By David Hellerman, World Israel News
United Nations officials are at odds over antisemitic remarks made by a member of a commission investigating alleged Israeli human rights abuses against the Palestinians.
In a podcast interview last week with Mondoweiss, a website hostile to Israel, Kothari claimed that social media is controlled by Jews and suggested that Israel deserved to have its UN membership revoked.
Kothari also accused Israel of practicing “apartheid” and “settler colonialism” against the Palestinians.
Israel faces an unprecedented, “open-ended” Commission of Inquiry, established by the UN Human Rights Commission, after last year’s 11-day conflict with Hamas. Its mandate is to investigate Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
It is widely believed that the commission’s ultimate aim is to label Israel an apartheid state. Israeli officials refuse to cooperate with the probe.
Navi Pillay, a South African jurist who heads the investigation, quickly came to Kothari’s defense, saying the remarks reflected the commission’s “disappointment” with Israel’s “continued lack of cooperation.”
Israeli Ambassador Meirav Eilon Shahar, who represents Israel at the Geneva-based UN agencies, slammed Pillay’s “defense of the indefensible” in a letter to UNHRC President Federico Villegas.
The letter, which was seen by AFP, said Pillay “endorsed anti-Semitism.”
AFP also reported that Villegas sent a letter to Pillay noting that Kothari’s remarks “could reasonably be interpreted as stigmatization of the Jewish people, which… is at the heart of any expression of antisemitism.”
Villegas added, “I would respectfully suggest that Commissioner Kothari consider the possibility of publicly clarifying his unfortunate comments and his intentions behind them.”
So far, Kothari has issued no such clarification.
Other Western diplomats have criticized Kothari’s remarks.
“Outrageous that an appointed human rights expert on Israel and the West Bank and Gaza repeated antisemitic tropes & questioned Israel’s legitimacy as a UN member,” tweeted Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism.
“We denounce this continued, egregious antisemitism. This rhetoric is unacceptable – not to mention dangerous – especially from a head of state. It must cease.”
Pillay has a history of prejudicial comments against Israel, prompting UN Watch to circulate a petition calling on Pillay to recuse herself from the probe.
The third member of the commission, Chris Sidoti, a human rights lawyer and advocate, has been associated with non-governmental organizations in Ramallah and Australia advocating for the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.
Shahar’s letter to Villegas called on all three members of the commission to resign.