(photo credit: COURTESY ISRAELI EMBASSY TO US)
NEW YORK – Israel’s UN Ambassador Ron Prosor sent a letter to Secretary- General Ban Ki-Moon recently asking for the removal of Rima Khalaf, following a purportedly anti-Semitic statement Khalaf made in a speech in late February.
Khalaf is the under-secretary-general and executive secretary for the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. She has served in that role since September 2010. The speech in question was given on February 25, 2014, at the launch of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia report. It was titled “Arab Integration: A 21st Century Imperative.”
In her speech, Khalaf denounced Israeli presence in the West Bank, saying: “The most dangerous of these [Israeli] policies is Israel’s adamancy that it is a Jewish state, which violates the rights of both the Muslim and Christian indigenous populations and revives the concept of state ethnic and religious purity, which caused egregious human suffering during the 20th century.” Phrases such as this are usually diplomatic code in which officials speak to refer to the Holocaust.
“Foreign interference comes in various forms, such as violations of Arab rights and dignity,” Khalaf said, “but its worst manifestation is the Israeli occupation of ‘Palestine,’ the Syrian Golan Heights and Lebanese territories, in flagrant breach of international conventions and resolutions.”
Khalaf added that the report advocated for prohibiting trade with Israeli settlements, “following in the footsteps of European countries.”
Prosor wrote in response that “it is unacceptable that inflammatory anti-Israel messages continue to be produced under the banner of the United Nations and using UN resources.”
In addition, he said that “by demonizing Israel, Ms. Khalaf is advancing a personal agenda rather than furthering the cause of peace or advancing regional Arab development.
Senior UN officials should lead by example and demonstrate tolerance rather than prejudice.
“We were hoping that dark opinions like the ones Khalaf expressed had vanished from the world.
Anti-Israeli incitement sounded under UN sponsorship, while using its resources, is unfathomable,” he said.
A spokesman for the UN secretary general told reporters at a briefing on Tuesday that he has “full confidence in her [Khalaf] and her work.”
The executive director of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris, issued a statement on Wednesday similarly calling for Khalaf's resignation.
“Under-Secretary General Khalaf’s profound and all-too-obvious animus against one UN member state, Israel, has betrayed her fundamental responsibility as a UN official,” Harris said. "It's painfully ironic, isn't it, that Khalaf has no problem with Arab states that self-define as both Arab and Muslim, but has a big problem when it comes to the notion of Israel as a Jewish state."