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UN report accuses Israel of imposing ‘apartheid regime’ on Palestinians

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Thursday. A report by a United Nations agency is accusing Israel of imposing an “apartheid regime” on Palestinians. (Amire Cohen/AFP/Getty Images)

A United Nations agency published a report this week accusing Israel of imposing an “apartheid regime” upon Palestinians “in order to maintain the domination of one racial group over others.”

“Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole,” the report, which was published by the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, concluded.

According to the  authors of the report, the document was prepared on the “basis of scholarly inquiry and overwhelming evidence, that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid.” It determined that “strategic fragmentation of the Palestinian people” into four groups is the main way in which Israel imposes apartheid against Palestinians by oppressing them through “distinct laws, policies and practices.”

The four sets of Palestinians, as described in the report, are Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinians in East Jerusalem, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and exiled and refugee Palestinians.

Emmanuel Nahshon, a spokesperson for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, rejected the analysis, comparing it to Der Stürmer, a Nazi propaganda publication that was extremely anti-Semitic.

Israeli U.N. Ambassador Danny Dannon slammed the report, too.

“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,” Dannon said in a statement, Reuters reported.

According to U.N. Under-Secretary General and ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf, the report is the “first of its type” from a U.N. group that “clearly and frankly concludes that Israel is a racist state that has established an apartheid system that persecutes the Palestinian people.”

The ESCWA is comprised of 18 Arab states, including Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and aims to promote economic and social development in member states. The controversial report against Israel was prepared at the request of ESCWA members, Khalaf said.

Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for the United Nations, told reporters in New York that the analysis was published without any prior consultation with the U.N. secretariat.

“The report as it stands does not reflect the views of the secretary-general [Antonio Guterres],” Dujarric said.

The United States was certainly frustrated by the report. Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said, “The United Nations secretariat was right to distance itself from this report, but it must go further and withdraw the report altogether.”

The report was written by Richard Falk, a former U.N. human rights investigator for Palestine, and Southern Illinois University political science professor Virginia Tilley.

The conclusion reached by the ESCWA is not new to Falk. Before leaving his post at the U.N. in 2014, he asserted that Israeli policies had unacceptable characteristics of colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing, according to Reuters.

While the new report is certainly unnerving to many, it should be noted — as the study points out — “only a ruling by an international tribunal ... would make such an assessment truly authoritative.”

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