‘Chief rabbi’ of Gaza dupes senior UN official

Albanese has a long history of antisemitic statements and a hyperfocus on criticism of Israel.

By Mike Wagenheim JNS

Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch, is calling for an investigation of Francesca Albanese after a staff member for the U.N. special rapporteur for the Palestinian-controlled territories appeared to ask that an honorarium circumvent United Nations rules.

The watchdog’s head wrote on Tuesday that he would file paperwork on Wednesday with the U.N. Human Rights Office to learn about all payments that Albanese received via her assistant since she began her tenure on May 1, 2022 and information about an “institute” that Albanese’s assistant is using.

The revelation came in a Daily Wire article by Kassy Akiva that a social media account purporting to be Rabbi Linda Goldstein, the “chief rabbi of Gaza,” invited Albanese to speak about the “morality of the Intifada” at the anti-Israel encampment at Columbia University. (Goldstein’s shtick on social media includes denouncing those who say hers is a parody account.)

“UN’s Hamas apologist Francesca Albanese duped by parody invitation to address Columbia jihadis, asked honorarium be paid to her assistant,” Neuer wrote. “So the UNHRC’s rapporteur on Palestine is so ignorant that she believes there is a ‘chief rabbi of Gaza,’ a judenrein land since 2005?” (The latter is the Nazi’s term for free of Jews.)

As Akiva—a former JNS editor—reported in the Daily Wire that the account wrote to Albanese: “On behalf of the Gaza solidarity encampment at Columbia University, we wish to invite Special Rapporteur Albanese to deliver a keynote address at her convenience to the thousands of students gathered at the camp.”

“Many anti-Zionist Jews like myself have taken a leading role, and we would be honored to have you,” it added. “I look forward to hearing from you.”

Eleonora De Martin, a research assistant for Albanese, wrote back, inquiring about details. “In full solidarity with what you are doing, Ms. Albanese would like to know some more details on her intervention,” she wrote.

The Gaza “chief rabbi” wrote back that the hope was “to hear about the ‘morality of the Intifada,’ which Zionists have co-opted and turned into a dirty word,” adding “There is also a small honorarium available.”

“If I understood correctly, you would like Ms. Albanese to deliver a keynote speech of around 15/20 minutes to the students,” De Martin wrote back, per the Daily Wire.

“Moreover, concerning the honorarium, she cannot take honorarium for anything she does in her official capacity,” De Martin added.

“However, she kindly asks for this honorarium to be transferred to the fellowship of her volunteer which supports her mandate work. Could you please provide some detail on the sum of the honorarium? The research institute will then send you the invoice for payment.”

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She did not name the institute.

Another of Albanese’s research assistants, Sara Troian, told the Daily Wire that Albanese “never agreed to Linda Goldstein’s request,” though emails indicate her staff asked for a Zoom link.

“Regarding the honorarium, there seems to be some confusion: It was me proposing that it would be sent to my university for the purpose to fund my fellowship,” Troian wrote.

She said that Erasmus University Rotterdam, where she is a research fellow, solicits donations so that Troian can travel with Albanese to missions and speaking engagements. (JNS sought comment from Erasmus University Rotterdam.)

“My work of support to the special rapporteur’s mandate is fully voluntary and I do not get paid for it,” Troian wrote.

De Martin stopped engaging with Goldstein after the latter asked if the honorarium could instead be sent to UNRWA.

“Since I was displaced from Gaza as chief rabbi after Oct. 7, it’s near and dear to us,” Goldstein wrote, of the U.N. agency accused of extensive ties to Gazan terror groups.

“We simply did not respond because of the nature of the request and because we had expressly been told by the special rapporteur, when we had the chance to fully brief her, that a) she would not receive any donation for any cause; and b) she would not speak at student rallies unless requested by special rapporteurs who are engaging with students,” Troin wrote.

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Goldstein’s account was blocked after Albanese’s team discovered it was not “a reliable account,” she added. (The account posted on Wednesday that it appeared to be unblocked. “Phew,” it wrote. “Francesca Albanese is still my friend.”)

Albanese has a long history of antisemitic statements and a hyperfocus on criticism of Israel.

The New York Police Department broke up the encampment at Columbia University last week.

“I’m meeting with Ismail Haniyeh and Francesca Albanese to discuss crisis responses to the accusations that she is taking money under the table for speeches,” the Gaza “rabbi” account posted on Wednesday. “What should we do?”

The account also recommended that users donate in Albanese’s honor to “her favorite charity,” Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, although the account suggested that FIDF stood for an expletive instead of “friends of.”