The withdrawal of a UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) report led to the resignation two months ago of Rima Khalaf, executive secretary general of the Commission. The report titled “Israeli practices toward the Palestinian people and the question of Apartheid” was pulled from the Commission’s website following intense pressure on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres by the United States and Israel. Khalaf announced her resignation after the UN chief asked her to remove the report from the ESCWA website. The report accuses Israel of imposing an “Apartheid regime” on Palestinians.
Khalaf is a prominent Jordanian figure in the political and economic fields. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in economics from the prestigious American University of Beirut. She then secured her Master’s and doctorate degrees from the United States. Khalaf has held several ministerial portfolios in Jordan, including the ministries of industry and commerce, and planning. She has also served as Jordan’s deputy prime minister.
Khalaf was chosen by the Financial Times newspaper as one of the top 50 personalities who have carved a niche in the last decade. She worked as assistant secretary general of the United Nations and as regional director of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) before assuming the post of executive secretary general of ESCWA, which she sacrificed for the sake of the principles that she holds.
The report, which led to the resignation of Khalaf, is considered a research reference and high-level study, meeting all the criteria of international law. This report should have been translated into action by the international community and the United Nations so as to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, as well as to halt the construction of settlements that have already devoured most of the Palestinian territories, and stop the racial practices of Israel against the Palestinian people.
The report is considered to be the first scientific survey based on the parameters of international law about the crime of Apartheid, which is an inhuman practice aimed at the control of one ethnic group by another. This is what Israel is perpetrating against the Palestinian people. It is worth noting that those, who applied pressure on the UN Secretary-General, neither discussed the text of the report nor questioned its content. They also did not refute what was stated in it, but merely attacked the report and asked for it to be withdrawn.
The UN Secretary-General also distanced himself from the report. The UN spokesman said: “The report as it stands does not reflect the views of the Secretary-General and was done without consultation with the UN secretariat.” In fact, such reports published by ESCWA or any other similar UN committees are not supposed to be prepared after any consultation with the UN Secretary-General or any other officials or agencies. The US ambassador to the UN welcomed the UN Secretary-General’s position of distancing himself from the report.
The issue could have ended at this point. But Israel was not satisfied with this and continued mounting pressure on the UN Secretary-General and the United States, and this led the UN chief to pressure Khalaf to withdraw the report. But she refused to succumb to the pressure and instead asked him to waive the request to withdraw the report. When he did not respond to this request, she tendered her resignation, saying “my resignation is simply because I feel it my duty towards the people we serve, towards the UN and towards myself, not to withdraw an honest testimony about an ongoing crime that is at the root of so much human suffering.”
This report could have been the same as other reports and resolutions adopted by the United Nations and other international organizations condemning Israel for its crimes against the Palestinian people. Israel does not bother about such reports, as they remain mere ink on paper mainly because of the US position of constantly blocking any move to condemn Israel. However, the case of this report is different as it was instrumental in mounting pressure by Israel and the United States on the UN Secretary- General and his surrender to this pressure and eventually to his pressure on Khalaf to withdraw the report. She refused to withdraw the report but instead resigned from her post at the helm of ESCWA, and this led to the wide circulation of the report.
Several human rights organizations described the withdrawal of the report as a slap in the face of international justice. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry denounced the act in a statement saying, the ESCWA report is an alarming signal about the plight of the Palestinians who are victims of Israeli Apartheid. The ministry also noted that the report should lead to an awakening in Israeli society so that it pressures its government to end the occupation, halt the building of settlements as well as its racist practices before Israeli society drowns in the Apartheid regime.