The Disappearing UN Report on Israeli “Apartheid”

by Kevin Jon Heller

Last week, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) sent shockwaves through the international community by issuing a report that — for the first time in UN history — claims Israel’s treatment of Palestinians amounts to the crime of apartheid. Here is ESCWA’s description of the report, entitled “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid,” which was officially commissioned by ESCWA but does not purport to represent the official opinion of the UN:

This report examines, based on key instruments of international law, whether Israel has established an apartheid regime that oppresses and dominates the Palestinian people as a whole. Having established that the crime of apartheid has universal application, that the question of the status of the Palestinians as a people is settled in law, and that the crime of apartheid should be considered at the level of the State, the report sets out to demonstrate how Israel has imposed such a system on the Palestinians in order to maintain the domination of one racial group over others.

A history of war, annexation and expulsions, as well as a series of practices, has left the Palestinian people fragmented into four distinct population groups, three of them (citizens of Israel, residents of East Jerusalem and the populace under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza) living under direct Israeli rule and the remainder, refugees and involuntary exiles, living beyond. This fragmentation, coupled with the application of discrete bodies of law to those groups, lie at the heart of the apartheid regime. They serve to enfeeble opposition to it and to veil its very existence. This report concludes, on the basis of overwhelming evidence, that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid, and urges swift action to oppose and end it.

Predictably, the ESCWA report enraged Israel and the United States. Both states pressured the UN to withdraw the report — and to his lasting shame, the Secretary General, António Guterres, quickly folded. (Claiming, truly beggaring belief, that the decision had nothing to do with the report’s content.) Although you can still find the press release on ESCWA’s website, the report has been scrubbed from the webpage containing all of ESCWA’s reports. Only the Executive Summary remains — and it can only be found by entering the title of the report into Google and looking for the ESCWA link.

As critical as I am of Israel’s unconscionable oppression of and violence toward Palestinians, I have never accused Israel of practicing apartheid. But there is absolutely no justification for the UN suppressing an official report issued by one of the regional offices of the Economic and Social Council — particularly in response to pressure from the object of that report (and its chief enabler). Nor is this the first time the UN has bowed to Israeli pressure: recall Ban Ki-moon’s indefensible decision in 2015 to remove Israel from the UN’s “list of shame” of children’s rights violators. Unfortunately, it appears his successor will be no less craven.

That said, at least one UN official has the courage of her convictions. Rima Khalaf, the UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of ESCWA, reacted to Guterres’ decision to scrub the report by immediately resigning.

You can find a copy of the 74-page report here. Do what the Israel, the US, and the UN don’t want you to do — read the report and decide the apartheid question for yourself.

http://opiniojuris.org/2017/03/19/the-disappearing-un-report-on-israeli-apartheid/

47 Responses

  1. Where are the reports on China, Russia, and a host of GCC nations?

  2. Such a tired criticism. The UN has repeatedly criticised the human rights record of Russia, China, and GCC nations. Some examples:

    China: https://www.freetibet.org/news-media/na/china%E2%80%99s-record-tibet-criticised-un-human-rights-council

    Russia: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/10/russia-human-rights-council-seat-threat-161026052851566.html

    That took me about 60 seconds on Google.

  3. “That took me about 60 seconds on Google.”

    How many seconds would it take you, Heller, to find out that the authors of the “report” in question are two nutjobs whose only calling in life seems to be hating Israel? But then I bet you already know what they are, and in your eyes that’s precisely what makes them eminently qualified and their opinions especially weighty.

  4. I think your point is lacking in context. I don’t believe you deny the anti-Israel bias of the UN, and specifically the inherent bias at ESCWA and its head.

    If you want a report to be taken seriously and not as a cheap propaganda tool then don’t assign it to a marginal and undoubtedly biased UN organ.

    And that is before we even start discussing Richard Falk.

  5. Gidon,

    I am no fan of Richard Falk’s, and I don’t deny that the UN often goes overboard in its criticism of Israel. (By the same token, much of its criticism is completely valid.)

    My point — ignored, of course, by people like Eugene — is simply that scrubbing websites is never acceptable, especially when it results from state pressure. My view is content neutral; I would have written the same post if the UN had disavowed a report that Palestine thought was too favourable to Israel. And I have quite strenuously criticised the UN in the past for similar actions — such as the Libya Commission of Inquiry deliberately downplaying the ethnic cleansing of the Tawerghans.

  6. Eugene,

    I don’t think any state that features zealots like Danny Danon and Ayelet Shaked should be throwing around allegations of bias. And the real nutjob in this whole kerfuffle is the Justice Ministry spokesperson who compared the ESCWA report to Der Sturmer — a move as pathetic as it is obvious.

  7. “My view is content neutral”

    Frankly, this one could have been borderline hilarious – if you didn’t mean it in earnest.

  8. And what do we make of the Arab apartheid of the Jews?

    After all, an Arab is perfectly safe in Tel Aviv, while a Jew wouldn’t last ten minutes in Ramallah.

    Perhaps the UN pulled the report simply because it is absurd.

  9. Amazingly, I have spent far more than 10 minutes in Ramallah — days, actually — with Palestinians who knew full well that I’m Jewish, and yet I somehow lived to tell the tale…

  10. Dear friends who have taken the pain to post comments on the comical professor Heller’s post, I must say that he and his seventeen colleagues who have filed complaint with the ICC Prosecutor’s office against Australia will file a similar complaint against Israel and endeavour to get justice. In their eyes whatever Israel does is a crime under International Law and the violence perpetrated by Hamas and other terror groups against Israel are acts of resistance.So please have mercy on the Professor and forgive him; for he is not in control of his actions.

  11. Prof Heller would not probably last few minutes airing his nonsense on a Tel Aviv street; and if he has lasted then it shows that Israel is a vibrant democracy which respects freedom of expression. It is no surprise that the Israeli/Jewish basher lasted few days in Ramallah. For that matter it would not be surprising should he be granted honorary citizenship in the West Bank by the Palestinian Authority.

  12. Kumar! How I’ve missed your thoughtful and informed contributions to the blog…

  13. Note that already in January 2014, the UN issued a report that discussed the crime of apartheid for the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

    The report analyzed the following legal sources:
    – Art. 85(4)(c) Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions
    – Art. 3 ICERD
    – Art. 2 Apartheid Convention
    – Art. 7(2)(h) Rome Statute.

    It concluded that “practices and policies which appear to constitute apartheid and segregation” had occurred and recommends a criminal investigation before the ICC (Richard Falk, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967, UN Doc. A/HRC/25/67, 13 January 2014, paras. 51-80).

  14. Carola, is that 2014 report’s author the same as this current removed-from-the-UN-website?

    If so, the issue still remains: Falk is an person of pronounced irrationality when it comes to Judaism, Jewish national identity and, on the other hand, promoted rights of a people termed Palestinian.

    As for KJHeller’s “walk through Ramallah”, the point made by the two above should be addressed and not dismissed. Can a Jew or even a Christian expressing less than favorable views about Palestinians be as free in Ramallah or try Hebron or, better, Shchem/Nablus?

  15. Yisrael, yes, that’s correct.

    Note that the 2014 was written by Richard Falk in his position as a UN Special Rapporteur, while the 2017 report has two authors: Falk and Virginia Tilley.

    The legal analysis of the crimes committed is, to say the least, intriguing (and controversial). In my opinion, it breaks down to the issue whether the Jews and Palestinians can – legally – be classified as a racial group.

  16. Prof Heller don’t worry; I will always be round to expose your irrational and illogical arguments.

  17. Alas, Kumar still does not understand the difference between a conclusion and an argument. He has many of the former — none of the latter. (And no, irrational fear and xenophobia are not arguments.)

  18. Yisrael,

    It’s true: if a Jew were to walk through Ramallah calling all Palestinians the enemy, advocating burning down their homes as a form of collective punishment, and referring to their children as “little snakes” — all things “Justice” Minister Shaked has said — he or she may well not be safe.

  19. To KJH:
    your 7:20 AM comment is astoundingly silly, shallow, witless, derogatory and I’ll leave it at that.
    Amazing that you felt the need to unmask your prejudices so.

  20. Yes, nothing demonstrates prejudice quite like quoting high-ranking Israel officials’ own words…

  21. Response…KJH,

    You are being more than a little silly here. This is a report authored by one author who is a crackpot and a second with clearly biased views who by all indications had pre-judged the issue (she previously edited a book titled: “Beyond Occupation: Apartheid, Colonialism and International Law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”!). It is an embarrassment to the UN that this report was commissioned in the first place and is is appropriate that it be withdrawn.

    Your response to Yisreal is weird. Drawing a line from “expressing less than favorable views” to ” referring to their children as “little snakes” is bizarre. You are also being quite dishonest when you say you quoted Shaked in her “own words”. Those were not her “own words” and you ignore the context. It is also irrelevant to the discussion here, but I can see why you want to change the subject.

  22. I get it. It’s tired and pathetic, but I get it — everyone who criticises Israel is, by dint of their criticism, biased. Only those who defend Israel are objective. The myopia is staggering, but it’s entirely predictable.

  23. It’s worth noting, of course, that Shaked later tried to claim that she was not calling for the indiscriminate murder of Palestinian children, but had simply been mistranslated — and then conveniently deleted the post after Israelis burned an innocent Palestinian to death the day after she posted it. Alas for her, and for the commenters on this blog who are trying to excuse her horrific views (like they try to excuse all Israeli violence toward Palestinians), an archived version of her post demonstrated that there was no mistranslation.

    http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.655941

  24. KJH,

    You are completely and dishonestly mischaracterizing what I wrote. Do you honestly believe that someone who edited a book entitled “Beyond Occupation: Apartheid, Colonialism and International Law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories” is going to be an unbiased author on report about Israel?” Do you honestly believe that someone who is a 9-11 truther and blamed the Boston bombings on the “the American global domination project” and “Tel Aviv” is an appropriate author for this type of UN study? No-one says the authors should be ardent zionists, but don’t you perhaps think there are people in-between? But subtlety and compromise doesn’t seem to be your strong suit.

    Again your comments about Shaked are irrelevant, not to mention dishonest. Do you at least acknowledge that these were not her “own words” (as even your own link shows)?

  25. “Admiral Halsey was spot on when he said ‘the only good Jap is one that’s been dead six months’.”

    “You’re a racist.”

    “Racist? Me? They weren’t my words. I was just quoting Admiral Halsey.”

    Drake’s argument in a nutshell.

  26. I see you completely ignored my first criticism of your silliness.

    On your comment above, you were the person who said that the comment was her “own words”. Your exact words. You were wrong. Own it.

  27. I see you completely ignored my demonstration of the inanity of your argument. But I’m happy to acknowledge your hyperformalist point: yes, Shaked did not coin the expression “little snakes.” She simply adopted the idea by making another person’s words her own. Which is so much better…

  28. Again you completely misconstrue my argument. I merely pointed out you were wrong in claiming something was her “own words”. The real situation: she posted the text of someone else’s controversial article on her Facebook page. Does that mean she agreed with the text? Probably. Does that mean she agreed with every word in the text? Maybe. But that is a different situation to the text being directly her “own words”. As a little more context, she posted the inflammatory comments in the direct aftermath of the killing of three Israeli teens who were kidnapped while hiking in the West Bank, and she deleted the post shortly afterwards. If you still think your original comment was fair and in context, then you are the one being inane and dishonest.

    And you still refuse to address my first criticism of your silliness.

  29. Dear Friends who have commented on Prof Heller I can say at the cost of repetition, Oh Lord forgive him, for he knows not what he writes. He has no control over his brain and limbs. The dog barks as the caravan moves on – this report authored by a lunatic will hardly have any effect on Israel.

  30. The really weird matter is that in writing “Yes, nothing demonstrates prejudice quite like quoting high-ranking Israel officials’ own words…”, KJH was either misconstruing what I had referred to or didn’t quite grasp it.

    I had written “Can a Jew or even a Christian expressing less than favorable views about Palestinians be as free in Ramallah or try Hebron or, better, Shchem/Nablus?” and he refers to the most extremist instance of Ayelet Shaked’s remarks (and I won’t get into whether they were her words, quoted or whether she apologized or not for that is not the point). From my “less than favorable” to her “snakes” is a trick that a law professor should not be engaged in.

    Unlike Kumar, I do think he has control of brain and limbs. Or, to be a university professor, he should. His frothing and ranting on political and ideological issues are unseemly.

  31. Yisrael Medad is entitled to his views about the Professor. I wrote the statement because I wondered how could such a person be a professor if he expresses bias or prejudice towards a state in respect of an issue so overtly. I too taught International Law to undergrad students of law and used to encourage open debates on sensitive issues like the conflict in Kashmir and the Palestinian problem. Spewing venom against those who have a different viewpoint only reinforces what I have stated about the professor. Thanks.

  32. By reading these comments, one almost gets the feeling that there actually IS something about this rapport. If the rapport was ‘propaganda’, then it should be easy to give a calm and collected counter-argument in relation to the content of the rapport, instead of trying to label the professors who wrote it. If it is subjective, then illustrate why it is subjective, rather than complaining about the authors. This is not a good and credible strategy for anybody – we need to speak constructively about these important issues.

    I would really like to hear some honest and straightforward suggestions from KJH criticizers, how they think the UN should deal with potential apartheid situations, if not by publishing research on these matters?

  33. The media wants you to know one thing about this report, but here’s the crucial information they aren’t telling you about the former UN official Richard Falk who wrote the report so they can hype his accusing Israel of ‘apartheid’:
    Falk is a notorious anti-Semite. As far back as 1979, he wrote an op-ed titled “Trusting Khomeini”.
    In 2010 even the Palestinian Authority tried to have him ousted from his UN position for being a “Partisan of Hamas”.
    In 2011, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon condemned Falk for espousing 9/11 conspiracy theories and world leaders condemned Falk for posting an anti-Semitic cartoon on his website.
    In 2013, Falk blamed the Boston bombing on the US and Israel!
    So it’s no surprise that in 2017, Falk resurfaces to accuse the Mideast’s only democracy of “apartheid”.
    This tells you all you need to know about the reliability of anything in this report. The only real questions is, who allows this radical anti-Semite to continue writing reports for the UN?

  34. Apartheid refers to the official policy of racial segregation. Whites dominated the nonwhite population, and discriminated against people of color in the political, legal, and economic sectors. Though they were the overwhelming majority of the population, nonwhites could not vote or become citizens.
    In contrast, Israel’s founding Declaration of Independence called upon the Arab inhabitants of Israel to “participate in the building of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.” The Arabs within Israel’s borders in 1948 were given citizenship in the new State of Israel. Israeli Arabs have their own political parties and representation in parliament. Arabs are also members of all the major Israeli parties.
    In South Africa, nonwhites were prohibited from running businesses or professional practices in the white areas without permits. In Israel, it is illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of race and Arab citizens of Israel are represented in all walks of Israeli life. Arabs have served in senior diplomatic and government positions and an Arab currently serves on the Supreme Court.
    In South Africa, laws dictated where nonwhites could live, work, and travel, and the government imprisoned and sometimes killed those who protested against its policies. By contrast, Israel allows freedom of movement, assembly and speech. Some of the government’s harshest critics are Israeli Arabs in the parliament.
    Arab students and professors study, research, and teach at Israeli universities. At Haifa University, 20 percent of the students are Arabs.

    The situation of Palestinians in the territories is different. While many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip dispute Israel’s right to exist, nonwhites did not seek the destruction of South Africa, only of the apartheid regime.
    Unlike South Africa, where restrictions were racially motivated, Israel is forced by incessant Palestinian terrorism to take actions, such as building checkpoints and the security fence, to protect its citizens.
    Beyond limits placed on their ability to attack Israel, roughly 98% of the Palestinians in the territories are governed by the autonomous Palestinian Authority, which does not permit freedom of speech, religion, assembly or other rights taken for granted by Westerners — and guaranteed to all – Jews and Arabs alike, in Israel.

    These comments are of one Richard Manhon

  35. Anon,

    Now you are again criticizing the authors. I’m not saying your criticism is wrong, as I simply don’t know this person, just that you are not addressing the real problem here:

    How do you think the UN should deal with potential apartheid situations, if not by publishing research on these matters?

  36. Axolotl,

    Perhaps you somehow missed Anon’s posting at 9.30am which does not mention the authors at all.

    But, to address your direct question (“How do you think the UN should deal with potential apartheid situations, if not by publishing research on these matters?”) Well, maybe, just maybe, they could commission reports by respected, unbiased scholars who are not documented crackpots or do not have clear ex ante ideological biases. No-one is saying that reports should not be written (though the obsession of the UN with regards to Israel as opposed to other countries should give one pause), but that the reports would have far greater credibility if the authors were not obviously biased. This really is not difficult.

    A question for you Axolotl: Do you think a report commissioned by a organization of 18 Arab member states and authored by a 9-11 truther and an idealogue is likely to be objective, appropriate and reliable? Do you think this should have the imprimatur of the UN?

  37. To slightly edit my question for Axolotl for clarity:

    Do you think a report commissioned by an organization of 18 Arab member states ABOUT ISRAEL and authored by a 9-11 truther and an idealogue is likely to be objective, appropriate and reliable? Do you think this should have the imprimatur of the UN?

  38. To Axolotl,

    If you want yourself and your questions to be taken seriously, how about familiarizing yourself with the difference between a “report” and a “rapport” for starters? Just a suggestion.

  39. Just to note:

    “apartheid” is simply redefined (see as an example: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-makdisi-israel-apartheid-20140518-story.html) to fit Israel and thus our new vocabulary “justifies” referring to Israel as an “apartheid” state. Terms are inverted. Reality twisted. At least Yiftahel created a new term.
    Quite a simple tact, if nefarious, really.

  40. A DNA study of Jews and Palestinian Arabs (including Bedouins) found that these were more closely related to each other than to people of the Arabian Peninsula, Ethiopian Semitic-speaking people (Amharas, Tigrayans , Harari and Tigre people), and the Arabic speakers of North Africa.

    Genetic studies indicate that modern Jews (Ashkenazi, Sephardic and Mizrahi specifically), Levantine Arabs, Assyrians, Samaritans, Maronites, Druze, Mandaeans, and Mhallami, all have an ancient indigenous common Near Eastern heritage which can be genetically mapped back to the ancient Fertile Crescent, but often also display genetic profiles distinct from one another, indicating the different histories of these peoples.[(Source-Wikipedia)

    Article II of the convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1973, states that the term applies to acts “committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.”

    In the light of the above can the Palestinians and the Israelis (Jews) be considered racially different from one another. Please enlighten.

  41. Drake,

    If other professors would be chosen, and would arrive at a similar conclusion, how would you guarantee that the professor would not be blamed again for being anti-Semitic and in other ways biased? Or if he arrived at a different conclusion, others would maybe label him pro-Israel? In my view, we have to get out of this bad circle, by instead focusing on the content of ‘bad’ research. It would a much better strategy to address to biased elements of the research, and would allow people like me to see concretely why you are labeling professors, who you do not agree with, and I could form my own opinion.

    I am well aware that all issues related to Israel and Palestine are highly politicized, and I am very careful to make any opinions on these matters. Therefore I want more concrete argumentation, and less labeling/name-calling.

    To answer your question Drake, I think such a report well could be biased, but the way to deal with it would be to address the bias content of the reports, and in that way give others a choice to form their own opinions…

  42. To Eugene,

    If you want yourself and your comments to be taken seriously, how about familiarizing yourself with the difference between argumentation and name-calling for starters?

    Just a suggestion.

  43. Axolotl,

    With respect, you are hopeless. Do you have any background in law? If so, you will understand the reasonable person standard. Would any reasonable person believe that these two authors, given their background, would be objective in a report about Israel? Of course not. Anyone who argues otherwise is simply being dishonest. If the UN is going to issue authoritative reports on controversial topics, then it should select authors that meet the reasonable person standard. This really is not difficult.

    (Eugene’s calling out your rather embarrassing conflation of “rapport” and “report” is not name-calling but a useful tip you would do well to heed.)

  44. Drake,

    Am I hopeless, just because I am trying to convince you to use arguments instead of trying to identify the person behind the arguments. Considering this tendency, It really doesn’t seem like you have a background in law at all? The ‘reasonable person standard’ should be applied carefully in areas such as tort and criminal law, but when it comes to politically sensitive issues we should aim at addressing the real problems, the content of the research. You should not assume that every politically or morally sensitive topic is within the area of criminal/tort law, right?

    By the way, I am happy that Eugene corrected my grammar mistake. Thanks Eugene. In my opinion it is healthy to admit ones makes mistakes. And also, I was referring to Eugenes general name-calling, not his hyper-sensitivity for details in words such as “report”.

    In short, it is very important that potential apartheid situations are identified and that the victims get the help they have the legal and moral right to get, so please don’t be aggressive towards me, or anybody else for that sake, but cooperate to solve these problems. They need your help.

  45. Axolotl,

    If you feel I am being “aggressive towards you”, it is because you are being deliberately obtuse. A report published by the UN is not a position paper or an exposure draft to be discussed – is is an authoritative document bearing the imprimatur of the UN. It is a big deal and carries the credibility of the UN. How many newspaper articles were a variant of “UN Report calls Israel an Apartheid regime”? Just google it. Consequently, it is incumbent on the UN to make sure the process leading to an official report is fair and equitable, and that includes commissioning authors who are not crackpots and who have not prejudged the issue. That clearly was not the case here. Why can’t you acknowledge this? If you really want to solve the problem, then you have to realize that the approach used by ESCWA will never work as the report is going to be rejected out-of-hand by critics without even considering the content. And that is what happened.

    And of course the reasonable man standard applies here. It is a common law / common sense concept. I would guess you just googled the term and regurgitated the first thing you saw. As regards background in law, I have an LL.M. You?

  46. Drake,

    I completely agree with you that the UN has to make sure that an official report is fair and equitable. May I ask you: Would you accept a similar report conclusion, or let’s say the same conclusion, if the report was written by different authors? I’m guessing not. And it is we have the real problem: You are not really afraid of who the authors might be, but of the content being factual and real. But of course you can’t argue that because its very difficult to defend Apartheid-like situations, so in your view the only tactic would be to point fingers at the authors, labelling the approach the “reasonable person standard”, to give it a more serious/legal form. However by (still) disregarding the content of the research, people may suffer and injustice may take place in Israel.

    As I pointed out earlier I am very careful to make an opinion about the Israel-Palestine situation, therefore I really want to form my own opinion about the matter. In the report, the credentials of the authors are spectacular. So, you must do better than to label the authors ‘biased’, if you want to convince people otherwise about highly prestigious professors. For all I know what you’re saying might or might not be true. But can you for example send a link which validates your opinions about the ideological tendencies of the report authors? And who’s assessing the authors ideological biases: people who agree with you that name-calling is more interesting than argumentation? Again, I think we should try to solve these issues by not calling names.

    And as to the content of the report: in your opinion, is it true or not true that there is an Apartheid-like situation in Israel? And if there are facts which only might indicate such atrocities, why should the UN publish such results for others to make their independent opinion ?

  47. Axolotl,

    Now you are calling these authors “spectacular” and “highly prestigious” without addressing a single one of the many well documented criticisms of them in multiple postings above. Ok, so you are just trolling. You have successfully wasted more than enough of my time. I am embarrassed to have been taken in (at least until this latest over-the-top post). I am normally far more attuned to trolls. Well played, sir. Well played.

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