UN Official Resigns after Pressure to Withdraw Israel Apartheid Report
By: Ali Abunimah / The Dawn / March 17, 2017
A senior United Nations official has resigned, following pressure from Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to withdraw the landmark report published earlier this week finding Israel guilty of apartheid.
Rima Khalaf, the head of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) which published the report, announced her resignation at a press conference in Beirut on Friday.
Reuters reports that Khalaf took the step “after what she described as pressure from the secretary-general to withdraw a report accusing Israel of imposing an ‘apartheid regime’ on Palestinians.”
“I resigned because it is my duty not to conceal a clear crime, and I stand by all the conclusions of the report,” Khalaf stated.
As of Friday, a press release announcing the report remained visible on the ESCWA website, but the link to the report itself from the press release no longer works.
It concludes that “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.”
It finds “beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crimes of apartheid” as defined in international law. It urges national governments to “support boycott, divestment and sanctions activities and respond positively to calls for such initiatives.”
Palestinians warmly welcomed the report, but Israel angrily denounced it as akin to Nazi propaganda. Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN demanded that the report be withdrawn. That demand came just as the Trump administration announced a budget plan that includes sweeping cuts in US contributions to the UN.
Khalaf’s resignation indicates that Guterres acted obediently and swiftly to carry out the orders from the United States. In a tweet, the Anti-Defamation League, a powerful Israel lobby group in the United States, thanked Guterres for urging ESCWA to withdraw the report.
The Israeli government has long targeted Khalaf for retaliation for doing her job. In 2014, its UN ambassador demanded she be removed from her post for criticizing Israel’s policies of occupation and Jewish colonization of Palestinian territory at the expense of Muslim and Christian communities.
The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the civil society coalition that leads the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, condemned Guterres’ intervention.
“The fact that a UN secretary general has bowed to threats and intimidation from the Trump administration to protect Israel from accountability, yet again, is hardly news,” the BNC said. “The real news is that this time round, Israel, with all its influence in Washington, cannot put the genie back into the bottle.”
“Palestinians are deeply grateful to ESCWA’s director, Dr. Rima Khalaf, who preferred to resign in dignity than to surrender her principles to US-Israeli bullying,” the BNC added.
Khalaf’s resignation, under pressure to suppress factual and legal findings unfavorable to Israel, will send a chilling message to other UN officials that they are better off serving those in power than in upholding any mandate to advance human rights and respect for international law.
Source: Electronic Intifada
The UN report – “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid” (now unavailable)– is not a comparison between Israel and apartheid South Africa, but an evaluation of Israel’s practices against the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid and other key human rights laws.
The convention defines the crime of apartheid as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.”
International law defines racial discrimination to mean “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent or ethnic or national origin,” the report notes.
The Zionist movement’s “claim to Palestine as the exclusive homeland of the Jewish people rests on an expressly racial conception of both groups,” the report states. “This means that Jews and Palestinians are ‘racial groups’ ” for the purposes of applying the apartheid convention.
“The mission of preserving Israel as a Jewish state has inspired or even compelled Israel to pursue several general racial policies,” the report says.
These include “demographic engineering, in order to establish and maintain an overwhelming Jewish majority in Israel.”
This encompasses the ethnic cleansing of almost 800,000 Palestinians in 1948, the denial of the right of return for Palestinian refugees and “a range of other policies designed to restrict the size of the Palestinian population.”
Although they can vote, the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel – about a fifth of the state’s citizens – are also systematically restricted, while full rights are granted only to Jews.
Meanwhile, Israel’s discriminatory “Law of Return” automatically grants citizenship to Jews from anywhere in the world, “while denying citizenship even to those Palestinians who have a documented history of residency in the country.”
Arab Diplomat Behind UN’s Israel ‘Apartheid’ Report to Get Top Palestinian Honor
Jack Khoury / Source: Haaretz / The Dawn News / March 19, 2017
The nixed report said Israel established an ‘apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people’ – an accusation never before made by a UN body.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has announced that he will be granting the highest Palestinian honor to a Jordanian diplomat who stepped down on Friday as the head of a UN commission over pressure to withdraw a report accusing Israel of apartheid.
The announcement from the office of the Palestinian president said that he had spoken personally with Rima Khalaf and thanked her for her support for the Palestinian people.
“Khalaf stood by her principles and the principles of international law and refused to remain in [her] position without the freedom of action to disclose the facts and the humanitarian situation in which the Palestinian people are living in under Israeli occupation,” the statement said.
The report for the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), which comprises 18 Arab states, concluded that “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.”
The accusation – often directed against Israel by its critics – has never before been made by a United Nations body.
Khalaf resigned from her position as the executive-secretary of the Lebanon-based commission after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asked that the controversial report be remove from the agency’s website.
Khalaf stood by the report, calling it the “first of its kind” from a UN agency that sheds light on “the crimes that Israel continues to commit against the Palestinian people, which amount to war crimes against humanity.”
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the report was published without prior consultation with the UN secretariat.
Israel’s UN envoy Danny Danon thanked Guterres for demanding the report’s withdrawal, saying that “the time has come to put an end to those using their status within the UN to promote anti-Israel activity.
“Khalaf has for years worked to harm Israel and to promote the BDS and she should have left her role a long time ago.”