by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The controversial U.N. investigator who runs a sweeping probe into Israeli conduct called the country’s treatment of Palestinians “so much worse” than South African apartheid and backed the U.N. secretary-general’s comment that the Hamas terrorist attack did not take place in a vacuum. The comments came as U.N. officials and the Israeli government trade increasingly fierce rhetorical blows over the Gaza war, with the international organization urging Israel to end its operations against Hamas targets in the Palestinian enclave.
Navi Pillay, the investigator, is a former U.N. human-rights chief and South African judge, and she has long courted controversy for her frequent criticism of Israel. Her panel was established by the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2021, with the directive to investigate “the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and Israel.” Reflecting the council’s disproportionate focus on Israel, the commission has an unusually broad mandate, and Pillay has previously said that its scope is “time immemorial.”
She told reporters during a press conference at the U.N. building in Manhattan today about a report issued this week by her investigative commission, which blames Israel for an uptick of violence by Palestinians, and she addressed the Hamas terrorist attack and Israel’s subsequent military campaign. The commission condemns the Hamas killings, Pillay said. “But we also equally, unequivocally condemn the Israeli military steps that result inevitably in the deaths of thousands of Palestinian civilians,” she added.
Pillay also cited an estimate saying that 2,300 children have died in Israeli strikes so far; it’s not clear where she obtained that figure, but many U.N. agencies rely on statistics offered by Hamas. Pillay said her panel would question Israel’s right to defend itself: “Because of this mandate of ours, we are in a position to examine issues such as the right of defense—and as we see played out here, it’s much more retaliation and revenge—but what is the end goal?”