UN investigator apologizes for antisemitic remarks
'This choice of words was incorrect, inappropriate, and insensitive'
UN investigator Miloon Kothari on Thursday apologized for saying that social media were controlled “by the Jewish lobby” and for questioning Israel’s status in the United Nations.
Speaking in a podcast for the Mondoweiss website earlier in July, Kothari, who is a member of the UNHRC's permanent Commission of Inquiry (COI) into human rights abuses in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said that the commission was “very disheartened by the social media that is controlled largely by – whether it is the Jewish lobby or specific NGOs.”
The remarks were criticized by the office of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and were condenmed by nearly 20 countries, including the US, as antisemitic. Kothari apologized in a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council President Federico Villegas.
“It was completely wrong for me to describe social media as being controlled largely by the Jewish lobby,” Kothari wrote.
“This choice of words was incorrect, inappropriate, and insensitive,” he added.
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Kothari also apologized for his comment about Israel's status as a UN member. When asked by Mondoweiss if he believed that Israel's occupation of the Palestinians was illegal, the UN investigator said that “it’s been illegal from the beginning.”
“And in fact, I mean, I would go as far as to raise the question as why are they even a member of the United Nations, because they don’t respect—the Israeli government does not respect its own obligations as a UN Member State,” he added.
In his letter to Villegas, Kothari clarified that he “did not intend to suggest that Israel should be excluded from the United Nations.”
“I realize that this choice of words has also caused offense and sincerely regret it," he stressed.
Last week, Villegas asked Kothari to clarify his remarks, which "could reasonably be interpreted as the stigmatization of the Jewish people.”
Earlier on Sunday, Israel's Prime Minister Yair Lapid urged the United Nations to disband the commission investigating Israel, appealing to the secretary-general over Kothari's "antisemitic" comments.
However, COI's chair, Navi Pillay, a former UN rights chief, said Kothari's remarks "seem to have deliberately been taken out of context" and had been "deliberately misquoted."