The Palestinian Authority president awarded his people’s highest honor to a former UN official who was resigned last week, after authoring a report that accused Israel of establishing an “apartheid regime” guilty of “racial domination” over the Palestinians.
The official Palestinian news agency Wafa said Sunday that President Mahmoud Abbas informed Rima Khalaf by phone that she would receive the Palestine Medal of the Highest Honor in recognition of her “courage and support” for the Palestinian people.
A statement said Abbas “stressed to Dr. Khalaf that our people appreciate her humanitarian and national position.”
Khalaf, a UN undersecretary-general, resigned Friday after refusing to withdraw her report for the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia.
Its authors concluded that “Israel has established an apartheid regime that systematically institutionalizes racial oppression and domination of the Palestinian people as a whole.”
The report was swiftly condemned by US and Israeli officials, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ office said it had been published without any prior consultations and did not reflect his views. He rejected the report and ordered it removed from UN websites.
Khalaf, a Jordanian who headed the Beirut-based ESCWA, said she couldn’t accept being subjected to pressure from Guterres to withdraw the report.
In Jordan, government spokesman Mohammed Momani described Khalaf as a patriot who has held senior positions in the kingdom.
“We in Jordan view international reports about what the Palestinian people are being subjected to, from daily restrictions to injustice, as something that is in their interest,” he said.
Over the weekend, Palestinian leaders condemned the UN for scrapping the ESCWA report, and accused Guterres of giving in to politically motivated intimidation.
“Instead of succumbing to political blackmail or allowing itself to be censured or intimidated by external parties, the UN should condemn the acts described in the report and hold Israel responsible,” PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said on Saturday according to Wafa.
Meanwhile, Israel’s UN envoy Danny Danon and Washington’s ambassador to the world body, Nikki Haley, welcomed Khalaf’s resignation.
Danon said 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.” He added that “over the years Khalaf has worked to harm Israel and advocate for the BDS movement. Her removal from the UN is long overdue.”
US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley, who had demanded the report’s withdrawal last week, said in a statement: “When someone issues a false and defamatory report in the name of the US, it is appropriate that the person resign. UN agencies must do a better job of eliminating false and biased work, and I applaud the secretary-general’s decision to distance his good office from it.”
Published last Wednesday, ESCWA’s report said that “available evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crime of apartheid,” while “systematically institutionalizes racial oppression and domination of the Palestinian people as a whole.”
The Beirut-based commission slammed Israel’s Law of Return, “conferring on Jews worldwide the right to enter Israel and obtain Israeli citizenship regardless of their countries of origin and whether or not they can show links to Israel-Palestine, while withholding any comparable right from Palestinians, including those with documented ancestral homes in the country,” as a policy of “demographic engineering” meant to uphold Israel’s status as the Jewish state.
The report further accused Israel of “practices” that have fragmented Palestinians, arguing that it is the “principal method by which Israel imposes an apartheid regime.”
The report was compiled by Richard Falk, a Princeton professor emeritus with a long track record of vehemently anti-Israel rhetoric, who previously was the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Palestine, and by Virginia Tilley, an American political scientist who authored the book “The One-State Solution,” in 2005.
Haley described Falk as “a man who has repeatedly made biased and deeply offensive comments about Israel and espoused ridiculous conspiracy theories.”