Israel insists a United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) panel investigating the the 2021 Operation Guardian of the Walls conflict with Palestinian terrorists in Gaza be dismissed, while condemning remarks by one of its members as a slur against Jews.
By Erin Viner
The Hamas rulers of Gaza and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) groups, which are sworn to Israel’s destruction, opened the 11-day war with rocket attacks over claims of “Israeli violations” of the al-Aqsa Mosque– Islam’s third holiest site, built atop the ruins of both Biblical Temples in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid sent a letter to UN Secretary-General António Guterres this week, calling for “the immediate removal of all three members of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) tasked with investigating Israel and the disbanding of the Commission.”
“The Prime Minister’s demand comes in the aftermath of antisemitic statements by Commission member Mr. Miloon Kothari, which join a series of antisemitic incidents as well as the unmistakable anti-Israel sentiment within the UN’s Commission of Inquiry,” said Lapid’s office in a statement.
Kothari in an interview said during a Mondoweiss podcast on 25 July that the COI is “very disheartened by the social media that is controlled largely by, whether it is the Jewish lobby or specific NGOs, a lot of money is being thrown in to try to discredit us.” UN spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment, although Mondoweiss published an allegation by COI head Navi Pillay that Kothari’s comments had deliberately been taken out of context.
In his letter, Prime Minister Lapid appealed to the UN Secretary-General “to honor your word in this egregious case, to set the record straight. This cannot stand. Slurs about a “Jewish lobby” that acts to “control” the media, are reminiscent of the darkest days of modern history.”
“The fight against anti-Semitism cannot be waged with words alone, it requires action. This is the time for action; it is time to disband the Commission. From Mr. Kothari’s outrageous slurs to Ms. Pillay’s defense of the indefensible, this Commission does not just endorse antisemitism — it fuels it.”
Thanks to a comprehensive and intensive effort led by Israel in recent days, representatives of a number of countries have already condemned Mr. Kothari’s antisemitic remarks, including: the United States, France, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Austria, as well as the European Union.
“These unacceptable remarks sadly exacerbate our deep concerns about the open-ended nature & overly broad scope of the COI and the HRC’s disproportionate & biased treatment of Israel,” US Envoy to the council Michele Taylor tweeted.
Israel boycotted the inquiry and barred entry to its investigators, based on longstanding accusations of deep bias demonstrated by the UNHRC. The United States joined Israel to accuse the panel’s June interim finding was the latest in a series of biased reports.
“As we have stated repeatedly, we firmly oppose the open-ended and vaguely defined nature of the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on the situation in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, which represents a one-sided, biased approach that does nothing to advance the prospects for peace,” said US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said following release of the June report, adding that it “does nothing to alleviate our concerns.”
He went on to point out that, “Israel is the only country subject to a standing agenda item at the HRC and has received disproportionate focus at the HRC compared to human rights situations elsewhere in the world. While no country is above scrutiny, the existence of this COI in its current form is a continuation of a longstanding pattern of unfairly singling out Israel. We reengaged with and later re-joined the HRC in part to be in a better position to address its flaws, including this one, and we will continue to seek reforms.”
The administration of former US President Donald Trump had resigned from the organization in 2018 after repeated warnings against its anti-Israel bias.
Then-US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley observed that, “You know something is seriously wrong when the Council passes more than 70 resolutions against Israel – which has a strong human rights record – and just 7 resolutions against Iran, whose history is abysmal.” Haley further cautioned that if the UNHRC failed to alter its platform, it would risk becoming “a showcase for dictatorships” as well as a “cover for some of the worst atrocities being carried out” worldwide.
The administration of US President Joe Biden only fully re-joined the UNHRC last year, after pledging it would seek to eliminate a “disproportionate focus” on ally Israel.