Francesca Albanese tells ToI she acknowledges ‘mistakes’ in past reference to a ‘Jewish lobby’; is latest UN official probing Israel to show evidence of blatant prejudice
Source: Times of Israel
A lawyer heading the UN Human Rights Council’s open-ended investigation into Israel’s treatment of Palestinians said during a 2014 conflict between Israel and Gaza terror groups that the “Jewish lobby” was in control of the United States.
Francesca Albanese, an Italian lawyer, was appointed earlier this year as the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories. The rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council tasked with investigating human rights in Palestinian areas, publishing public reports and working with governments and other groups on the issue.
Albanese, who now says she regrets the “Jewish lobby” remark, has long been a harsh critic of Israel, and the Israeli mission to the UN in Geneva formally objected to her appointment, arguing that she harbors significant bias against the Jewish state.
A review of her past social media posts, media appearances and talks with activist groups found that aside from inveighing against a “Jewish lobby,” she has also sympathized with terror organizations, dismissed Israeli security concerns, compared Israelis to Nazis and accused the Jewish state of potential war crimes.
Then, as now, she refers to Israel as a settler-colonial enterprise and to Jews in Israel and the pre-state British mandate as foreign interlopers subjugating an indigenous Palestinian population. In her first official report to the UN this year, she urged a rejection of the conflict paradigm, describing Israel solely as an oppressor and legitimizing Palestinian “resistance.” She rarely acknowledges Palestinian terrorism.
In 2014, in an open letter posted to her Facebook page, Albanese castigated the US and Europe for their conduct during Operation Protective Edge, a war between Israel and Gaza terror groups that year.
“America and Europe, one of them subjugated by the Jewish lobby, and the other by the sense of guilt about the Holocaust, remain on the sidelines and continue to condemn the oppressed — the Palestinians — who defend themselves with the only means they have (deranged missiles), instead of making Israel face its international law responsibilities,” Albanese wrote.
She was not employed by the UN at the time, but had previously worked for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) a UN agency that assists displaced Palestinians and their descendants, according to her LinkedIn profile. The letter she posted was meant to raise funds for UNRWA.
As of publication, the previously unreported post remained on her personal Facebook page, which is viewable by the public and identifies her as a UN investigator.
In another post from that year, which was hidden from view after her office was contacted by The Times of Israel, Albanese referred to the Israel lobby and Israel’s greed. The comments were directed at the BBC over its coverage of the conflict, even though the British broadcaster is often critical of Israel.
“The Israeli lobby is clearly inside your veins and system and you will be remembered to have been on the big brother’s side of this orwellian [sic] nightmare caused once again by Israel’s greed. Shame on you BBC,” she wrote.
And last year, she referred to Jewish and pro-Israel lobbies influencing Israeli arms sales and quieting criticism of Israel.
Responding to the revelations about Albanese’s statements, the Foreign Ministry claimed that antisemitism is widespread in the UN.
“Antisemitism is a persistent malice that has infected the United Nations Human Rights Council for far too long,” read a statement by Israel’s Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva. “Comments made by UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese that surfaced today are yet another stain on the credibility of this body and yet another example of the impunity that exists today regarding antisemitism and antisemitic comments made by UN officials.”
The mission argued that the lack of accountability for statements by UN officials “only works to legitimize antisemitism and endangers the Jewish people.”
References to Jews and Jewish lobbies wielding disproportionate power are viewed as antisemitic because they conjure age-old tropes and conspiracy theories about Jews controlling the world from the shadows. Many of those stereotypes also depict Jews as greedy.
“Talking about a uniform and ever-powerful Jewish lobby feeds into the stereotype of Jewish power, that there is a nefarious Jewish hand manipulating governments,” said Susan Heller Pinto, the vice president of international policy at the Anti-Defamation League.
“When she’s saying America is subjugated by the Jewish lobby it reinforces that image of this Jewish lobby being all-powerful and America and America’s actions and policies being directed by this Jewish lobby, and that’s antisemitic,” Heller Pinto said. “It’s making generalized statements. It’s not a political critique of an Israeli action, it is blanket characterizations that invoke age-old antisemitic tropes.”
Earlier this year, an investigator with the UN Commission of Inquiry into the conflict apologized after a similar “Jewish lobby” comment caused an uproar.
Contacted by The Times of Israel via email, Albanese attempted to distance herself from her past remarks.
“Some of the words I used, during Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip in 2014, were infelicitous, analytically inaccurate and unintendedly offensive,” she said through her office. “People make mistakes. I distance myself from these words, which I would not use today, nor have used as a UN Special Rapporteur.”
“Following this clarification, our attention should not be distracted from the unlawful state practices which cause suffering for millions and denial of human rights on a daily basis in the occupied Palestinian territory,” she said. “This is what I am mandated to report on and which should be our focus.”