An obscure UN body has managed to do something many would have thought impossible – it has produced an anti-Israel document so extreme that even the UN itself rejected it.
The body in question is the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), which consists of 18 majority-Arab states, including “Palestine”, and is supposed to be a forum for discussing regional economic coordination and development.
But like so much of the UN apparatus, ESCWA seems to devote much of its time to bashing Israel and commissioned the report in question – “Israeli practices toward the Palestinian people and the question of Apartheid.” ESCWA gave the job of writing the report – intended to “prove” that Israel is an “Apartheid” state – to someone it knew could be guaranteed to come to the conclusion it wanted; American academic and former UN special rapporteur on Palestine Prof. Richard Falk, together with a fellow American radical academic, Virginia Tilley.
Falk, as readers of this magazine may know, is notorious for a whole series of controversies, including publishing antisemitic cartoons; endorsing an antisemitic book; indulging in 9/11 truther conspiracy theories; justifying terrorism; and repeatedly comparing Israel to Nazi Germany. He is so extreme that his behaviour and pronouncements have been denounced publicly not only by the US and UK governments, but by then-UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and by then-UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay, and even the Palestinian Authority objected to his pro-Hamas bias.
Falk and Tilley’s report of course said Israel was guilty of Apartheid “beyond a reasonable doubt” – but it was so extreme that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres first distanced himself from the views expressed in it, and then asked ESCWA to withdraw it on the grounds that it had not gone through proper UN procedures. As a result, ESCWA’s Executive Secretary, Jordanian Rima Khalaf, resigned.
Despite the withdrawal of the report, it will doubtless still be used by pro-BDS types who will wave it around as “proof” that Israel is an Apartheid state which must be boycotted. (Indeed, that was ESCWA’s intention.) But there is one good thing about it – it actually demonstrates the absurdity of the claims about “Apartheid” in Israel.
Basically, in addition to some easily debunked claims about the West Bank and Gaza, it says that even within the 1967 borders, Israel is guilty of “Apartheid” because it defines itself as a “Jewish state.” Here’s a quote:
According to the Supreme Court, Israel is not the State of the “Israeli nation” but of the “Jewish nation”. Collective rights in Israeli law are explicitly conferred on Jews as a people and on no other collective identity… Hence, racial-nationalist privileges are embedded in the legal and doctrinal foundations of the State. That is exceptional and would meet with opprobrium in any other country…
There is a serious problem with this claim. Far from being “exceptional” according to this definition of “Apartheid”, at least 16 of the 18 members of ESCWA, who commissioned the report – Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen – are also “Apartheid states”. These all define themselves as either “Islamic” or “Arab” or both in their constitution – and thus have “racial-nationalist privileges embedded in the legal and doctrinal foundations of the State.” Of the remaining ESCWA members, Morocco is an arguable case, while the only clear exception is Sudan – a state which may not have such a clause in its constitution, but does have a President charged with genocide and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.
A Religious Imperative
Speaking on Hamas controlled al-Aqsa TV on March 8, Mahmoud al-Zahar, one of Hamas’ senior political leaders in Gaza, said that “removing the Jews from the land they occupied in 1948 is an immutable principle” appearing in the Quran. Adding “Allah says (in the Quran): ‘And drive them out from wherever they have driven you out,” al-Zahar went on to say that “in light of this verse, we say that our dispute with the Palestinian factions that talk about the 1967 borders is one pertaining to faith. On this issue, we base ourselves upon our religion, while you do not.”
I call this quote to the attention of the reader not just because it is yet another example of the penchant for “an ethnic cleansing solution” in Palestinian discourse which I have often documented here. He is not talking about either a two-state solution or even a one-state solution. No, his demand is “removing the Jews from the land” – expelling or killing them.
But more than this – he insists such ethnic cleansing is religiously mandated, based on a Quranic verse, and to go against it and call for a two-state solution based on the “1967 borders” is un-Islamic.
This quote, not particularly unusual in Hamas discourse, is especially worth noting because Hamas is reportedly discussing releasing a new Charter or other major policy document which will soften the language of Hamas’ blatantly antisemitic and genocidal 1988 Charter. It will reportedly refer to the enemy as “occupiers” rather than “Jews”, and talk about accepting the 1967 borders – although not about recognising Israel in exchange.
If and when this happens, many will doubtless argue that Hamas is now a potential partner for peace that Israel and the international community can deal with. When you read those arguments, I hope you will remember the statement above from al-Zahar – a Hamas co-founder and former Foreign Minister and far from the most extreme Hamas figure in Gaza, where the very hardline military leadership is reportedly now in control.
When al-Zahar says that “removing the Jews from the land occupied in 1948” is a religious imperative, and by implication, that to propose to do anything else is to reject a command from God, that should show how “moderate” Hamas’ leadership truly is, no matter what document they may present to outsiders.