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UN Investigator Apologizes for Remarks Deemed Anti-Semitic

August 5, 2022

by: Kate Norman

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Member of the UN’s Commission of Inquiry, Miloon Kothari

Friday, 5 August 2022 | The member of a United Nations committee investigating Israel apologized yesterday for remarks he made last month against the Jewish state that were deemed anti-Semitic.

Miloon Kothari serves with two other members on the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI), which investigates alleged human rights abuses in Israel.

Slapping back after what Kothari called attempts to “discredit” his committee, which was established by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Kothari said that COI is “very disheartened by the social media that is controlled largely by, whether it is the Jewish lobby or specific NGOs” in a July interview with anti-Israel website Mondoweiss.

Kothari went so far as to question why Israel is even a UN member state.

His comments sparked backlash from representatives from Israel, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union, according to a statement by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office on Sunday.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres demanding the disbanding of the COI and the removal of its three members, according to his office’s statement on Sunday. In his letter, he called Kothari’s remarks “reminiscent of the darkest days of modern history.”

Kothari responded with his own letter yesterday addressed to the president of the UNHRC, Federico Villegas.

“I wish to sincerely express my regret and unequivocally apologize for using the words ‘the Jewish lobby,’” Kothari wrote. “The offense I have caused by using these words has deeply distressed me.”

He went on to describe his statement as “completely wrong” as well as “incorrect, inappropriate and insensitive.”

“My intention was to denounce the relentless and vitriolic personal attacks against the members of the commission on social media and some publications, launched to delegitimize and undermine its work,” Kothari added.

As far as his questioning Israel’s status as a member of the UN, Kothari wrote in his letter: “At no place in the interview did I question the existence of the State of Israel. On the contrary, in several instances, during the media interview in question, I have defended the existence of the State of Israel.”

However, during the interview with Mondoweiss, Kothari actually said: “…I would go so far as to raise the question as why are they [Israel] even a member of the United Nations, because they don’t respect—the Israeli government does not respect its own obligations as a UN member state…”

Kothari’s apology was not received well by Israeli and Jewish leadership.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Meirav Eilon Shahar, sent her own letter to UNHRC chief Villegas yesterday, calling Kothari’s letter “a transparent ploy to deflect the criticism he has come under…

“This dark episode of the Human Rights Council demonstrates the deeply-rooted prejudices held by the Commission of Inquiry and its Commissioners against Israel and the Jewish people,” Shahar wrote, as quoted by the Jerusalem Post.

Shahar added that this incident reiterates the problems “previously raised about this COI, which is composed of biased activists who were given an unlimited and unprecedented mandate to attack Israel.”

The COI is not the only such UNHRC-established committee to investigate a country of alleged human rights abuses, the Jerusalem Post reported. What sets the COI apart is that it is the only such committee to be operating without a deadline or expiration date.

Shahar reiterated Israel’s call for the COI to be disbanded and its three members to resign.

UN Watch [Human rights organization] also issued a statement yesterday rejecting Kothari’s apology, calling it an “attempt to whitewash his use of a notorious anti-Semitic trope that throughout history has sparked deadly pogroms and worse.”

The statement, issued by UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer, added that Kothari “clinging to his post after he obliterated any semblance of the impartiality legally required for a UN investigator, shows that [he] is also without self-awareness or shame.”

Neuer added that Kothari “has disgraced and disqualified himself, and must leave immediately. The other commissioners, Navi Pillay and Chris Sidoti, who have expressed similarly toxic public statements, are no better. The entire commission, created last year at the behest of Pakistan and the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization], must be disbanded.”

Posted on August 5, 2022

Source: (Bridges for Peace, August 5, 2022)

Photo Credit: UN Photo/Jean Marc Ferré/flickr.com

Photo License: Flickr

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