Apart from being the UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, Richard Falk is Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University. On account of his legal training and expertise one should expect from him clarity and precision of thought, right? Wrong. Falk has decided, from 'a posture of humility', no less, that it's better not to 'mak[e] judgments about the tactics of struggle employed by those fighting against oppression'.
Accordingly, he endorses the view that 'it is for the Palestinians, and only the Palestinians, to decide on the forms and nature of their resistance', and that 'for sympathetic observers and allies to worship at the altar of Palestinian non-violence is to cede to the West the authority to determine what are acceptable and unacceptable forms of Palestinian struggle'. He confesses to some unwitting paternalism of this stripe on his own part in the past. However, now he's cured, right? Not for him or anyone else to advise the Palestians that, just like other peoples, movements, etc, they should not violate the norms of international humanitarian law by deliberately killing civilians, right? Wrong. Falk still wants to remind his readers:
At the same time, there are some universal values at stake... Two of these truths are intertwined in bewildering complexity: no outsider has the moral authority or political legitimacy to tell those enduring severe oppression how to behave; no act of violence, whatever the motivation, that is directed against an innocent child or civilian bystander is morally acceptable or legally permissible, even if it seems politically useful.
'Bewildering complexity' shows a certain self-awareness on Falk's part, though better here, perhaps, would have been 'avoidable confusion'. To say, as he does, that violence against the innocent is neither morally acceptable nor legally permissible and that this is a universal value is, willy-nilly, to offer advice of a kind - advice to everyone about what may not be done. Or does he just mean to affirm these 'universal values' as empty of normative force? I wish Richard Falk a further happy process of reflection.