Civil society organizations condemn Israel’s targeted smear campaign against UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese – Open Letter

Mondoweiss  /  December 26, 2022

The smear campaign against UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese is the latest in a pattern of attacks aimed at silencing criticism of Israel and undermining the work of the United Nations.

The following statement was issued by 86 civil society organizations on December 24, 2022. Mondoweiss occasionally publishes press releases and statements from organizations in an effort to draw attention to overlooked issues.

On 14 December 2022, Israel’s mission to the United Nations in Geneva smeared the respected and eminent UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territory Occupied since 1967, Francesca Albanese, in a direct attempt to attack and undermine the mandate she has been entrusted with and thwart her expert human rights work on Palestine.

The statement which contains baseless accusations of antisemitism, raises concerns about the “impunity that exists today regarding antisemitism and antisemitic comments made by UN officials”. More specifically, it refers to a historic Facebook post made by UNSR Francesca Albanese almost a decade ago, in 2014, which at the time reflected on the reasons for international inaction on the question of Palestine. Therein, UNSR Albanese opines, “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 […]”. Notably, 2014 was the darkest year in the occupation to date, characterized by devasting human loss, as Israel’s 50-day military offensive on the Gaza Strip, resulted in the killing of 2,215 Palestinians, including 1,639 civilians. The remarks served to castigate the international inaction.

Our organizations warn, that this smear campaign against UNSR Albanese constitutes the latest manifestation in a pattern of Israeli attacks aimed at silencing any legitimate criticism of the inhuman manner in which it treats Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Previously, Israel objected to the appointment of Francesca Albanese as UN Rapporteur, arguing that she “harbors significant bias against the Jewish State”, a reference directed to her widely acclaimed joint academic treatise on “Palestinian Refugees in International Law”, published by the prestigious, Oxford University Press. Such attempts to undermine the expertise of the UN Special Rapporteur to discredit the mandate are of particular concern given the importance of its functions: protecting at-risk communities, promoting transparency and calling for accountability of the perpetrators of rights abuses.

Notably, Israel has a demonstrated record of circumventing UN work in Palestine, including systematic non-cooperation with UN Special Procedures, in violation of its obligations under the UN Charter. Former UN Special Rapporteur, Michael Lynk was continuously denied entry into Palestine, measures which clearly intended to impede his work monitoring the human rights situation on the ground in the OPT. Similarly, former UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk was denied entry into the OPT by Israel because of his “methodic criticism of Israel”. While UN Special Rapporteur Wibisono even resigned his position as his “efforts to help improve the lives of Palestinian victims of violations under the Israeli occupation have been frustrated every step of the way [by Israel]”.

Israel’s attempts to frustrate the monitoring and documentation of human rights abuses are not limited to this mandate and entry was also denied to UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women its Causes and Consequences, Ms. Rashida Manjoo, to prevent her from witnessing first-hand issues related to violence against women in Palestine. Denials of entry were similarly imposed on UN Fact-Finding Missions established to investigate the human rights situation in the OPT. Meanwhile, in 2020, Israel refused to grant visas to UN staff from the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, expelling 15 international staff from the OPT after 26 years of operating there, a situation which continues to this day. In a statement, then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet warned that, “Israel’s treatment of our staff is part of a wider and worrying trend to block human rights access to the occupied Palestinian territory… This raises the question of what exactly the Israeli authorities are trying to hide”.

There is an obvious link between this pattern of attacks on UN experts and staff and Israel’s intent to maintain its prolonged belligerent occupation, de facto and de jure annexations of Palestinian territory, the unlawful transfer in of settlers and institutionalized discriminatory laws, policies and practices to maintain the regime. This pattern of attacks against UN experts takes place within a shrinking space, which threatens the fundamental right of freedom of expression of those willing to expose Israel’s unacceptable human rights abuses in the OPT. It is time to cease Israel’s onerous and targeted restrictions on this freedom of expression, which in this case stymie reflection on the political enablers of Israel’s continued impunity for severe violations of international law, some of which are peremptory.

We commend UNSR Francesca Albanese’s tireless efforts toward the protection of human rights in the OPT and in raising awareness of the alarming daily violations of Palestinian rights. We call on third States to strongly condemn this politically-motivated attack on the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and to compel Israel to comply with its obligations under the Charter of the United Nations.

List of endorsing organizations: *

  1. Academics for Palestine (Ireland)
  2. Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
  3. Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association
  4. Al Mezan Center for Human Rights
  5. Aldameer Association for Human Rights
  6. Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man
  7. Al-Quds Human Rights Clinic- Al-Quds University
  8. American Muslims for Palestine (AMP)
  9. Arab Canadian Lawyers Association
  10. Arab Cause Solidarity Committee (CSCA)
  11. Arab Lawyers Association (UK)
  12. Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR)
  13. Asociación Americana de Juristas
  14. Association Belgo-Palestinienne WB
  15. Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS)
  16. Association Switzerland Palestine
  17. AssoPacePalestina
  18. Australian Centre for International Justice
  19. BACBI Belgian Committee for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
  20. BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
  21. BDS Vancouver/Coast Salish Territories
  22. Bisan Center for Research and Development
  23. Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME)
  24. Center for Defense of Liberties & Civil Rights “HURRYYAT”
  25. CJPME Saskatoon
  26. Comhlamh Justice for Palestine
  27. Cultura è Libertà. Una campagna per la Palestina
  28. Dalhousie University
  29. Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)
  30. Dibeen For Environmental Development
  31. Dutch Scholars for Palestine
  32. European Legal Support Center (ELSC)
  33. Finnish-Arab Friendship Society
  34. Front Line Defenders
  35. Gaza Action Ireland
  36. Gesellschaft Schweiz-Palästina
  37. Global Legal Action Network
  38. Greater Toronto for BDS
  39. Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers
  40. HK Norway – The Norwegian Union of Commerce and office employees
  41. Housing and Land Rights Network – Habitat International Coalition
  42. HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht
  43. Human Rights & Democracy Media Center “SHAMS”
  44. Human Rights for All (HR4A) Saskatchewan
  45. Independent Commission for Human Rights
  46. International Association of Democratic Lawyers
  47. International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD)
  48. Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign
  49. Jews for Palestinian Right of Return
  50. Just Peace Advocates/Mouvement Pour Une Paix Juste
  51. Justice for Palestinians
  52. Kairos foundation of Nigeria
  53. Labor for Palestine
  54. Law for Palestine
  55. Leiden University
  56. Liverpool John Moores University
  57. National Lawyers Guild International Committee
  58. NOVACT
  59. Oakville Palestinian Rights Association
  60. Palestina Solidariteit vzw
  61. Palestine Legal
  62. Palestine Solidarity Alliance South Africa
  63. Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Cape Town (PSC-CT)
  64. Palestinian and Jewish Unity
  65. Pax Christi Vlaanderen
  66. Physicians for Human Rights Israel
  67. Potchefstroom For Palestine
  68. Regina Peace Council
  69. Sadaka-the Ireland Palestine Alliance
  70. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network
  71. South African BDS Coalition
  72. South African Jews for a Free Palestine
  73. Stellenbosch University Palestinian Solidarity Forum
  74. Students4Change
  75. The Canadian BDS Coalition
  76. The Community Action Center/ Al-Quds University
  77. The European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP)
  78. The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO-Norway)
  79. The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy-MIFTAH
  80. The Palestinian NGOs Network (PNGO)
  81. The Rights Forum
  82. S. Palestinian Community Network (USPCN)
  83. Union of Palestinian women committees (UPWC)
  84. United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel (UNJPPI)
  85. University of Groningen
  86. Vrede vzw – Belgium

* The list of endorsing organizations included herein is as of 24 December 2022. Please note that this statement is still open for endorsement by organisations, through the following link here. The list will be updated on a rolling basis.