Canadian ambassador to the UN denounces the « anti-Semitic » remarks of a human rights expert


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OTTAWA — Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations in New York has condemned the « grossly biased and anti-Semitic remarks » of a human rights investigator from the international organization.

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Bob Rae said in a tweet Comments on Thursday by Miloon Kothari, who sits on a UN commission of inquiry set up in response to the 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, are « a disgrace to the institutions supposedly dedicated to Right wing state ».

The commission is the first to have an indefinite mandate from the UN Human Rights Council. Critics say such an ongoing review shows an anti-Israel bias in the 47-member council, while its supporters say the commission is a way to keep tabs on injustices suffered by Palestinians over decades of the Israeli regime.

Miloon Kothari, special rapporteur on adequate housing for the United Nations Human Rights Council, is pictured in Ottawa in this file photo from October 22, 2007.
Miloon Kothari, special rapporteur on adequate housing for the United Nations Human Rights Council, is pictured in Ottawa in this file photo from October 22, 2007. Photo by Wayne Cuddington /Postmedia network

Kothari has drawn attention for remarks he made during an interview Monday on the podcast of Mondoweiss, a news and analysis site that says he provides an underrepresented perspective on the rights of Palestinians in its coverage of the region and related US foreign policy.

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In the interview, Kothari discussed the commission’s work and mandate and was also asked about criticism from some governments, including Canada.

He said he was “very discouraged by social media which is largely controlled by – be it the Jewish lobby or specific NGOs – a lot of money is being poured into trying to discredit us.”

Kothari said the commission is responsible for reviewing humanitarian law, human rights law and criminal law. He said « Israel is in systemic violation » of all three.

“I would go so far as to ask the question why they are even members of the United Nations, because they do not respect – the Israeli government does not respect – its own obligations as a member state of the UN” , he added.

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Kothari, who was the first UN special rapporteur on adequate housing, is one of three members of the commission of inquiry.

Irwin Cotler, who is Canada’s special envoy for the fight against anti-Semitism, said the remarks mean Kothari is not the right person for the role.

« Miloon Kothari’s comments reveal, to put it mildly, a reasonable apprehension of bias, » said Cotler, a former Liberal justice minister.

“That alone should disqualify him as commissioner, on a commission itself tainted by his indefinite and damaging tenure,” Cotler added.

The Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, an advocacy group, urged the Canadian government to condemn what it called the appointment of biased members to the commission of inquiry, saying Kothari had flagrantly violated the rules of the UN on impartiality.

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Ambassador Michele Taylor, who is the US permanent representative to the UN Human Rights Council, also condemned Kothari’s « scandalous and anti-Semitic remarks » and called on Michelle Bachelet, the head of human rights of the United Nations, to denounce them as well.

Keren Hajioff, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, said the international community should be « outraged » by Kothari’s comments.

Navi Pillay, the former UN human rights chief who heads the commission of inquiry, said in a letter released Thursday that Kothari’s comments « appear to have been taken out of context ». She argued that Kothari’s comments about efforts to discredit commission members were « deliberately misquoted to imply that ‘social media’ was controlled by the Jewish lobby. »

The Associated Press reported that Kothari referenced Pillay’s letter when asked for comment.

— With files from the Associated Press

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