Rima Khalaf, head of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), resigned after U.N. officials pressured her to retract a report on Israel that accused the state of imposing an apartheid regime in the Palestinian territories.
The report focused on violations of human rights by the Israel state by establishing an apartheid system that harasses the Palestinian people. It was the first time a U.N. body had clearly made the apartheid charge against Israel.
Khalaf said in a news conference that the report “clearly and frankly” concluded that “Israel is a racist state that has established an apartheid system that persecutes the Palestinian people.”
However, the courageous report was termed Nazi propaganda and accused of being anti-Semitic by Israeli officials. The report titled "Israeli Practices Toward the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid” was not available on U.N.’s website at the time of publication.
The United States, being an ally of Israel, also expressed outrage.
“The United Nations secretariat was right to distance itself from this report, but it must go further and withdraw the report altogether,” the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said in a statement.
U.N. chief Secretary General António Guterres succumbed to the political pressure by Israel. He said that he did not have any knowledge about the report, and that it did not reflect his views.
Soon after Khalaf was asked the secretary general to retract the report. Khalaf, who stands by the conclusion of her report, decided to resign.
"It was expected that Israel and its allies will exercise pressure on the U.N. secretary-general to distance himself from the report and that they will ask him to withdraw it," Khalaf said at a press conference in Beirut.
"The secretary-general issued his orders to me yesterday morning to withdraw the report. I asked him to review his position, but he insisted," she explained. "Therefore, I submitted to him my resignation from the U.N."
Haley, who had demanded the ESCWA retract the report, said that it was only appropriate for Khalaf to resign.
“When someone issues a false and defamatory report in the name of the U.N., it is appropriate that the person resign,” Haley said in response to Khalaf’s resignation. She also praised Guterres for his “decision to distance his good office from it.”
According to a U.N. spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, the issue was not with the content of the report but that the report missed out on following the necessary procedures before publishing it. "This is not about content, this is about process," he said.
"The secretary-general cannot accept that an undersecretary-general or any other senior U.N. official that reports to him would authorize the publication under the U.N. name, under the U.N. logo, without consulting the competent departments and even himself.”
Meanwhile, the Palestinian ambassador at the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, who showed admiration for her work, regretted Khalaf’s resignation yet praised her for standing against bullies.
“We reject the atmosphere of bullying and blackmail by some member states, particularly those that violate international law and U.N. resolutions every day.”
People on social media who feel for Palestinians also voiced their opinions in favor of Khalaf.
Proud of Rima Khalaf submitting her resignation as Under Sec Gnr of ESCWA When forced 2 withdraw abreport stating Israel is Apartheid state pic.twitter.com/RTA7kZyvb8— Duha Awayes (@DuhaAwayes) March 17, 2017
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Jamal Saidi