Row grows over UN ‘apartheid’ report

March 17, 2017
Sarah Benton

1) Electronic Intifada, 2) The Media Line.

Young man in Hebron. Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler, Active Stills.

Palestinians hail UN report declaring Israel an apartheid state

Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada
March 16, 2017

Palestinians are welcoming a landmark UN report that finds Israel guilty of practising apartheid.

Meanwhile Israel and its US patron have reacted with rage.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the civil society coalition that leads the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, hailed the report as a “historic breakthrough.”

Published by the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), the report concludes that Israel is an apartheid state.

Launching it on Wednesday, ESCWA head Rima Khalaf said the report was the “first of its type” from a UN body that “clearly and frankly concludes that Israel is a racist state that has established an apartheid system that persecutes the Palestinian people.”

The report urges national governments to “support boycott, divestment and sanctions activities and respond positively to calls for such initiatives.”

“This is the first UN entity to prove beyond doubt that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people – which confirms the BDS movement’s own findings since 2005,” Ingrid Jaradat, a member of the BNC secretariat, said. “Given that apartheid is the second most serious crime against humanity in international law – after the crime of genocide – this taboo-shattering finding by ESCWA will strengthen the case for global sanctions against Israel.”

Israel reacted with predictable anger. A spokesperson for its foreign ministry likened the report’s meticulous legal and factual analysis to propaganda from the Nazi-era antisemitic publication Der Stürmer.

Israel’s biggest financial benefactor also expressed its outrage at the report, and demanded that the UN withdraw it.

In a statement from its UN envoy Nikki Haley, the US government dismissed the report as “anti-Israel propaganda” and attacked Richard Falk, the eminent international law expert who co-authored it.

And in a clear sign that he will be no more resistant to pressure from Israel and its surrogates than his predecessor, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres distanced himself from the report, a move that drew praise from Haley.

“The report as it stands does not reflect the views of the secretary-general,” a spokesperson for Guterres told media.

Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the BDS movement, said the UN report was a sign for Palestinians that “our South Africa moment is nearing.”

Barghouti said it was “a stark indicator that Israel’s apartheid is destined to end, as South Africa’s did.”

Noting the growth of BDS campaigns around the world, Barghouti added that the report “may well be the very first beam of light that ushers the dawn of sanctions against Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid.”

Israel’s belligerent reaction – as well as its escalating efforts to crush international support for Palestinian rights – may indicate that its leadership is reaching a similar conclusion.


The expanding settlement of Har Homa, Jerusalem suburb, is encroaching on the West Bank. See below. Photo by Reuters

US And Israel Call On UN to Scrap “Apartheid” Report

By Linda Gradstein, The Media Line
March 16, 2017

The US and Israel are demanding that the United Nations withdraw a report by a UN commission accusing Israel of imposing apartheid on the Palestinians. It is believed to be the first time that the UN has published an official document accusing Israel of apartheid.

A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that “the report as it stands does not reflect the views of the secretary-general” and said it was done without consultations.” US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley went much further.

“The United States is outraged by the report,”Haley said in a statement. “The United Nations secretariat was right to distance itself from this report, but it must go further and withdraw the report altogether.”

The report was issued by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), which is based in Beirut and comprised of 18 Arab states in western Asia, most of which do not recognize Israel. The report concluded that “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole,” a claim sharply rejected by Israel.

“#UN #ESCWA has issued today a “der Stermer”  [Der Stürmer] like report, NOT endorsed by UN Secretary General. Friendly advice—don’t read it without anti-nausea pills,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon tweeted sharply, comparing the report to the strongly antisemitic Nazi propaganda newspaper.

“I think my tweet says it all,” Nachshon told The Media Line later.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon slammed the commission report.

He said that the “attempt to smear and falsely label the only true democracy in the Middle East [sic] by creating a false analogy is despicable and constitutes a blatant lie.” He then continued with a personal attack on the head of the commission, Rima Khalaf, a Jordanian woman who has called for boycotts on Israel.

Ms. Rima Khalaf, Exec. Secretary, UN ESCWA. In a seminal address to Chatham House, Ms. Khalaf set out her broad vision of what she described as an emerging, “Newer Middle East”.

“It comes as no surprise that an organization headed by an individual who has called for boycotts against Israel, and compared our democracy to the most terrible regimes of the 20th century would publish such a report,” he said.

But there were also some who welcomed the report.

It could be the “very first beam of light that ushers the dawn of sanctions against Israel,” Omar Barghouti, the leader of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) told reporters. The BDS movement has long promoted the connection between Israel and apartheid. Israeli officials say the analogy is incorrect as Israel has not annexed the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“That is a laughable argument especially coming from people who don’t support the two-state solution,” Xavier Abu Eid, a spokesman for the PLO told The Media Line. “The whole international community recognizes that there is an ongoing occupation.”

As for the report, he said, “So far, all of the criticism I’ve heard are personal attacks against UN diplomats or the authors of the report. I haven’t seen any criticism of what’s happening in the occupied state of Palestine.”

The PLO, along with much of the international community, says that the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in 1967 during the Six Day War, must become an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. While Israel has annexed east Jerusalem, and in fact, sharply expanded the municipal boundaries of the city to annex part of the West Bank, its policy is that the future status of the territories must be determined in bilateral negotiations.

Until recently, that was the US position as well. US President Donald Trump seemed to question that when he told a news conference that he would accept any solution that the parties agreed on, and it did not matter if it was one state or two states.

Trump’s envoy Jason Greenblatt is currently in the region, meeting with both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said they were trying to reach an understanding on Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank.

Some in the Israeli government are calling for Israel to impose sovereignty on the 60 percent of the West Bank that is under sole Israeli control.

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