BEIRUT (Reuters) - The leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement denounced the United Nations on Saturday as weak after the withdrawal of a report accusing Israel of imposing an “apartheid regime” on Palestinians.
A senior U.N. official resigned on Friday after the secretary-general asked her to remove the report, published by the United Nation’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), from the internet.
U.N. Under-Secretary General and ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf said she was leaving after “powerful member states” had pressured the world body and its chief with “vicious attacks and threats”.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech on Saturday that the incident served as a reminder of the “truth of this organization, that it’s weak ... and it succumbs to the will of the United States and Israel”.
The U.N. is “incapable of taking a stand” and the debacle over the report proved it cannot be counted on “to defend human rights in our region,” he said.
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, also criticized the decision and called on the report to be reinstated.
ESCWA, which comprises 18 Arab states, published the report on Wednesday and said it was the first time a U.N. body had clearly charged that Israel “has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole”.
Israel fiercely rejects the allegation, often directed at it by its critics, and likened the report to Der Sturmer - a Nazi propaganda publication that was strongly anti-Semitic.
The United States, an ally of Israel, had said it was outraged and demanded the report be withdrawn.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said on Friday that Khalaf’s resignation was appropriate and Israel’s U.N. ambassador Danny Danon said it was “long overdue”.
“It is only normal for criminals to pressure and attack those who advocate the cause of their victims,” Khalaf wrote in her resignation letter. She stood by the ESCWA report.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the report was published without consultation with the U.N. secretariat.
“This is not about content, this is about process,” Dujarric told reporters in New York on Friday.
“The secretary-general cannot accept that an under-secretary general or any other senior U.N. official that reports to him would authorize the publication under the U.N. name, under the U.N. logo, without consulting the competent departments and even himself,” he said.
Last month, Nasrallah warned that Hezbollah would put up fierce resistance in any future confrontation with Israel should the United States give it the green light to attack it inside Lebanon, but played down the prospects of such a battle.
Israel fought a destructive month-long war with its Lebanese foe Hezbollah in 2006, and has targeted the group including military leaders in several deadly strikes in Syria in recent years but there has been no major direct confrontation.
Reporting by Ellen Francis and Nidal al-Mughrabi,; Editing by Julia Glover and Stephen Powell