Navi Pillay stunned as majority in UN debate blast her inquiry for antisemitism, Israel bias

For the first time in decades, a majority of UN member states taking the floor during a debate on Israel, on October 27, 2002, opposed the anti-Israel prejudice and antisemitism of a UN body.

Out of 35 speakers taking the floor, including 33 UN member states as well as the European Union and the Palestinian delegate, at least 18 called out Navi Pillay’s commission of inquiry for its bias against Israel, and the overtly antisemitic statements of her colleague, Miloon Kothari, which Pillay had defended.

In August, top United Nations officials and member states condemned Mr. Kothari’s remarks about “the Jewish lobby,”  and questioning Israel’s membership in the UN.

Following are selections from the debate held in the human rights committee of the UN General Assembly, after Navi Pillay presented the latest report of her commission of inquiry. 

Netherlands: No one is above scrutiny. However, as expressed previously, the Netherlands is worried about the wide scope of the mandate and the unlimited time period of investigation of this Commission of Inquiry. As a consequence, the mandate of this particular commission contributes to the disproportionate attention given to Israel in the UN system, whereas the UN should address all country situations of concern in a balanced manner.

Guatemala: Guatemala takes note of the statement on the report this morning and rejects any antisemitic statements or any prejudice against the people of Israel. We call for decorum and respect and to avoid accusations against the State of Israel. My delegation reiterates that the independent Commission of Inquiry should be objective and impartial. We regret the antisemitic parts of this report. It is concerning that the mandate of the Commission has an unprecedented scope, it has no limit. Guatemala recognizes the Human Rights Council and its resolutions, but considers that several of the statements against Israel are out of context against a democratic state which guarantees and respects the human rights of its inhabitants.

Hungary:  Allow me to express our serious concerns regarding the establishment and the work of the COI. We continue to believe that the long-standing disproportionate scrutiny to Israel should end, and the Human Rights Council and other relevant human human rights bodies and mechanisms should address all human rights concerns regardless of country in an even-handed manner.

In this context, we believe that the nature of the COI established last May is further demonstration of the long-standing disproportionate attention given to Israel in the UN system. We believe that the impartiality of a UN investigative mechanism should be a cornerstone of the UN Human Rights system.

We are also outraged by the recent antisemitic and anti-Israel comments made by a member of the COI. These unacceptable remarks sadly only deepen our concerns about the open-ended nature and overly broad scope of the Commission. We are convinced that such blatantly biased, antisemitic comments are completely unworthy of the UN and the UN human rights bodies.

Germany: We would like to reiterate our criticism of the open-ended nature of this Commission which led Germany to vote against the establishment of this mandate last year. Germany also stands firmly against any form of antisemitism and therefore clearly denounces statements by Mr. Miloon Kothari, member of this Commission. While we respect the independence of UN bodies and investigative mechanisms, we remain concerned about the disproportionate attention given to Israel in UN fora. This latest report raises important questions that fall short of taking security concerns of Israel into account. Israel has the right to defend itself against armed attacks and hold perpetrators accountable.

Uruguay: Mr. Chairman, I’d like to recall that Uruguay did not support the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry during the special session of the Human Rights Council of the 27th of May 2021. The Commissions of Inquiry are a valuable instrument for the mandates of the Council, however at that time it was understood that it would not be timely in terms of the negotiations between the parties and that this mandate was not appropriate for its tasks. The Council considered human rights in specific countries and we fully support the mandate of the General Assembly through Resolution 251/2002 which establishes the need to guarantee universality, objectivity and non-selectivity in human rights issues, to eliminate double standards and politicization.

Australia: Australia reaffirms our view that the HRC brings disproportionate scrutiny to Israel. We do not support the proposition that Israel is the only country that is a permanent item at the HRC, which is why Australia does not and will not engage in Item 7 of the Council’s debates, and while we retain our fundamental concerns about the nature of the COI. We agree that settlements remain an obstacle to peace and contribute to the impasse we now see, but the report does little to assuage our fundamental concerns about the COI’s mandate. Its broad and one-sided recommendations are further evidence of the mandate’s excessive and one-sided scope. We will support initiatives which bring us closer to a negotiated solution. Australia remains deeply concerned about the ongoing conflict and the lack of progress towards a just and enduring two-state solution. Sadly, the current report does little to advance the cause of peace.

Austria: As you know, Austria did not support the creation of this Commission because of its mandate and permanent nature. The mandate now covers all violations and abuses of international law that occur in the occupied Palestinian territory and in Israel, and therefore acts on both sides. We note that the report contains recommendations addressed to the government of Israel, however none are addressed to the Palestinian authorities. We stress that the impartiality of UN investigative mechanisms is a cornerstone of the UN human rights systems and one-sided reports can be unhelpful.

United Kingdom: The UK regrets the establishment of a further Commission of Inquiry in May 2021 with an overly expansive mandate, and cannot support an investigation that furthers the Council’s disproportionate focus on Israel by failing to conclude a time limit in that mandate. The UK remains committed to improving the human rights situation. We support justified and proportionate scrutiny of the situation in Israel and the OPTs at the HRC. We are also a firm supporter of the HRC and believe strongly in its mandate, however this Commission of Inquiry does not further these goals.

Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau: We wish to call attention to concerns raised in the earlier HRC cross-regional group statement of the 22 countries in which our nation participated, regarding the open-ended Commission of Inquiry. We again affirm that no one is above scrutiny and it is the Council’s responsibility to protect human rights the world over. We believe the nature of the COI is a further demonstration of long-standing, disproportionate attention given to Israel in the Council and this must stop. We continue to believe that the Council should address all human rights concerns, regardless of country, in an even-handed manner. Regrettably, we are concerned that the COI will further contribute to the polarization of a situation about which so many of us are concerned. We draw attention to the comments of the COI member on 27 June…

Albania: Mr. Chair, we join others in expressing concerns about the Commission of Inquiry, especially with regard to its open-ended mandate with no end-date or clear limitation. Mr. Chair, let me be clear. Albania strongly supports the efforts to ensure and promote accountability and counter impunity, but this should be conducted on the basis of consistent and universally-applied standards, and avoid any one-sided or selective approach. The Commission should address all human rights concerns regardless of country and should take into consideration the views, concerns, and positions of all parties involved. Failure to do so will further contribute to the polarization of the situation and will only fuel the long-standing, disproportionate attention given to Israel in different UN bodies. To conclude, Albania refuses any antisemitic statements, expressions, and positions.

Bulgaria:   At the Commission’s establishment, we expressed concerns about its non-comprehensive mandate, its imprecise scope, territorial limit, and time frame. Certain public statements of Commission members have left the impression of lack of impartiality. The report’s content and approach have confirmed the validity of the concerns that we have raised when the Commission was established. Bulgaria continues to believe that it remains urgent for both sides to demonstrate, through policies and actions, a genuine commitment to a political solution, bringing sustainable peace and ending once and for all the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Czech Republic:  Czechia voted against the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry. We did so due to our serious concern about the broad and open-ended mandate and permanent nature of the Commission and those concerns remain valid. Moreover, we were shocked by a recent interview in which one of the members of the Commission used terms such as “Jewish lobby” and questioned Israeli UN membership. We strongly reject any form of antisemitism. Such comments contribute to the polarization of the situation and threaten to undermine the impartiality of the UN Human Rights mechanisms.

Canada: The UN Human Rights Council can play a critical role in protecting human rights and promoting accountability. However, the nature of this Commission of Inquiry is proof of the long-standing disproportionate attention given to Israel in the Council. Regrettably, the Commission’s latest report serves as another demonstration of a wholly unbalanced and unfair singling out of Israel in multilateral settings. Such disproportionate scrutiny applied to Israel alone contributes to a polarization of positions and moves us further away from a negotiated two-state solution. We further reiterate our stated concerns about the Commission of Inquiry’s scope as well as its ongoing nature and budget, as others have noted. A question for the Commissioner is, how will the Commission ensure that in the future a more balanced portrayal of the responsibilities and obligations of all parties of the conflict are taken into account when drafting its reports? Thank you.

Liberia: Liberia shares the belief that the nature of the Commission of Inquiry is a further demonstration of the long-standing, disproportionate attention given to Israel in the Human Rights Council and joins calls to put an end to such. We focus support on the Human Rights Council’s responsibility to promote and protect human rights around the world, but believe that the work to counter impunity and promote accountability should be based on consistent and universally-applied standards, including the fundamental principles of non-selectivity, impartiality, and objectivity. That’s why we are concerned not just about the open-ended mandate of the Commission, but also its composition. Just recently, an appointed commissioner of the COI made disparaging and antisemitic comments and questioned Israel’s right to be a member of the United Nations. This is unacceptable and does not adhere to the principles of neutrality…

Palau:  We would like to express our concerns regarding this particular Commission of Inquiry for the following reasons. First, the COI guidance and practice publication explicitly states that members should, in all cases, have a proven record of independence and impartiality. Palau questions if the three COI members were able to lead the investigation in such a manner given the numerous outright anti-Israel public statements made by the members both before and during their tenure. The report states Israel’s unwillingness to participate, however how should one support an investigation where members have already shown their bias against them very publicly. Second, as other states have said before me, the mandate of the COI is unprecedented in scope and it lacks any clear limitations. Finally, it is our view that this mandate reflects the consistent and disproportionate attention given to Israel in the Human Rights Council. Given that this has failed over many decades, perhaps it’s time to try other approaches that are not so anti-Israel. Thank you.

United States:  The United States is committed to advancing human rights in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms is important in its own right and as a means of preserving and advancing prospects of a negotiated two-state solution. The United States remains deeply concerned about the creation of the Commission of Inquiry. We reiterate our position that this does nothing to advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The report presented today includes recommendations that reflect the unwieldy scope of the COI.  We also reaffirm our condemnation of antisemitism and anti-Israel bias.  We cannot ignore the fact that a member of the Commission made antisemitic comments in late August. We categorically reject the statement which we deem to be outrageous. We regret that senior UN leadership has still not publicly repudiated these repugnant statements or asked this Commission member to step down. We will continue to advocate that the UN system treat any concerns related to Israel the same way it treats…

Italy: Italy thanks Ms. Pillay, and along with the EU delegation reiterates concern for the lack of a clear definition of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry, and for its open-ended nature. We believe that the way in which the Commission of Inquiry was established could potentially cast shadows on the overall credibility of the monitoring mechanism of the Human Rights Council, which Italy staunchly supports. In this regard, we would like to stress that the independence of the UN investigative mechanism is a cornerstone of the UN human rights system. We therefore invite the Commission to carry out its tasks with impartiality and with strict adherence to the facts.

UN Watch