The Swiss government has nominated Jean Ziegler–-a former Social Democratic MP who has praised Hezbollah as a legitimate national movement–- to serve as an adviser to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The formal notification of Ziegler’s nomination to UN diplomats took place last week, sparking sharp criticism on Monday from a UN watchdog group.
Speaking Tuesday to The Jerusalem Post via phone, Hillel C. Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, said Ziegler has “extremist anti-Western and anti-Israel” views and a long history of attacking the Jewish state. UN Watch urged the Swiss government to rescind its nomination of Ziegler.
In 1982, Ziegler sought the expulsion of President Shimon Peres, then head of Israel’s Labor Party, from the Socialist International association.
In an interview with the Hezbollah publication Al-Akhbar in 2006, Ziegler said “I refuse to describe Hezbollah as a terrorist group. It is a national movement of resistance.”
The 28-member EU designated Hezbollah’s military wing a terrorist organization last month. Switzerland is not a member of the EU.
Ziegler’s support for the late French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy was expressed in a 1996 letter, amid controversy over allegations of Holocaust denial in Garaudy’s book, The Founding Myths of Modern Israel: “I am outraged at the legal case they are making against you... All your work as a writer and philosopher attests to the rigor of your analysis and the unwavering honesty of your intentions. It makes you one of the leading thinkers of our time... It is for all these reasons that I express here my solidarity and my admiring friendship,” wrote Ziegler.
Ziegler’s Social Democratic party has been embroiled in Holocaust controversies over the years. The former Social Democratic foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, proposed seminars on different perspectives of the Holocaust back in 2006, when meeting with an Iranian delegation on the nuclear crisis.
Neuer chastised Ziegler for his role in serving as promoter of the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Ziegler played a key role in the founding of Gaddafi’s International Prize for Human Rights. He told the Post, “While Gaddafi was raping women and girls, Ziegler was portraying him as a hero of human rights.”
Annick Cojean’s new book, Gaddafi’s Harem: The Story of a Young Woman and the Abuses of Power in Libya, details the graphic sexual violence and criminality during Gaddafi’s regime.
Ziegler along with Garaudy was a recipient of the Gaddafi prize.
Responding to the UN Watch criticism on Tuesday, the news outlet Swissinfo quoted Ziegler a saying, “This is total defamation, due to a severe report I published in 2002 on the right to food in the occupied Palestinian territories.”
The Swiss government defended Ziegler in a letter to the UN: “As a renowned expert with an excellent knowledge of economic, social and cultural rights, Prof. Jean Ziegler has always shown an acute independence of thought. He is a figure that has the ability to actively promote human rights both in the civil society and in the international community.”