The UN’s Truly ‘Special’ Special Rapporteur
by Justin Amler
There are few positions at the United Nations that illustrate the extreme anti-Israel bias of that body better than the “Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories” — a position created by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1993, supposedly to seek justice and respect for human rights. In reality, it has been a position filled by a series of hate-filled individuals whose single-minded purpose is to demonize the Jewish State — as the Commission and its successor organization, the UN Human Rights Council, intended all along.
This record has been underscored by the current incumbent, Italian academic Francesca Albanese.
In December 2022, her social media history was exposed, including a multitude of disturbing, and even antisemitic posts; yet that was just the tip of an iceberg of ugliness.
In 2014, she posted that America is “subjugated by the Jewish lobby,” while Europe is subjugated “by the sense of guilt about the Holocaust.” Another post stated “[t]he Israeli lobby is clearly inside [the BBC’s] veins…”
This revelation led to a series of condemnations by the US government and Congress, European Parliament members, and many others.
Initially, after these posts were revealed, Albanese acknowledged that the comments were a “mistake”. However, she quickly backtracked, saying that the criticism was “yet another malicious attack” on her mandate — because her comments accusing the Jewish lobby of subjugating America were “wrongly mischaracterized as antisemitic.”
She had previously compared Israel to Nazi Germany, which was further evidenced when she endorsed a post by her husband, Massimiliano Calì, equating Palestinian terrorists with Jews resisting the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto. She also failed to disclose that her husband was previously employed by the Palestinian Authority — claiming in her application for the Special Rapporteur role that she had no personal conflicts of interest.
Since taking up the Special Rapporteur position last May, she has seized the opportunity to fully indulge her anti-Israel extremism — for instance, using her role to address a Hamas-affiliated conference in November 2022,where she endorsed the “right” to “resistance.”
Then there is her response to terror attacks in Israel. On April 7, Palestinian terrorists murdered two British-Israeli teenagers and their mother; in another attack, an Arab Israeli rammed his car into a Tel Aviv crowd, murdering an Italian tourist. Albanese’s response was to assert that Israel has no right to defend itself against such attacks, because it “can’t claim it [self-defence] when it comes to the people it oppresses/whose lands it colonizes.”
And in February 2023, asked in an online exchange if she condemned a terror attack that killed seven civilians, including a 14-year-old, outside a Jerusalem synagogue, she blamed Israel, writing, “the brutal colonial occupation Israel maintains over the Palestinians (an apartheid regime by default) continues to traumatize millions of people, pushing them into hopelessness & despair, including kids.”
Disturbingly, far from being an exception, this consistent and constant expression of violent anti-Israel bias, mixed with anti-Jewish tropes, has very much been a part of the Special Rapporteur position from its early inception, no matter who has held the post.
South African John Dugard, the Special Rapporteur from 2001 to 2008, said that Israel was worse than apartheid South Africa, and stated that “Israel’s defiance of international law poses a threat not only to the international legal order but to the international order itself.”
Richard Falk, who served from 2008 to 2014, often compared Israeli defense actions to Nazi atrocities, writing in December 2013 that Israel was “slouching toward nothing less than a Palestinian holocaust.” His sharing of an openly antisemitic cartoon led to widespread condemnation, including from then-UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Falk’s predecessor, Makarim Wibisono, also openly embraced the “sacred Palestinian cause,” describing Israel as “the aggressor and the perpetrator of wanton violence.”
Michael Lynk, who served from 2016 to 2022, also had a long history of anti-Israel activity, often speaking at events with BDS activists. He once praised Manal Tamimi as a “human rights defender” — even though Tamimi is a virulently antisemitic activist who said, “Vampire Zionists … drink Palestinian blood,” and called on people to kill “all these Zionist settlers everywhere.”
Each of these officeholders have failed the UN’s own self-declared test of “objectivity and fairness” for special rapporteurs. Collectively, they have made it very clear that the “Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories” is nothing more than a politically motivated position created by an organization dominated by some of the world’s worst human rights violators, in order to continue their anti-Israel crusade.
In an organization where Israel is condemned more times than any other country on earth — year after year — the only thing special about the Special Rapporteur role is how it still manages to raise the bar of anti-Israel vitriol and hatred even higher.
Justin Amler is a policy analyst at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC).