BBC WS interview with Navi Pillay: where did the presenter do his research?

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.Newshour 30 12 Pillay

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.

Pillay Wiki

Perhaps James Coomarasamy would like to tell BBC audiences where he did his background research for this interview. 

 

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8 comments on “BBC WS interview with Navi Pillay: where did the presenter do his research?

  1. Actually, I’m puzzled by this article. James Coomarasamy might have got his facts wrong but he is one of those extremely rare creatures – a fair-minded BBC journalist. He is one of very few presenters I can listen to on the World Service without detecting any bias.

    I listened to that interview and the impression I got was that he had scant respect for the implacably anti-Israel Navi Pillay. From your link:

    NP: “The fact in this particular operation in Gaza and we all saw that on video is those four children who were playing on the beach who were shelled – strangely , at this point a clip is inserted of Palestinians at the site yelling “Allah Akhbar” with Hamas/BBC spokeswoman Lyse Doucet providing commentary – “and there’s no way they can say that is part of their operation to go after terrorists.”

    JC: “But targeting is another thing. If it was a mistake or targeting how can you be sure?”

    At this point there’s a long pause from NP as if she cannot quite believe such consideration for the Israelis is coming from a BBC journalist and is trying to figure out how best to respond.

    NP: “This is something they will have to explain and have a proper investigation. That’s why I said, “It appears to have” – she is lying as she didn’t say that – “because international law …“

    …and blah blah blah.

    I thought James Coomerasamy did quite well, within his BBC environment, to expose her bias.

    Hadar, your research is usually excellent but you have misjudged JC here.

    • All very well, and kudos to him. However, did he or didn’t he say: “which the IDF spokeswoman at the time described as ‘an incitement to hate’”; and did or did not an IDF spokeswoman at the time describe it as ‘an incitement to hate’?

      • Dunno, I can’t research whether an IDF spokesperson said that or not.

        I don’t think JC’s intention was to criticise the IDF but rather to challenge NP’s bias.

        There isn’t the slightest doubt that Pillay and her crew did in fact incite hatred against Israel by obsessively attacking the Jewish state while ignoring the real abusers of human rights across the planet.

        • “There isn’t the slightest doubt that Pillay and her crew did in fact incite hatred against Israel by obsessively attacking the Jewish state while ignoring the real abusers of human rights across the planet” – no question about that.

  2. It’s not “the UN HRC has passed more resolutions concerning Israel than any other state in the world” but they have passed more resolutions concerning Israel than ALL other states in the world combined

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