Rima Khalaf’s Resignation Letter to UN Secretary General

UN Under-Secretary General and ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf resigned under pressure from officials after report named Israel 'apartheid' state. (Photo: Euromedmonitor.org)

(Rima Khalaf resigned as executive secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia – ESCWA – after the agency was forced to retract a report stating that Israel is an “apartheid regime.” Khalaf’s letter of resignation to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was translated and posted by poet Lena Khalaf Tuffaha on her Facebook page.)

Here is that translation:

UN ESCWA (Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia) Executive Secretary

Dr. Rima Khalaf’s Resignation Letter

Honorable Secretary General,

I have given a great deal of consideration to the letter I received from your office, and I assure you that I in no way question your right to issue instructions to remove the report from the ESCWA web site, as I do not question that as employees of the United Nations, we must all execute the orders of our Secretary General.

I know very well your commitment to the principles of human rights in general and your position on the rights of the Palestinian people specifically. And I also understand the anxiety you must have in these difficult times that leave you with few good choices.

It is clear to me the kinds of pressures and threats to which the United Nations and you personally are subjected by states with authority and influence, because of the publication of the ESCWA report (Israelis Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid). I am not surprised that these states, which are run today by governments with little concern for international principles and human rights, should resort to tactics of fear-mongering and threats when they fail to defend their policies and practices which violate the law. It makes sense that a criminal would attack those who defend the cause of his victims, but I find myself incapable of bowing to such pressures, and not because of my role as an employee of the United Nations, but simply as a sane human being. For I believe—as you do—in the values and noble principles that have always represented the forces of good throughout history, and upon which our organization, the United Nations, was founded. And, like you, I also believe that discrimination against any human being on the basis of religion or skin color or gender or ethnicity is absolutely unacceptable, and cannot be made acceptable by political maneuvering or brute force. And I believe that to speak truth to power is not only a human right, it is our obligation.

Over the course of two months, I have been instructed to withdraw two reports published by ESCWA, not for any error or shortcomings within the reports themselves and not necessarily because you yourself disagree with their content, but because of political pressures from states implicated by their blatant violations of the rights of people in the region and human rights in general.

You have seen with your own eyes how the people of this region are enduring episodes of pain and suffering unprecedented in their modern history, and that the deluge of catastrophes that has overtaken them today is a direct result of unchecked oppression which has been ignored, or covered up, or openly engaged in by governments with dominance and force within the region and outside of it. These same governments are the ones pressuring you today to silence the voice of truth and the calls for justice represented by this report.

In view of all that I have stated here, I can only insist on the findings of the ESCWA report, which state that Israel has built an apartheid regime which aims to give one ethnic group control over another. The evidence provided in the report is incontrovertible, and here it is sufficient to point out that anyone who has attacked the report has been incapable of calling into question a single word of its actual content. I see it as my obligation to shine a light on the truth and not to hide it or obscure the testimony and evidence it provides.

The painful truth is that an apartheid regime still exists in the 21st century, and this is unacceptable under any law and is morally unjustifiable.

As I make this statement, I claim no moral superiority and no greater clarity than you possess, the matter is simply that my statements are a result of an entire life spent here, in this region, witnessing the horrific consequences of stifling people and preventing them from expressing the truth of their suffering through peaceful means.

As such, and after great consideration, I realize that I too have no choice. I cannot withdraw, once again, a United Nations report, an exceptionally researched and well-documented report about grave violations of human rights. I also realize that the clear directives of the Secretary General of the United Nations must be executed.

And so the only way to resolve this tangle is for me to step aside and leave it to someone else to do what my conscience prevents me from doing. I realize I have only two weeks of service remaining in my post, so my resignation is not meant to exert any political pressure on you. I am simply resigning because I believe my duty to the peoples of the region that we serve, and to the United Nations, and to myself, is not to silence the testimony about a crime that causes such suffering to so many human beings.

For this reason, I submit to you my resignation from the United Nations.

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  1. Those who respect the virtue of justice are grateful to Dr. Khalaf for this exemplary letter, for her fortitude, courage and dedication to truth-telling. Much thanks also to Dr. Khalaf for her valuable long service to ESCWA and to the family of nations in general.

    • I can only agree! – She ought to be cloned in the thousands! – And no matter how helpless you feel when fighting for Human Rights in places where some people are not considered human it gives great hope to see that there ARE people with integrity who are not inclined to follow the stream!
      On the other hand you can wonder how the rest of the people of these organisations talk about EXACTLY THESE VALUES that Dr. Khalaf possesses as the soul of the UN – and other organisations! – They ought to choke in their tongues!
      But thank you, Rima Khalaf! You showed us that the world still has heros!

  2. Dr. Khalaf your honesty and dedication to the pursuit of truth and shining a light on the what is happening to the Palestinian people is Greatly appreciated. I believe in the cause of the Palestinian people, however I fear what the future has in store for Gaza. I fear Israel is trying everything in their power to force the kind of confrontation that would allow them to justify taking major military action against Gaza leading to its entire destruction and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, and I am angered by the failure of the UN to take action before it is to late.

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