Palestinian leaders have expressed support for Rima Khalaf, a senior U.N. official who resigned Friday over the withdrawal of her agency’s report accusing Israel of creating an apartheid state, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas awarding her his government’s highest honor.
Abbas spoke to Khalaf by phone, local media reported Saturday, and had given her Palestine’s Medal of the Highest Honor in recognition of her “courage and support” for Palestinians.
A statement by the Palestinian presidency said Abbas “stressed to Dr. Khalaf that our people appreciate her humanitarian and national position”.
The Jordanian national resigned after the U.N. secretary-general asked her to remove the report, published by the United Nation’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, ESCWA, from the internet.
Khalaf, who served as both the U.N. Under-Secretary General and ESCWA Executive Secretary, said she was leaving after “powerful member states” had pressured the world body and its chief with “vicious attacks and threats”.
ESCWA, which comprises 18 Arab states, published the report Wednesday and said it was the first time a U.N. body had clearly charged that Israel “has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole”.
The report also called on governments to support the peaceful pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, BDS, movement, which calls for an end to Israeli apartheid against Palestinians.
Israel fiercely rejected the allegations, often directed at it by its critics, and likened the report to a Nazi propaganda publication that was strongly anti-Semitic. The United States, an ally of Israel, had said it was outraged and demanded the report be withdrawn.
Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Maliki expressed gratitude for Khalaf, describing her as “an outstanding international civil servant, whose expertise and integrity are beyond reproach and admired by all privileged to work with her, and her leadership and contribution to the advancement of societies across the West Asia region and beyond are fully recognized and commended.”
Palestinian Liberation Organization, PLO, Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi slammed the decision to remove the report in a written statement published Saturday.
“Instead of succumbing to political blackmail or allowing itself to be censored or intimidated by external parties, the U.N. should condemn the acts described in the report and hold Israel responsible,” she said.
The PLO official praised the report as “a step in the right direction” that she said “highlights the true reality on the ground which is one of apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and military occupation.”