Palestinian Authority to Honor UN Diplomat Behind Widely Condemned Report on Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced on Sunday that he will grant his people’s highest honor to the former head of a United Nations agency that issued a widely criticized report on Israel last week, Haaretz reported.

According to a statement from the office of the Palestinian president, Abbas informed Rima Khalaf by phone that she will be awarded the Palestine Medal of the Highest Honor in recognition of her “courage and support” of the Palestinian people.

Khalaf, a Jordanian diplomat, stepped down as the head of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) on Friday, after UN Secretary-General António Guterres demanded that she remove a controversial report by her agency that accused Israel of perpetrating apartheid against the Palestinians. She had two weeks left in her term.

ESCWA is made up of 18 Arab nations, most of which do not recognize Israel. Its latest report was 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 the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to ESCWA, it is the first by a UN body accusing Israel of practicing apartheid.

Guterres disassociated himself from the inflammatory report through his spokesman on Wednesday, stating that he did not authorize it, that it did not reflect his views, and that it did not necessarily reflect the views of the UN. The document was also harshly criticized by U.S. and Israeli officials.

According to a report by NGO Monitor, Falk and Tilley based their report on data from advocacy group that demonstrated hostility towards Israel:

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.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who blasted the report when it was issued last week, praised Guterres for taking action against it on Friday. “When someone issues a false and defamatory report in the name of the UN, it is appropriate that the person resign,” she said. “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.”

[Photo: Chatham House / WikiCommons ]