GENEVA: Israel on Friday accused members of a UN commission investigating abuses in Israel and the Palestinian territories of making and defending anti-Semitic comments, demanding they resign and disband the commission.

“It is time to disband this commission,” Israel’s ambassador in Geneva, Meirav Eilon Shahar, wrote in a letter to the president of the UN Human Rights Council that was seen by AFP.

She said she saw “no possible way” for the three members of the Commission of Inquiry (COI), which was created by the council last year, to “carry out their roles in an effective manner”.

“As such, (I) call on all three of them to resign immediately,” she said.

A spokesman confirmed that council president Federico Villegas had received the letter.

Eilon Shahar’s call follows days of outrage after 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.

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

“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.

‘Jewish lobby’

Eilon Shahar sent a letter to the council president two days later to protest that Kothari had made “a number of outrageous comments, including some that are evidently anti-Semitic”.

Several ambassadors, including from Britain and the United States, also tweeted their outrage at Kothari’s remarks.

Commission chair, Navi Pillay, a former UN rights chief, said in a letter on Thursday that 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.

Israel has flatly refused to cooperate with the COI, created after an 11-day conflict in 2021 between Israel and armed militants in Gaza. The commission has so far largely blamed Israel as it probes “all underlying root causes” in the decades-long conflict.

Eilon Shahar said Pillay had “doubled down on the commission’s clear support for anti-Semitic comments made by Mr. Kothari”.

“It is the defence of the indefensible,” she said.

“She has endorsed anti-Semitism. She has brought shame to the whole institution.” “I expect you to take all necessary measures at your disposal to call for Ms Pillay and the other commissioners, to resign,” she wrote to the council president.

Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2022

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