Israel slams ‘unfit’ lawyer hired to lead UN probe into treatment of Palestinians

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

Merav Marks, legal adviser to Israel’s mission to the UN in Geneva, told the closing session of the Human Rights Council that Francesca Albanese was ‘unfit’ to take on the role of special rapporteur on Palestine .

“The opinion of the newly appointed special rapporteur expressed in numerous articles, events and media constantly expressing anti-Israel defamation shows that she is not fit for this role,” Marks said.

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

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

Albanese said she was initially concerned about the involvement in a new edition of the book on the grounds that “deep down I was perhaps afraid that undertaking research on a subject on which I had personal opinions depths could compromise my objectivity”.

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

She said she was finally convinced to take on the task when she discovered there were ‘huge misconceptions’ about the Palestinian refugee issue, adding that there was a need for political solutions. On the question.

UN Watch, a Geneva-based pro-Israel lobby group, pointed out that last year Albanese hosted an event titled “Israeli Apartheid Exposed,” and said she did not raise any conflicts of interest. potential staff if it were to take on this role.

Israel – sometimes backed 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.

Terrorist groups in Gaza fired thousands of rockets into Israel during the war – which Israel dubbed Operation Guardian of the Walls – killing 12 people, all but one civilian.

Israeli retaliatory airstrikes on targets in the Gaza Strip have killed some 250 people, including 66 minors, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, which does not distinguish between members of terror groups and civilians .

Israel has said the majority of those killed were terrorists and insists it has done everything to avoid civilian casualties while fighting armed groups deeply and deliberately planted in populated areas.

A Palestinian woman walks past a destroyed building in Gaza’s al-Rimal commercial district 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 ended on Friday, with the United States voting throughout the period against a number of resolutions naming Israel.

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

These 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; The 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 United States, the United Kingdom and the Marshall Islands voted against all the resolutions.

These were the first votes on Israel since the US joined the UNHCR earlier this year, after former President Donald Trump pulled the US from the board over its alleged anti-Israel bias. . Seeking to justify the reversal, the current White House argued that it was unable to influence the international human rights dialogue without a seat at the table.

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

Biden administration officials have insisted they will use renewed U.S. membership to oppose unilateral moves targeting Israel and speak out against the 125-8-34 vote to launch the investigation. on Israel after the war in Gaza last May.

In addition to the Israel-Hamas conflict, the commission must also investigate “all underlying root causes of recurring tensions, instability and protracted conflict,” including discrimination and repression, according to the text.

The only way to undo the inquiry 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 passes a resolution rescinding the previous one – an unlikely possibility given the overwhelming support for the initiative.

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