Ramallah: The Palestinian president has awarded his people’s highest honor to a former UN official who was forced to resign last week after authoring a report that accused Israel of establishing an apartheid regime.
The official Palestinian news agency Wafa said Sunday that President Mahmoud Abbas had spoken to Rima Khalaf by phone and given her Palestine’s Medal of the Highest Honor in recognition of her “courage and support” for the Palestinian people.
A statement said Abbas “stressed to Dr. Khalaf that our people appreciate her humanitarian and national position.”
Khalaf, a UN undersecretary-general, resigned Friday after refusing to withdraw her report for the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia.
The report titled “Israeli Practices Toward the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid,” which was published last week by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, drew swift criticism from UN and Israeli officials.
Its authors concluded that “Israel has established an apartheid regime that systematically institutionalises racial oppression and domination of the Palestinian people as a whole.”
Rima Khalaf, a Jordanian who heads Beirut-based ESCWA and is a UN undersecretary-general, announced her resignation at a hastily called press conference in the Lebanese capital, saying she couldn’t accept being subjected to pressure from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to withdraw the report.
She described the report as “the first of its kind,” adding that it “concludes scientifically and according to international law that Israel has established an apartheid regime.”
“It was expected, naturally, that Israel and its allies would exercise immense pressure on the UN secretary-general to distance himself from the report and to ask for it to be withdrawn,” she said.
When Guterres instructed her on Thursday morning to withdraw the report, Khalaf said, “I asked him to review his position but he insisted on it.”
“Based on that, I submitted to him my resignation from the United Nations,” she said.
On Wednesday, following the report’s release, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said it was published without any prior consultations with the UN Secretariat and its views do not reflect those of the secretary-general.
He confirmed Friday that Khalaf had submitted her resignation and said the report had been removed from the ESCWA website.