Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Sunday stepped up pressure for the United Nations to dissolve a commission investigating Israel, appealing to the secretary-general over “anti-Semitic” remarks by a member of the organization.
The Commission of Inquiry (COI), which investigates abuses in Israel and the Palestinian territories, was set up by the UN Human Rights Council last year after an 11-day war between Israel and armed militants in Gaza.
Israel has flatly refused to cooperate with the commission, which has so far largely blamed Israel for investigating “all the underlying root causes” of the decades-long conflict.
On July 25, commissioner Miloon Kothari rekindled long-standing allegations that the council was biased against the Jewish state, citing a “Jewish lobby” and questioning whether Israel deserved UN membership.
“These anti-Semitic statements are a stigma on the entire United Nations and do not befit a person holding such a position of responsibility,” Lapid wrote in a letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Lapid added that the commission was “fundamentally tainted by the publicly expressed prejudices of his leadership” and demanded the “immediate dismissal of all three members”.
Israel’s ambassador in Geneva on Friday urged the head of the council to dissolve the commission.
Asked about member states’ criticism of the commission in an interview published Monday by online publication Mondoweiss, Kothari pointed to broader efforts to undermine their investigation.
“We are very discouraged by social media, which is largely controlled by the Jewish lobby or certain NGOs, a lot of money is thrown in trying to discredit us,” he said.
Many ambassadors, including the United Kingdom and the United States, also expressed their anger at the words.
The head of the commission, Navi Pillay, a former UN rights chief, said Kothari’s comments “seemed to be deliberately taken out of context” and were “intentionally misrepresented”.
He said his comments reflected “his disappointment at the commission’s continued lack of co-operation” with Israel’s investigation.
Lapid described Pillay’s defense of Kothari as “false” and accused the commission of “feeding” antisemitism.
“The smears about a ‘Jewish lobby’ acting to ‘control’ the media are reminiscent of the darkest days in modern history,” Lapid said.