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July 19, 2017 6:58 pm

UN Commission for Middle East Continues to Push ‘Apartheid’ Slur Against Israel on Social Media

avatar by Ben Cohen

ESCWA’s Headquarters in Beirut. Photo: file

A Beirut-based UN commission ostensibly dedicated to economic and social development in the Middle East continues to host stridently anti-Zionist content on its web outlets despite protests over its continued bias against Israel, a new study by a UN watchdog revealed on Wednesday.

The report by the Geneva-based NGO UN Watch demonstrated numerous instances of the defamation of Israel as an “apartheid state” in the social media postings of ESCWA – The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for West Asia.

Composed of 18 Arab states, ESCWA’s denunciations of Israel resulted in a scandal at the UN in March, when UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres took the near unprecedented step of pulling an ESCWA report decrying Israeli “apartheid” after it was published without his approval.

As a result, ESCWA’s chief, Rima Khalaf, resigned from her post, alleging that the decision had been forced on her by “powerful member states” who pressured Gutteres with “vicious attacks and threats.”

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While Khalaf was replaced in May by veteran Iraqi politician Mohamed Alhakim, little appears to have been done to challenge the rabidly anti-Zionist content pushed by ESCWA on its social media platforms – some of which has been available since 2014.

The UN Watch report shows a consistent pattern in the demonization of Israel as an “apartheid state” in ESCWA’s output. Included among the examples are several instances of Rima Khalaf condemning Israeli “apartheid,” as well as a series of Facebook and Twitter posts pushing the same message from American academics Virginia Tilley and Richard Falk – the duo who wrote the ESCWA report withdrawn by Guterres.

Falk, a Princeton professor, is notorious for flirting with 9/11 conspiracy theories, while Tilley is well-known in UN circles as an advocate of replacing Israel – a sovereign member state of the UN – with a single state of Palestine.

The report also highlighted instances of ESCWA pushing deliberately distorted quotes from historical figures to bolster the accusation that Israel practices “apartheid.” One post – uploaded onto Facebook in September 2014 and still online – quotes the former South African Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd saying approvingly, “Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.”

But once read in context, Verwoerd’s quote is understood as he intended: as a threat against Israel for its flourishing relationship with post-colonial African states who saw the overthrow of South Africa’s racist apartheid regime as a matter of the continent’s dignity.

“Israel is not consistent in its new anti-apartheid attitude,” Verwoerd said in 1961, as he condemned an Israeli vote against the apartheid regime at the UN. He then voiced what has become one of the core arguments of the BDS movement targeting Israel.

“They took Israel away from the Arabs after the Arabs lived there for a thousand years,” Verwoerd – an architect of apartheid – said.

He continued, “In that, I agree with them. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.”

UN Watch expressed hope that under Alhakim, the continuing presence of such content on ESCWA’s platforms would be removed.

“As stated by Mr. Guterres, the Executive Secretary of ESCWA is ‘a representative of the Secretary-General.’ As such, Mr. Guterres is obliged to uphold UN discipline regarding posts that single out a member state in contravention of the UN Charter,” the report argued.

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