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UNHCR passes series of anti-Israel resolutions; US opposes

Israel blasts ‘unfit’ lawyer tapped to head UN probe into treatment of Palestinians

Last year Francesca Albanese said she hesitated to take on a project about Palestinian refugees as her ‘deeply held personal views could compromise [her] objectivity’

Francesca Albanese. (Screen capture/ YouTube)
Francesca Albanese. (Screen capture/ YouTube)

Israel on Friday formally sounded its objection to the recent appointment of an Italian lawyer to head the UN Human Rights Council’s open-ended investigation into Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, arguing that she harbors significant bias against the Jewish state.

Merav Marks, legal adviser for the Israeli mission to the UN in Geneva, said during the closing session of the Human Rights Council that Francesca Albanese was “unfit” to take the role of Special Rapporteur on Palestine.

“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.

“In fact, the special rapporteur has even expressed concerns about her own personal views, which she said could compromise her objectivity when addressing the situation,” she said, adding that Israel therefore objected “in the strongest terms” to the appointment of Albanese to the “already one-sided mandate dedicated to delegitimizing and demonizing Israel.”

Marks appeared to be referring to an interview last year published online by the Institute for Palestine Studies, in which Albanese discussed a book on Palestinian refugees and UNWRA.

Albanese said that she was initially concerned about involvement in a new edition of the book on the grounds that “deep down perhaps I feared that embarking on research on a matter on which I had deeply held personal views could compromise my objectivity.”

An Israeli in her home after a rocket hit from the Gaza Strip, in the southern city of Ashdod, on May 18, 2021. (Avi Roccah/Flash90)

She said that she was ultimately convinced to take on the task when she found there were “huge misconceptions” on the Palestinian refugee issue, adding that there was a need for political solutions on the matter.

UN Watch, a pro-Israel lobby group based in Geneva, highlighted that last year Albanese moderated an event titled “Israeli Apartheid Exposed,” and claimed she had not raised potential personal conflicts of interest if she were to take on the role.

Israel — backed at times by the United States — has long accused the Human Rights Council of anti-Israel bias and has generally refused to cooperate with its investigators.

The UN commission of inquiry was denounced by Israeli leaders when it was announced last May, shortly after the conclusion of an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas-led fighters in Gaza.

Gazan terror groups shot thousands of rockets at Israel during the war — which Israel dubbed Operation Guardian of the Walls — killing 12, all but one of them civilians.

Israeli retaliatory airstrikes on targets in the Strip killed some 250 people, including 66 minors, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, which does not differentiate between terror group members and civilians.

Israel has said the majority of those killed were terror operatives and insists it did everything to avoid civilian casualties while fighting armed groups deeply and deliberately embedded in populated areas.

A Palestinian woman walks past a destroyed building in the al-Rimal commercial district in Gaza City on May 22, 2021, following a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian terror groups. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)

Meanwhile, the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council concluded on Friday, with the United States voting throughout the period against a number of resolutions singling out Israel.

In a statement, the State Department said that the US voted against all resolutions that “unfairly target Israel.”

Those four resolutions were: “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan; Human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan; Human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the obligation to ensure accountability and justice; Right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.”

Only the US, UK and Marshall Islands voted against all the resolutions.

These were the first votes on Israel since the United States rejoined the UNHCR earlier this year, after former president Donald Trump withdrew the US from the council over its alleged anti-Israel bias. Seeking to justify the reversal, the current White House has argued it was unable to influence the international dialogue on human rights without a seat at the table.

Rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, on May 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Biden administration officials have insisted they will use the renewed US membership to oppose one-sided measures targeting Israel and speak out against the 125-8-34 vote to launch the open-ended probe into Israel following the war in Gaza last May.

Besides the Israel-Hamas conflict, the commission is also to investigate “all underlying root causes of recurrent tensions, instability, and protraction of conflict” including discrimination and repression, according to the text.

The only way to quash the probe after the UNHCR voted to establish a Commission of Inquiry and the UN General assembly voted to approve an annual budget of over $4 million would be for the council to adopt a resolution reversing the previous one — an unlikely possibility given the overwhelming support for the initiative.

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