Last week the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), a group comprised entirely of Arab countries, issued a report accusing Israel of practicing apartheid against the Palestinians. Having a U.N. group make such an accusation was considered a major propaganda win for the anti-Israel movement.
As discussed below, the report was authored by people with longstanding anti-Israel records. The report was so disgraceful in content and so obviously political in motive that by Friday the Secretary General of the UN had first disassociated himself from the report and then asked that it removed from the ESCWA's website. Also on Friday, Rima Khalaf, the Jordanian head of ESCWA resigned.
Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., is credited by many as working to negate this anti-Israel move. This may be a sign of a new U.S. assertiveness at the U.N.
The scandal of the ESCWA report reflects on the dysfunction that is the UN. Why in the world is there a need for an agency devoted to Economic and Social issues in western Asia, and why is it populated by representatives of governments largely responsible for the economic and social failings of the Arab world?
As NGO Monitor pointed out, this incident reveals the destructive role of NGOs in demonizing Israel.
Not only was the report co-written by Richard Falk, a 9/11 truther (and who blamed the U.S. and Tel Aviv for the Boston Marathon terror attack), and Virginia Tilley (an anti-Israel activist) but the material was provided by NGOs hostile to Israel.
The two authors have long histories of anti-Israel activity. Richard Falk, former "UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967," is a fringe "9/11 conspiracy theorist" and has been widely denounced, including by the former Secretary-General of the UN, for vile comments blaming the Boston terrorist attack on "the American global domination project" and "Tel Aviv." He is also the author of an article "Slouching toward a Palestinian Holocaust" that compares Israel to Nazi Germany.
Virginia Tilley has contributed articles to Electronic Intifada, a major online media outlet active in promoting antisemitism, extreme anti-Israel views, and propaganda. In one of Tilley's articles, "On the Academic Boycott of Israel," she states that "Israeli academic arguments are indeed too reminiscent of apartheid South Africa to escape the comparison." ...
The NGOs cited in the UN report (as well as Tilley's book) include Adalah, B'Tselem, and Human Rights Watch (HRW). Adalah is an Israeli NGO that publishes an online "Discriminatory Laws Database," that does not distinguish between laws and legislative proposals and refers to Zionism pejoratively. This database is cited on page 40 of the UN report, where the authors demonize Israeli laws as comprising "a regime of systematic racial discrimination that imposes second-class citizenship on Palestinian citizens of Israel."
B'Tselem, cited 3 times in the UN report and 35 times in Tilley's chapter, aims to change Israeli government policy in the West Bank and Gaza, and has utilized apartheid rhetoric and unsubstantiated accusations of Israeli human rights violations.
Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for United Nations Secretary General Antonió Guterres, distanced Guterres and the U.N. from the report on Wednesday last week. In response to a question about the report, Dujarric replied:
It was done so without any prior consultations with the Secretariat, and the report, as it stands, does not reflect the views of the Secretary‑General. I would add that there is... that the report... you know, in the publication itself, it says that the report and its findings and conclusions are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the UN.
The Dujarric statement came at the same time that U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley condemned the report and its lead author in no uncertain terms and demanded that the UN withdraw the report:
The United States is outraged by the report of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). That such anti-Israel propaganda would come from a body whose membership nearly universally does not recognize 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 United Nations Secretariat was right to distance itself from this report, but it must go further and withdraw the report altogether. The United States stands with our ally Israel and will continue to oppose biased and anti-Israel actions across the UN system and around the world.
On Friday, Guterres did just that and demanded that ESCWA remove the report from its website. This demand, which was apparently met, led to Khalaf submitting her resignation, which was accepted. (Khalaf's term was to end at the end of the month anyway, so this was hardly an act of principle.)
On Friday The New York Times reported on the controversy:
Mr. Guterres has said that he had no advance knowledge of the report and that it did not reflect his views. Israel and its supporters had exhorted Mr. Guterres to renounce the report, which they described as a baseless smear meant to isolate and delegitimize the country.
Supporters of the report have expressed hope that it could add momentum to an international movement to boycott Israel, which they see as similar to the global campaign of economic pressure on South Africa that helped end apartheid in the early 1990s.
The regional commission that produced the report, based in Beirut, Lebanon, comprises 18 Arab member states of the United Nations. Most do not recognize Israel. The authors included a former United Nations human rights investigator, Richard Falk, which particularly galled many Israel supporters who regard him as an anti-Semite and a discredited conspiracy theorist.
The Times portrayed the resignation and withdrawal of the report as the result of pressure exerted by President Donald Trump and Haley on Guterres.
This is a point that was reiterated by Hillel Neuer, head of UN Watch, "But there is no question that the initial moral voice here was that of U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley, and that it was U.S. leverage which prompted the UN to act."
Haley issued a statement praising the UN for taking action that led to Khalaf's resignation, "When someone issues a false and defamatory report in the name of the UN, 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."
Which brings up a final disturbing aspect to the report: the way the MSM covered it.
When the report was issued it was highlighted as a landmark, with little attention paid to the provenance of the report: two anti-Israel authors, using anti-Israel sources to write a report for an anti-Israel agency, which is part an organization known for its anti-Israel bias. UN Watch summed up the problem quite well in the video embedded below.
Even look at this sentence from The New York Times report cited earlier, "The authors included a former United Nations human rights investigator, Richard Falk, which particularly galled many Israel supporters who regard him as an anti-Semite and a discredited conspiracy theorist."
Someone who embraces 9/11 trutherism should be a "discredited conspiracy theorist" in the eyes of any fair-minded individual, but the reporters, Rick Gladstone and Somini Sengupta, qualify those who are offended by Falk as "Israel supporters."
Or that "Israel and its supporters" urged to Guterres to disavow the report "which they described as a baseless smear meant to isolate and delegitimize the country." "They described?" Again, given the authors, the sources, the agencies involved, what fair-minded individual would assume otherwise?
Elder of Ziyon pointed out that you only need to look at who supported the report to tell that it was a baseless smear: Mahmoud Abbas, Hanan Ashrawi, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah and David Duke, for example.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced that he is planning to honor Khalaf. Khalaf will be awarded the "highest Palestinian honor" by Abbas, Haaretz reported Sunday.
"Khalaf stood by her principles and the principles of international law and refused to remain in [her] position without the freedom of action to disclose the facts and the humanitarian situation in which the Palestinian people are living in under Israeli occupation," a statement issued by Abbas' office said.
The lesson from all this is that the United States can stand up to the UN, if it chooses to. Anti-Israel Resolution 2334 passed because the Obama administration chose not to oppose it (or likely worked with Israel's enemies to pass it.) Once again Nikki Haley has lived up to Prof Jacobson's high praise of her (comparing her to Daniel Patrick Moynihan.)