United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the UNGA. (AP/Bebeto Matthews) (AP/Bebeto Matthews)
António Guterres

The beginning of change? The UN rejected a report, compiled by one of its agencies, accusing Israel of Apartheid. 

The secretary-general of the United Nations (UN) on Friday rejected a report, authored by UN officials, that accused Israel of establishing an “apartheid regime,” prompting the resignation of the head of the agency that authored it.

The report, compiled by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and titled “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid: Palestine and the Israeli Occupation,” was produced by Princeton Professor Emeritus Richard Falk, the UN’s former Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Palestine, and American political scientist Virginia Tilley of Southern Illinois University.

Both have a long history of anti-Israel activism.

The report “concludes, on the basis of overwhelming evidence, that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid, and urges swift action to oppose and end it.”

ESCWA is comprised of 18 Arab states.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for the report to be removed from ESCWA’s website.

Anti-Israel Agency Head Steps Down

UN Under-Secretary-General and ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf announced her resignation, saying she was pressured by Guterres to withdraw the report.

“It was expected, naturally, that Israel and its allies would exercise immense pressure on the UN secretary-general to distance himself from the report and to ask for it to be withdrawn,” she said at a press conference in Lebanon.

When Guterres instructed her on Thursday morning to withdraw the report, “I asked him to review his position but he insisted on it,” Khalaf said. “Based on that, I submitted to him my resignation from the United Nations.”

“A secretary-general cannot accept that an undersecretary-general or any other senior UN official that reports to him would authorize the publication under the UN name, under the UN logo, without consulting the competent departments and even himself,” Dujarric said after Khalaf’s resignation. “It’s about senior officials dealing with a matter that implicates other parts of the system — that they consult and they coordinate.”

US, Israel Welcome Resignation

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the US was outraged by the report and suggested it be withdrawn.

“When someone issues a false and defamatory report in the name of the UN, it is appropriate that the person resign. UN agencies must do a better job of eliminating false and biased work, and I applaud the secretary-general’s decision to distance his good office from it,” Haley stated after Khalaf stepped down.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon also welcomed Khalaf’s resignation. “The Secretary General’s decision is an important step in ending the bias against Israel at the UN,” he said.

“Anti-Israel activists do not belong in the UN. It is time to put an end to practice in which UN officials use their position to advance their anti-Israel agenda. Over the years, Khalaf has worked to harm Israel and advocate for the BDS movement. Her removal from the UN is long overdue,” Danon stated.

Khalaf, a Kuwait-born Jordanian diplomat, was accused in 2015 by Danon’s predecessor, Ron Prosor, of “modern-day anti-Semitism.”

A Hero in the Arab World

Several anti-Israel entities lauded Khalaf as a hero.

Hassan Nasrallah, secretary-general of the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror organization, said that Khalaf’s resignation proves his accusation that the UN is “under the control of the US, [and] therefore it is too weak to defend our rights, and this is why we can never rely on its decisions to restore our occupied lands [i.e. Israel].”

“Second, the stance of this Arab lady who sacrificed her position and job, and will have to bear the consequences of her decision in the future is worth offering my gratitude, and the gratitude of the resistance fighters and all the honorable people the world,” he added.

Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi condemned the UN’s decision to remove the report. “Instead of succumbing to political blackmail or allowing itself to be censured or intimidated by external parties, the UN should condemn the acts described in the report and hold Israel responsible,” she said in a written statement published Saturday.

Ashrawi called on Guterres “to do what is right, reinstate the ESCWA report and undertake serious and concrete measures to hold Israel accountable for its persistent violations of international law and human rights.”

Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Maliki reacted to Khalaf’s resignation with “deep regret” and expressed his “unequivocal objection” to the withdrawal of the report, which he described as an “objective analysis of the facts on the ground, arriving at an accurate conclusion based on the legal definition of the crime of apartheid.”

“Palestine considers the withdrawal to be counterproductive and ill-advised,” Al-Maliki said. “This has far-reaching negative consequences for the international system as we know it.”

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel