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June 20, 2023 3:23 pm

‘A Stain on The UN’: US Leads 27 Countries in Condemning UN Commission of Inquiry on Israel


avatar by Andrew Bernard

Miloon Kothari, member of the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, briefs reporters on the first report of the Commission. UN Photo/Jean Marc Ferré

The United States and 26 other countries on Tuesday condemned the UN’s Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Israel for its open-ended scope, unlimited duration, and bias against Israel.

Speaking at a meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, US Ambassador Michèle Taylor delivered a joint statement opposing the COI, which was created in response to a round of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in May 2021.

“Resolution S-30/1 established a COI of open-ended mandate with no sunset clause, end date, or clear limitations connected to the escalation in May 2021,” Taylor said. “We believe the nature of this COI is further demonstration of long-standing, disproportionate attention given to Israel in the Council, and must stop.”

Other countries participating in the joint statement included the UK, Italy, Hungary, Kenya, Bulgaria, Poland, and Israel.

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Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen thanked the US and the 25 other countries for their support in opposing the COI, which is formally known as the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel.

“The COI is a stain on the UN and on the Human Rights Council,” Cohen said. “Its Commissioners were selected for their anti-Israeli positions and continue in their roles despite antisemitic statements.”

Jewish groups and NGOs critical of the COI were also full-throated in their condemnation of the commission and its latest report, which accused Israel of war crimes and of suppressing Palestinian civil society. The report claims that Israel’s suppression of Palestinian civil society is “intrinsically linked to the goal of ensuring and enshrining the permanent occupation at the expense of the rights of the Palestinian people.”

Anne Herzberg, a legal advisor with the Jerusalem-based research institute NGO Monitor, likened the COI to a Star Chamber calling it “Kafka-esque.”

“[The commission’s] report offensively claims that ‘legitimate criticism of Israeli policies is increasingly reframed as antisemitism,’” Herzberg said. “Yet this claim is but another example of the COI’s gaslighting of Jews. In the same breath the commissioners deny their own responsibility for antisemitic statements, the COI makes no apparent effort to engage with mainstream Jewish communal groups, fails to consult with governmental envoys on combating antisemitism and fails to reference the only UN report on combating antisemitism.” 

One of the COI’s commissioners, Miloon Kothari, was forced to apologize in August after saying in a July 2022 interview that social media was “controlled largely by the Jewish lobby” and said he “would go as far as to raise the question of why [Israel is] even a member of the United Nations.”

At a press conference the commissioners held after the council session, another of the commissioners, Navanethem Pillay, said the commission would not engage further with accusations that Kothari was antisemitic.

“We didn’t respond to it because we addressed all that, it’s an old issue,” Pillay said. “We’ve addressed all this.”

B’nai B’rith International, a pro-Israel Jewish advocacy and service organization, hit out at the one sidedness of the COI report, which found that all sides had violated the rights of civil society actors, but focused overwhelmingly on the actions of Israel.

“We are again astonished at the COI’s failure to credibly and equally consider each side in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” B’nai B’rith Director of UN and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels said. “It does not suffice to include some content on Palestinian actions against other Palestinians. The report not only dismisses Israel’s finding of terrorist associations with a small number of Palestinian organizations, but it also fails to acknowledge any Palestinian terrorist groups aspiring to Israel’s destruction and committing violence against civilians.”

The only references to terrorism in the report are related to what it describes as Israel’s “unlawful” application of counter-terrorism laws, including Israel’s designation of seven Palestinian NGOs for their alleged connections to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist group. 

While the commissioners did not respond to criticism that their report was one-sided, Kothari concluded the council session with comments that he believes media coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict is too pro-Israel.

“One of the obstacles to our work is also the media,” Kothari said. “We are particularly disturbed by the Western media and the manner in which it reports the situation on the ground. The case of al-Aqsa mosque is the most glaring, where a direct military intervention to attack worshippers in the mosque was reported as ‘clashes.’ And we would particularly like to point out the biased reporting of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the New York Times, The Washington Post, and there are many others, almost marching towards fake news.” 

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