Staff Writer and ‘CAMERA On Campus’ Writing Fellow, Saul Levene, argues the appointment of Francesca Albanese as UN Special Rapporteur to the Palestinian territories is symptomatic of a wider anti-Israel bias held by the organisation.
All quotes in this article are recorded by the writer who attended and took notes.
On 26 April, Israel’s Independence Day, the Jewish Network for Palestine (JNP), a fringe organisation, held a Zoom lecture with Italian UN Special Rapporteur to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Francesca Albanese. Other speakers in attendance were Israeli Professor of History at Exeter University, Ilan Pappe and SOAS Professor Nur Masalha. The JNP is linked to the anti-zionist Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).
Albanese was due to give a talk on the situation of the Palestinians in the wake of publishing her report to the UN in October 2022. It was also set on the 26th to commemorate the Nakba, the same date as Israeli Independence Day. However, from the Palestinian view that the entire land was theirs, Israel’s Independence is commensurate with Palestine’s destruction. This narrative denies any claims of Jewish self-determination or indigeneity to the land. Palestinian propaganda that tries to rewrite the history of the region, such as downplaying the Jewish heritage of an Israeli temple, is a similar attempt to erase the Jewish connection to the land.
This report is blatantly biased against Israel, claiming that Israel has a “settler-colonial identity”. During her talk, she repeatedly argued that Israel has not permitted Palestinian self-determination despite rejecting Israel’s same claim to self-determination.
Albanese is an ideological figurehead spewing dogma and uncritical Israel-bashing. She asserts that Israel is a “settler-colonial” regime, despite the fact that three-quarters of its 1948 Jewish population were refugees from Middle Eastern countries, and the nation took in over 140,000 Holocaust survivors. The ‘Israeli settlers’ have no empire from which to colonise, nor a home to return to, as almost the entire Jewish population is made up of refugees or descendants of refugees fleeing conflict or expulsion. Indeed, as speaker Ilan Pappe bitterly noted, the UN has not always been ‘good to Palestine’, but rather voted Israel into existence through international law.
Albanese’s claim of “settler-colonialism” reveals a degree of historical blindness that demonstrates she is unfit to carry out her role objectively.
She assumes that Israel was created through imperial power, when it is one of the only countries in the world created through international democratic consensus. The reality is that Zionism is the movement for the liberation of the Jewish people from imperial power, after being exiled from their sovereign land and forced to live in subjugation for the last two millennia.
Albanese’s distorted view of Israel’s history attempts to strip away justification for Israel’s existence despite the need for a Jewish ethno-state following centuries of persecution and repression of Jews in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
Albanese campaigns for Israel’s abolition through severe UN sanctions, which she reiterated in her talk, should be “taken through every available means”. During the talk, she professed that she wants Israel to be essentially cut off from the global community through a “concerted effort… to disengage with relations with Israel.”
Albanese is herself a figure of controversy, claiming in 2014 that America was controlled by the ‘Jewish lobby’, invoking an age-old anti-semitic trope. The most famous rendition of this idea is contained in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Russian fictitious text claiming to record the minutes of a group of Jews engaged in controlling the world.
“Israel has a right to defend itself, but can’t claim it when it comes to the people it oppresses [or] whose land it colonizes,”
This is essentially victim-blaming, suggesting that these victims are ‘oppressors’ and therefore fair game. It excuses the murder of innocent civilians. A figure with this degree of bias and blindness towards the suffering and murder of innocents cannot be described as impartial.
Regardless of individual opinions on the conflict, it is wrong and entirely counter-productive for the UN to appoint someone to this role with these preconceptions. Considering her track record of inflammatory and insensitive remarks, her appointment only inflames the conflict further.
Sadly, the decision to hire Albanese is indicative of a well-documented anti-Israel bias held by the UN. From 2012 through 2015, the United Nations General Assembly has adopted 97 resolutions criticizing countries; 83 out of those 97 have been against Israel. Is Israel a greater criminal than China and its Uyghur concentration camps, or Iran and its blatant theocracy? Albanese has been placed in a position of authority, where her prejudiced recommendations can influence policy decisions and be used to represent serious ‘findings’.
Equally distressing are the comments of the second speaker, Professor Ilan Pappe, who claimed that those who are “branded as terrorists” are fighting a “legitimate war of liberation” with the “right to defend themselves.” His rhetoric should be placed against the real actions of the Palestinian Authority who have continued to fork out exorbitant cash prizes to terrorists, the prize increasing depending on the severity of the crime.
Pappe is an equal figure of controversy, known for being one of the most vocal proponents of a “One-State Solution”, that would incorporate all Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank into a democratic state. This would effectively end the existence of a Jewish state and place over six million Jews in an extremely precarious position, becoming the minority alongside an influx of Palestinians, 93% of whom hold antisemitic views.
The reality of the Middle East is that democracy is rare. When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, there were free elections. The people voted for an extremist terrorist group (Hamas). The reality of the PA is that very extreme views are commonplace, rewarding the murder of civilians being one. A 5.5 million influx of Palestinians would change the democratic character of the country, simply based on the number of armed groups and individuals eager to take control using violence.
Regardless of whether or not the democratic character changed, the only Jewish majority state in the world would cease to exist. Considering Jewish history, removing the only guaranteed safe haven for one of the world’s most persecuted groups is a bold and unwise move.
The PA leadership often engage in antisemitism and delegitimisation of Israel’s claim to the land. Even the current representative of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas has denied the Jewish claim to Israel and expounded wild conspiracy theories as to how they got there in the first place.
Far worse than this, The charter of Hamas, the ruling government in Gaza, plainly calls for genocide. It doesn’t talk about killing Israelis but killing Jews:
The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:
“The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.
Thought experiments have been carried out by the likes of Sam Harris and others as to what would happen if the Palestinians had Israeli military capability. It shouldn’t take long to figure out that should Israel unconditionally welcome in either Hamas or the Palestinian Authority in anywhere near their current form, the result would be genocidal.
Neither Palestinian government can be considered democratic in any semblance and such whimsical thinking doesn’t advance the living situation of the Palestinians. It only seeks to dismantle the Jewish state and place Jewish lives in danger.
Scholars like Albanese and Pappe give academic credence to people who want to demolish the world’s only Jewish state for motives that are not pure. It is incredibly problematic for people like Albanese and Pappe to disseminate propaganda that has no basis in reality.