The top official of a United Nations commission that published a report describing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as apartheid quit on Friday, saying the organisation’s leader insisted that she withdraw it. The report provoked outrage from Israel and the United States.
The official, Rima Khalaf, a Jordanian diplomat who is executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, defended the report.
Khalaf’s resignation also reflected the pressure from the Trump administration on her boss, Secretary General António Guterres. President Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, has assailed what she and Israeli officials regard as a strong anti-Israel bias at the organization.
“When someone issues a false and defamatory report in the name of the UN, it is appropriate that the person resign,” Haley said in response to Khalaf’s resignation. She praised Guterres for his “decision to distance his good office from it.”
The report appeared to represent the first time that apartheid — an explosive reference to the institutional oppression of South Africa’s black majority by the white minority, now banned under international law — had been used in a document with the United Nations stamp to explicitly describe Israeli policies toward Palestinians in lands occupied or controlled by Israel.
Guterres said that he had no advance knowledge of the report and that it did not reflect his views. Israel and its supporters had exhorted Guterres to renounce the report, which they described as a baseless smear meant to isolate and delegitimise the country.
The regional commission that produced the report, based in Beirut, Lebanon, comprises 18 Arab member states of the United Nations. Most do not recognise Israel. The authors included a former United Nations human rights investigator, Richard Falk, which particularly galled many Israel supporters who regard him as an antisemite and a discredited conspiracy theorist.
The Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, who was among the first to castigate the commission’s report and call on Guterres to repudiate it, welcomed Khalaf’s resignation.
“Anti-Israel activists do not belong in the UN,” he said in a statement. “It is time to put an end to the practice in which UN officials use their position to advance their anti-Israel agenda.”Monday, March 20, 2017