Sixty-five scholars of Anti-Semitism, Holocaust and Jewish Studies have issued a letter to denounce the escalating smear campaign against Francesca Albanese, the UN Special Rapporteur (SR) on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. Israel and supporters of the Apartheid State have accused the international lawyer, who was appointed in May to the UN post, of anti-Semitism and called for her resignation.
“Once again, a high-ranking UN official defending the human rights of the Palestinians is being castigated, based on disingenuous allegations of antisemitism,” said the scholars defending Albanese. The trigger for the allegation is a statement in a personal letter made by Albanese in 2014 about Israel’s attack on Gaza which she had shared on Facebook.
Albanese reportedly said that “America is subjugated by the Jewish lobby.” The letter states that the Special Rapporteur has distanced herself from “this inappropriate choice of words” and stressed that it is clear from the context of Albanese’s statement that she was referring to pressure groups that are commonly referred to as the “Israel Lobby.”
“Books have been written including by Jewish scholars about such groups,” said the letter. “They legitimately exist and their influence, however effective, on American foreign policy towards Israel is real, in particular when it comes to blocking any initiatives aimed at holding Israel accountable for its inhumane treatment of the Palestinians.”
The scholars of anti-Jewish racism argued that the anti-Semitism has been politicised to target critics of Israel. “When Special Rapporteur Albanese is delegitimized and stigmatized as an antisemite based on isolated and decontextualized statements, this amounts to political abuse of antisemitism, which fundamentally harms the urgent and important fight against antisemitism,” the signatories said, drawing attention to the highly controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. Seven of the 11 examples within the IHRA conflate anti-Jewish racism with criticism of Israel.
Over recent weeks Albanese has strongly opposed an ongoing campaign by Israel to have the IHRA adopted at the UN. Almost 130 scholars of Jewish history and Holocaust Studies from around the world have since issued a stark warning against its adoption. “Don’t trap the United Nations in a vague and weaponised definition of anti-Semitism,” said the letter issued last month.
The letter of solidarity with Albanese said that “it is no surprise” that she is being attacked this way. Albanese played “a visible & vocal lead role in efforts to promote accountability for Israel’s violations. [Also], she has spoken out against the political instrumentalization of antisemitism aimed at shielding Israel.”
Arguing that Israel and supporters of the Apartheid State were less interested in combating anti-Semitism than they are in protecting Israel, the letter added: “It is evident that the campaign against SR Albanese is not about combating today’s antisemitism. It is essentially about efforts to silence her and to undermine her mandate as a senior UN official reporting about Israel’s violations of human rights and international law.”
The group called the UN Human Rights Council and the UN Member States at large to support and protect Albanese’s mandate as an independent legal expert and human rights rapporteur. “Doing so is of particular importance, while Israel is accelerating towards its most radical government ever.”