Francesca Albanese has faced a concerted campaign from Israeli right-wing NGOs, papers, and politicians after her open criticism of Israel’s “apartheid” policies since May 2022 when she assumed her role.
“This is neither the first nor the last time my mandate and persona will come under attack,” she said.
“An apartheid regime, as the international legal framework acknowledges, may resort to the persecution of persons and organizations opposing it,” she added.
She has frequently slammed the human rights abuses, apartheid policies, war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by Israel in the occupied territories.
The Israeli-sponsored pressures to remove her increased in early April in what looked like a concerted campaign as multiple articles were published in several Israeli outlets that accused Albanese of antisemitism. These coincided with a Twitter campaign that sought to ramp up pressures on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk to dismiss her.
The articles, in particular, refer to a conference that was held in Gaza in November 2022 titled “16 Years of Siege on Gaza: Impacts and Prospects” which was attended by Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials as well as Albanese. According to reports, she told the conference that Palestinians “have the right to resist this occupation.”
Albanese has rejected the accusations of antisemitism as “lies” and part of a “smear campaign.”
She is also determined to continue speaking out against the Israeli occupation.
“I must stay focused on my work and [on] the millions oppressed under or affected by the occupation, as well as the many threatened around the world for denouncing it,” she stated.
Back on April 13, the Palestinian foreign ministry slammed the campaigns against Albanese, noting that they are linked to her exposure of Israeli “criminality.” The ministry called on UN member states to “provide protection to mandate holders and human rights defenders from Israeli occupation intimidation and attacks.”
There has also been support for the Italian lawyer on social media.
Nimer Sultany of SOAS University of London voiced solidarity with her in a tweet on April 20, noting that Albanese “is facing a concerted, tendentious campaign from the usual suspects, who had attacked every single previous rapporteur because they dared to report & name the reality of the situation in Palestine & to stand for basic human rights.”
Sid Shniad, a founding member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada, said that those who criticize Israel’s violation of human rights usually face such false allegations.
“Ms Albanese is not alone, given the fact that several former rapporteurs, as well as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have all been targeted with the same smear,” he told Middle East Monitor.
Albanese is a renowned expert on forced migration and teaches international law at several universities. She is the first woman to serve as the special rapporteur on Palestine. Although her male predecessors were also attacked harshly by Israeli officials and pro-Israel groups, the current targeted and forceful effort to remove a rapporteur from office is unprecedented.