Israel and the United States denounce the comments of the human rights observer as “anti-Semitic”


GENEVA — Israel, the United States and Britain on Thursday criticized an expert appointed by the UN human rights body to examine the situation in the Middle East, accusing him of anti-Semitic remarks.

Miloon Kothari has been quoted in the media as questioning Israel’s right to be a UN member state and alluding to a “Jewish lobby”. The comments fueled longstanding accusations by Israel, the United States and others that the human rights body is biased against Israel.

Kothari, originally from India, is one of three members of the Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, established by the UN-backed Human Rights Council last year. The commission quickly countered that his comments had been deliberately misquoted.

The commission, headed by former UN human rights chief Navi Pillay, was created after last year’s 11-day war between Israel and the militant group Hamas in Gaza. The fighting has killed at least 261 people in Gaza and 14 people in Israel, according to the UN human rights office.

Israel’s policy in the Palestinian territories has long been the subject of scrutiny by the international community. Last year, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court opened an investigation into alleged Israeli crimes, focusing on Israel’s repeated military operations in Gaza and the expansion of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. busy.

The commission is the first to have an open-ended mandate from the UN human rights body, and critics say such an ongoing review shows anti-Israel bias in the council of 47 Member States. Supporters back the commission as a way to keep tabs on the injustices suffered by Palestinians under decades of Israeli rule.

In an interview published Monday by Mondoweiss, an online publication critical of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians, Kothari spoke about the commission’s work and mandate. He cited a lack of cooperation from the Israeli government.

Asked about criticism from some governments, including that of Canada, he replied that he was “very discouraged by social media which is largely controlled by – whether it is the Jewish lobby or specific NGOs – a lot of money is invested to try to discredit us.

The commission’s role, Kothari said, was to examine humanitarian law, human rights law and criminal law. “On all three points, Israel is systematically violating all the legislation,” he said.

“I would go so far as to ask the question why they are even members of the United Nations, because they do not respect – the Israeli government does not respect – its own obligations as a member state of the UN” , he added.

Pillay, in a letter to the President of the Rights Council which was made public on Thursday, said Kothari’s comments “appear to have been taken out of context” and that the commission “finds it necessary to clarify certain matters in view of the seriousness charges”.

“The commission does not question the status or membership in the UN of any of the states affected by its mandate,” Pillay wrote.

She argued that Kothari’s comments about efforts to discredit commission members were “deliberately misquoted to imply that ‘social media’ was controlled by the Jewish lobby.”

Reached by email, Kothari referred to Pillay’s letter and declined to comment.

Keren Hajioff, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, said the international community should be “outraged” by Kothari’s comments.

“His racist remarks about the ‘Jewish lobby’ that controls the media and his questioning of Israel’s right to exist as a member of the family of nations echo the darkest days of anti-Semitism,” he said. she declared.

In a statement, U.S. Ambassador to the Human Rights Council Michele Taylor and State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Deborah Lipstadt called anti-Semitism and anti-Semitism bias Israelis of “toxic venom” that has plagued international discourse for years. too long, including in United Nations institutions.

They said Kothari’s comments were “outrageous, inappropriate and caustic” and echoed “age-old anti-Semitic tropes”. Britain’s ambassador to Geneva, Simon Manley, called them “unacceptable and offensive”.

Council spokesman Rolando Gomez cited “the long track record of the Human Rights Council in denouncing all forms of discrimination and racism and vehemently condemns these heinous acts”.

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