MPPM condemns the UN Secretary-General's attitude in the case of the report denouncing Israel's «apartheid» policies

MPPM (Portuguese Movement for the Rights of the Palestinian People and for Peace in the Middle East) notes with concern the role played by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, in the process leading to the resignation of Rima Khalaf from the post of Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).
The succession of events deserves to be briefly considered. On Wednesday, March 15, ESCWA published a landmark document accusing Israel of apartheid, in a report concluding that «Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole».
The authors of the report —Virginia Tilley and Richard Falk, both US experts in international law — «aware of the seriousness of this allegation ... conclude that available evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies practices that constitute the crime of apartheid as legally defined in instruments of international law». The report «rests on the same body of international human rights law and principles that reject anti-Semitism and other racially discriminatory ideologies, including: the Charter of the United Nations (1945), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965)» and «relies for its definition of apartheid primarily on article II of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (1973)». The authors of the report emphasize that «although the term 'apartheid ' was originally associated with the specific instance of South Africa, it now represents a species of crime against humanity under customary international law and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court», and they add that «this report reflects the expert consensus that the prohibition of apartheid is universally applicable and was not rendered moot by the collapse of apartheid in South Africa and South West Africa (Namibia)».
The report highlighted in particular Israel's discriminatory land policies enshrined in the country's Basic Law (equivalent to the constitution). ESCWA also mentions some of the Israeli policies of «demographic engineering»: conferring on all Jews, anywhere in the world, the right to acquire Israeli citizenship, while preventing the entry of millions of Palestinians with documented ancestral ties to the land on which the State of Israel was created in 1948; preventing family reunification of Palestinian citizens of Israel married to Palestinians from the occupied territories; the maintenance of segregated communities within Israel, with an extremely uneven distribution of resources. The report also underlines the fundamental importance of the different Israeli legal codes that apply to Palestinians within Israel, occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip as «the principal method by which Israel imposes an apartheid regime».
The publication of the report was immediately subjected to fierce criticism from Israel and the United States, which urged the Secretary-General, António Guterres, to formally distance himself from the content of the report and demanded that it be removed from the official website of the United Nations. On that same day, in a statement by the Secretary-General's spokesman Stéphane Dujarric, António Guterres made public his distancing.
According to Rima Khalaf, António Guterres requested on March 16 that the report be withdrawn and, despite her request for him to reconsider, Guterres insisted, which led to her presenting her resignation. And in fact, on March 17 the report was no longer available on the ESCWA website. The Secretary-General's decision was hailed by the ambassadors of Israel, Danny Danon, and the United States, Nikki Haley, as well as by organizations of the Zionist lobby in the United States.
The MPPM cannot but condemn the attitude, in this affair, of the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, which rewards the country, Israel, that has most often violated UN resolutions, to the detriment of the martyr Palestinian people, to whom the UN owes a heavy and unrenounceable historical debt. We must not forget that seven decades ago the UN decided to partition the historic territory of Palestine, promising the creation of two States. But while one of these States, Israel, has existed for 68 years, the Palestinian people continue to wait for the fulfilment of the UN General Assembly's promise, which has been successively renewed through numerous Security Council and General Assembly resolutions that Israel defies daily.
The MPPM praises Rima Khalaf's dignified stance and considers António Guterres's decision, yielding to pressure from Israel and the United States of America — at a time when the latter is discussing cuts to its financial contribution to the UN Budget — as seriously detrimental to the prestige, independence and the very raison d'être of the United Nations. On this occasion, it is worth recalling that on October 2016, at the time of the election of António Guterres, the Israeli ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, expressed his hope that with the new Secretary General the UN would abandon its «obsession with Israel». The position taken by António Guterres, confirming the fears aroused by this statement of Israel's representative, sets a serious precedent that makes us fear the worst, as concerns the future of his mandate.
The MPPM reiterates on this occasion the wishes it expressed in its letter to António Guterres on the occasion of his inauguration as UN Secretary-General: that this may be the mandate in which the United Nations pays its historical debt to the people of Palestine. Only by changing the attitude he has taken, and adopting a position in line with UN resolutions, will António Guterres defend the authority and prestige of the organization he heads, and further a just solution to the plight of the Palestinian people. Only then can the UN contribute to peace throughout the Middle East and to world peace.
Lisbon, March 22, 2017
The National Directorate of MPPM
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