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Jerusalem Slams UN Official Who Questioned Israel’s Membership, Railed at ‘Jewish Lobby’

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

The United Nations logo is seen at the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 23, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The Israeli Mission to the United Nations (UN) in Geneva has expressed outrage following a UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) investigator’s comments about the undue influence of a so-called “Jewish lobby” on media, and whether Israel should be a member of the body at all.

“We are very disheartened by the social media that is controlled largely by whether it’s the Jewish lobby or it’s the specific NGOs. A lot of money is being thrown in to trying to discredit us,” Miloon Kothari — a member of the UNHRC’s “International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel (COI)” — said on the latest episode of The Mondoweiss Podcast.

Formed by the UNHRC after the 2021 hostilities between Israel and Hamas, the COI was tasked with issuing annual reports on any human rights abuses committed during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It has previously drawn scrutiny from Israeli and US officials for its unusually broad, open-ended focus.

“One of our mandates is to look at the role of both humanitarian law, human rights law, criminal law,” Kothari continued. “And on all three counts, Israel is in systematic violation of all the legislation. And in fact, I mean, I would go as far as to raise the question as why are they even a member of the United Nations, because they don’t respect — the Israeli government does not respect its own obligations as a UN member state. They, in fact, consistently, either directly or through the United States, try to undermine UN mechanisms.”

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On Wednesday, Israel’s Permanent Mission in Geneva called the interview “disturbing,” and said that the Jewish state — recognized as a UN member in 1949 — will continue to participate in the body and “work with truly independent mechanisms and on promoting and protecting human rights for all.”

“Israel already questioned [Kothari’s] suitability for the role, given previous comments regarding Israel, and given the fact he is subject to a formal complaint for violating UN regulations and ethical standards,” the Mission said in a statement.

It argued that the COI’s “sole purpose was to find that the very creation of Israel is the root of the conflict and nothing else,” and accused one of its members, Australian Chris Soditi, of undermining concerns about rising antisemitism in separate comments recently.

Kothari’s remarks came during an exchange with Mondoweiss Podcast host David Kattenburg about US and Canadian objections to the COI’s selection of chair, Navi Pillay, and allegations of bias against the inquiry.

He dismissed the criticisms against COI as “double standards” on human rights issues that would not apply to discussions about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The same violations of occupation and dispossession done by Israel do not receive the same treatment,” he continued. “So, there is a serious double standard here which needs to be exposed.”

He added that the COI will review claims that Israel practices “apartheid,” saying, “We will get to the apartheid question, at some point in the future, because we will be looking at discrimination in general, from the river to the sea.”

US and global Jewish groups on Wednesday joined Israel in flagging Kothari’s comments, with the Simon Wiesenthal Center urging the US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, to demand the COI’s defunding.

“We urge that you publicly denounce Kothari’s libelous statements, false accusations, and anti-Jewish remarks against America’s ally, Israel, and the Jewish people,” the Center said.

“Labelling Israel as apartheid, settler colonialist and questioning its UN membership makes a sham of any claim of impartiality,” the Anti-Defamation League commented. “Kothari’s comments are sadly emblematic of a broader bias within the UNHRC and exposes the deeply rotten core of the Commission’s reports.”

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