NEW YORK – Rima Khalaf, UN undersecretary-general and executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, announced her resignation on Friday, following controversy caused by her agency’s recent report which described Israel as an “apartheid regime.”
Khalaf resigned in response to a request made by UN Secretary- General Antonio Guterres to remove the report from the ESCWA website.
The 74-page document points fingers at Israel for racial discrimination toward the Palestinian people. This marked the first time a UN body had clearly made the charge, angering Israeli officials who even compared the report to Der Sturmer – a Nazi propaganda publication that was strongly antisemitic.
Guterres’s office had already distanced itself from the report on Wednesday when the spokesman for the UN chief, Stephane Dujarric, said that the report was released without any prior consultations with the United Nations Secretariat, and that, as it stands, it does not reflect the views of the secretary- general.
Both Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon and his US counterpart, Nikki Haley, had also called on Guterres to make this clear.
“The secretary-general’s decision is an important step in ending the bias against Israel at the UN,” Danon said following Khalaf’s resignation.
“Anti-Israel activists do not belong in the UN.
“It is time to put an end to the practice in which UN officials use their position to advance their anti-Israel agenda,” he added. “Over the years, Khalaf has worked to harm Israel and advocate for the BDS movement.
Her removal from the UN is long overdue.”
Several Jewish organizations had also urged the UN to recall the report after it was published, including the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and the Anti-Defamation League, who described it as “hostile and biased.”
“This is not about content, this is about process,” Guterres’s spokesman told reporters at his daily briefing. “The secretary- general cannot accept that an undersecretary-general or any other senior UN official who reports to him would authorize the publication under the UN name, under the UN logo, without consulting the competent departments and even himself,” he added.
The Conference of Presidents applauded the secretary-general’s rejection of the report on Friday.
“This is an important step by the secretary-general in demonstrating his commitment to fair treatment for all UN member states, including Israel,” the umbrella organization wrote in a statement. “We are hopeful the secretary-general’s action will begin to change the culture of impunity among certain countries in their biased mistreatment of Israel at the UN.”Reuters contributed to this report.
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