israel occupation apartheid report

The report is here (75 pp, pdf) – RB

Trump Administration Ousts UN Official to Protect Israel From Criticism
Glenn Greenwald, Intercept, Mar 18 2017

Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

On Wednesday, a UN agency published a report noting that “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.” Yesterday, the author of that report, who has served as executive secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA) since 2010, Rima Khalef, resigned after the Trump administration, working in conjunction with Israel, pressured the UN secretary-general to demand that she withdraw the report. Khalef, a Jordanian national who has served in multiple high government positions, refused the demand to repudiate her own report, instead choosing to resign. The report, which was co-authored by Princeton professor and former UN official Richard Falk, a longtime critic of Israeli occupation, has now been removed from the UNESCWA website. What makes this event most remarkable is how unremarkable the report’s conclusion is: It’s a point that a former Israeli prime minister, as well as Trump’s own defense secretary, has made unequivocally. Back in 2010, Ehud Barak, Israel’s former prime minister and its most decorated soldier, explicitly warned that Israel was on a path to what he called a permanent “apartheid” state. As he put it:

As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of ­Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.


Seven years later, Israel is indisputably committed to exactly that outcome. Many of its key ministers do not even support a two-state solution. Israeli expansion of illegal settlements continues unabated. Palestinians are further away than ever from full political rights, or even enjoying the right of democratic self-determination. As Barak himself pointed out, this is the very definition of apartheid. Yet now, thanks to the Trump administration’s self-destructive devotion to Israeli interests, an odd posture for a president who ran on a platform of “Putting Pindostan First,” it is impermissible for UN officials to note this reality lest Israel be offended. In its report on the ouster of Khalef, CNN was surprisingly blunt about what this all means:

Memo to critics of Israel inside the UN system: Prepare to pay a price. Pindostan under Trump has made it quite clear it will defend Israel perhaps more than all other countries at the UN.

Early on his campaign, Trump issued controversial positions about Israel, including his statement that Pindostan should be “neutral” in the Israel-Palestine conflict and his proclaiming his immunity to AIPAC influence. But, as I noted last July, once he secured the nomination, he quickly switched to the standard pro-Israel line, beginning with his Jared Kushner-written AIPAC speech, and then went even beyond Pindo orthodoxy on Israel by explicitly endorsing expansion of Israeli settlements. Since his inauguration, all signs indicate Trump will be an inflammatory fanatic when it comes to Pindosi support for Israeli aggression, even at the expense of Pindosi interests. He nominated a pro-settlement extremist to be his ambassador to Israel. He has repeatedly suggested that his son-in-law Kushner, whose family has long supported extremist settlements, will be his key envoy in the region. And he even appeared to abandon Pindostan’s long-standing rhetorical commitment to a two-state solution (a commitment it long ago abandoned in action), before his administration re-affirmed it. What makes all of this most extraordinary is that Trump’s own Pentagon chief has previously warned that exactly this kind of mentality, defending Israeli aggression and expansion, is directly harmful to Pindostan. At the Aspen Security Forum in 2013, ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis said:

I paid a military security price every day as the commander of CENTCOM because the Pindosis were seen as biased in support of Israel, and that moderates all the moderate Arabs who want to be with us, because they can’t come out publicly in support of people who don’t show respect for the Arab Palestinians.

Indeed, people charged with anti-Pindosi terrorism frequently cite Pindo support for Israeli aggression as a key grievance. Moreover, Mattis “called the current situation in Israel ‘unsustainable’ and blamed the settlements for harming prospects for peace.” Most ironically of all, Mattis “called it a choice between giving up the idea of a Jewish state or becoming an apartheid state,” exactly the point the Trump administration is now trying to make unutterable at the UN.


Trump convinced millions of people to vote for him by promising to prioritize Pindosi interests over those of other nations. Yet what Trump is doing at the UN and in the Middle East more broadly, is exactly the opposite. He is empowering exactly the ideologues who have long venerated a defense of the Israeli government over all other considerations, not just the human and political rights of Palestinians but also the concrete security interests of Pindostan.

UN official resigns after pressure to withdraw Israel apartheid report
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, Mar 17 2017

A senior UN official has resigned, following pressure from Sec-Gen 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.” Khalaf stated:

I resigned because it is my duty not to conceal a clear crime, and I stand by all the conclusions of the report.

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. A full copy of the report is available here (75 pp, pdf). It says:

We conclude that Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole. We find beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crimes of apartheid” as defined in international law. We urges national governments to support BDS activities and respond positively to calls for such initiatives.

Palestinians warmly welcomed the report, but Israel angrily denounced it as akin to Nazi propaganda. Pindo ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley demanded that the report be withdrawn. That demand came just as the Trump administration announced a budget plan that includes sweeping cuts in Pindo contributions to the UN. Khalaf’s resignation indicates that Guterres acted obediently and swiftly to carry out the orders from Pindostan. The ADL thanked Guterres for urging ESCWA to withdraw the report, tweeting:

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) condemned Guterres’ intervention, saying:

The fact that a UN Sec-Gen has bowed to threats and intimidation from the Trump administration to protect Israel from accountability, yet again, is hardly news. The real news is that this time round, Israel, with all its influence in Faschingstein, 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 USraeli bullying.

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.

UN official’s resignation letter
Mondoweiss, Mar 18 2017

Yesterday Rima Khalaf resigned as executive secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia after the agency was forced to retract a report stating that Israel is an “apartheid regime.” Khalaf’s letter of resignation to UN Sec-Gen Guterres was translated and posted by poet Lena Khalaf Tuffaha today on her Facebook page. She prefaced the posting with these words:

Dr Rima Khalaf, career diplomat extraordinaire, personal hero and Executive Secretary of ESCWA, resigned today after the UN Sec-Gen tried to withdraw a report that correctly identified Israel as an apartheid regime. Anyone who cares about freedom and equality should read her letter of resignation, which I have translated here. Her letter is a document that is now part of the history of the struggle for freedom. And anyone in the west who’s super worried about women in the Arab world should sit down, because we have Rima and many women like her who just need everyone to get out the way so we can get our work done. Khalaf women don’t play. Palestinian women don’t play.

Here is that translation:

Honorable Secretary General, I have given a great deal of consideration to the letter I received from your office, and I assure you that I in no way question your right to issue instructions to remove the report from the ESCWA web site, as I do not question that as employees of the UN, we must all execute the orders of our Sec-Gen. I know very well your commitment to the principles of human rights in general and your position on the rights of the Palestinian people specifically. And I also understand the anxiety you must have in these difficult times that leave you with few good choices. It is clear to me the kinds of pressures and threats to which the UN and you personally are subjected by states with authority and influence, because of the publication of the ESCWA report. I am unsurprised that these states, which are run today by governments with little concern for international principles and human rights, should resort to tactics of fearmongering and threats when they fail to defend their policies and practices which violate the law. It makes sense that a criminal would attack those who defend the cause of his victims, but I find myself incapable of bowing to such pressures, and not because of my role as an employee of the UN, but simply as a sane human being. For I believe as you do in the values and noble principles that have always represented the forces of good throughout history, and upon which our organization, the UN, was founded. And, like you, I also believe that discrimination against any human being on the basis of religion or skin color or gender or ethnicity is absolutely unacceptable, and cannot be made acceptable by political maneuvering or brute force. And I believe that to speak truth to power is not only a human right, it is our obligation.

Over the course of two months, I have been instructed to withdraw two reports published by ESCWA, not for any error or shortcomings within the reports themselves and not necessarily because you yourself disagree with their content, but because of political pressures from countries implicated by their blatant violations of the rights of people in the region and human rights in general. You have seen with your own eyes how the people of this region are enduring episodes of pain and suffering unprecedented in their modern history, and that the deluge of catastrophes that has overtaken them today is a direct result of unchecked oppression which has been ignored, or covered up, or openly engaged in by governments with dominance and force within the region and outside of it. These same governments are the ones pressuring you today to silence the voice of truth and the calls for justice represented by this report. In view of all that I have stated here, I can only insist on the findings of the ESCWA report, which state that Israel has built an apartheid regime which aims to give one ethnic group control over another. The evidence provided in the report is incontrovertible, and here it is sufficient to point out that anyone who has attacked the report has been incapable of calling into question a single word of its actual content. I see it as my obligation to shine a light on the truth and not to hide it or obscure the testimony and evidence it provides. The painful truth is that an apartheid regime still exists in the 21st century, and this is unacceptable under any law and is morally unjustifiable.

As I make this statement, I claim no moral superiority and no greater clarity than you possess, the matter is simply that my statements are a result of an entire life spent here, in this region, witnessing the horrific consequences of stifling people and preventing them from expressing the truth of their suffering through peaceful means. As such, and after great consideration, I realize that I too have no choice. I cannot withdraw, once again, a UN report, an exceptionally researched and well-documented report about grave violations of human rights. I also realize that the clear directives of the Sec-Gen of the UN must be executed. And so the only way to resolve this tangle is for me to step aside and leave it to someone else to do what my conscience prevents me from doing. I realize I have only two weeks of service remaining in my post, so my resignation is not meant to exert any political pressure on you. I am simply resigning because I believe my duty to the peoples of the region that we serve, and to the UN, and to myself, is not to silence the testimony about a crime that causes such suffering to so many human beings. For this reason, I submit to you my resignation from the UN.

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