A number of United Nations member states came to Israel’s defense on Thursday as a controversial U.N. Commission of Inquiry presented its second report to the body.
Several states condemned the commission, mandated to investigate any and all aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since its roots, for both its bias and an anti-Semitic remark made recently by one of its members.
In an interview with an anti-Israel website this summer, COI member Miloon Kothari alleged that social media was controlled by the “Jewish lobby.” He would later issue an apology for that remark, along with a comment in the same interview questioning whether Israel should be allowed to hold U.N. membership.
“We cannot ignore the fact that a current member of the commission made antisemitic comments in late August, referring disparagingly to the ‘Jewish lobby,’” U.S. envoy to the U.N. General Assembly Lisa Carty told the General Assembly’s Third Committee, where Thursday’s discussion was held.
“We categorically reject this statement, which we deem to be outrageous, inappropriate and corrosive,” Caty said. “We regret that senior U.N. leadership has still not publicly repudiated these repugnant statements or asked this commission member to step down.”
Albania, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Czechia, Germany, Guatemala, Italy, Liberia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Uruguay were among the countries defending Israel’s position, along with the European Union, which issued a statement against the COI. It was a rare showing of strong vocal support from a wide range of countries at the U.N., including notably from Australia, whose government this month rescinded its recognition of west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The Palauan representative questioned why the three members of the commission had been appointed, given “the numerous outright anti-Israel public statements made by the members both before and during their tenure.”
Hungary’s envoy said that her country was “outraged by the recent anti-Israel and anti-Semitic comments made by a member of the COI,” calling them “unworthy of the U.N.”
The U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva created the three-person commission last year following an 11-day conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in Gaza. The COI was given a unique open-ended mandate. It is charged with investigating any Israeli human rights violations both inside and outside its sovereign territory.
Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan blasted the commission’s structure and member appointments as further evidence of the Human Rights Council’s hopeless bias against Israel. The UNHRC holds a permanent debate each session on Israel, something it does for no other country.
Erdan said on Thursday that the UNHRC didn’t choose the COI members “for their investigative skills, but rather for their very public and very poisonous hatred of Israel. They were chosen precisely because they abhor the Jewish state.” He listed a number of comments and positions held by all three members that he said shows their prejudice and bias, if not outright hostility toward Israel.
COI chairwoman Navi Pillay, who refused to condemn Kothari’s comments this summer, requested on Thursday that U.N. member states ask for an International Court of Justice advisory opinion regarding the illegality of “Israel’s occupation” of Palestinian territory.
She also fought back against charges of anti-Semitism leveled at her fellow COI members, telling envoys that. “We are not anti-Semitic. I am 81-years-old and this is the first time I have been accused of anti-Semitism.”
Pillay said there should be no complaints about the open-ended nature of the COI, since the”occupation” is “permanent, as well.” The report presented Thursday blamed only Israel for the state of the conflict. Hamas has been mentioned only once in the first two reports combined.
Prior to Thursday’s session, a number of pro-Israel organizations gathered outside the U.N. for a rally, including the parents of Ido Avigal, a 5-year-old Israeli killed by a Hamas rocket last year.
Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America, told JNS that “clearly we’re living in this time of rising anti-Semitism and it’s so clear that it is not random. It is the downstream effect of a concerted campaign of hatred and vilification and delegitimization, of which anti-Israel activity is an essential component.”
Fingerhut pointed to elements like the UNHRC as centers from where anti-Semitism emanates. He credited Erdan for the strong support seen at Thursday’s COI session, and said the American Jewish community has an open-ended mandate to stand with Israel.
“I always say this is one of the reasons why we have an organized Jewish community,” said Fingerhut. “People can make fun of us sometimes for all of our organizations and alphabet soup, but it takes an organized effort to be able to maintain focus over time.”