Officials of the 1,000-strong UN human rights office often insist that their agency, which operates as the bureaucracy that supports the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council, not be conflated with political body and its resolutions. They merely carry out the directives legislated by the council.
Yet when it comes to attitudes toward Israel, it is clear that the antipathy of the council is matched by that of many in the OHCHR bureaucracy.
A case in point is Craig Mokhiber, who holds the influential position of Director of the New York Office of the OHCHR, and who has served in various capacities at the United Nations since 1992. Mokhiber has played a key role in the UN human rights system over three decades. Yet his long history of publishing virulently anti-Israel statements makes him unfit for a role as a leading UN official, let alone for its human rights office.
According to the UN Charter, staff must be held to the highest standards of “integrity.” Such standards include fairness and impartiality in conducting one’s work. Yet top UN human rights official Mokhiber has committed gross and systematic violations of his duty of impartiality. On his public Twitter and Facebook accounts, Mokhiber has repeatedly accused Israel of the worst possible crimes: “genocide,” “ethnic cleansing,” and “large-scale atrocities.”
The director of OHCHR’s New York office accuses Israel of “racism,” “racist domination,” “racist violence,” and “racist oppression,” as well as of committing “right-wing white ethno-nationalist terrorism” that “is murdering people.”
In Mokhiber’s view, Israel’s policies toward the Middle East peace process, as expressed by the U.S. peace plan, amount to “the crimes of the 20th Century,” including “ethno-nationalism,” “apartheid,” “colonialism,” “racism,” and “subjugation.”
Beyond virulently accusing Israel of the worst possible crimes and atrocities, Mokhiber is notably silent about any actions against Israelis, whether by Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Iran or the Palestinian Authority.
These demonstrate a very clear lack of neutrality on human rights issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This overt bias is particularly problematic due to Mokhiber’ direct involvement in OHCHR initiatives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After serving as a senior advisor in the Palestinian territories from 1996-1998, Mokhiber was centrally involved in some of the UN’s most influential events related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including planning the anti-Israel 2009 Durban Review Conference and introducing five reports to the UN General Assembly that demonized the Jewish state. He was also involved in the process leading to the establishment of the Human Rights Council.
In addition to his anti-Israel statements and actions within his official capacity, Mokhiber’s social media presence demonstrates that he is not able to fulfill his mandate objectively. The consistent use of hate-mongering rhetoric by a senior official of Mokhiber’s stature normalizes anti-Israel sentiments across the UN human rights system. The posts, therefore, constitute a violation of his obligations to the UN.
Mokhiber’s social media posts have been categorized accordingly and are documeented below:
- Accusations of “Genocide,” “Ethnic Cleansing,” “Large-Scale Atrocities”
- Allegations of Apartheid, Racism, and International Law Violations
- Targeting Supporters of Israel
- Promoting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement
- Denying Israel’s Right to Exist
1. Accusations of Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing
Craig Mokhiber frequently posts about “ethnic cleansing” and Israel’s “genocidal” practices. The consistent use of this rhetoric draws parallels between contemporary Israeli policy and the genocidal policy of the Nazis during the Holocaust. This constitutes an example of modern antisemitism according to the internationally recognized IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism. Furthermore, Mokhiber’s use of the term “genocide” belittles genuine cases of genocide and ethnic cleansing as committed around the world. In the tweet below, Mokhiber promotes a false equivalence between the atrocities committed in Myanmar, Bosnia, and Rwanda with Israeli actions towards the Palestinians.
In the tweet below, Mokhiber shares the link to a news interview featuring UNRWA Spokesperson Chris Gunness. In the video, Gunness cries on camera while describing the plight of children in Gaza. By noting that Gunness is expressing what “we all feel,” Mokhiber normalizes the labeling of Israeli practices in Gaza as “genocide” for all UN employees who exhibit distress at the deaths of children.
Below, Mokhiber commemorates “Nakba Day,” a Palestinian day of remembrance held every year on May 15, the day following Israel’s independence in 1948. According to Israeli Arab diplomat George Deek, referencing “Nakba Day” goes beyond promoting Palestinian rights and rather serves as a form of denying Israel’s right to exist. He said, “The Palestinian leadership declared that the disaster is not the expulsion, the abandoned villages or the exile. The Nakba in their eyes is the creation of Israel.” By referring to this date as “Nakba Day,” or the “Day of Disaster,” Mokhiber feeds into the delegitimization narrative that denies Israel’s right to exist.
is this week remembering the Nakba, the brutal ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948, and the 63 year human rights struggle to which it gave birth.
Moreover, Mokhiber wrote an essay on UN leadership as part of a 2020 UN report (pg. 16). He argues that despite two decades of reform, UN action in crisis situations around the world continues to be stymied by “unhelpful pressure from host countries.” He notes that UN actors in countries with “large-scale atrocities” such as “Rwanda, Bosnia, Sri Lanka, Palestine, Myanmar and beyond” were “subjected to enormous pressures designed to silence them.”
2. Allegations of Apartheid, Racism, and International Law Violations
In addition to allegations of genocide and ethnic cleansing, Mokhiber continues to use hate-mongering rhetoric such as condemning Israeli “Apartheid” and racism.
Earlier this year, on April 15, 2020, Mokhiber tweeted that two million Palestinians in Gaza were “imprisoned,” with Israel being the obvious alleged perpetrator, and that this was being done “solely on the basis of their ethnicity.” Because Palestinian citizens in Gaza are of the same ethnicity as Arab Israeli citizens, then no matter what Mokhiber may think of how the former are treated by Israel, the fact that the latter enjoy full civil and political rights as Israeli citizens means that ethnicity is not the factor, let alone the “sole” factor, behind such alleged treatment.
In 2015, Mokhiber shared anti-Israel policy analyst Phyllis Bennis’s piece, calling Israeli practices “Apartheid policies.” Mokhiber calls this “clear-eyed commentary.”
More clear-eyed commentary from great human rights defender Phyllis Bennis.
Here, Mokhiber shares the link to what he calls an “inspiring song,” titled “Freedom for Palestine.” The lyrics include references to an “Apartheid Wall” dividing the West Bank and crimes against humanity being committed in Gaza.
Another Arab Spring anthem and inspiring song of freedom.
In the following tweet, Mokhiber plays on intersectional efforts to condemn Israeli “racism.” He aims to relate to protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, where three waves of demonstrations took place in 2014-15 against police brutality against African Americans. By claiming solidarity between Palestinians and the Black Lives Matter movement, Mokhiber effectively equates the struggle of African Americans against police violence with the struggle of the Palestinians.
Below, Mokhiber’s posts suggest that Israel has violated international law by declaring Jerusalem its capital.
3. Targeting Supporters of Israel
Mokhiber regularly targets supporters of the State of Israel on social media, including the United States government and specific individuals.
It’s worth noting that contrary to the following tweet, actress Scarlett Johansson, far from supporting “racist violence,” became a brand ambassador for the Israeli SodaStream company that actively employs Palestinians and promotes Jewish Arab coexistence in the workplace and beyond.
The tweet below links to an article that assails the U.S. Senate for passing anti-boycott legislation and accuses politicians of attacking “the free speech rights of Americans in the name of defending Israel.”
4. Promoting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement
Mokhiber is closely associated with many individuals involved with the Boycott, Divestment
and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
Below, Mokhiber promotes an article written by Vijay Prashad, who sits on the advisory board of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. The article states, “Since 1948, the Israelis have tried to exterminate the Palestinians as a people and an idea to no avail.”
Mokhiber also shared a tweet from Marc Lamont Hill-whom UN Watch exposed as a promoter of terrorism against Israelis-suggesting that prominent political activist and writer Angela Davis deserved a prestigious human rights award from the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute after it was temporarily revoked over her support for a boycott of Israel. Mokhiber goes further to suggest that denying Davis-a prominent BDS supporter-the award is an insult to “Palestinian victims of human rights violations.”
5. Denying Israel’s Right to Exist
In the tweets below, Mokhiber effectively advocates the end of Israel as a Jewish state by calling for a one-state solution. Mokhiber also perpetuates the narrative of the so-called “right of return,” which rejects Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and seeks to eliminate Israel by flooding its territory with millions of Palestinians.
Craig Mokhiber’s social media history clearly demonstrates his extreme bias against Israel. Beyond sharing his opinions on social media, Mokhiber has incorporated his anti-Israel viewpoint into his various roles in the UN human rights system.
Throughout his career, Mokhiber has consistently demonstrated anti-Israel bias when conducting his work. In 2006, Mokhiber refused to denounce former Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s flagrant antisemitism. In 2009, Mokhiber, then a deputy director for the OHCHR New York office, called South Africa judge Richard Goldstone’s inquiry an “extremely important mechanism” for understanding the crisis in Gaza. In fact, Goldstone’s problematic report was created on the foundation of a biased mandate and was subsequently disowned by Goldstone himself.
Further, in 2017, he submitted five reports on behalf of the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights condemning Israeli settlement activities, home demolitions, and more.
Indeed, Mokhiber was biased against Israel from the onset of his career with the United Nations. Even before he was hired to serve as a senior advisor in the Palestinian territories from 1996-1998, Mokhiber was politically active against Israel, saying how it was guilty of “very clearly racist violence” that was “random,” “perpetrated against the elderly, the infirm,” indeed against “anyone who happened to be a non-Jewish member of that society.”
Mokhiber put all of this in print in his 1988 contribution to a radical publication, “Palestine Papers-Everyday Horrors,” after he traveled to the West Bank to show solidarity with Yasser Arafat’s first intifada. These opinions have persisted through his subsequent work, pervading throughout the greater UN human rights system.
Together, Craig Mokhiber’s record of bias, both in his UN activities as well as in his social media statements, demonstrate that he is unfit to serve in his current role.