The official silence on Israel’s illegal occupation and theft of Palestinian land claimed its latest victim after a UN report describes the systematic racial discrimination of ‘apartheid Israel’.
Rima Khalaf resigned her position as the UN under-secretary general after the report was retracted against her will in the face of powerful governments’ “fearmongering and threats”.
In her resignation letter, translated by poet Lena Khalaf Tuffaha on her Facebook page, Khalaf said the “painful truth” about Israel’s occupation was being covered up.
But immediately after the report’s 15 March release, Israel and its allies responded in their predictable, time-honoured fashion: by denouncing the report as the work of anti-semitism.
The report, Israeli Practices Towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid, was published by the UN Economic & Social Commission for Western Asia, of which Khalaf was executive secretary.
It concludes that Israel is an “apartheid regime” whose institutions systematically discriminate and oppress the Palestinian people. That there is a “racial character” to Israel’s definitions of nationality and application of policy was “beyond reasonable doubt”.
This, it added, is exemplified by the second-class legal status of Arabs within Israel itself and the complete denial of citizenship to Palestinians under the “dual legal system” enforced across the Occupied Territories.
The report’s authors conclude that the UN should impose sanctions and co-ordinate boycotts against Israel with civil society groups.
In the face of international pressure, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres demanded the report be withdrawn.
But Khalaf, a Jordanian, refused and said: “It is my duty not to conceal a clear crime, and I stand by all the conclusions of the report.”
The report was written by two authoritative writers on human rights and Israel’s occupation. Princeton professor emeritus of international law Richard Falk and political science professor at Southern Illinois University, Virginia Tilley.
Falk, in particular, must have known the hostility the report would stir among Israel’s strategic allies, the UK and US.
After all, he was denounced by both governments while UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, right up until his six-year term ended in 2014.
But it’s still depressing that Israel’s supporters trot out exactly the same tired and discredited arguments to hide the obvious.
While anti-semitism was a term used to describe people who don’t like Jews, it is now used by Israel’s supporters against people they don’t like – of which Falk is one.
“The United States is outraged by the report. That such anti-Israel propaganda would come from a body whose membership nearly universally does not recognise Israel is unsurprising.
“That it was drafted by Richard Falk, a man who has repeatedly made biased and deeply offensive comments about Israel and espoused ridiculous conspiracy theories, including about the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is equally unsurprising.
“The UN Secretariat was right to distance itself from this report, but it must go further and withdraw [it] altogether. The US stands with our ally Israel and will continue to oppose biased and anti-Israel actions across the UN system and around the world.”
Meanwhile, in a tweet, Israel’s foreign affairs spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon suggested the report could have been written by the Nazi propaganda pamphlet, Der Stürmer, adding: “Don’t read it without anti nausea pills.”
But as Jonathan Ofir retorted on Mondoweiss: “If pills were necessary, it would only have been to quell the nausea arising from the reality which this report describes – in a remarkably lucid manner.”