The UN releases and then pulls report describing Israel as apartheid

Rima Khalaf

UN official Rima Khalaf resigns in protest

António Guterres

António Guterres, UN Secretary General

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) commissioned a review of the practical policies and practices of Israel towards the Palestinian people, including the occupied territories, i.e. the whole area from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean. The authors of the report were Richard Falk, Emeritus Professor of international law at Princeton University, and from 2008 to 2014 the UN Special Rapporteur for Palestine, and Virginia Tilley, PhD, Professor of Political Science at Southern Illinois University.

Their report found Israel guilty beyond reasonable doubt of operating a systematic discrimination and oppression against the Palestinian people, stating that it was an apartheid regime. Among many other things, the authors found Palestinians living in Israel had no legal tools for dismantling the racialized hierarchies enshrined in the agencies concerned with settling Jewish Immigrants, due to a 1958 law (functionally part of Israel’s constitution) that called for a Jewish character of the country. Palestinians could campaign for only minor reforms and better municipal budgets, but were legally prohibited from challenging the racial regime itself. Significantly the report concluded that UN organs should sanction Israel and coordinate with civil society groups in boycott campaigns.

The report drew a very angry response from Israel, which denounced it as akin to Nazi propaganda, while Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN demanded that it be withdrawn. The Secretary General’s office ordered the head of ESCWA, Rima Khalaf, to do exactly that, but Khalaf stood firm and opted to resign, saying it is my duty not to conceal a clear crime, and I stand by all the conclusions of the report. Significantly, the US demand came just as the Trump administration announced a budget plan that includes sweeping cuts in US contributions to the UN

The action of the new UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, seems questionable. Prominent people like John Kerry and Boris Johnson have been warning of Israel becoming an apartheid regime, and the authors simply pointed out that Israel had already reached that point. This was made very clear by Knesset’s passing of the Regularization Law, which legitimatizes the confiscation of the Palestinian privately-owned lands and the settlement outposts established on Palestinian lands in the West Bank, and allows the confiscation of new lands.