The head of the Lebanon-based United Nations body, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), resigned last Friday, after the body was ordered by the UN Secretary-General to remove from its website a controversial report that accused Israel of establishing an “apartheid regime”.
Rima Khalaf, who served as the Executive Secretary of the Beirut-based body, announced her resignation at a press conference in the Lebanese capital, stating that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s insistence that the document be removed from the agency’s website led her to quit.
Khalaf said: “The Secretary-General asked me yesterday morning to withdraw (the report). I asked him to rethink his decision, he insisted, so I submitted my resignation from the UN”.
She added: “We expected of course that Israel and its allies would put huge pressure on the secretary general of the UN so that he would disavow the report, and that they would ask him to withdraw it”.
The report charged Israel of establishing an “apartheid regime” guilty of “racial domination” over the Palestinians. The report was no longer available on the ESCWA’s website as of Friday afternoon.
The document, published earlier this week by the ESCWA, which comprises 18 Muslim-majority countries, drew strong criticism from the US and Israel.
US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley said in a statement that “the United States is outraged by the report”, and demanded that the report be withdrawn.
UN Chief Guterres distanced himself from the report on Wednesday, and requested its removal from ESCWA’s website.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, welcomed the developments, saying Guterres’s move was “an important step in stopping discrimination against Israel”.
In a statement, Danon said: “Anti-Israel activists do not belong in the UN. It is time to put an end to practice in which UN officials use their position to advance their anti-Israel agenda”.