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Israel PM urges UN to dismantle rights panel over 'anti-Semitic' remarks

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid sai din a letter to UN Secretar-General Antonio Guterres that 'these anti-Semitic remarks are a stain on the entire United Nations'
— Jerusalem (AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Sunday upped pressure on the United Nations to disband a commission investigating Israel, appealing to the secretary-general over "anti-Semitic" remarks from a member of the body.

The Commission of Inquiry (COI) investigating abuses in Israel and the Palestinian territories was created 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 as it probes "all underlying root causes" in the decades-long conflict.

On July 25, commissioner Miloon Kothari was quoted alluding to a "Jewish lobby" and questioning whether Israel deserved its UN membership, reigniting long-time allegations that the council is biased against the Jewish state.

"These anti-Semitic remarks are a stain on the entire United Nations and are not befitting of a person with such a position of responsibility," Lapid said in a letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The commission "has been fundamentally tainted by the publicly expressed prejudices of its leadership", Lapid added, demanding "the immediate removal of all three members".

Israel's ambassador in Geneva on Friday had urged the council's president to disband the commission.

Asked in an interview published Monday by online publication Mondoweiss about member states' criticisms of the commission, Kothari had pointed to wider efforts to undermine its investigations.

"We are very disheartened by the social media that is controlled largely by, whether it is the Jewish lobby or it is specific NGOs, a lot of money is being thrown into trying to discredit us," he said.

Several ambassadors, including from Britain and the United States, have also expressed outrage at the remarks.

Commission chair, Navi Pillay, a former UN rights chief, said Kothari's comments "seem to have deliberately been taken out of context" and had been "deliberately misquoted".

She said his comments reflected the "commission's disappointment with the continued lack of cooperation" from Israel with its investigation.

Lapid called Pillay's defence of Kothari "false" and charged that the commission "fuels" anti-Semitism.

"Slurs about a 'Jewish lobby' that acts to 'control' the media, are reminiscent of the darkest days of modern history," Lapid said.