A U.N. report published this week accused Israel of imposing an “apartheid regime” of racial discrimination on the Palestinian people. Shortly after its release, the official who approved its publication resigned amid pressure to pull it, and the report has since been withdrawn.
The report, written by the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), concluded that “Israel [has] established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole” — a charge Israel vehemently denies.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman likened the report to Der Sturmer, a Nazi propaganda publication that was strongly anti-Semitic.
It is a unique and beneficial position to be in wherein every legitimate criticism of one’s policies is deemed to be racially or politically motivated. In that sense, Israel wants to be ultimately free of criticism, even when the nation commits serious violations of international law. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. has staunchly come to Israel’s defense.
“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, as reported by the Independent.
The ESCWA comprises 18 Arab states in Western Asia and has a view of supporting economic and social development in member states, according to its website. The report was prepared at the request of its member states and notes it reflects the views of the authors only. It was also published without any prior consultation with the U.N. secretariat.
Is the report entirely without merit, as the U.S. and Israel would have us believe? According to the report’s abstract :
“A history of war, annexation and expulsions, as well as a series of practices, has left the Palestinian people fragmented into four distinct population groups, three of them (citizens of Israel, residents of East Jerusalem and the populace under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza) living under direct Israeli rule and the remainder, refugees and involuntary exiles, living beyond. This fragmentation, coupled with the application of discrete bodies of law to those groups, lie at the heart of the apartheid regime. They serve to enfeeble opposition to it and to veil its very existence. This report concludes, on the basis of overwhelming evidence, that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid, and urges swift action to oppose and end it.”
South Africa, a country whose infamous history of an apartheid regime shows its people are adept enough to recognize apartheid when they see it, has been a staunch backer of the Palestinian movement for years. South Africa’s International Relations Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, once famously stated “the Palestinian struggle is our struggle.”
The U.N. report was authored by Richard Falk, a former U.N. human rights investigator for the Palestinian territories, and Virginia Tilley, a professor of political science at Southern Illinois University.
After its publication, U.N. Under-Secretary General and ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf resigned amid pressure from Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to withdraw it, Reuters reports. She stood by the report, adding, “It was expected that Israel and its allies would put enormous pressure on the United Nations secretary-general to renounce the report.”