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Unprecedented open-ended UN probe of Israel to be led by controversial former human rights chief

Israel rejects the inquiry as biased as it "completely ignores the 4,300 rockets toward Israeli citizens"

Former High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay (Photo: Violaine Martin/UN)

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) announced last week that its former chief Navi Pillay will head an unprecedented open-ended inquiry into “systematic” human rights abuses in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Pillay is expected to lead a three-person investigation with the purpose of examining alleged human rights abuses and their underlying “root causes” in the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The probe was decided during a special session on May 27, following the recent 11-day Gaza war between the Islamist terrorist organization Hamas and Israel. The probe, however, is not limited to this Gaza conflict – known in Israel as Operation Guardian of the Walls. The official mission of the probe is to investigate “all alleged violations of international humanitarian law and all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law” in Israel, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

The commission of inquiry against the Jewish state is the first of its kind with an open-ended mandate that could theoretically go on indefinitely. By contrast, the commission that inquiries human rights violations in neighboring Syria, where about half a million people have been killed in the past decade, requires its mandate to be renewed every year.

In May, the Israeli government rejected the UN’s decision to probe the conflict with Hamas. By contrast, Hamas, which systematically commits war crimes against both civilian Israelis and Gazans, welcomed the probe. At the time, The Israeli Foreign Ministry stated that the probe “completely ignores the 4,300 rockets toward Israeli citizens” that were fired indiscriminately by Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists in Gaza. Jerusalem also called the probe initiative a “moral stain on the international community and the UN.”

The Jewish state has repeatedly accused the UNHRC of harboring anti-Israel, and at times even anti-Semitic, bias. In 2018, then-U.S. President Donald Trump decided to leave the human rights body in protest of its anti-Israel bias, while disregarding human rights violations committed by repressive regimes worldwide. While the Biden administration has criticized the controversial UN body, it decided that the U.S. would rejoin it.

Pillay is a South African jurist marked with a contentious history when it comes to the Jewish state and human rights. As the former high commissioner for the UNHRC, Pillay initiated four fact-finding missions against Israel, more than any other country in the world, including the most repressive regimes. One such commission was the controversial Goldstone Report that accused the Jewish state of war crimes in the 2008-2009 Gaza War. Its main author, Richard Goldstone, later discredited the report for being highly biased.

Pillay also appointed the extreme anti-Israel professor Richard Falk, who repeatedly accused Israel of war crimes without presenting any convincing evidence. At the same time, Falk ignored terrorism and incitement against Israel.

During the international Durban II Human Rights Conference in 2009, Pillay offered a platform to the former anti-Semitic Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a Holocaust denier who called for the destruction of the Jewish state.

Pillay’s debatable human rights record extends beyond Israel and the Middle East. In 2012, Pillay suspended sanctions against the former despotic Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe, a move that was criticized by Zimbabwean civil society rights groups who argued that Pillay overlooked the extensive human rights violations committed by the regime.

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The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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