Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay (UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferre) (UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferre)
Navi Pillay

“Pillay publicly declared Israel guilty of the very crimes she is meant to impartially investigate.”

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

Navi Pillay, who is heading a highly controversial United Nations commission of inquiry into alleged human rights abuses by Israel, has made a series of series of prejudicial statements against Israel.

UN Watch, which uncovered the comments, says her impartiality to investigate is compromised and launched a petition calling for Pillay to recuse herself.

Pillay is a former South African jurist who served as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2008 to 2014.

The inquiry she’s leading has aroused particular outrage in Israel. In December the UN General Assembly gave Pillay’s probe an unprecedented open-ended mandate. Her probe’s key focus is examining the “root causes of current tensions” between Israelis and Palestinians, including alleged “systematic discrimination.”

Moreover, Pillay’s mandate includes Israel’s treatment of its own Arab citizens, not just Palestinians living under “occupation.”

It’s widely believed that the inquiry’s ultimate aim is to label Israel as an “apartheid state.”

Pillay’s Prejudice

UN Watch submitted a 30-page complaint on Monday accusing Pillay of violating UN rules by failing to disclose numerous of her prior statements that directly prejudge the matters before the inquiry.

For example, in a joint letter addressed to President Joe Biden on June 14, 2021, Pillay decried Israel’s “domination and oppression of the Palestinian people,” and called on the U.S. to “address the root causes of the violence” by ending Israel’s “ever-expanding discrimination and systemic oppression.”

UN Watch said “Pillay publicly declared Israel guilty of the very crimes she is meant to impartially investigate.”

The complaint noted that in June 2020, Pillay signed a petition entitled “Sanction Apartheid Israel!” which called for a boycott of the Jewish state.

In a May 31, 2010 comment made while serving as the UN’s top human rights person, Pillay stated that “the Israeli Government treats international law with perpetual disdain.”

Said UN Watch, “Never throughout her UN tenure did Pillay employ such language regarding any other country—not even against serial abusers such as China, Russia, Iran, Syria or North Korea.”

UN Watch raised other concerns with Pillay.

• Israel is the only country whose human rights record is a permanent agenda item for the UN Human Rights Council. Although UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and previous High Commissioners criticized the council for only subjecting Israel to this level of scrutiny, Pillay has repeatedly defended this discrimination.

• Pillay has long advocated for the Palestinians to join the International Criminal Court, supporting Palestinian efforts to label Israel as a criminal state “through the language and mechanisms of international law.”

• “As Secretary-General of the UN’s Durban Review Conference in 2009, and as its primary champion, Pillay whitewashed the antisemitic Durban conference of 2001, and she demonized Jewish groups that sounded the alarm, calling them ‘lobby groups’ that were ‘focused on single issues,'” UN Watch wrote.

“It is astonishing that the United Nations appointed an individual as the supposedly impartial chair of an inquiry immediately after she declared one of the parties guilty in the very controversies that are at issue in the investigation,” said Hillel Neuer, UN Watch’s executive director in a statement.

“Asking Navi Pillay to head an inquiry examining Israel is like asking a vegetarian to review a steakhouse. When it comes to Israel, as our legal brief demonstrates, Pillay is the complete opposite of impartial.”

“The legal test is the appearance of bias, and there’s no doubt that Pillay fails the test. We are therefore calling on her to do the right thing, and to resign immediately.”