Navi Pillay Lobbies to Boycott 'Apartheid Israel'—She Can't Chair U​.​N.'s Israel Inquiry

Navi Pillay Lobbies to Boycott 'Apartheid Israel'—She Can't Chair U​.​N.'s Israel Inquiry

February 13, 2022
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Secretary of State Antony Blinken
Signatures: 12,089Next Goal: 15,000
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Why this petition matters

Started by UN Watch

Navi Pillay is on record calling Israel an “apartheid state,” has campaigned to boycott and sanction Israel, and signs statements lobbying governments to punish the Jewish state.

It is therefore is a travesty of justice for her to serve as Chair of the new United Nations inquiry into last spring’s Hamas-Israel war. She must resign immediately, or be removed.

Pillay's grossly prejudicial lobbying campaigns and statements condemning Israel relate directly to on the issues under investigation, compromising her impartiality. She must recuse herself.

According to the 30-page complaint filed by UN Watch, an independent non-governmental organization that monitors the world body, Navi Pillay violated UN rules by failing to disclose her anti-Israel lobbying campaigns and statements that directly prejudge the matters before the inquiry.

Pillay's prejudicial actions include her signing an anti-Israel manifesto to lobby President Biden mere weeks before she was appointed by the UN in July, leaving little room to imagine how Pillay could envisage the issues any differently so soon afterwards.


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

Meanwhile, a key focus of the UN inquiry headed by Pillay is the examination of "root causes of current tensions" between Israelis and Palestinians, including alleged "systematic discrimination."

In her letter to Biden, Pillay further wrote that the April clashes at Al Aqsa in Jerusalem—also to be examined by the inquiry—constituted “aggressive actions by Israeli forces” against “peaceful protesters and worshippers,” which amounted to “forced dispossession of Palestinians,” the “latest evidence of a separate and unequal governing system.”


Moreover, while the inquiry is mandated to examine "systematic discrimination" on the basis of race, ethnicity or national origin, in June 2020 Navi Pillay signed a petition, organized by the South African Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (SA BDS) Coalition, entitled “Sanction Apartheid Israel!

In this appeal to governments, Navi Pillay — the supposedly impartial Chair of the UNHRC's new and open-ended inquiry on Israel— condemned "Israel’s occupation and apartheid regime."

In Pillay's statement, she campaigned for countries to "ban arms trade and military-security cooperation with Israel" and to "suspend free trade agreements with Israel."

Pillay's text lobbied governments to adopt a UN resolution to implement "targeted and lawful sanctions on Israel, including a military embargo."

Pillay's appeal urged governments to "activate the UN Special Committee on Apartheid to address Israel’s regime over the indigenous people of Palestine."


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

By heading this inquiry despite having repeatedly declared Israel guilty of precisely the crimes that she is supposed to investigate, Navi Pillay embodies the injustice of the UN and its human rights council when it comes to the selective treatment of the Jewish state.

In a May 2021 lecture, Pillay described Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians as “inhuman.” She compared Israel to apartheid South Africa, and defended the systematic singling-out of Israel under a targeted agenda item at the UN Human Rights Council.

“Apartheid is now being declared a crime against humanity in the Rome Statute, and it means the enforced segregation of people on racial lines, and that is what is happening in Israel," said Pillay in November 2017.

On May 31, 2010, while serving as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Pillay declared that “the Israeli Government treats international law with perpetual disdain.”

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

From her statements, it is clear that in Pillay's eyes, Israel is a cruel and oppressive colonizer, and a racist regime. Her narrative of who is the villain is set in stone. Ms. Pillay has long ago made up her mind.

Asking Navi Pillay to head an inquiry examining Israel is like asking a vegetarian to review a steakhouse. When it comes to Israel, as UN Watch has demonstrated, 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.


In contrast to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and her predecessor High Commissioner Louise Arbour, who had both criticized the UNHRC for its notorious agenda item targeting Israel, Navi Pillay stood out by repeatedly trying to defend this discrimination, in remarks made for example in Italy, Kuwait and South Africa.

In 2009, Pillay headed the UN's follow-up to the 2001 Durban conference on racism, an event tainted by unprecedented displays of antisemitism.

When Jewish community activists around the world sounded the alarm about the antisemitism of the Durban conference, Pillay repeatedly demonized them at the UN and in the media as “lobby groups” that were “focused on single issues.”

Pillay needs to consider the principles she was sworn to uphold.

We are calling on Ms. Pillay, as a former UN human rights chief, to respect the impartiality obligations set forth in the UN Declaration on Fact-Finding, the impartiality guidelines published by her former office, and her own solemn undertaking that she recently gave, on becoming chair of the inquiry, to be impartial.

As a former judge on international tribunals, Ms. Pillay must know that their precedents clearly disqualify a judge who had made prior, partisan statements declaring the culpability of one of the parties.

it is frankly impossible to imagine how Navi Pillay could lead an impartial investigation into the events of April-May 2021, as well as into alleged systematic discrimination, given what she has already declared on all of these. A reasonable person would consider Navi Pillay to be partial, thereby disqualifying her from serving as a member of the inquiry.

If the United Nations and its Human Rights Council are to live up to their founding principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity, then Navi Pillay cannot be a member, much less the chair, of this Commission of Inquiry.

Accordingly, we are calling on Ms. Pillay to recuse herself. In the event that she refuses to do so, we request Federico Villegas, the President of the Human Rights Council, to remove her.

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Signatures: 12,089Next Goal: 15,000
Support now