Anne Bayefsky
International human rights lawyer

UN ‘inquiry’ greenlights Palestinian terror

At the anti-Israel hate-fest now underway, one panel member made a comparison to the rights of Ukrainians to resist
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, June 14, 2022. (UN Photo/Jean Marc Ferré)
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, June 14, 2022. (UN Photo/Jean Marc Ferré)

A UN “Commission of Inquiry” announced on Tuesday that Palestinians can “resist” Israelis just as Ukrainians are resisting Russia. The speaker was Miloon Kothari, the same “inquiry” member who said last July that the “Jewish lobby” controlled social media and Israel ought to be kicked out of the UN.

Greenlighting Palestinian violence and analogizing Israeli self-defense to Russian aggression was a new low for the “inquiry,” which was presenting its latest report at the current session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The “inquiry” has been mired in controversy from the outset. It was created in May 2021 at the behest of Islamic states, with the help of human rights stalwarts like China, Cuba, Russia, and Venezuela, and without a single Western country voting in favor.

The “inquiry” is unprecedented in its scope — “root causes” of the conflict “from time immemorial” — in addition to its enormous 18-person full-time UN staff and its gigantic budget of millions of dollars every year in perpetuity. Because it has no end date.

Soon appointed to the three-person body were Navi Pillay as Chair, Miloon Kothari from India and Chris Sidoti from Australia. All of them had substantial records of anti-Israel bias for jobs that, according to UN rules, required independence, objectivity and impartiality. The inquisitors took their appointment as a license to break a whole lot of other standards.

In June 2022, Sidoti belittled Jewish victims of antisemitism, telling the Human Rights Council that “accusations of antisemitism are thrown around like rice at a wedding.”

In July 2022, Kothari had no compunction about using antisemitic tropes about the “Jewish lobby.” And Pillay, who herself repeatedly refers to “the extremist Israel lobby,” responded to the criticism by defending both of her co-inquisitors.

In October 2022, Pillay sneered at the UN press corps in New York, in response to questions on the subject of antisemitism: “This is always raised as a diversion.”

Despite multiple calls for the inquisitors’ removal by numerous states and major Jewish non-governmental organizations, the UN circled the wagons, and they all remained on the job.

The message of unaccountability was received loud and clear. Pillay said on Tuesday in front of the UN Geneva press corps about the antisemitism problem: “It’s an old issue about one of the Commissioners being antisemitic. We’ve addressed all this.” – if by addressed she meant telling victims to take a hike.

Tuesday’s meeting – a so-called “interactive dialogue” with “inquiry” members at the UN’s top human rights body – was a raging hatefest.

The inquisitors fully admitted and embraced double-standards – for Israel. Sidoti called their mandate “unique.” Kothari said it was “unlike any of the previous commissions of inquiry.”

They claimed “advocates of Palestinian rights worldwide” are under attack. They alleged a conspiratorial “global campaign” by Israel to influence “donors.” After admitting they met with (unnamed) “people in Europe and the United States.” After defending boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel (BDS) in their report. And after demanding “third states” – all states everywhere – take action. A global campaign to influence donors if there ever was one.

Kothari trash-talked what he called “pro-Israel groups” and then claimed those groups were engaged in “smear campaigns.”

Sidoti inveighed against negative “campaigns and allegations” “based upon some racial, racist or ideological grounds.” By which he meant those “rice at a wedding” allegations of antisemitism. Which he now says are part of a “smear” campaign. On his logic, anti-antisemites smear antisemites.

In the whole show, there was no terrorism – only false “terrorism charges” and terrorist “labeling.” There was no Palestinian Hamas genocidal charter. No Palestinian Authority policy to pay Palestinians to kill Jews. No Palestinian antisemitism or incitement at all.

In this world of imaginary foes, the real problem was that Israel and “pro-Israel groups” were wrongly targeting “any criticism of the policies and practices of the State of Israel and any support for the rights of Palestinian people” by “anyone anywhere in the world.” Thin-skinned Israelis – knifed, shot, rammed with cars, smashed with rocks, and forced to spend years of their lives in military service – can’t take the “criticism.”

The inquisitors’ unhinged invective was music to UN ears. The serial human rights abusers piled on.

Venezuela, Belarus, China, Equatorial Guinea, and company called Israel an “illegal regime.” The leading Islamic states sponsors of terrorism complained that Israel used the “pretext of terrorism” to “mock every tenet of international law.”  The dictators in the Arab Group voiced concern about “human rights defenders” – in Israel. North Korea was upset about Israel’s “ruthless suppression of peaceful protesters.” Iran was troubled by Israel’s “ill-treatment” of “human rights defenders and journalists.” Mass murderer and chemical weapons specialist Syria was bothered by Israel’s “brutal, bloody crimes.”

By contrast, the antisemitism displayed by the inquisitors was specifically criticized by the United States. The U.S. also delivered a group statement, on behalf of 27 countries, objecting to the “inquiry.” Shamefully, Germany refused to join. Also shamefully, the Biden administration talked the talk, but is still using U.S. taxpayer dollars to foot the “inquiry’s” bills, with Senator Menendez stonewalling the COI Elimination Act.

This was the context in which Kothari felt he had carte blanche to claim that Ukraine and “Palestine” should be “dealt with” in the same way, namely, “international law uphold[s] correctly the rights of Ukrainians to resist and we would like to see the same standards being applied to the case in Israel and Palestine.”

A teachable moment. A UN “human rights” inquiry and its inquisitors push antisemitism with impunity. Now they’re pushing arms into the hands of “mislabeled” Palestinian terrorists. That’s how antisemitism – and the failure to stop it – works.

About the Author
Professor Anne Bayefsky is the President of Human Rights Voices and the Director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust.
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