Senior UN official quits after ‘apartheid’ Israel report pulled
Ellen Francis, Michelle Nichols, Reuters, May 18 2017
Rima Khalaf announcing her resignation in Beirut (Photo: Jamal Saidi/Reuters)
BEIRUT/ NY – Jordanian UN Under-Sec-Gen Rima Khalaf, Exec Sec for the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), resigned on Friday over the withdrawal of a report accusing Israel of imposing an “apartheid regime” on Palestinians, saying “powerful member states” pressured the world body and its chief with “vicious attacks and threats.” She announced her resignation at a news conference in Beirut after Sec-Gen Guterres asked for the report to be taken off the ESCWA website. ESCWA, which comprises 18 Arab states, published the report on Wednesday and said it was the first time a UN body had clearly charged that Israel “has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.” The report said it had established on the “basis of scholarly inquiry and overwhelming evidence, that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid.” Israel fiercely rejects the allegation and likened the report to Der Sturmer. Pindostan had said it was outraged and demanded the report be withdrawn. Khalaf wrote in her letter of resignation letter to Guterres, seen by Reuters, that she stands by the ESCWA report. She wrote:
I do not find it surprising that such member states, who now have governments with little regard for international norms and values of human rights, will resort to intimidation when they find it hard to defend their unlawful policies and practices. It is only normal for criminals to pressure and attack those who advocate the cause of their victims.
Khalaf added Pindo Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said earlier on Friday that Khalaf’s resignation was appropriate, Haley said in a statement:
UN agencies must do a better job of eliminating false and biased work, and I applaud the Sec-Gen’s decision to distance his good office from it.
Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon said in a statement:
This is long overdue. Anti-Israel activists do not belong in the UN.
Sec-Gen’s spox Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York on Friday:
This is not about content, this is about process. The report was published without consultation with the UN secretariat. The sec-gen cannot accept that an under-sec-gen 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.
One of the authors of the report was Richard Falk, a former UN human rights investigator for the Palestinian territories, whom Pindostan has accused of being biased against Israel. While the report was taken off the ECWAS website, Khalaf told reporters:
Let me be clear: the report was issued … and has impacts. The member states received copies of this report. And it is available.
Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon Ashraf Dabbour (L) helps Rima Khalaf put on a
traditional Palestinian scarf after her resignation (Photo: Jamal Saidi/Reuters)