Francesca Albanese
Francesca AlbaneseReuters/Lev Radin/Sipa USA

Israel and the US on Wednesday blasted a lawyer who heads the UN Human Rights Council’s investigation of Israel’s treatment of Palestinian Arabs, after she was found to have said in 2014 that the “Jewish lobby” was in control of the United States.

The criticism came after the Times of Israel website revealed that Francesca Albanese, who was appointed earlier this year as the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, made the comment in an open letter posted to her Facebook page in 2014.

In that letter, Albanese castigated the US and Europe for their conduct during Operation Protective Edge and wrote, “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.”

In another post from that year, which has since been hidden, Albanese referred to the Israel lobby and Israel’s greed in comments directed at the BBC over its coverage of the conflict.

“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 in the second post.

Israel’s mission to the UN in Geneva denounced Albanese’s comments in a statement published on Wednesday.

“​Antisemitism is a persistent malice that has infected the United Nations Human Rights Council for far too long. 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,” it said.

The mission noted that Albanese’s comments are “not the first time we have been made aware of the term ‘Jewish lobby’ being used by UN officials that are charged with investigating Israel. It is a deplorable term that no one should ever use, especially those representing the UN or officials appointed by the UN Human Rights Council.”

“In addition to this, the Rapporteur in question has made a number of alarming statements. Previously, she dismissed Israeli security concerns as paranoia, talked of ‘Israel’s greed’, compared Israel’s actions of that to the Nazis and legitimized terrorist actions by Hamas and other terrorist organizations.”

“It is about time that the United Nations take concrete action in addressing systemic antisemitism within the United Nations Human Rights Council and its mechanisms. The lack of accountability and impunity for comments made by UN officials only works to legitimize antisemitism and endangers the Jewish people,” the statement concluded.

Ambassador Michèle Taylor, the US Permanent Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council, denounced Albanese as well.

“We are appalled by recently uncovered antisemitic remarks on social media made by a UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur before taking on the role. References to the ‘Jewish Lobby’ are an age-old trope; this is outrageous, inappropriate, corrosive, & degrades the value of the UN,” she wrote on Twitter.

Deborah Lipstadt, the US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, criticized Albanese’s rhetoric in a tweet of her own.

“Such blatant antisemitic rhetoric –particularly when it’s an established pattern– is simply unacceptable. It severely undermines the credibility of the UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur to deal with the issue of human rights in the context of Israel & the Palestinian territories,” she said.

Albanese distanced herself from her past remarks in an email to the Times of Israel on Wednesday.

“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.”

Albanese’s predecessors were also known for anti-Israel bias. Michael Lynk, who served in the role before Albanese, lashed at out Israel in 2021, saying that Jewish communities in eastern Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria amount to a “war crime”, while calling on countries to inflict a cost on Israel for its "illegal occupation".

Previously, Lynk called for an international ban on all products made in “Israeli settlements”.

Richard Falk, who held the post before Lynk, in 2014 accused the Jewish state of a campaign of ethnic cleansing and apartheid policies.

Falk had previously compared Israelis to Nazis. He also criticized Israel for keeping an Islamic Jihad terrorist in custody, even after a video of him pleading for suicide bombers to “carry the next explosive belt” was exposed.