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Israel asks the UN to disband its Gaza war panel after member’s ‘antisemitic’ remarks

A member of the Commission of Inquiry accused “the Jewish lobby” of funding a social media campaign to “discredit” the UN Human Rights Council

The Israeli government has requested the disbandment of the United Nations panel investigating last year’s flareup between Israel and Hamas in Gaza after a member of the panel made remarks widely deemed antisemitic. 

Interviewed for the Mondoweiss podcast, Miloon Kothari, one of three members of the Commission of Inquiry, accused “the Jewish lobby” of funding a social media campaign to “discredit” the U.N. Human Rights Council, which set up the commission after the 11-day, May 2021 conflagration. He also said the term “apartheid,” which some critics have applied to Israel, is a “useful paradigm/framework to understand the situation but not sufficient.”

In the interview, Kothari also questioned why Israel is a member of the U.N.

In a letter sent to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid demanded the international body “set the record straight” and immediately disband the commission. Israel has previously said it will not cooperate with the commission’s work since its members “have repeatedly taken public and hostile positions against Israel.” 

Lapid, who also serves as foreign minister of Israel’s caretaker government, called Kothari’s remarks “reminiscent of the darkest days of modern history.”

Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, said in a virtual briefing on Monday that the chair of the commission, Navi Pillay,  sent her a letter saying that the words were taken out of context. But Lipstadt said Kothari’s  “pretty clear” antisemitic comments could not have been understood otherwise. 

Lipstadt issued a joint statement with U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva Michèle Taylor calling the comments “outrageous,” a move followed by other ambassadors

Miguel Ángel Moratinos, High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, said in a statement on Monday that he is “determined to continue to work” with Israel and all U.N member states and “to combat and monitor antisemitism, as well as enhance a system-wide response.

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