Many have criticised the United Nations for practising double standards and the withdrawal of a report on the apartheid practices of Israel from the website of a UN body; the Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA) fortifies this belief. The report found that, on the basis of scholarly inquiry and overwhelming evidence, that Israel is guilty of imposing apartheid on the Palestinian people. It is indeed disappointing that a well-researched report on Israeli practices of apartheid can be buried by the United Nations without any discussion on the veracity of the findings.
When the report was published, the US and Israel caused a huge uproar without a justifiable critique of the report’s content. They chose to intimidate the United Nations and the Secretary-General into removing the exceptionally researched and well-documented report and launched an attack on the authors, Virginia Tilley and Richard Falk, prominent experts in international law. This manoeuvre is a strategic attempt by these parties to draw attention away from the contents of the report.
The Secretary-General, regrettably, gave in and took administrative action in suppressing the report. This led to the immediate resignation of ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf from her prestigious position, citing that her duty to the peoples of the region and the United Nations is not to silence the testimony about a crime that causes such suffering to so many human beings.
The UN does not have any reservations in censuring poor nations, but when it comes to rich and powerful States, the United Nations fails to do its job. Israel is blatantly violating human rights and international law in imposing an apartheid regime. Therefore, the actions of the Secretary-General have serious implications on the credibility of the United Nations, and the future of global security.
The UN needs to approach this matter with renewed multilateral engagement and clearly articulated objectives to hold Israel accountable for its war crimes. As long as the UN does not take serious action, it could be condoning their crimes and encouraging States to enjoy impunity for their crimes. The inaction of the United Nations is directly detrimental to peace in West Asia. The Secretary-General must staunchly defend the principles of human rights, embodied in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and hold the culprits accountable for their actions.
S.M. MOHAMED IDRIS is Chairman for Citizens International, Penang, Malaysia