UN chief Antonio Guterres has accepted the resignation of the head of the UN West Asia commission after he asked her to remove from the internet a report accusing Israel of imposing an “apartheid regime” on Palestinians, a UN spokesman says.
“This is not about content, this is about process,” said Guterres’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Friday.
“The secretary-general cannot accept that an under-secretary-general or any other senior UN official that reports to him would authorise the publication under the UN name, under the UN logo, without consulting the competent departments and even himself,” he told reporters.
The Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), which comprises 18 Arab states, published the report on Wednesday and said it was the first time a UN body had clearly made the charge.
Guterres insisted on the withdrawal of the report, UN Under-Secretary General and ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf said.
“Based on that, I submitted to him my resignation from the United Nations,” Khalaf told a news conference in Beirut on Friday.
The report concluded “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole”. The accusation is fiercely rejected by Israel.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman likened the report to anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda. The United States, Israel’s main ally, said it was outraged by the report.
“It was expected that Israel and its allies would put enormous pressure on the United Nations secretary general to renounce the report,” Khalaf said.
Khalaf stood by the report, calling it the “first of its kind” from a UN agency that sheds light on “the crimes that Israel continues to commit against the Palestinian people, which amount to war crimes against humanity”.
The report, which Khalaf had said had been prepared at the request of ESCWA member states, was no longer visible on the commission’s website on Friday.