On March 15th a UN body titled ‘United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia’ (ESCWA) – part of the United Nations Economic and Social Council – published a report claiming that Israel imposes an ‘apartheid regime’ on Palestinians.
“UN Under-Secretary General and ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf said the report was the “first of its type” from a U.N. body that “clearly and frankly concludes that Israel is a racist state that has established an apartheid system that persecutes the Palestinian people”. […]
ESCWA comprises 18 Arab states in Western Asia and aims to support economic and social development in member states, according to its website. The report was prepared at the request of member states, Khalaf said.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York that the report was published without any prior consultation with the UN secretariat.
“The report as it stands does not reflect the views of the secretary-general (Antonio Guterres),” said Dujarric, adding that the report itself notes that it reflects the views of the authors.” [emphasis added]
The ESCWA member states that commissioned the report are Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, ‘Palestine’, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the UAE and Yemen. The report was written by Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley and, given the records of both those authors, its conclusions were foregone.
In 2012 Virginia Tilley – a supporter of the ‘one-state solution’ – published a study titled “Beyond Occupation: Apartheid, Colonialism and International Law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”. Richard Falk – who in his former role as UN rapporteur was frequently quoted by the BBC – is infamous for his antisemitism, his promotion of conspiracy theories concerning the 9/11 and Boston marathon attacks, his support for Hamas and more.
Although the BBC did not cover the publication of the ESCWA report on March 15th, one BBC employee found it appropriate to retweet the Reuters report on the subject to his followers.
Two days after the report’s publication and following a request from the UN Secretary General to remove it from the ESCWA website, the body’s secretary-general resigned.
The BBC then published an article titled “UN’s Rima Khalaf quits over report accusing Israel of apartheid” on its website’s Middle East page.
“A UN official has resigned after saying the UN had pressured her to withdraw a report accusing Israel of apartheid over its treatment of Palestinians.
The report was published by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), led by Under Secretary General Rima Khalaf. […]
Speaking in the Lebanese capital Beirut, Ms Khalaf, a Jordanian, said she had submitted her resignation to Mr Guterres after he insisted on the report’s withdrawal.”
The article goes on to amplify a statement made by Khalaf:
“”We expected of course that Israel and its allies would put huge pressure on the secretary general of the UN so that he would disavow the report, and that they would ask him to withdraw it,” she was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.”
However, readers are not told of an obviously relevant statement made by the UN Secretary General’s spokesperson:
“The secretary-general cannot accept that an under-secretary-general or any other senior UN official that reports to him would authorize the publication under the UN name, under the UN logo, without consulting the competent departments and even himself.”
Neither are they told that Khalaf’s term of office was in any case due to come to an end.
“The spokesman said that Mr. Guterres had not asked Ms. Khalaf to resign, and that her term had been set to expire at the end of the month.”
The article describes ESCWA as follows:
“It [the report] was published on Wednesday by the ESCWA, which promotes economic and social development in 18 Arab countries, and is based in Beirut.”
At no point are readers informed which countries make up ESCWA or of the fact that all are members of the ‘Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’ which has a long history of anti-Israel campaigning at the UN.
At no point are BBC audiences informed of the identities of the authors of the report and the obviously relevant issue of their well-documented anti-Israel stances.
The article includes Israel’s reaction to the ESCWA report:
“Israel has condemned the report. “The attempt to smear and falsely label the only true democracy in the Middle East by creating a false analogy is despicable and constitutes a blatant lie,” Israeli UN Ambassador Danny Danon said in a statement.”
However, readers are not provided with background information concerning the employment of the ‘apartheid’ trope by anti-Israel campaigners to delegitimise the country and the BBC’s article refrains from telling audiences in its own words that accusations of ‘apartheid’ against Israel are baseless, while amplifying the report’s ‘findings’:
“She [Khalaf] had said it was the first to conclude Israel was a racist state. […]
The report itself said it had established on the “basis of scholarly inquiry and overwhelming evidence, that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid”.”
The article then goes on to provide what is apparently intended to be seen as ‘back-up’ to those claims:
“In 2014, the then US Secretary of State, John Kerry, warned that Israel risked becoming “an apartheid state” if a two-state solution to its conflict with the Palestinians was not found soon.”
That link leads to a BBC article from April 2014 that, as noted here at the time, included ‘analysis’ from Paul Danahar which not only failed to explain to BBC audiences why the ‘apartheid’ trope is used and by whom, but suggested that there is a “debate” to be had on the issue.
The article closes with the BBC’s standard promotion of a partial narrative on ‘international law’:
“The settlements that Israel has built in the West Bank are home to nearly 500,000 people and are deemed to be illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.”
In order for readers to be able to understand this story properly, they need to be made aware of its subject matter’s background and context. While BBC audiences not infrequently find the ‘apartheid’ trope mainstreamed in BBC content, they have long been deprived of information which would help them comprehend its redundancy and the true aims of those who promote that tactical smear. This latest article merely perpetuates that deprivation.
The BBC and the ‘apartheid’ smear