very interesting, in fact trivializing of the dilemmas of old age and the latter stages of life. I do not doubt that such analytic fine tuning seems intrinsically stimulating to members of this particular philosophical fraternity even though it flies well beneath my radar screen.


My own reflections on why I persist in doing what I am doing are more simplistic, less sophisticated, and maybe no less trivializing, but also more satisfying to me as explanations that connect with my experience. In contrast to ScheffIer I would emphasize three distinct lines of explanation that are each experiential, and hopefully not sentimental: lifetime habit, being on the right side of history, and the inherent pleasures of intellectual life.


Habit. There is a tendency to feel comfortable doing what has formed part of your daily life so long as physically and mentally able. Despite bad knees that impair my mobility on a tennis court, and can make descending steep slopes rather painful, I continue to play tennis and table tennis as often as the opportunity presents itself, which is generally three times a week at minimum. Writing on topics that engage me is similar to this sports life, although less therapeutic. I have written almost daily for the past 60 years, and continue to do so giving almost no consideration to whether there is an afterlife, personal or collective. Admittedly, if there was assured knowledge of the end of humanity looming in the near future, I would undoubtedly be profoundly affected in my daily routine. Experientially, we cannot have such knowledge. This is the point, and accounts for why Scheffler’s entire inquiry into the afterlife must be posited as a thought experiment, a harmless philosophical fiction that intensely engages the highly trained rational intellect, and can turn up some intriguing speculations, such as the enjoyment of music being independent of our afterlife prospects. By the way, I have no expectation of an afterlife, but in my current life proceed on the assumption that the collective life of humanity is more dangerously threatened than ever before, but for my purposes, I assume it will continue as far ahead as I am capable of envisioning, and certainly, of living.


History. The claim of being on the right side of history is a matter of ethics and interpretation, but since I thought about the world at all, it has been important for me to align my work as best I could, with the pursuit of justice. In these regards, I have been inspired by the struggles of those enduring injustice, and generally have sided with the underdog in conflict situations. In this regard, I felt solidarity decades ago with the anti-colonial movements, and believed that their favorable outcome suggested a positive historical trend that was given further concrete validation in the American civil rights movement led by the charismatic figure of Martin Luther King and by South African anti-apartheid campaign and struggle symbolized by that most extraordinary personage, Nelson Mandela. For me, in recent years, the epic ordeal and struggle of the Palestinian people is of the same lineage, and its recent flourishing in a global solidarity movement of growing scope and intensity, has shaped my evolving political sensibility to a considerable extent. My sadness as a lifelong American is associated, I believe, with the realization that ever since the Vietnam War, and possibly earlier if I had been more attentive, this country has been on the wrong side of history, exerting its might to stem the global emancipatory tide, although not altogether: its belated and reluctant stand against fascism and later Stalinist totalitarianism have certainly made better the history of the last hundred years. Domestically, as well, the national record is mixed, with racism and homophobia somewhat eclipsed during my lifetime by robust challenges based on American ideals, but gun culture and macho geopolitics being embedded in political culture more than ever, and recently accentuated by a dive into the dangerously dark waters of Islamophobia. Returning to the theme of this essay, I remain deeply motivated by the gravitational force of struggles for justice, and feel such an attraction independent of any reflections on the impacts of mortality on my work and hopes, and still less of the relevance of post-mortality, whatever that might mean. Do I want to be remembered positively by those I love, or by a wider community, is an issue that neither motivates nor sparks much curiosity, although I suppose it is true if I pause to think about it, and respond honestly, I would not want the defamers of UN Watch to have the last word as to my character, beliefs, and public role. In this weak sense, it is important that those for whom I care do not conceive of me negatively by situating me on the wrong side of history. At the same time, I have no illusions or ambitions that my contributions will make any historical difference, although I feel vindicated if even one student, reader, or listener responds favorably.


Satisfaction. Enabling me to sustain this life of work and activism through the decades has been the inherent satisfactions associated with the academic life of teaching and scholarship. I have been blessed with an excellent education, and good fortune with respect to career and health. As a mediocre high school student it never occurred to me that I would have a lifetime that revolved around intellectual activity, and when I discovered, first, after barely surviving a first year college experience of ‘academic probation’ that I loved classroom learning, and then, when a series of accidents led me to be a one year replacement teacher for an ill member of the Ohio State University law faculty, I came to the realization that a professorial life was a privileged existence in most of its dimensions (except of course for faculty meetings): setting your own work agenda and schedule, doing no harm, lifelong learning, interaction with young sensibilities, open spaces between semesters allowing ample time for travel and reflection, and participating a community with many likeminded folks. I never lost a sense of being blessed with this opportunity to live a decent life doing what was most enjoyable for me, although my own trajectory of preoccupations led me into domains of controversy from the mid-1960s until this very day. What bears on my theme here is that the pleasures of writing, reading, conversing, and speaking have been the self-justifying nutrients of my life, although always tinged with an awareness of contingency (of death, disease, misfortune), and a sense of dependence on the material foundations of normalcy, with perhaps a degree of self-indulgence that it is best not to think too closely about. When younger I was more troubled by the gaps between my beliefs and my life style, the hope for a world where everyone could lead a life of dignity and my own failure to devote the resources I possessed beyond those needed for subsistence to relieve the sufferings of those enduring extreme poverty. Putting such considerations to one side, recognizing that I do not respond to such an extreme calling, I affirm that the academic life, despite disappointments here and there, has fulfilled my dreams of pleasurable living without any pronounced feeling that it is incomplete unless justified by the symbolic immortality of being remembered in the future as a result of scholarly achievements. It doesn’t really matter to me whether my books will be read and appreciated, although I write them with that ambition although not in relation to whether their impact is prior or subsequent to my death.


In the end, I thank Samuel Scheffler for stimulating these counter-thoughts to his general thesis. Perhaps, the clarity of his probing inquiries, and the unexpected tenor of his argument about valuing of a collective afterlife more than most of us realize or would care to admit, had the dialectical effect of leading me experientially in the opposite direction. If this is so, it would be less than gracious, not to give my thanks.

64 Responses to “Why Do I Persist?”

  1. Fred Skolnik March 12, 2014 at 10:30 am #

    Forgive me from injecting a piece of unfolding Middle East reality but here is a perfect
    example of how what you term Palestinian retaliation for Israeli provocations works. An Islamic Jihad rocket unit fires a rocket at a routine Israeli border patrol. The Israeli airforce identifies the source of the rocket fire and kills three of the jiadists in an air strike. The terrorists fire 50 rockets at Israeli population centers, with more to come no doubt as the evening is still young. This is your lexicon is retaliation for Israeli provocations, with the implication that it is justified. The real question that you should ask yourself is why you consistently misrepresent the sequences of events that lead to clashes between the two sides.

    • Harry Shade March 12, 2014 at 11:20 am #

      Typical Zionist trash. They never admit that it is Israeli occupation of Palestine that is the root cause for those so-called “terrorist” rockets which in fact are no more than ordinary fireworks. They never refer to Palestinian resistance to occupation by any name other than “terrorists”. They never say that the Palestinians are using exactly the same tactics that Jewish terrorist groups used against the British mandate, One could go on and on; but unlike the Zionist shills I don’t get paid for posting anything.

      • Fred Skolnik March 13, 2014 at 2:02 am #

        Dear Harry

        Anyone who calls rockets aimed at a civilian population fireworks and people who murder women and children in cold blood “so-called” terrorists is a shill for something far worse than Zionism.

        The Jewish leadership in the Land of Israel condemned terrorist acts by Jews. The Palestinian leadership in Gaza celebrates terrorist acts by Arabs and in fact initiates them.

    • ray032 March 12, 2014 at 11:22 am #

      Until a genuine Peace is negotiated, the conditions of war will continue. Just simple logic.

      The British wanted to get out of Palestine as Zionist terrorists were a real headache of trouble.

      The European Jews had no real connection to the Land of Palestine since the Romans destroyed the Jewish Temple 2000 years ago. There were always Jews living in Palestine without doubt and generally lived in peace with their Arab neighbours.

      All that changed when the International Community, that did not want to accept Jewish refugees into their own countries in the world atmospheres before, and after the war, and with total disregard to the fact Arabs were the majority residents on the land in 1948, imposed a split of 55% to the minority Jews with the rest to the Arab majority residents of Palestine.

      Even though Israel had disappeared from among the Nations of this world for 3000 years, Today’s Zionists want to go back to the Future and claim the land exclusively for Jews, as the Book says it was 3000 years ago.

      You can spin it any way you want, but when the Jews say all the Land belongs to the Jews Today because God gave it to them 3500 years ago, Israel is in effect, a Theocracy in the guise of a Democracy.

      There may be Democracy for the Jews and Arabs within Israel proper, and for the Jewish settlements being built faster than ever before in the very Land that is the purpose of Peace Negotiations, but there is no Democracy or any Civil rights at all for the Palestinians living under the 47 year Israeli Military Dictatorship over the green line.

      Human nature hasn’t changed much these thousands of years. While the majority of Palestinians will just accept the humiliations the Jews hated when the Nazis treated them that same way, there will be those justifiable militants resisting Israel annexing Palestinian Land.

      After 47 years of Idle talk and Military Rule,as Israel takes more land, the Palestinian leaders, who have not brought any more Freedom to the Palestinian People living under the Israeli yoke, more Palestinian youth are taking matters into their own hands.

      Israel in this war calls them terrorists, but to Palestinians, they are Freedom Fighters.

      • oldguyincolorado March 12, 2014 at 2:19 pm #

        I note your conflicted facts and thought processes, but you at least admit that : 1. Jews have always been in Israel; 2. Israel is a democratic land and Arabs are full citizens therein. Unlike some of the folks who have visited this blog, you are off to a good start. But to say that the Jews “want it all” conflicts with the Arab Citizenry of @ 1.6 million and the many times offered “land swaps” proposed to the Arab (all of which have been rejected out of hand). The other day, Abbas said that the Arab would not give up “one brick or one stone” of their claims; that all settlements must be abandoned; that Israel will never be recognized as a Jewish State (strange since he wants the west bank to be an Arab state and forgets that the UN resolution setting up Israel did so with the idea that it be a land for the Jews, forgets that the final borders were subject to land swaps subject to the “mutual agreement” of the parties, etc.).

        Your comments about a “Theocracy” in Israel tells me that you do not know the meaning of that word. Look to Iran as a prime example of a Theocracy. The Chief Rabbis of Israel do not run Israel; the Jewish, Christian and ARAB citizens do.

        As to “European” Jews having not had connections with the land for 2,000 years and thus giving them no claims on it, where on earth do you think Arafat was borne? It was not in the Holy Land, yet he claimed it. What was his “connection”? Following your argument, every single Palestinian who was not borne west of the Jordan should have no “say” because they have no “connection”, either. But Abbas just said that every “Palestinian”, whether born in the west bank or not, and living anywhere in the entire world, whether or not they ever plan on returning to the West Bank,HAS A RIGHT TO VOTE ON ANY PEACE AGREEMENT WITH ISRAEL. You seem to use the word “connection” in way not used by Arabs or Jews and it is THEIR definitions of the word that counts, isn’t it?” You have probably never heard the phrase “Next year in Jerusalem”? It has been a Jewish “prayer” of the diaspora for the 2,000 years of which you speak.

        You fall into the middle of that group of people who use words they do not understand, or in a way not understood by the people of whom they speak. You probably have no idea what the word “apartheid” means nor understand that “ethnic cleansing” is a thing which has been done by the Arab to the Jew (and also beginning to do to the Christian – look to Africa, Indonesia, etc.) and not the Jew to the Arab. The Arab has forced out of Arabian lands over 850,000 Jews who were not combatants or even in Israel, and this just because they were Jews. There are less than 5,000 left in the entirety of the Arab lands. In 1947 there were at least 17,0000 in Syria and now perhaps only 50 remain. Gaza has none of which I am aware (unless it happens to be an anti-Israeli Jew). Read the 1952 amendment to the Jordanian Constitution to see how Jordan treats Jews (one of their blogs proudly announces that there are no Jewish citizens of Jordan. None.). At the beginning of the State of Israel, some 350,000 or so Arabs were included and they now number 1.6 million. They live in democracy.

        Why do you think Fred Skolnik is always on this site trying to set the record straight. He and I (on rare occasion) and a few others see folks like you not really understanding what they are saying and why I call you a bunch of “lemmings” in your thought process. It is why I keep begging you folks to look at BOTH sides; and I have included Prof Falk among you. It is also why I keep asking if any of you have actually read the Quo’ran. If the Torah guides the Jew, the Quo’ran GOVERNS the Arab. Jews are “guided” because we recognize that in 3500 years, some things have changed and are “out of date” in a modern world (like the rules governing how you treat slaves, animal sacrifice, etc.). The majority of Arabs in the ME are “governed” by 7th Century thought, for the most part, and actually still do have slavery in parts of their world, sell their daughters and still try, in some areas, to impose the “dihinni” rules, a la in areas of Syria.

        I admit, every time, that Israel is not perfect. Bibi does it too. But much of the fault between Arab and Israeli is in the hand of the Arab. Remember that for the Arab, 1948 was to be a war to kill all Jews. All the Jews wanted was a place to live and their ancestral home was their choice. What they ended up with was JUST A SMALL PART of what England originally intended and promised to give. Remember that England was the government up until 1948 and it took over from the Ottoman Empire. Arabs just lived there along with Jews, Christians and others, but now want it all, just for themselves. That is what they really want. This is what Arafat and Abbas (in his heart) really intend.

        I do not hate Muslims. I have been a guest in their homes and they in mine. My sons, as kids, have had some, as friends “over night” in our home in their homes. I have taken those friends on excursions, etc. I have had many as clients (although the Saudi princes ran from me when they found out I was a Jew). What I hate are the gross distortions and outright lies I hear. Stop the lying, and I am at peace with the PA. I am even at peace with the UN (as long as both sides are fairly dealt with).

        AS TO THE RETIREMENT OF PROF FALK: “Stopping to think is like stopping to breath. You just die.” Good luck in your retirement and remember what you said: “Do no harm”. Just like a good medical doctor. And spend less time thinking that folks who want to live in metal trash bins really will advance mankind; especially when what they are trying to prove has been proven many times before.

      • Kata Fisher March 14, 2014 at 11:42 pm #

        Dear Mr. Fred Skolnik:

        When we think about contemporarily Muslims in the Holy Land, we also reflect that these same people’s are descendents of the ancient Jews in the Holy Land; that is, the Jewish peoples who now are under a prophesy (it is a prophesy for the Church according to the teaching of Paul Apostle) and it has to be discerned by the appointed and living Teaching Office within a religious order (for the Church we know that by the teaching of Paul Apostle) – This prophesy itself (that we call Holy Quran and do not know what exactly it is as a Sacred Text/writings) by which Muslim-Faithfull keep the Faith & the Law, during the Church age.

        By the Standard of the Scripture; it is not a ‘false Gospel’ – we know that and rather understand that it is a Book of prophesy during the Church-age that prophet Muhammad has received.

        It is very difficult to understand Jewish-exiles in the Holy Land? Why and why that is so difficult in this point in time to grasp that when we even have scientific evidence that contemporary Muslims are offspring of ancient Jews/Hebrews in the Holy Land? Jewish Homeland can in fact be this: Arab-Muslim Palestine!
        Based on what? Jewish Faith – or- Jewish origin? Both? Yes and not?
        When we think about Muslims in Holy Land and Jewish Territory (Land that belongs to offspring of exile-Jews) let us think clearly, and in accordance with the times!

    • end the occupation March 12, 2014 at 8:26 pm #

      Shall I come knock your wife around for a while? In front of your kids? And perhaps drag one of them off and torment him for a few days – or weeks – or months? Beat him and tell him I’m going to murder his mother, the filthy Arab whore? Shall I come destroy your home, eliminate with premeditated glee your sources of livelihood? Confine you in a ghetto and shoot your friends for kicks? Send helicopters and drones overhead to keep your remaining children wide awake at night?

      What might you do to me?

      What’s astonishing is Palestinian restraint, which echoes the restraint show by the people confined to the Warsaw Ghetto. The occupation is illegal. Ethnic cleansing is barbaric. Cheering for barbarism – rooting for Goliath – is an abject disgrace.

      • Fred Skolnik March 13, 2014 at 10:56 pm #

        You have a very graphic way of describing events that you haven’t witnessed and should perhaps write this kind of fiction for a living. Israel does not act with premeditated glee or shoot people for kicks. The Israeli occupation is no more illegal than the the Allied occupation of Germany. The Arabs started a war, lost a war, got their territory occupied, refused to make peace with Israel and instead engaged in barbaric terrorism. Israel has a perfect right to defend itself and will continue to do so as long as the terrorism continues.

      • Richard Falk March 14, 2014 at 8:32 pm #

        I am not sure whether this was meant for me, but I will respond anyway. You are too intelligent to think that in
        the 21st century things are that simple and clear. It is possible to make just as strong a pro-Palestinian narrative.
        The Palestinians were dispossess from their homeland by decisions made in London & New York, sought to defend their
        territory, and are seeking to implement the widely agreed rule of international law that territory acquired by force
        must be returned, a conclusion affirmed by a unanimous UN Security Council as long ago as 1967 in revolution 242, which
        has never been respected by Israel, nor implemented by the UN.

      • Fred Skolnik March 14, 2014 at 10:57 pm #

        No, it wasn’t meant for you, Prof. Falk, it was meant for someone who calls himself “end the occupation,” but nonetheless you are reiterating a set of assertions that ignores integral parts of this narrative: first, that Israel was established in the same way that all the Arab states in the region were established, by fiat, from above, as the colonial powers withdrew from the Middle East; second, that no one dispossessed anyone – disputed territory was partitioned for purposes of sovereignty among two people with conflicting claims, with the Jewish claim certainly no less valid than the Arab claim. In what sense, then, were the Arabs defending their territory? They were in fact attempting to capture, in 1947 and 1948, the territory that the UN, whose Resolution 242 you are so quick to quote, had been allotted to Israel. As for Resolution 242, the Arab reply at Khartoum was “no peace, no negotiations, no recognition of Israel.” You are surely aware of the unremitting belligerency of the Arabs during all these years in times when Israel’s leaders were literally begging for peace. It is this belligerency that has been responsible for all the turmoil in the Middle East, and I think, again, that anyone who examines the Arab stance cannot avoid the conclusion that the root of the problem is the inability of the Arabs to accept the existrnce of a sovereign non-Muslim state in the region. You have to be completely blind to the Arab ethos not to see this.

      • Kata Fisher March 14, 2014 at 11:53 pm #

        Dear Mr. Fred Skolnik:

        CORRECTION: AS I HAVE REPLIED TO A DIFFERENT POST and also have edited by few words:

        When we think about contemporarily Muslims in the Holy Land, we also reflect that these same people’s are descendents of the ancient Jews in the Holy Land; that is, the Jewish peoples who now are under a prophesy (it is a prophesy for the Church according to the teaching of Paul Apostle) and it has to be discerned by the appointed and living Teaching Office within a religious order (for the Church, as we know that by the teaching of Paul Apostle) – This prophesy itself we have in mind to our desisions? and that we call Holy Quran and do not know what exactly it is as a Sacred Text/writings by which Muslim-Faithfull – as a peoples in Holy Land keep the Faith & the Law, during the Church age.

        By the Standard of the Scripture; it is not a ‘false Gospel’ – we know that and rather understand that it is a Book of prophesy during the Church-age that prophet Muhammad has received.

        It is very difficult to understand Jewish-exiles in the Holy Land? Why and why that is so difficult in this point in time to grasp that when we even have scientific evidence that contemporary Muslims are offspring of ancient Jews/Hebrews in the Holy Land? Jewish Homeland can in fact be this: Arab-Muslim Palestine!
        Based on what? Jewish Faith – or- Jewish origin? Both? Yes and not?
        When we think about Muslims in Holy Land and Jewish Territory (Land that belongs to offspring of exile-Jews) let us think clearly, and in accordance with the times!

      • ray032 March 16, 2014 at 10:12 am #

        The TRUTH is Israel fired the 1st shot, starting the military hostilities beyond words, in the 1967 war

  2. Harry Shade March 12, 2014 at 11:20 am #

    Well done Mr Falk. Please keep up the good work

  3. Maggie March 12, 2014 at 11:30 am #

    You might see it as a narcissistic endeavor, but I think that given your experience and perspective, a memoir would be of great value to many people!

  4. Arif March 12, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

    Thanks for this, Richard, we all think about this question especially as we get older. If I may add one more thing to the habit, history and satisfaction, I suppose some people also have the altruism “gene” so that it becomes impossible not to do it. Be well. Arif

  5. Paul Wapner March 12, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

    This is a gorgeous post. I read Scheffler’s book and found it intriguing but sterile. I didn’t know why until I read your blog. While his respondents quibble about analytical distinctions, you exhibit how to turn a philosophical exercise into genuine self-inquiry.

    You’ve beautifully articulated “why” you persist. As an outsider looking in, I also want to know “how”. HOW is it that habit, being on the right side of history, and love of intellectual life conspire in you to animate skillfulness, compassion, honesty, and perceptive discernment? Put differently, while I wouldn’t call on you to write a memoir, I know that as a reader I’d be looking for not only a narrative of your life but also a toolbox for becoming a better writer, more critical thinker, and more caring person.

    I’m impressed at your ability to identify the factors that enable and inspire you to keep advancing social justice. I’d love a follow-on piece that lists some of your most valuable practices. What do you DO to stay awake to the world and forge integration in your life? What habits have become dear and helpful? You mention writing everyday and regular tennis. Are there others? (BTW, upon working with you as a graduate student, I took up tennis and squash assuming that they would have some life affirming staying power. They do! [You once said that if I could beat you in tennis, you’d double my stipend. Knowing about your knees, I want to tell you that I’m finally ready for the match.])

    I know practices aren’t always transferable and I’m not looking to imitate another. Furthermore, I’m unsure what else you’d add. But I’m curious.

    When I graduated from college, I asked my philosophy professor to reveal how he does it. What was his secret? I was expecting him to say that I should become fluent in Latin, take up the violin, read every dialogue of Plato, and write my most important works under a full moon. He replied simply but memorably, “Set an alarm clock.”

    • oldguyincolorado March 12, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

      Social Justice is wonderful but it must be balanced and fair; all sides must be represented; it is not that simple. Take it from a guy who has spent over 40 years doing the “balancing” act. No result is ever perfect. One side is not always right, especially where the goal of that side is to kill everyone on the other side.

    • Richard Falk March 13, 2014 at 8:03 am #

      Thanks, Paul, for your characteristic warmth and generosity; perhaps, my tennis bravado was always a boast, but
      surely these days it would be an absurd refusal to acknowledge the realities of physical decline! As for the ‘how’
      I doubt that I have anything to add to the advice of your philosophy teacher, although I have never used an alarm
      clock except to catch an early plane. The ‘how’ is intensely personal beyond finding a rhythm that pleases your
      inner self, and you are more in touch with that part of your being than I can ever hope to be!


  6. Clif Brown March 12, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

    A very thoughtful post. Maybe I am reading my own thought into it but I believe you might agree with my own reasons when considering why one does what one does.

    It proves I was here and it proves where I stood, a note, however tiny, in the ledger of time.

  7. global studies student March 12, 2014 at 10:43 pm #

    Really compelling article, Dr. Falk. As a young student at UCSB, this paper certainly gives me a lot of reasons to be optimistic, and stay rest-assured that all will turn out well. Particularly your commentaries on habit; I am more rest assured that if I keep doing what I love, staying critical of hegemonic policy and remaining aware of the need for global change, I will certainly have a stable, harmonious future (of course, the fact that I am a straight, white man does not hurt, either).
    Thank you for placing some clarity in my pre-midlife crisis!

    – D.E.

  8. Mauro Poggi March 13, 2014 at 9:53 am #

    Dear Mr Falk.
    To me the real question is not why an aged person like you persists in working hard for the things that he believes in, although knowing that he will die in the next several years.
    The real question is why most of aged people like you (and me, although younger) don’t behave the same way.
    Stopping in working hard for the things one believes, just beacause death is more likely to happen, is like surrendering to death before it arrives.
    As a not-believer, I do believe that as far as we ignore death (as act of will, not of reason), the meaning of our life remains intact.
    Thanks for sharing your reflections.
    (I hope my English, if not correct, is at least comprehensible!).

    • Richard Falk March 13, 2014 at 10:08 pm #

      I agree personally, but I think for many people life becomes bearable because there
      is a prospect that there is an afterlife that will be more satisfying, especially if’
      we earn a respectful welcome..Death is then ambiguous, scary if conceived in isolation,
      almost welcome if regarded as a transition to something better.

      • Mauro Poggi March 14, 2014 at 12:16 am #

        I agree. In fact mine is not a believer point of view (although, to say the truth, I don’t know many religious people being not scared by death).
        Mr Frank, am I allowed to translate some of your posts to public them on my italian blog? (Of course with link to the original ones).

      • Richard Falk March 14, 2014 at 8:28 pm #

        Mauro: I assume you mean ‘Falk’ not ‘Frank.’In any event, you have my
        full permission to translate my posts as long as you acknowledge their authorship.

  9. mauisurfer March 14, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

    Thanks for this Richard.
    Please feel vindicated by this “one reader” inspired by your integrity and hard work.

  10. Mauro Poggi March 14, 2014 at 10:37 pm #

    Oh my God! I’m really sorry and apologize… 😦
    Thanks for the permission, Richard. Of course I will acknowledge your authorship and give the link to the original post.

    • Dan Livni March 15, 2014 at 7:06 am #

      Why do you persist.
      You mean why do you persist in bashing Israel and saying nothing about Arab racism and Rejectionism.
      Have you ever heard Falk once condemn Arab and Palestinian racism against Jews?

      Mar 13 2014

      An Italian Member of the European Parliament is asking tough question of the European Union (EU) and anti-Semitism across the Arab world.
      Fiorello Provera, the EU’s Vice Chairman on the Committee on Foreign Affairs has written to the European Commission and its High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, to express his concerns about anti-Semitism in areas of interest to the EU.
      Provera wrote yesterday:

      “In 2012 during the 8th Parliamentary Assembly of the Union for the Mediterranean, which was held in Morocco, a demonstrator outside the parliament in Rabat dressed as an orthodox Jew rode a person wearing a donkey’s head. It was supposed to symbolise the subservience of Arab regimes to Jews. Unfortunately there is a widespread belief in many Arab countries that Jews play a role behind the scenes when it comes to politics and economics.

      In Morocco, for example, the secretary general of the Istiqlal party, Hamid Chabat, claimed that the Arab Spring was the result of a Zionist conspiracy, comparable to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

      Provera also raised issues in Libya and Egypt, claiming that “walls in Tripoli and Benghazi were covered in graffiti depicting him with the Star of David.”

      “In Egypt,” he wrote, “many are now claiming that General Abdul Fattah el-Sisi is also Jewish. His predecessor was also criticised for his friendship with Israel.”

      In February, The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reported that since the July 2013 removal of Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood (MB) government in Egypt, both supporters of Morsi and his opponent have used stark anti-Semitic propaganda.

      Provera claims that “the obsession with pinning the blame on outsiders, foreigners and Jews for the ills of Arab society is something that many Arab intellectuals fear is preventing societies from moving forward and addressing its real problems.”

      To that end, the MEP has raised several questions for the European Commission to consider, including, “What is the VP/HR’s position on the age-old problem of antisemitism in the Arab world?

      Has the EU taken any formal measures in the past with Arab leaders in countries such as Morocco and/or Egypt to address this problem? Does the EU believe that tackling this problem could help to reduce the growth of radical Islam and anti-Western sentiment across the region?”

      • Dan Livni March 15, 2014 at 7:12 am #

        Mr Falk your facts are wrong.
        You say,
        The Palestinians were dispossess from their homeland by decisions made in London & New York, sought to defend their

        First, their was no state called Palestine in history.
        2nd, their were more Jewish refugees from the Arab countries.
        3rd, 5 Arab countries attacked Israel in 48 with the intention to ethnic cleanse and kill as many Jews in Israel.

        After the 5 Arab armies attacked Israel in 48, Palestinian leader Haj Amin Al Husseini stated:
        I declare a holy war, my muslim brothers! Murder the Jews! Murder them all!
        The Arab League Secretary, General Azzam Pasha declared “a holy war. He said, “This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.

      • Dan Livni March 15, 2014 at 7:27 am #

        Fred Skolnik, your right what you say.
        But a bigger problem is the fact Falk will never condemn Palestinian ethnic cleansing plans for Jews.

        PA: ‘Allah Will Gather Israelis So We Can Kill Them’
        Senior PA official calls Israelis ‘advanced instrument of evil’ with ‘no belief, no principles,’ on official PA TV.
        Ari Yashar

        A senior Palestinian Authority (PA) official appeared on PA TV on Wednesday, where he called Israelis “an advanced instrument of evil,” claiming “Allah will gather them so that we can kill them.”

        The official, Abbas Zaki, further opined Israelis “have no belief, no principles.” He is a close associate of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas; last October he reportedly went to Syria as Abbas’s personal representative, and he has spoken at public events representing Abbas’s Fatah movement.

      • Mauro Poggi March 15, 2014 at 9:34 am #

        Hi Dan.
        Ehm… Fiorello Provera is a member of the Lega Nord Party, along with Mr Mario Borghezio and other interesting people whose xenophobia (islamic xenophobia, in particular, but also towards South-italians people) is the main characteristic of their policy.
        (In one occasion, one of their leaders, Mr Calderoli, suggested to bring pigs to urinate at the door of the Italian mosques).
        Honestly, I’m not prone to consider such people a reliable source to have an idea about palestinian situation.
        I prefer reading Noam Chomsky, or Shlomo Sand, or Gilad Atzmon, or Moni Ovadia etc.
        However, being they all jews, I admit their opinion can be not objective.

      • Fred Skolnik March 16, 2014 at 12:43 am #

        Hi Mauro

        Why do you prefer reading writers who are hostile to Israel and/or Jews? Is that what you’re looking for?

  11. Gene Schulman March 16, 2014 at 2:33 am #

    Hi Fred,

    One could turn the question around and ask you the same: Why is it that you prefer reading writers that are favorable to Israel and/or Jews, and hostile to Palestinians? Is that what you’re looking for? It would seem so, as you only quote the Zionist/Israeli/Jewish line from publications such as The Jerusalem Post, Israeli Times, and propaganda organizations like ADL, JDC, etc. On the other hand, you denigrate and insult such writers as Chomsky, Sand, Atzmon and, especially, Richard Falk. Your opinions are hardly balanced, rather boring in their prejudices.

    • Fred Skolnik March 16, 2014 at 3:05 am #

      How do you know what I read? Actually I don’t prefer reading one kind of writer over another. I don’t read the Jerusalem Post or the Israel Times or scour the Internet every day looking for things to “reference.” And I certainly don’t quote the ADL or JDC. I get Maariv at home, which is pretty neutral politically, and spend about ten minutes glancing at the headlines and looking at the sports section. What I understand about the Arab-Israel conflict comes from having lived in Israel for 50 years and having participated in the events that make up its history. I am certainly not neutral myself but I am also not uncritical of Israel. I am also not hostile to Arabs. On the other hand, what I see on this site, coming from people like yourself, is deep resentment, if not hostility, toward Israel. I understand where it is coming from. That is your problem, not mine. Occasionally I call attention to it. The giveaway is always the vehemence of the language, which is not the language of criticism. But why don’t we let Mauro speak for himself.

      • Gene Schulman March 16, 2014 at 4:31 am #

        True, Fred, I don’t know what you read. I only make that assumption based on the comments you make to Richard’s posts. Your comments are fully consistent with the ideology of that material. You say that your understanding about the Arab-Israel conflict comes exclusively from having lived in Israel for 50 years and having participated in the events that make up its history. I find that a shameful admission. It is no wonder that you think as you do. You can only have a one-sided and prejudiced opinion of the conflict – that of the Israeli side. Actually, I find it hard to believe that you don’t read and are not influenced by what you do read.

        Finally, I would ask how old you are. Were you born in Israel 50 years ago, or did you move to Israel from somewhere else in 1964?

        I will be happy to respond to your accusation of my “deep resentment, if not hostility, toward Israel.” at another time. I do have my own story to tell, as someone whose life (83 years long) parallels the history of Israel.

      • Fred Skolnik March 16, 2014 at 5:03 am #

        I don’t have what you think of as an ideology with regard to the conflict. The Arabs have been talking about destroying the State of Israel for the last 65 years and I take them at their word. Think of yourself as being assailed by a murderer or lunatic. There will be very little ideology involved in your response. I am sure the only thing you will think about is defending yourself.

        The fact that you are fed solely by second- or third-hand sources that share your biases and which you are unequipped to evaluate or verify leads you to believe that everyone is and that this is an acceptable mode of discourse. That is also your problem. As for the shame of living in Israel, that does not in itself predispose Israelis to particular views. The country is pretty equally divided along the political spectrum. My views are pretty close to the center and I have spelled out what moderates on both sides view as a likely settlement.

      • Gene Schulman March 16, 2014 at 5:48 am #

        Sorry, Fred. I did not say it was shameful to live in Israel. I said it was a shameful admission to receive your information exclusively from having lived in Israel for 50 years. Please do not distort my words.

        My sources are not “solely second- or third hand”. How do you know whether I have visited or lived in Israel or Palestine, and do not have close acquaintanceship with both sides of the conflict?

        As for your first paragraph above, about the Arabs talking about destroying the State of Israel for 65 years, the Israelis have actually been destroying any semblance of Palestinian presence through ethnic cleansing and, yes, I do not hesitate to use the word, genocide, for just as long. Do the Palestinians not have the right to protect themselves?

        I see it is useless to try to have normal discourse with you. Your biases and prejudices preclude your seeing the “other”. So this will be my last exchange with you. Do not bother to reply.

      • Fred Skolnik March 16, 2014 at 6:35 am #

        I understand that it is important for you to have the last word and create the illusion that it beneath you to engage in discourse with wrongheaded people like myself, and I would gladly give it to you if you did not persist in making unfounded statements.

        Yes, I have a close acquaintance with both sides of the conflict and you and I both know where you get your information and that you have never lived in the Middle East nor speak any of its languages, so that in the last analysis it makes as much sense for you to have such strong opinions about the Middle East as it would for you to have such opinions about life in China.

        I also understand that since you do get your information at second hand, you believe that even people who get it at first hand and have a direct experience of events must also rely on second-hand sources. You are confusing ideology with history. Ideology consists of arguments, opinions, rhetoric, polemics, and that is what you are engaging in and that is what you are reading and find so difficult to understand how other people can get by without it. Ideally an ideology should be based on an informed reading of history and the current events that it engenders, but in your case this is lacking, for the simple reason that it is inaccessible to you in terms that are acceptable to a student of history, so all you are left with are your biases and a feverish search for “facts” to support them, which you find among people who share your biases.

        Ethnic cleansing and genocide are just the dirtiest words you know, which you are indiscriminately and gratuitously applying to Israel, so in this case a reply really isn’t warranted.

      • Kata Fisher March 16, 2014 at 7:49 am #

        I just came across this article that may clarify some conflicting ideas.


      • ray032 March 16, 2014 at 10:25 am #

        Kata, thank’s for the link to Foreign Policy Journal and spun myths.

      • Kata Fisher March 16, 2014 at 11:57 am #

        Dear Mr. Cormier,

        I was in non-lay people group & intensive brainstorming when Mr. Timol sheared this from another person and it came across my wall-sight!

        I hope you are having a wonderful day Mr. Cormier.


  12. Rabbi Ira Youdovin March 16, 2014 at 8:18 am #

    This is addressed to both Fred Skolnik and Gene Schulman, who are locked in one of the absolutist—“I’m right/you’re wrong’— exchanges that make this blog so entertaining.

    Gene, you may feel free to use the word “genocide”. But do you know what it means? Here are the hard facts which can be verified by checking neutral sources. The Palestinian population both inside Israel and in the Occupied Territories has increased since 1948/1967. I repeat, INCREASED. If Israelis are practicing genocide, they’re doing a very poor job of it.

    Fred, there was a measure of ethnic cleansing before and during the 1948 war (which didn’t end until the summer of 1949). Some of it was for legitimate security purposes, such as establishing a secure road linking Jerusalem and the Mediterranean coast. But some was done for ideological reasons, as Ari Shavit describes in his excellent book “My Promised Land” (see especially the chapter on Lydda, which was excerpted for publication in The New Yorker magazine,)

    As regards the Occupied Territories, Israel returned the entire Sinai to Egypt and has removed all Israeli civilians and soldiers from Gaza. The geography and demography of the West Bank and East Jerusalem will be determined in negotiations between the principles. But Israel is publicly committed to “land swaps” in exchange for any territory it retains on the West Bank so that the Palestinians will have the same volume of territory they had prior to the 1967 War.

    Now, the two of you can return to fighting over how old you are, where you live, and the books you read.

    Rabbi Ira Youdovin

    • Fred Skolnik March 16, 2014 at 8:32 am #

      Nice to hear your sane voice again. Yes, there were expulsions along with flight but “ethnic cleansing” is a misnomer serving to shift the focus of the conflict to the ethnic plane when it is in fact a national conflict, and from here to make the easy leap to other dirty words like genocide, Nazism and apartheid. Authorized expulsions were from hostile villages in the rear of the advancing Israeli army that were serving as bases for attacks against Israel’s civilian population, Unauthorized expulsions were on the initiative of local commanders. In the final account, with the displacement of nearly a million Jews from Arab lands, a de facto exchange of populations had taken place not unlike the exchange of populations between Pakistan and India in 1948. That is war and it is regrettable but the refugee problem is a two-edged sword.

      • Fred Skolnik March 16, 2014 at 8:48 am #

        You see, Rabbi, how easy it to cheapen and pervert language.

        Yes, Finkelstein, the Middle East expert without a word of Arabic or Hebrew telling us what is going on in tthere.

    • Gene Schulman March 16, 2014 at 8:41 am #

      Ah yes. The good Rabbi makes another appearance. I will tell you that I know the definition of genocide, and that I believe Israel practices it against the Palestinians. Just because Israel is making a poor job of it, does not mean it isn’t trying. Populations, world wide, are increasing. Even in Rwanda! Israeli citizens and soldiers may have been removed from the Sinai and Gaza, but Gaza is still under de facto occupation and continues to be oppressed by Israel.

      I am afraid I must differ with you about the quality of Shavits’ book. It is an interesting read, but is so full of holes and apologetics for Israel’s behavior, that it is worthless as history. I suggest you spend a few moments with Finkelstein’s response to it in his forthcoming “Old Wine, Broken Bottle” from OR Books. My own assessment I posted as a letter to the FT in response to Simon Schama’s nauseating review of it.

  13. Rabbi Ira Youdovin March 16, 2014 at 10:25 am #

    Mr. Schulman,

    I’ll overlook your arrogant opening reference except to remind you that an abusive opening most often precedes a weak argument, as yours assuredly does, and play the game your way. That you “believe” Israel is practicing genocide against the Palestinians is of no validity unless you can cite credible examples to substantiate your allegation. Thus far, you’ve presented none.

    As regards Gaza, the historical record is absolutely clear that Sharon intended to be done with Gaza, giving the Palestinians an opportunity to demonstrate their capacity for building a successful state living in peaceful co-existence with Israel. When the Palestinians refused to negotiate an agreement that would include their recognition of Israel, security measures were necessary to prevent Gaza from becoming a launching pad for attacks against Israel. When shortly thereafter, Hamas drove out Fatah in a bloody civil war, more measures were necessitated.

    Apropos, the UN’s Palmer Commission, investigating the Mavi Mamara incident, determined that the blockade was justified under international law. Prof. Falk wrote a strong dissent, which he published on this blog. But when critics like Mr. Schulman and Prof. Falk allege that the blockade oppresses the Palestinians, they omit the inconvenient truth that Hamas, which rules Gaza, has a stated and frequently reiterated commitment to destroy Israel, and arranged secret arms deliveries from Iran.

    Rabbi Ira Youdovin

    • Gene Schulman March 16, 2014 at 12:06 pm #


      Like your friend Mr. Skolnik, everything you say is a distortion of the truth. I, and others, have refuted these distortions so many times, that I will not attempt to do so again. I do not know who you think your comments on this blog are fooling, but you certainly make no impression on me.

      I’m sorry you think my opening was arrogant. I was merely welcoming you back to the conversation. But I guess you must have a rather strong persecution complex if you think that was rude.

      • Fred Skolnik March 16, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

        Dear Rabbi Youdovin, I think Mr. Schulman has assured us about 50 times that he has refuted everything we have ever said without ever presenting a shred of real evidence to substantiate anything. Maybe he doesn’t know what evidence is. Maybe he thinks that “referencing” Finkelstien, Mondoweiss or Chomsky is proof of something, or that just saying “I have refuted you” is refutation. I honestly don’t know. Actually, anyone can do this. You can say, Poland invaded Germany in 1939 or, Kuwait invaded Iraq in 1990. You can say anything you like and that is pretty much what Mr. Schulman does. As I have pointed out, he is totally unequipped to verify or evaluate the assertions that he lifts from people who share his biases and therefore he is pretty much like a blind man using instruments that he cannot read. It really is pointless to reply to him, other than to remind him from time to time that he is completely transparent and a bit of a fake.

  14. Dan Livni March 16, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

    Gene Schulman, Israel is being oppressed by Gaza Terrorists.
    What country would do nothing while Hamas Jihadists are firing hundreds of missiles at Israeli civilians from Gaza.
    Its Hamas who oppresses the Palestinians by using them as human shields and forcing wars with Israel by firing missiles at them. .

    Report: Hamas Lied About Gaza Casualties
    Journalist visits Gaza, reports that only 500-600 were killed in Cast Lead. Hamas had claimed 1,330 killed, 5,000 wounded.
    Maayana Miskin

    Italian journalist Lorenzo Cremonesi, who works with the Corriere della serra newspaper, reported Thursday that Hamas had vastly overstated the number of civilian deaths in Gaza. While Hamas claims that 1,330 residents of Gaza were killed in the operation and approximately 5,000 wounded, the real number of casualties was far lower, Cremonesi says.

    Cremonesi’s report was based on his own findings after touring hospitals in Gaza and talking to families of those killed or wounded. “It is sufficient to visit several [Gaza] hospitals to understand that the numbers don’t add up,” he explained.

    Cremonesi estimated that between 500 to 600 people were killed in the fighting. Most were young men between the ages of 17 and 23 who were members of Hamas, he said.

    Many hospitals had several empty beds, he reported. Hamas has stated that Gaza hospitals are filled to capacity due to the large number of victims, with many of the wounded being turned away due to the shortage of doctors and supplies.

    The Italian report also confirmed Israeli allegations that Hamas had used civilians as human shields and used ambulances and United Nations buildings in the fighting. Those who tried to drive the terrorists away in order to protect their families were beaten.

    Civilians told Cremonesi that they shouted at Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists to leave the area to avoid drawing Israeli fire on civilians. The terrorists responded by calling them “traitors,” “collaborators” and “cowards,” and insisted that any civilians killed would be martyrs destined for paradise.

    Civilians also reported that Hamas terrorists disguised themselves as paramedics and drove ambulances during the fighting. In addition, terrorists launched rockets from UN buildings. Many of these actions are defined as war crimes.
    “The knew they were weaker, but they wanted them [the Israelis] to fire on our houses, so they could accuse them of war crimes,” a resident of the Gazan village Tel Awa explained.

    Cremonesi said it was difficult to gather evidence against Hamas because residents were fearful. Civilians feared that if it was known they spoke against the group, they would be harshly punished, he explained.

    Eisenberg: Many Didn’t Know Their Homes were Booby-Trapped
    Gaza Division Commander Brig.-Gen. Eyal Eisenberg reported on Thursday that Hamas had booby-trapped the homes of many civilians without their knowledge.

    Many Gaza civilians were surprised to find explosives hidden under their houses, Eisenberg said, and noted that Hamas had placed roadside bombs throughout the area as well.

    • Kata Fisher March 16, 2014 at 4:56 pm #

      Dan Livni: How can you explain Hamas the way you do? – That what you are saying is not a valid perception in the context of historical evidences/happenings and vivid patterns of forces that have directed people in the Holy Land. What we see is taking place in region of the Holy Land & Gaza you do not grasp.

      However, I take you seriously that you are very confused in your understanding and approach (just as it is majority of US population).

      Now, American people (that are one in mind and in Sprit) are really eager to set the record straight when comes to their will in reference to the conflict in the Holy Land. You are not helpful. Ask yourself this: “Why?”

  15. Rabbi Ira Youdovin March 17, 2014 at 12:38 am #

    Ms. Fisher:

    I don’t agree with everything Dan Livni writes. But on the question of HAMAS, he is right and you are terribly wrong. I don’t expect you to accept my word, or the word of any Jew, on this. So I invite you to consider what HAMAS says about itself… in its own words.

    Here are excerpts from the HAMAS COVENANT, the group’s core document which clearly states its objectives, all of which promote its supreme goal of destroying the State of Israel through Jihad (Islamic Holy War.) It is to HAMAS what the Gospels are to Christianity.

    Please note that #7 is a call for worldwide genocide against Jews everywhere.

    You can check my references and/or read the entire document on-line by Googling it.

    Rabbi Ira Youdovin


    1. ‘The Islamic Resistance Movement is a distinguished Palestinian movement, whose allegiance is to Allah, and whose way of life is Islam. It strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.’ (Article 6)

    2. Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.’ (Preamble)

    3. The land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf [Holy Possession] consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgment Day. No one can renounce it or any part, or abandon it or any part of it.’ (Article 11)

    4. ‘Palestine is an Islamic land… Since this is the case, the Liberation of Palestine is an individual duty for every Moslem wherever he may be.’ (Article 13)

    5. ‘The day the enemies usurp part of Moslem land, Jihad becomes the individual duty of every Moslem. In the face of the Jews’ usurpation, it is compulsory that the banner of Jihad be raised.’ (Article 15)

    6. ‘[Peace] initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement… Those conferences are no more than a means to appoint the infidels as arbitrators in the lands of Islam… There is no solution for the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility.’ (Article 13)

    7.’The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: ‘O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.’ (Article 7)

    • Gene Schulman March 17, 2014 at 12:53 am #

      It is ironic that Hamas is a creation of Israel. This golem has turned on its evil creator.

      • Fred Skolnik March 17, 2014 at 1:33 am #

        Israel did not create Hamas, just as the United States did not create the Soviet Union though it cooperated with it in the war against Nazi Germany. All that Israel’s early tolerance and even support of Hamas against the violent PLO proves is that it was naive to think that any fundamentalist Islamic organization could have peaceful intentions and Israel will certainly take this into account in the future. What Hamas became had very little to do with Israel’s attitude toward it.

      • Gene Schulman March 17, 2014 at 2:19 am #

        Ho, ho, ho! http://globalresearch.ca/articles/ZER403A.html

      • Fred Skolnik March 17, 2014 at 2:24 am #

        Ho ho ho? You are again “referencing” a second-hand source that you are unequipped to evaluate and which is in facto only repeating what I have just said. Israel tolerated and even supported Hamas as a counterweight at a time when Israel was at war with the PlO. No one except people like yourself, and for obvious reasons, claims that Israel played any significant part in Hamas’s evolution. Saying it does not make it true. All you are really saying with reference to Hamas is that it’s impossible to trust the Arabs, and even I am not saying that.

      • Richard Falk March 17, 2014 at 7:54 am #

        Again from my perspective the comments section of this blog has strayed far from my wishes.
        It has become a site for the exchange of polemical views about Israel, and the nature of the
        Palestinian struggle. Although admittedly I lean toward one side in this debate, I would like to suspend
        it for the present, while continuing to invite comments that address substantive concerns in a
        responsible manner. Please do not submit comments that address the Israel/Palestine agenda until
        a new post is devoted to such themes.

    • Kata Fisher March 18, 2014 at 10:50 am #

      Dear Rabbi Ira Youdovin:

      I fully agree with your perception and still remain absolutely right and not wrong in my understanding, and I will explain that. In addition to that, I would like to add to your argument and state this: collision of world-views can be brought to one systematic understanding if we are willing to be objective and truthful to ourselves as we are to others.

      We need to reflect on psychological and security needs of others in order to have a base understanding of the cultural context, and persistent forces that effect the people in the Holy Land. Then we look at the “Covenant of Hamas” as a document itself, and we can see that it is a “work of art” in the form of that which was reflected on (Judicial Theology) and is written down – in the context of historical events / background – and specifically, in the historical context of the works after WWII /after causes and effects within the region of the Holy Land (Palestinian exodus).

      Likewise, Israel’s State in its pursuit of (Judicial Theology) by the “War of Independence” and this, too, is somewhat “the work of art” implemented by individual and corporate will. When is human will (in performance / works) illegal and when does this translates into the definition of war crimes / genocide / terrorisms. It is optional how we can and cannot interpret this situation:


      We have to reflect on that history and note this: “What is a valid definition for terrorisms and how does it look like?” Say that we see the acts of terrorism, and then we would also know what it is? Well, most likely we do not, unless we study and have an insight to what are some acts of terrorisms, and what not?

      Can a valid self-defense be an act of terrorism, war-crimes and /or genocide? – Absolutely not. What is a valid and what is invalid act of self-defense; correct individually and corporately?

      What do I mean by this? We have to look at peoples and tribes in the context of their human existence and cultural expressions of values as they are in pursuit of self-preservation. We ask this: “By what means are they in pursuit of preservation?”

      Transition of ideas is a reflective strategy — in the category of human behaviors of thought in action and will include Philosophy, History and Theology! Meaning, there is a Theological Argument behind “Hamas Constitution.” Likewise, there is a Theological Argument and the force behind Israeli “War of Independence” that is taking place and is manifested in this point in time. How do we reconcile this situation in the context of times and all Laws that are appointed–Laws that would guide our Theological behaviors?

      Now we find ourselves in the complexity of the issue of the situation in the Holy Land which again points back to the base structure of this: Philosophy, History & Theology. When do we reflect in the context of different disciplines, and how we apply these disciplines to the situational context we have to do that in a goodwill and legitimacy? We cannot yield conditions that will confuse the truth, and it will be counter-effective to the well-being of the human condition. What type of the human condition we are trying to aid or restrict will depend on individual and corporate will / mind / spirit! We cannot aid actions that terrorize people; that is, to empower & fuel the war crimes that yield genocide, and violation of human rights. We can apply Philosophy, History & Theology and achieve acceptable relatedness to the objective truth: one systematic understanding of different members / individuals and aid people in the Holy Land and region to move toward repentance and reconciliation.

      We understand that in this point in time, and under International Law Hamas will not be killing Jews in the Holy Land – we have a scientific reference to this fact: they are Jews-ancient as contemporary Arab-Muslims / Hamas. Otherwise, they would be killing peoples that are among themselves, and themselves! This is act of terrorism: “self-destruction” and aid to that is war-crimes and genocide.

      We cannot see Palestinian exodus and conditions of Palestinian citizens as a just position that is righteously applicable to them in the context of any of the Laws that are appointed. Their condition is this: people that are oppressed regardless what their Judicial Theology is and how they have misapplied (in interpretation /argument) their Theological Principle / heresy. We will reflect on the situation in the Holy Land and Palestine in the context of their human existence, first, and by individual and corporate ability to evaluate religious extremism in the context of some socioreligious patterns; clearly discerning what is NOT religious extremism: legitimate warfare/self-defense.

      This brings us back to this: War crimes (destruction of property, genocide and misplacement of the people in the Holy Land) by Israel as an armed state; that is, an armed force against population on the grounds of the Holy Land/Palestine and resistance of people of Holy Land/Palestine to that cultural condition and /or an armed state that oppresses them in their legitimate inheritance.

      Now, Gaza is under a Theological Constitution (and distorted justice of that). It is so, just as it is a secular state of Israel that is in pursuit of some distorted Theological Constitution, as well — has not their Judicial Theology in a valid power, and theirs power in work is based on a heresy!

      What does this mean? They can be flexible and update their principles (for Hamas) and definitely change the works of Israel as a state, in good will and no harm. Why do I say that? Well, they can do that, in fact, in order to be accountable to their constituency, by soft-power that is embraced and guarded by International Law that would protect their right to Judicial Theology-valid: their right to move in the truth & valid power.

      With this approach their achievement is not a cycle that is anchored between their psychological assumption and security (which is valid practice for any human and not very effective) but rather a governing force that may or may not be a part of the Faith-Islamic as principles, and /or the Faith-Jewish works by principles. Again, any Theological assumptions have to be anchored in something that has its substance – or- it will be a dead-end cycle of achievements that will have to fulfill two things: psychological assumption and security. These truths are also appropriate for Israelites as there is no valid outcome without truth.
      We can expand on these arguments and seek that what is right, to seek truth at best possible, for all. What can they apply in this point of time and achieve the best that they can, with no or minimal shortfalls?
      I am willing to go about Theology discerning, in a public setting. Still, the rule in general is to avoid upsetting the Faith of others; however, we can even do that when necessary.

      Hamas is legitimately elected government — this stands independently from the fact that their principles are misinterpreted and misapplied Islamic Theology to that undertaking. How can their undertaking be blessed? Now they are stuck with principles that do not violate the appointed Law’s -, not in the context. People’s right to the self-defense/legitimate right of peoples is independent of their principle – or Theology! However, Hamas does violate the purpose for the Scripture outside its appointed area, and this is why we have these arguments. Their unrighteous behavior adds to their grief! They would be more righteous to take the Book of Prophesy (Holy Qur’ an) and apply it as the WHOLE / ENTIRE Book as their Constitution – or be as a secular government. Their way only despises the Prophesy (Holy Qur’ an) in precisely the same way that is despised by other in their immaturity and / or viciousness.

      Israel is doing exactly the same but different in approach with the Scripture!

      There is a complete different picture what is taking place with practices of Israeli state – in literal works / application of misinterpreted Theology that violates International Law — as well as the Law of Scripture and places the Scripture itself outside a delegated area. They are oppressors in the Holy Land.

      I hope this is helpful. 😀 😀 😀


  16. Sergey March 17, 2014 at 12:51 am #

    Dear Dr. Falk,

    Thank you for yet another inspiring and uplifting entry in your blog.
    May all of us have the courage to persist in the name of justice and freedom, and the intellectual faculty to articulate our demands for justice.

    Best regards,

  17. Sam Richards March 17, 2014 at 9:02 pm #

    Professor Falk.
    Thanks for your very thoughtful essay. I’d say it was rather startling to read the entire thing and then be hammered over the head by the comments from Mr. Skolnik. I’m not sure he even read your reflections. I think he just wanted to fight.

    But enough of that debate and on to your essay:

    I find your reflections sobering. I’m a 53 year old academic who’s been around the block and then some. I don’t have children but I have lots of students. I, too, am concerned about climate change and general system collapse and spend a great deal of my spare time addressing many of the issues that you address — even though I have no horse in the race, so to speak (since I don’t have children and I’ll likely be out of here by the time shit totally hits the fan). In fact, I have no spare time because I am working 12-14 hours per day.

    So something in me keeps working without pause, something that is calling me to try to make this world a better place than it would be without my efforts. And like you, I’m just trying to figure out what that pulls me forward. Clearly, judging from your essay, you have some sort of a handle on your motivations. And so your words were helpful as a sort of a guide — and to know that I’m not alone.

    Be well and thanks for believing in yourself and your gut-level sense of fairness for all people.

    Here’s a video for you to watch if you have 18 minutes:

    Thanks again.

    • Kata Fisher March 19, 2014 at 10:39 am #

      I have a reflection:

      A. Richard’s. Brown writes that “According to the Children Defense Fund (As November 2005), each day in America:
       4 children are killed by abuse or neglect
       5 children or teens commit suicide
       35 children or teens die from accidents
       181 children are arrested for violent crimes
       380 children are arrested for drug abuse
       1,154 babies are born to teen mothers
       2,482 children are confirmed as abused or neglected
       2.756 high school students drop out (based on the calculation on a school day/180 days of seven hours each).
       3.879 babies are born to unmarried mothers
       4,356 children are arrested.”

      • Brown, Richard S. Principles of Student Ministry: An Overview of a Biblically Based Approach to Student Ministries. Virginia Beach, VA: Academx Publishing Services, 2007.

      A Note: Brown was/is a professor @ LU (a Christian University) where they are blind and without slightest idea what they should do concerning youth ministry/child rights.

      Their truth is diluted and diverted…

  18. lee beckom March 18, 2014 at 7:17 am #

    Thank you for your thoughts on your career. Lots of what you said resonates with me.
    lee b

  19. Tatzia Langlo March 18, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    Dear Dr. Falk,


    I am only one of your students who is continually inspired and guided by your work. I believe I have shared this with you before, but do not imagine you to remember, I have always been interested in your work because for some reason my date of birth being 6-7-67, has connected my interest with issues between Israel and Palestine, and the patterns of conflicts repeated between the east and west during the cold war and now, in youth between my mother and my father, and my brother and sister. This pattern of responding to difference and hidden causes of conflict have since been the problem of inquiry in my academic and personal life. So far I find, all conflict and choices in responding to conflict begins within. I appreciate your reflections shared in this post with humble appreciation!

    Forgive me if this post is not responding in an academic manner, if so it would be in the form of more questions.I cite your work often, particularly regarding the need for human rights to be included in education curricula of the United States. At the same time curricula for global governance is also necessary to be learned and taught both in and out of school curricula. – a subject to discuss another time.

    You wrote that you “would not want the defamers of UN Watch to have the last word as to my character, beliefs, and public role.” And I want you to know that I will never be dissuaded of your work, nor will many others be turned by defamers. (I write this, yet find the act of defaming, to be a form of violence regardless of who or for what purpose it is directed, and find it displayed back and forth in many of the comments above – all with good intent I am sure.)

    You also wrote:

    “I have no illusions or ambitions that my contributions will make any historical difference, although I feel vindicated if even one student, reader, or listener responds favorably.”

    To which I respond, Dr. Falk, you have many more than one student, reader, and listener who more than responds favorably. Speaking for myself, (who can only very barely be described as one of your students) you and your contributions to peace in Israel and Palestine and in the world, will never die. That said I absolutely forbid you to die any time soon, as I plan to beg you to speak at UCSB and Bogazici University in Turkey in the coming years, regarding human right s and education, or suggest someone who will do so on your behalf.

    I would like readers of your post to learn one piece of your teaching practices that is experienced in your courses. That important piece is that approximately 95% of the literature and discussion is directed to understanding other perspectives from your own! Not condemning or attacking – understanding and searching for other possibilities in the horizons of our future to be created. I do not want only to continue learning from you, I also want to teach in this manner of seeking first to understand and to position students and citizens to create future possibilities.

    Thank you for your continued pilgrimage,


  20. ccu September 17, 2019 at 2:17 am #



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