The UN Human Rights Council’s obsession with and bias against Israel is legendary – so much so that the issue has prompted commentary from UN employees themselves (ranging from an interpreter to the UN Secretary General), Ambassadors to the body and visiting dignitaries.
One might have thought, therefore, that when the BBC World Service was given the opportunity to interview the person who supervised the UN HRC for most of its existence, questions such as why Israel is the only country which is the subject of a standing agenda item or why the UN HRC has passed more resolutions concerning Israel than any other state in the world would be on its journalistic agenda. That, however, was not the case.
James Coomarasamy’s interview with former UN Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay was broadcast on BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ on December 30th and it can be heard from 34:30 here. At 39:40 Coomarasamy says:
“You took a lot of personal criticism during your time. As you’ve indicated you’re pretty blunt, outspoken. Couple of governments in particular; the Israeli government, the Sri Lankan government, ahm…essentially dismissed you as someone who was partisan, who had personal biases. Was there any justification in their arguments?”
Pillay’s reply in relation to Israel is as follows:
“…and of course the pro-Israel lobby – the extremist groups – were critical that I was biased and in favour of Palestine all the time because I come from South Africa and South Africans are known to be sympathetic to the right of self-determination that the Palestinians want.”
Pillay’s irrelevant, inaccurate and downright bizarre claim that criticism of her functioning was based on her nationality and her revealing labelling of her critics generated no reaction from Coomarasamy, who goes on to say:
“On Israel one particular thing that the Israelis were very unhappy about was your quote from July this year talking about the latest war in Gaza and you talked about the apparent targeting of children playing by Israel which the IDF spokeswoman at the time described as ‘an incitement to hate’. I mean, was that a comment too far?”
The source of Coomarasamy’s assertion that an IDF spokeswoman criticised Pillay’s statement and used the words “an incitement to hate” is not revealed to listeners. Hence, BBC Watch contacted the IDF Spokesman’s office to enquire whether or not Coomarasamy’s claim is accurate. The answer we received was “absolutely not”.
Those words do however appear in Navi Pillay’s Wikipedia entry where they are attributed to an article written by a Canadian human rights lawyer with no connection to either the IDF or the Israeli government.
Perhaps James Coomarasamy would like to tell BBC audiences where he did his background research for this interview.