U.N. Official Behind Report Accusing Israel of Apartheid Resigns After Outrage

The Palestinian ambassador to Lebanon, Ashraf Dabbour, left, helped Rima Khalaf put on a traditional Palestinian scarf after she announced her resignation from the United Nations in Beirut. (Jamal Saidi/Reuters)

The top official of a United Nations commission that published a report describing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as apartheid quit on Friday, saying the organization’s leader insisted that she withdraw it. The report provoked outrage from Israel and the United States.

The official, Rima Khalaf, a Jordanian diplomat who is executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, defended the report. Her resignation, barely two days after publication, punctuated the polarized politics of the Israeli-Palestinian impasse.

Ms. Khalaf’s resignation also reflected the pressure from the Trump administration on her boss, Secretary General António Guterres. President Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, has assailed what she and Israeli officials regard as a strong anti-Israel bias at the organization.

“When someone issues a false and defamatory report in the name of the U.N., it is appropriate that the person resign,” Ms. Haley said in response to Ms. Khalaf’s resignation. She praised Mr. Guterres for his “decision to distance his good office from it.”

The report appeared to represent the first time that apartheid — an explosive reference to the institutional oppression of South Africa’s black majority by the white minority, now banned under international law — had been used in a document with the United Nations stamp to explicitly describe Israeli policies toward Palestinians in lands occupied or controlled by Israel.

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.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Rick Gladstone and Somini Sengupta