The UN Commission of Inquiry on ‘Occupied Palestinian Territory’ is an inquisition

There is very real anti-Semitism inextricably bound up with this “inquiry,” which is destined to cause serious harm to genuine victims of violence and discrimination unless it is stopped.

Navi Pillay, chair of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, addresses a press conference. Credit: Jean-Marc Ferré/U.N. Photo.
Navi Pillay, chair of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, addresses a press conference. Credit: Jean-Marc Ferré/U.N. Photo.
Anne Bayefsky
Anne Bayefsky is the director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, and president of Human Rights Voices.

The United Nations has started a dangerous process that its creators hope will conclude with the end of the Jewish state. But events over the past two weeks indicate that arriving at that ignominious result will also ravage the bedrock rules upon which the system of international law and justice depends.

A year ago, the United Nations’ top human rights body created a “Commission of Inquiry” on Israel, and on June 7, 2022, the “inquiry” published its first report. On June 13 and 14, 2022, the three inquisitors presented their report to the Human Rights Council and a specially convened press conference for global media outlets.

With falsely-accused Israel in the docket, the essential requirements of the rule of law—objectivity, impartiality, fairness, due process and non-discrimination—were torched.

This paper is the third part of a series on the “inquiry.” The first presented the origins and nature of the inquiry. The second considered the inquiry’s initial report. Finally, this paper shines a spotlight on the procedure—the disturbing methodology of peddling modern anti-Semitism on the world stage.

On objectivity and impartiality

The three members of the “inquiry,” headed by former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, were appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council precisely because of their non-objectivity, partiality and bias. Pillay (South Africa), Miloon Kothari (India) and Chris Sidoti (Australia), were each on record as having already declared Israel guilty of the crimes the commission was tasked with investigating. Moreover, in her role as High Commissioner from 2008 to 2014, Pillay herself was intimately involved in producing a host of U.N. reports and statements that she then turned around and cited as evidence for the “findings” of the inquiry’s report.

When it came time for inquiry members to engage in an “interactive dialogue” with the representatives of states, national human rights institutions and NGOs, Sidoti’s compromised role was also on display. An Australian human rights attorney, Sidoti makes no bones about being “a close friend and ally of the [Palestinian Authority’s so-called] Independent Commission for Human Rights.” On June 14, 2022, Sidoti sat on the HRC’s podium while the HRC’s vice-president introduced the representative of that organization as speaking for the national human rights institution of the “State of Palestine.” The representative congratulated Sidoti and company and “confirmed” their findings.

Taking her audience for fools or collaborators, Pillay told the world’s press, “We don’t come with any preconceived notions.”

No due process, only lies from Pillay

Two of the three “inquiry” members (Pillay and Sidoti) are legally trained, making their flagrant denial of due process in Israel’s case even more disgraceful. The presentation of the report devolved into a series of readily demonstrable falsehoods.

Pillay told the HRC: “We made a general call for written submissions, and we received several thousand written submissions.”

That was a lie. A group of NGOs, including mine, submitted millions of unique written submissions and names of Jewish victims of Arab violence and incitement to Jew-hatred.

The “inquiry’s” call for submissions advertised an email address and a “cloud” address; a mailing address was provided upon request. We logged all the submissions we sent: 78,771 by email, 2,665,313 by “OwnCloud” only, and 4,890,902 by courier (a total that included the prior electronic submissions).

Pillay told the HRC: “Shortly after our report was finalized, the Commission also received what appears to be one submission with over 2.5 million attachments.”

That was false. There was not one submission. Each of our millions of submissions was unique and numbered. And they came from multiple NGOs.

And here’s another lie. We can prove that the Commission received over a million unique submissions before their report was finalized, flatly contradicting Pillay’s representation.

A draft report from the inquiry was circulated on April 19, 2022. By that date, we had already sent 1,065,267 unique submissions by email and OwnCloud. The finalized report was dated May 9, 2022, and by that date, we had already sent 2,666,801 unique submissions by email and OwnCloud. The report was published for the world to see on June 7, 2022, and by that date, we had sent 4,890,902 submissions by email, OwnCloud and courier.

Pillay told the Council: “Since the finalization of this report, we have sadly received reports of continued violations of individual and collective rights, including excessive use of force, sometimes lethal, by Israeli security forces against Palestinians.”

Actually, since the finalization of the report, the inquiry had received—as we logged and numbered—28,312 reports of lethal force by Palestinians and other Arabs directed against Israelis. But for Pillay, these reports were not sad; they were not even counted.

Pillay told the Council: “Israel’s refusal to allow the Commission to visit Israel does make hearing from Israeli victims and witnesses more challenging.”

That was a falsehood. Our submissions contained the specific names of 5,483,502 victims (some submissions containing multiple names):

• 600,000 specific Jewish refugees and victims of Arab persecution in the Middle East and North African nations in the past 75 years;

• 4,220 civilian victims murdered in Arab campaigns to eradicate Israel;

• 24,092 Israeli forces who fell defending their country and its people from Arab Jew-hatred;

• 4,812,829 victims of anti-Semitism during the Holocaust, and the role and legacy of Nazi collaborator and propagandist, “Palestine’s national leader,” “hero” and role model, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Amin al-Husseini.

Pillay told the Council: “The Commission has underlined … the need to hear from all concerned parties, all duty bearers, victims, and witnesses.”

That was a lie. After May 4, 2022, the inquiry’s advertised OwnCloud service for submissions started rejecting our submissions as “unauthorized” (a “401” status code). We responded by mailing submissions instead.

Nor was that the first time our efforts to make submissions had encountered hurdles, all of which we fully documented.

On Feb. 5, 2022, the United Nations’ OwnCloud service went offline (“this site cannot be reached”). Subsequent messages from the cloud service preventing our submissions read “Internal Server Error.” Then, on March 22, 2022, the cloud service started responding to our attempted submissions with “out of storage space” responses. And by May 4, 2022, we had hit the “unauthorized” wall.

Pillay boasted at the inquiry’s press briefing, “We are listening to all stakeholders of whatever political point of view… We are welcoming submissions from anyone, everyone.”

A verifiably false claim.

At the press conference, she abandoned the “several thousand submissions” claim in the report and in her comments before the Council. Instead, she was now saying, “We’ve actually received 2.5 million.” And then she immediately segued into denigrating those submissions by adding this description: “All of them would be pro-Israel.”

Off in her count by two and a half million submissions, she continued: “It’s one website that has sent 2.5 million submissions.”

That was also false. The multiple websites of the various NGOs making submissions were clearly identified.

Then Pillay belittled them by referring to them as a simplistic list, telling the press: “It appears to be a record of all the Jews killed in the Holocaust, so it’s a long list of names.”

Another lie. All submissions naming Holocaust victims also spoke to the relationship between the Nazis and Palestinians, from al-Husseini until today.

Furthermore, by Feb. 8, 2022, the inquiry had been sent 11,699 submissions from Palestinian Media Watch (PMW); by March 1, 2022, 11,132 submissions from AICE and its Jewish Virtual Library; by March 5, 2022, 12,642 submissions from MEMRI; by March 9, 2022, 2,872 submissions from the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center; and by March 10, 2022, 7,807 submissions from CAMERA.

These submissions included solid documentary evidence, photos, videos, original documents and detailed research and analysis of all of the Arab wars against the State of Israel; Palestinian terror attacks; Palestinian hate speech; incitement to violence; and irrefutable proof of Palestinian Arab efforts to erase Jewish history, promote genocide and terminate the Jewish state. This was in addition to 1,017,200 specifically identified Jewish victims of anti-Semitism, together with the Palestinian connection, sent by March 22, 2022.

At the end of March, there was no doubt about two more facts.

First, Pillay’s inquiry was still in the information-gathering stage; Pillay admitted at the press conference that she and her entourage had traveled to Jordan on March 31, 2022, to conduct four days of meetings.

Second, the inquiry used that information to come to its own conclusions. Inquiry member Miloon Kothari informed the press, “The report is not only based on what has preceded us.”

Pillay admitted to ignoring “pro-Israel” submissions

Then came the most shocking admission, blowing Pillay’s cover wide open. Referring to the newly hatched claim “we’ve actually received 2.5 million,” she announced to the world’s press: “But I’ve not seen them personally.”

The scandalous moment was caught on camera. The chair of this U.N. “inquiry” admitted to never having looked at any of our submissions! Any of what she labeled “pro-Israel” submissions.

Ignoring all the evidence to the contrary, she had no trouble answering the central question of this inquiry by declaring that the Arab-Israeli conflict was Israel’s fault. She told the press, “The root cause is clearly the occupation.” Israeli “discrimination” was the other “core underlying root cause of ongoing violence.”

The mountain of falsehoods about the process, therefore, had real consequences. The inquisitors were mandated to look for root causes and the victims of systematic discrimination based on race and religion. But we now know the search will proceed only so long as the root cause is not Arab hatred of Jews, the masses of victims of such hate are not dead Jews, and the refugees are not Jewish.

On discrimination and Pillay’s U.N. mandate

Inquiry members repeatedly contradicted themselves over other basics. On June 13, 2022, the first day of the dialogue, 22 states registered their objection to the inquiry, calling it “disproportionate” scrutiny of Israel. Among these nations were the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands. Pillay bristled. She claimed their job description was not exceptional, so there was no cause for complaint.

And then she told the press conference: “We have this very wide mandate to address the root causes… which is usually not the portfolio of human rights. So we are very interested in the part of the mandate that requires us to identify individuals who are responsible and to work with judicial institutions for possible prosecutions and to secure justice. So all this is new.”

She also said: “We want everyone to take this commission seriously because it’s the first time it can look into political questions, which you can’t do under the Human Rights Council’s regular mandates.”

Sidoti likewise added, “In fact, the way in which accountability is framed in the mandate, it is different from other commissions of inquiry.”

If it looks like discrimination, sounds like discrimination and quacks like discrimination, then it probably is discrimination.

On transparency and the secret “Star Chamber” proceedings

The inquisitors have done their best to conceal their conduct. As Pillay herself told the Council: “Individual acknowledgments of receipt of information and submissions will not be provided … The Commission has not made public who it has spoken to.”

All that is known by the public and the states bankrolling this enterprise is that these three intensely anti-Israel activists are conducting secret meetings with highly select NGOs and criminal prosecutors—while feigning difficulty with regard to gathering or reading information from “pro-Israel” sources.

Pillay informed the press that the week of June 20, 2022, the “inquiry” was “going to be holding a roundtable of experts,” a hybrid affair both in Geneva and online. So, in theory, an online meeting could have been open. But instead, the identity of the invitees is a secret.

Pillay added, “Twenty representatives of organizations” came to meet the inquiry in Jordan. Who they were, she wouldn’t say.

Pillay insisted, “We are consulting a whole lot of experts on the occupation.” Unnamed experts. Given the designated topic, not the “pro-Israel” kind.

At the same press conference, Kothari said, “We have done a series of secure online interviews with civil society leaders, academics and others.” What leaders, which academics? And the “others” are all unidentified in the report, or to the Council, or the press.

Sidoti provided the punchline: “We are already in touch with the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court [ICC], and later this week, we’ll be having a further meeting with the Office.”

In short, this “inquiry” is a quintessential Star Chamber. Covert meetings. Confidential accusers. Clandestine interviews. Classified. Restricted. Top secret. Until Israeli Jews, or supporters of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination and self-defense, hear from international or national state prosecutors.


This sham inquiry process is as rotten as the substance it fabricates. The inquisitors have been caught red-handed. They do not satisfy the criteria to hold the position of independent, objective, unbiased experts. And they are carrying that bias with them into every facet of the operation: what submissions they take, whom they meet, what they read, what they report, whom they lobby, what they collect and what they share.

We know with certainty that Pillay lied about what she knew and when she knew it.

If one is still pondering just how dangerous this venture might be, listen to the outrageous words of Chris Sidoti to the Human Rights Council at the end of the presentation of the report, after some speakers objected to the inquiry and the Council’s treatment of the Jewish state. Sidoti said, “Accusations of anti-Semitism are thrown around like rice at a wedding.”

A retort intended to mask the very real anti-Semitism inextricably bound up with this “inquiry,” which is destined to cause serious harm to genuine victims of violence and discrimination unless it is stopped.

Anne Bayefsky is the director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, and president of Human Rights Voices.

This article was first published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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