Francesca Albanese, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Palestinian Authority-assigned territories, on Thursday rejected arguments that comments she made about the “Jewish lobby” in 2014 were antisemitic.
Albanese came under fire on Wednesday after the Times of Israel website revealed that, in an open letter posted to her Facebook page in 2014, she 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.
In a public statement posted to her Twitter account on Thursday, Albanese wrote, “Thank you to those from different communities who have expressed their solidarity after yet another malicious attack was launched against the mandate I hold. I will not let anyone define who I am and what I stand for. One request to Ambassadors at the UN and other officials: before rushing towards condemning me based on a decontextualized and disingenuous extrapolation of what I said 10 years ago (wrongly mischaracterized as antisemitic), please wait for further clarifications, which will follow.”
“Meanwhile,” she added, “should anyone feel the urge to be ‘appalled’ about something, please consider the 215 Palestinians, including 52 children, who were killed in the occupied Palestinian territory this year; as well as the 820 Palestinians detained without charges, amidst 4,760 Palestinians in jail and 500 arrested per month this year; six Israeli soldiers and settlers were also killed. This is the oppressive reality that the politically-motivated attacks against my mandate are trying to obscure.”
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.
“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 added.
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’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.