The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has been accused of abusing her power by quashing a UN report that was critical of Israel.
The criticism was made by the former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine, Richard Falk, in an open letter to Haley over her response to a UN report on the “Israeli Practices toward the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid”.
The report was dismissed by Haley as “anti-Israeli propaganda” within hours of its release and has since been taken down from UN websites.
Professor Falk, who was commissioned by the UN Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA), to undertake a fully researched study into the link between Israeli policy and the international-law definition of apartheid, accused Haley of leading a defamatory campaign against him and the UN instead of addressing the main points of the report.
“So far”, said Falk, “we have not received any information identifying the flaws [you] have found in the report or how it may have failed to comply with scholarly standards of rigor”.
Falk accused Haley of launching a defamatory attack on all involved, which was “designed to discredit and malign the messengers rather than clarify the criticisms of the message”.
He said: “we were especially troubled by the extraordinary pressure your office exerted on the UN secretary general, António Guterres, apparently inducing him first to order the report’s removal from the ESCWA website and then to accept the resignation of ESCWA’s distinguished and highly respected executive secretary, Rima Khalaf”.
Falk commented that Khalaf, who was the co-author, “resigned on principle rather than repudiate a report that she believed fulfilled scholarly standards, upheld the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law, and produced findings and recommendations vital for UN proceedings”.
In the letter, published by the Nation, Falk posits that the attack which he and his colleagues have been subjected to has been triggered by the association of the word “apartheid”. Although it prompted her instantaneous denunciation of the report, Falk accuses Haley of failing to consider that Israeli leaders have themselves grasped and warned of the apartheid features of their policies for decades.
He cites the “widely admired” Yitzhak Rabin, twice Israel’s prime minister, who once confided to a TV journalist, “I don’t think it’s possible to contain over a long term, if we don’t want to get to apartheid, a million and a half [more] Arabs inside a Jewish state.”
Falk believes that Haley’s response bears no connection with the reality known to Israelis who are acutely aware of their country’s fate if it failed to end the occupation: “Former Prime ministers Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak both warned publicly” says Falk “that Israel was at risk of becoming an apartheid state and cautioned their constituencies about what would happen to Israel if the Palestinians realized this and launched an anti-apartheid struggle”.
Others like the former Israeli attorney general Michael Ben-Yair flatly stated, “We established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories,” writes Falk.