Acting State Department Spokesperson Mark Toner speaks during a news briefing at the State Department in Washington. Image Credit: REUTERS

Geneva: The US State Department says the US is boycotting a session at the UN Human Rights Council that focuses on Palestine and other Israeli-occupied Arab territories, saying it is biased against Israel.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner in a statement took aim at a recurring agenda item at the council, which focuses on Israel and the Palestinian territories — the only one of its kind to focus on a single country at every HRC session. It was taking place Monday.

Toner also said the US would vote against every resolution that might be put forward under the agenda item.

Earlier, the UN’s special rapporteur on rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel, Michael Lynk, decried how “illegal” colony enterprise has moved at an “alarming pace” this year.

The boycott comes on the heels of the forced resignation of Rima Khalaf, a UN undersecretary-general after she refused to withdraw her report for the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia on Friday.

The report titled “Israeli Practices Towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid,” drew swift criticism from US 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would exercise immense pressure on the UN secretary-general to distance himself from the report and to ask for it to be withdrawn,” she said.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.”