Lapid: Axe UN Israel probe following 'Jewish Lobby' outrage

'The fight against antisemitism cannot be waged with words alone; it requires action. This is the time for action.'


Prime Minister Yair Lapid has called for a United Nations inquiry into Israel to be shut down after one of its key figures suggested the “Jewish lobby” controls social media.

The remarks by Miloon Kothari — one of three commissioners on the UN body — sparked condemnation from many other member states, including the UK.

In a podcast interview, Mr Kothari, from India, described himself as “a scholar and activist” and said: “We are very disheartened by the social media, whether controlled by the Jewish lobby, or specific NGOs, a lot of money is being thrown to try and discredit us.”

In the interview, he also said of Israel: “I would go as far to raise the question of why they are even a member of the UN.”

Navi Pillay, South African chair of the “Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel”, already faces accusations of bias, having backed a petition calling for sanctions against Israel in 2020. The third commissioner, Chris Sidoti, from Australia, has claimed “accusations of antisemitism are thrown around like rice at a wedding”.Mr Lapid wrote to the UN Secretary-General António Guterres this week to demand the immediate removal of all three members of the COI.

In his letter Mr Lapid highlighted the condemnation of 22 countries of Mr Kothari’s statements. Since then, at least three further states have joined the representatives of the US, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Austria, the European Union, Belgium, Australia and Italy in condemning the remarks.

“This latest shameful episode is a further example of [the inquiry’s] flawed and biased nature,” Mr Lapid wrote. “The fight against antisemitism cannot be waged with words alone; it requires action. This is the time for action.”

Ms Pillay defended Mr Kothari’s statements in a public letter sent to the President of the Human Rights Council on 28 July, claiming the comments had been taken out of context. The Israeli Foreign Ministry tweeted that it was “unbelievable” that the COI was “now supporting Kothari and doubling down on his antisemitic comments”. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre described the COI as “an Inquisition by anti-Israel zealots with antisemitic tropes spouted and defended”, calling on the UN Secretary-General to “pull the plug!”

Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for Mr Guterres, told reporters the Secretary-General has “no authority over the Commission of Inquiry, whose members are appointed by the Human Rights Council” but added that he has always been “extremely clear in saying that there is no room for antisemitism in the work of the UN. Second, Israel is unquestionably a Member State of the United Nations, with the same rights and responsibilities as the other 192 countries that make up this organisation.”

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has a history of disproportionately focusing on Israel through its standing Agenda Item Seven, which calls for every UNHRC session to include a debate about Israel’s human rights record. This is not done for any other country. It has adopted more resolutions and has held more special sessions against Israel than any other country.

Nina Ben Ami, the Director of Human Rights and International Organisations at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the JC that the UNHRC and the UN’s own regulations required the three commissioners to be independent and impartial: “These three individuals are all on record, prior to their being named, with very clear positions against Israel, and not just with criticism of Israel, but in a very over the top manner.” Speaking of Mr Kothari’s comments, she said, “There’s no shame. There’s no repudiation,” adding: “Since this is a COI that will be reporting at least according to its mandate, twice yearly, ad infinitum, it’s important that people understand what it is, what is the DNA of this body.

“Navi Pillay has been on record calling Israel an apartheid state and supporting the BDS movement. Mr Kothari has been on record before referring to Israeli behaviour as ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘massacres’. The third Commissioner, Sidoti, has worked with Palestinian human rights organisations, so he’s not impartial. He’s also called Israel an apartheid regime. So these three individuals do not pass any litmus test of being objective, independent or fair.”

Ms Ben Ami said that the bias of the COI is “more part of a pattern than a mistake”. Nine of the 32 investigative bodies founded by the UNHRC have focused specifically on Israel, she added: “There’s an inherent discrimination focus on Israel, which we’ve called out.”

When the COI was established, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilda Erdan, explained Israel would not participate so as not to give it legitimacy.. Despite being established after last year’s fighting in Gaza, the COI’s remit is not limited in to any  time period. “It’s got a limitless mandate. It’s supposed to investigate the root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from King David to the end of time. There’s no limit whatsoever.”

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