UN Secretary General asks for report accusing Israel of apartheid to be pulled

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, pictured on January 30, 2017, appealed for the US to reverse the suspension of refugee resettlement
ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER (AFP/File)
UN Deputy Chief and head of commission that published report resigns under pressure for its removal

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has requested the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) to pull a report it published accusing Israel of being an "apartheid regime" from the internet, Reuters reported Friday.

The report published on the ESCWA's website said that Palestinians were subjected to a "strategic fragmentation" that allowed Israel to impose "racial domination" with different sets of laws by geographic regions.

The analysis showed "beyond a reasonable doubt" that "Israel is guilty of imposing an apartheid regime on the Palestinian people, which amounts to the commission of a crime against humanity."

Based in Beirut, ESCWA is comprised of 18 Arab countries, according to its website, which lists the state of Palestine as a full member, and works to strengthen cooperation and promote development.

Shortly after Guterres asked for the report's removal, Deputy UN Chief and ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf of Jordan submitted her resignation, citing pressure over the document's removal as her reason for leaving her role as head of the commission, Reuters said.

Khalaf, under-secretary general and executive secretary at the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), told a news conference: "The secretary general asked me yesterday morning to withdraw (the report). I asked him to rethink his decision, he insisted, so I submitted my resignation from the UN."

Israel's Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon welcomed Guterres' call for the reports removal, calling it an "important step" in ending anti-Israel bias at the world body.

"Anti-Israel activists do not belong in the U.N.," Danon said. "It is time to put an end to the practice in which U.N. officials use their position to advance their anti-Israel agenda."

Addressing Khalaf's resignation, Danon noted her "work to harm Israel and advocate for the BDS movement," adding that "her removal from the U.N. is long overdue."

Guterres distanced himself from the report after it was published, with U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric saying earlier this week that "the report as it stands does not reflect the views of the secretary-general" and was done without consultations with the UN secretariat.

The United States stepped in on Wednesday, saying that the report should be scrapped altogether.

"The United States is outraged by the report," said US Ambassador Nikki Haley in a statement.

"The United Nations secretariat was right to distance itself from this report, but it must go further and withdraw the report altogether."

(Staff with agencies)

This is a developing story

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