The UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on Israel must be disbanded after its members made and defended antisemitic slurs, Prime Minister Yair Lapid wrote in a letter to UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Sunday.
“Excellency, I call on you today to honor your word in this egregious case, to set the record straight,” Lapid wrote. “This cannot stand. Slurs about a ‘Jewish lobby’ that acts to ‘control’ the media, are reminiscent of the darkest days of modern history.”
Miloon Kothari, one of the COI’s three members, granted an interview to Mondoweiss in which he said the commission is “very disheartened by the social media that is controlled largely by – whether it is the Jewish lobby or specific NGOs.”
In the same interview, Kothari said: “I would go as far as to raise the question of why are they [Israel] even a member of the UN.”
COI chairwoman Navi Pillay defended Kothari’s remarks and said that the commission has been plagued with accusations of hating Jews. She quoted third COI member Chris Sidoti as saying at a June UNHRC meeting that “Jews are throwing around accusations of antisemitism like rice at a wedding.”
All three COI members made public statements accusing Israel of apartheid and war crimes before the commission was formed, as such it was accused of bias from the start.
In his letter to Guterres, Lapid demanded “the immediate removal of all three members of the Commission of Inquiry tasked with investigating Israel, and the disbanding of the Commission.”
“The fight against antisemitism cannot be waged with words alone, it requires action,” Lapid wrote. “This is the time for action; it is time to disband the Commission. From Mr. Kothari’s outrageous slurs to Ms. Pillay’s defense of the indefensible, this Commission does not just endorse antisemitism – it fuels it.”
Israel has made diplomatic efforts to get the support of other countries in its efforts against the COI, and several other countries condemned Kothari’s remarks, including the US, France, Canada, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Austria and the EU.
UN Human Rights Council President Federico Villegas called on Kothari to “consider the possibility of public clarifying his unfortunate comments and his intentions behind them.”
Villegas, Argentina’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, wrote to Pillay that Kothari’s remarks “could reasonably be interpreted as stigmatization of the Jewish people, which, as all are aware, is at the heart of any expressions of antisemitism.”
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Meirav Eilon Shahar wrote to Villegas: “This issue comes down to one simple question, is the term ‘the Jewish Lobby’ antisemitic?
“Even in the context Ms. Pillay claims, that Mr. Kothari was discussing governments and NGOs’ attempts to discredit them, both Mr. Kothari and now Ms. Pillay seem to place the blame for this on an imaginary ‘Jewish lobby,’ an age-old antisemitic trope,” Eilon Shahar wrote.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.