United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has asked the UN regional commission that represents most Arab countries to remove a report from its website accusing Israel of practicing an "apartheid regime" against Palestinians, a UN official said on Friday.
The report for the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, which comprises 18 Arab states, concluded that "Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole."
The accusation—often directed against Israel by its critics—has never before been made by a United Nations body.
Rima Khalaf, UN Under-Secretary General and ESCWA Executive Secretary, resigned Friday, after what she described as pressure from the secretary general to withdraw the report. Khalaf announced her resignation at a news conference in Beirut.
In her remarks, Khalaf said, "It was expected that Israel and its allies would put enormous pressure on the United Nations secretary general to renounce the report."
Despite pressure, Khalaf stands by the report, calling it the "first of its kind" from a UN agency that sheds light on "the crimes that Israel continues to commit against the Palestinian people, which amount to war crimes against humanity."
Following the initial publication of the report, Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, approached Guterres and US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, to see it shelved.
Danon responded to Khalaf's resignation, saying, "The Secretary-General's decision is an important step in stopping the discrimination against Israel. The place for anti-Israel activists is outside the UN and it is time to put an end to this phenomenon of UN officials taking advantage of their positions for anti-Israel activities. For years Khalaf worked to harm the State of Israel, promote BDS regularly and should have left her job a long time ago."
Israel had been calling for Khalaf's resignation for years due to her anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiments.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Wednesday the report was published without prior consultation with the UN secretariat.
Israel's foreign ministry spokesman likened the report to a Nazi propaganda publication that was strongly anti-Semitic and described it as "despicable and a blatant lie."
The United States, Israel's main ally, said it was outraged by the report.
Nikki Haley issued a response to Khalaf's resignation, saying, "When someone issues a false and defamatory report in the name of the UN, it is appropriate that the person resign. UN agencies must do a better job of eliminating false and biased work, and I applaud the Secretary General's decision to distance his good office from it."
Following news of Khalaf's resignation—which was accepted by Guterres—a UN spokesman clarified that "this is not about content, this is about process."