Israeli activists and IDF reservists launched a protest outside the United Nations office in Geneva on Tuesday at the beginning of its public and legal campaign against what they are claiming is an anti-Israel commission of inquiry by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
The campaign, led by the right-wing Shurat HaDin Law Center, saw several dozen IDF reservists gather outside the UN office at 11 a.m. local time (12 p.m. Israel time) dressed as ski-masked Hamas terrorists waving Palestinian flags, mockingly applauding UNHRC anti-Israel bias, whitewashing Hamas rockets fired at Israeli civilian cities and blood libels against Israel.
The commission of inquiry
At its core, the protest was against the Pillay Commission, a commission of inquiry headed by South African jurist Navi Pillay into alleged Israeli war crimes.
The commission will be done by a three-person panel, each of whom has a history of activism and remarks that have been seen by some to be inflammatory anti-Israel rhetoric.
Pillay herself is a former UNHRC high commissioner and appointed more investigations against Israel than for any other country.
She has been accused by multiple NGOs, such as UN Watch, of having a long history of bias against Israel.
This probe itself was mandated by the UNHRC in 2021 following the conclusion of the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas, known in Israel as Operation Guardian of the Walls.
The panel will examine Israeli actions on both sides of the Green Line, both within the sovereign borders of the Jewish state and in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“The probe will explore all alleged violations of international humanitarian law and all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law leading up to and since 13 April 2021,” the UNHRC said in a statement at the time.
“The three-person commission” was also tasked with investigating “all underlying root causes of recurrent tensions, instability and protraction of conflict, including systematic discrimination and repression based on national, ethnic, racial or religious identity,” it said.
The panel is expected to “establish the facts and circumstances that may amount to such violations and abuses and of crimes perpetrated” and “identify, where possible, those responsible, with a view to ensuring that perpetrators of violations are held accountable,” the UNHRC said.
Its first report is due at the UNHRC’s 50th session, which begins on June 13. After that, the panel will continue to probe Israel to ensure that war crimes have not been committed.
Shurat HaDin's views
The UNHRC has been accused on many occasions of expressing bias against Israel.
However, as far as Shurat HaDin is concerned, the Pillay Commission "takes its anti-Israel hostility to new extremes."
The UNHRC is "escalating its decades-long Israel-bashing campaign by endowing the new [Pillay Commission] with an unprecedented mandate and appointing commission members with a clear bias against Jerusalem," Shurat HaDin said in a statement, going on to say that is being done with a clear agenda "delegitimizing Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state by labeling it as an 'Apartheid regime.'"
They further accuse the commission of having a predetermined outcome and slammed the UN for abandoning "its core principles, its internal rules, its regulations and its moral standards regarding impartiality."
"It is time to shut down the racist UNHRC and its fake apartheid allegations," Shurat HaDin president and founder Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said.
"Pillay and her gang are far from just 'a stain' on the Council, they are a stain on the entire UN and a wakeup call to anyone who cherishes human rights and still maintains a naïve hope that the world body can play a role in safeguarding these freedoms. The [commission of inquiry] follows in a long tradition of the centuries-old blood libels against the world Jewish community. Pillay's accusations of Israeli war crimes and apartheid even before her appointment to the commission clearly evidences the blatant bias of the Commission. The only parties that gain from this façade are the Palestinian terrorists that fire rockets against civilians and send suicide bombers on our buses and cafes. This antisemitic body needs to be shut down. This is our reason for the Palestinian terrorist costumes and protests.
“We accuse the UNHRC and its Pillay Commission, with their clear vendetta against the Jewish State, of attempting to undermine Israel’s right to exist. They are partners with the Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza. One is armed with deadly rockets and the other with fake reports, but they serve the same cause – the destruction of the Jewish state, the only true democracy in the Middle East. We are demanding an end to the UNHRC’s bias and hate.”
This is a developing story.
Lahav Harkov and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.