Global Affairs

UN Chief Demands Removal of Anti-Israel Report by Discredited Official

The secretary-general of the United Nations on Friday requested the removal of an inflammatory report on Israel, which was co-authored by a discredited former UN official on behalf of an agency representing Arab nations, The Times of Israel reported.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for the report — compiled by Richard Falk, who has repeatedly suggested that the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were orchestrated by the U.S. government, and Virginia Tilley, a political scientist who authored a book in favor of the one-state solution — to be removed from the website of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). The agency, which is made up of 18 Arab countries, claimed that its report was the first by a UN body accusing Israel of practicing apartheid.

Also on Friday, UN Under-Secretary-General and ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf announced her resignation at a Beirut news conference, citing pressure from Guterres to withdraw the report.

Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for Guterres, said on Wednesday that the report was published without the “prior knowledge” of his boss, and that it “does not reflect the views of the Secretary‑General.”

Dujarric added that the positions taken in the report those of its authors and “do not necessarily reflect the views of the UN.”

Nikki Haley, Washington’s ambassador to the UN, said in a statement Wednesday that the U.S. was “outraged” by the report. She said its contents were “unsurprising,” given that it was commissioned by a group “whose membership nearly universally does not recognize Israel,” and that it was written by Falk, “who has repeatedly made biased and deeply offensive comments about Israel and espoused ridiculous conspiracy theories, including about the 9/11 terrorist attacks.”

Haley acknowledged that Guterres distanced his office from the report, but called on the UN to “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,” Haley added.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN also denounced the report as “biased and deceitful.”

“The attempt to smear and falsely label the only true democracy in the Middle East by creating a false analogy is despicable and constitutes a blatant lie,” Ambassador Danny Danon said. “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 twentieth century, would publish such a report.”

The monitoring group UN Watch on Friday published a video showcasing some of Falk’s most outrageous statements. Falk, who had previously served as the UN’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, prompted a rebuke from then-Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in 2011 by charging that U.S. officials had engaged in an “apparent cover up” of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks perpetrated by al-Qaeda. Falk also described David Ray Griffin, a conspiracy theorist involved in the “9/11 truth” movement, as a “scholar of high integrity” whose research on the subject was “authoritative.”

Ban subsequently denounced Falk, saying, “I want to tell you clearly and directly: I condemn this sort of inflammatory rhetoric. It is preposterous — an affront to the memory of the more than 3,000 people who died in that tragic terrorist attack. It is the responsibility of the Human Rights Council to uphold, at all times, the highest standards of the United Nations and the Council.”

Fallout over the report continues days after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Washington was considering withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council if it did not reform.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said last month that Washington would not “turn a blind eye” to anti-Israel bias at the UN, which has long been accused of systematically targeting the Jewish state. In 2016, the General Assembly adopted 20 resolutions against Israel and only six on the rest of the world combined, according to UN Watch.

In December, then-Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged his organization’s bias against Israel, saying, “Decades of political maneuvering have created a disproportionate number of resolutions, reports and committees against Israel.” Ban also criticized the UNHRC’s singular focus on Israel shortly after assuming his post in 2007, saying that he was “disappointed at the council’s decision to single out only one specific regional item, given the range and scope of allegations of human rights violations throughout the world.”

The Associated Press reported in June that Israel is the only country in the world that “has its record inspected at every single session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.” The AP added that one of the driving forces behind the UN’s focus on Israel is the influential Organization for Islamic Cooperation, which often spearheads the push for anti-Israel resolutions.

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