UN’s nominee for open-ended inquiry compares Israel to Nazis

Francesca Albanese denies having biases or conflicts of interest but critics point to a long list of outrages.

By David Hellerman, World Israel News

Despite Israeli objections, Italian human rights lawyer Francesca Albanese took up her post as UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine. Her six-year term will make her a key figure in the UN Human Rights Council’s highly controversial open-ended inquiry into alleged Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights.

The 45-year-old Albanese most recently worked for the UN Relief and Works Agency as chief of its ethics office. The UNRWA is the UN agency tasked with supporting Palestinian refugees.

A report by UN Watch found that Albanese “repeatedly compares the Palestinian situation to the Nazi Holocaust” and has frequently accused Israel of “apartheid,” “genocide” and “war-crimes.”

Albanese called her own objectivity into question during in 2021 during an interview about a book she wrote about Palestinian refugees and the UNRWA. She admitted initial concern that being involved with the book, “Palestinian Refugees in International Law,” would jeopardize her ability to be open-minded about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Deep down perhaps I feared that embarking on research on a matter on which I had deeply held personal views could compromise my objectivity,” Albanese said in an interview published by the Ramallah-based Institute for Palestine Studies.

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But Albanese said she was swayed to write the book because of “huge misconceptions” about the Palestinian refugees.

However, UN Watch reported that “Albanese has said Israel is ‘keeping captive millions of civilians,’ organized a panel on ‘Israel Apartheid,’ and campaigns for an arms embargo against Israel.”

In a further conflict of interest cited by UN Watch, her husband, Massimiliano Calì, now a trade economist at the World Bank, previously worked for the Palestinian Authority where he wrote a report in 2012 about Israel’s “exploitative” policies. Cali also compared the Palestinians fighting Israel to the Jewish resistance against the Nazis in the Warsaw ghetto uprising.

However, when asked on the application if if she held “any views or opinions that could prejudice the manner in which the candidate discharges the mandate,” Albanese answered “no.”

Merav Marks, legal adviser for the Israeli mission to the UN in Geneva, told the Human Rights Council at its closing session that Albanese was “unfit” for the position.

“The newly appointed special rapporteur’s opinion expressed in numerous articles, events and media outlets endlessly voicing anti-Israel libel show that she is unfit to take up this role,” said Marks.

Unprecedented open-ended inquiry

Israel faces an unprecedented, open-ended UN Commission of Inquiry created by the UNHRC.

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The inquiry sprang from the 11-day conflict between Israel and Gaza, when Hamas fired 4,000 rockets at Israel.

The inquiry, however, calls for submissions of evidence of any crimes ever allegedly committed by Israeli officials at any point in the past, back to the “root causes” of the conflict, or even in the future, as the inquiry’s mandate knows no end — a provision unique to this particular commission.

For perspective, this is the 33rd commission of inquiry, fact-finding mission or other investigative body created by the UNHRC, and the ninth to target Israel.

The mandate for this commission also includes recommendations for criminal responsibility.

Israel has said it will not cooperate with the inquiry.

JNS contributed to this report.