In a 1935 stage production of Billy Rose's Jumbo, Jimmy Durante is leading an elephant down the street. A policeman stops him and asks, "What are you doing with that elephant?"
Durante responds, "What elephant"? That line became a 1935 nightly show-stopper. Durante repeated the same question in the 1962 film version of Jumbo (above).
Wikipedia speculates that this line may have contributed to the phrase, "the elephant in the room," which refers to the denial of something as a reality, when that something is obviously in the room.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last week became the latest official to deny the obvious presence of the apartheid elephant enforced by the state of Israel.
He joined the parade and said, "What elephant?" when he instructed Rima Khalaf, Executive Director of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), to withdraw a report written for her agency.
The report concluded that Israel imposes an apartheid regime on Palestinians. She refused to withdraw the report. Then she resigned as ESCWA's Executive Director.
The Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported that Dr. Khalaf told reporters in Beirut that the report was the "first of its kind" from a UN agency.
She also said the report sheds light on "the crimes that Israel continues to commit against the Palestinian people, which amount to war crimes against humanity."
The ESCWA, which is comprised of 18 Arab states from western Asia, said in the report that Israel was guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt" of imposing apartheid policies against Palestinians.
Richard Falk, who co-authored the original ESCWA report with fellow American academic, Virginia Tilley, has an important article in The Nation magazine, about the preparation and impact of the report.
Falk explained the final careful steps of the report from draft to the finished document:
"ESCWA, for its part, took steps to ensure that the report lived up to scholarly standards, submitting the draft text to three prominent international jurists, who anonymously submitted strong positive appraisals along with some suggestions for revision, which we gratefully incorporated before the final text was released. For government officials and others to dismiss our report as a biased polemic is irresponsible, with respect both to the authority of the UN and to international law."