On Wednesday, a UN agency published a report noting that “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.” Yesterday, the author of that report, who has served as executive secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA) since 2010, Rima Khalaf, resigned after the Trump administration, working in conjunction with Israel, pressured the UN secretary-general to demand that she withdraw the report.
Khalaf, a Jordanian national who has served in multiple high government positions, refused the demand to repudiate her own report, instead choosing to resign. The report — which was co-authored by the Jewish American Princeton professor and former UN official Richard Falk, a longtime critic of Israeli occupation — has now been removed from the UNESCWA website.
What makes this event most remarkable is how unremarkable the report’s conclusion is: It’s a point that a former Israeli prime minister — as well as Trump’s own defense secretary — has made unequivocally. Back in 2010, Ehud Barak, Israel’s former prime minister and its most decorated soldier, explicitly warned that Israel was on a path to what he called a permanent “apartheid” state. As he put it: “As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”
Seven years later, Israel is indisputably committed to exactly that outcome. Many of its key ministers do not even support a two-state solution. Israeli expansion of illegal settlements continues unabated. Palestinians are further away than ever from full political rights, or even enjoying the right of democratic self-determination. As Barak himself pointed out, this is the very definition of apartheid.
Yet now, thanks to the Trump administration’s self-destructive devotion to Israeli interests — an odd posture for a president who ran on a platform of “Putting America First” — it is impermissible for UN officials to note this reality lest Israel be offended.