FRANCESCA ALBANESE’S ILLUMINATING FIRST REPORT AS UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON OCCUPIED PALESTINE

31 Oct

[Prefatory Note; This post is the text of opinion piece published in Middle East Eye on Oct. 27, 2022. It is slightly modified.] 

FRANSCESCA ALBANESE’S FIRST REPORT DEVOTED TO THE RIGHT OF SELF-DETERMINATION

For more than a century, the Palestinian people have endured a series of ordeals that have violated their most basic individual and collective rights.

Instrumental to this epic saga of suffering has been the success of the Zionist movement in establishing the state of Israel on the premise of Jewish supremacy in 1948. 

Such success depended also on perpetrating a distinct international crime, a consequence of the Zionist Movement seeking to establish not only a Jewish state but a democratically constituted state. This combination of goals could only be reliably ensure and maintained by demographic measures that Jews in Israel would enjoy a permanent  demographic majority. Note that other settler colonial states so long as they kept a hierarchical relationship with the native population never pretended to be an inclusive electoral democracy. 

As an operational undertaking this  required Israel to make a drastic demographic adjustment involving either a large increase in the Jewish presence in Palestine – which was not feasible at the time – or the drastic reduction of the Arab presence, which was course taken.

This logic informed the forced expulsion of 750,000 or so Arab citizens of British Mandate Palestine from that part of historic Palestine set aside for the Jewish state by the United Nations partition plan, itself territorially enlarged by Zionist territorial acquisitions in the 1948 war.

A Jewish majority in Israel was further reinforced and safeguarded by the implementation of a rigid denial of the right of return of displaced and dispossessed Arabs of Palestine in violation of international law. This Palestinian experience of expulsion coupled with the denial of any right of return is what is known as the Nakba (or catastrophe). 

Of course, this is not the whole story surrounding the founding of Israel. There was a Jewish presence and biblical connection with Palestine stretching back thousands of years, although the Jewish minority had dwindled to less than 10 percent in 1917, when the British foreign secretary pledged support for establishing a Jewish homeland by way of the infamous Balfour Declaration. Nevertheless, the Zionist narrative, taking various forms, became widely accepted, especially in the West.

Highly relevant to this endorsement of the dominant Jewish narrative was the rise of European antisemitism in the 1930s, culminating in the Holocaust, which made a Jewish sanctuary a condition of survival for a significant portion of Jews in the world. It also increased receptivity to the founding of Israel, reflecting liberal guilt about failing to stop Naziism at an earlier stage and by an Orientalist dismissal of Palestinian nationalist claims.

The historical context certainly mobilized the Jewish diaspora, especially in the US, to back the Zionist project to colonize Palestine, and ever since, to provide geopolitical muscle and massive economic and military assistance over the course of many years to support the security and expansionist ambitions of Israel continuing even as it became strong and prosperous. .

A UN innovation 

At the international level, particularly within the UN, there has been constant sympathy and support for Palestinian rights under international law, especially in the General Assembly and the Human Rights Commission (HRC), which carries out the decisions of the Human Rights Council, consisting of 47 elected governments.

In 1993, a country mandate concerned with Israel’s human rights violations in the Palestinian territories of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza occupied since 1967 was created. 

It is from this initiative that the mandate of the special rapporteur (SR) derives.

A special rapporteur is selected by a consensus vote of the HRC on the basis of a rather elaborate vetting process that includes a committee of diplomats from member government that conveys to one-year rotations of country diplomatic representatives who serve as president of the HRC a ranked shortlist of preferred candidates.  The candidates are supposed to be selected because of their expert credentials.

The president generally follows the recommendation, which is then submitted to the HRC for an up or down vote, with a single dissenting vote sufficient to reject a candidate.

The SR position itself is a U N innovation, with each individual normally serving two three-year terms. 

Although requiring considerable work by way of travel and reports, it is an unpaid position. The up-side of this voluntary status is that SRs are not subject to administrative discipline as UN civil servants. This feature is designed to provide the position with political independence, at least with respect to UN Members and the UN itself, but offers no insulation from hostile media or NGOs, or even governments so long as they do not interfere with the work of SRs.

It should surprise no one that Israel and the US were against establishing the mandate since it was first proposed in the HRC. In recent years Israel has refused to cooperate with SRs even refusing to allow access to Occupied Palestine..

By denying entry into Israel or the occupied territories, the Israeli government denies the UN rapporteur direct contact with the people and situation on the ground, and forces a reliance on public information and meetings in neighboring countries. For those of us who have been to Occupied Palestine, there is no adequate substitute for a direct experience of the place.  

It is significant that during the last 15 years, Israel and its supporters have stopped responding to the substance of the carefully documented SR reports and other UN assessments of alleged Israeli violations. Instead Israel and its most ardent apologists have concentrated their political energies on allegations of UN antisemitism and related vilification of successive rapporteurs. 

I would explain the shift in tactics in this way. When the Israeli violations became too flagrant and documented by multiple sources it was a. fool’s errand to attempt refutation. Better attack the messenger than address the message. It is most unfortunate that ofteen such a tactic has been effective, diverting the discourse, especially in the media, to questions about whether or not the SR is in fact biased or antisemitic, and burying the serious allegations in the process.

Despite being confronted by this personally unpleasant, abusive, and diversionary Israeli pushback, the reports of SRs have gained influence and legitimacy over the years. They are relied upon by several important governments, as well as by some of the more independent media and many civil society actors including churches, labor unions, and human rights organizations. 

Within this context, the new SR for Palestine, an Italian academic jurist and highly esteemed human rights expert, Francesca Albanese, has recently issued her first report, due shortly for presentation to the UN General Assembly in New York. [UN GA Doc. A/77/356, 21 Sept 2021]

It is a most impressive document that comprehensively depicts and offers evidence relating to the most fundamental violations of the basic rights of the Palestinian people.

Against the flow of history

The Albanese Report appropriately gives primary attention to the Palestinian entitlement to the fulfillment of the inalienable right of self-determination. It was this right of self-determination that provided the normative foundation for the anti-colonial struggles in the period of 1950-80. These struggles shared and interacted with the Cold War on the global center stage after the end of World War II.

Albanese takes note of the supreme irony that Zionism managed to go against the flow of history by establishing a durable and legitimated settler-colonial state of Israel at the very moment when European colonialism was elsewhere under assault by national resistance and liberation movements, enjoying media and public support.

Her report has already gained widespread attention and praise both for its spirit of fierce independence, the lucidity of its argument, and the superior quality of its analysis. Such an exemplary performance in the formal start as SR has expectedly also provoked hostile commentary by way of taunts and defamatory accusations. Albanese’s report is accused of deliberately slanted interpretations of law and facts, which enabled her to reach conclusions hostile to Israel.

I would submit that such a complaint is unjustified and believe that any fair reading would confirm this. An objective reading of the Albanese report would conclude, in opposition to her venomous critics, that the author has gone out of her way to gain direct access to Israel’s narrative and sought to present to the reader Israel’s own justifiications of its contested behavior.

Although accepting the emerging civil society consensus to the effect that Israel is imposing an apartheid regime on the Palestinian people, Albanese sets forth an entirely original and illuminating argument for why the elimination of apartheid would not by itself be enough to end the ordeal of the Palestinian people.

Briefly summarizing, the most influential depictions of Israeli apartheid are territorially bounded either to the occupied territories or an enlarged entity that includes Israel proper (often identified as stretching “from the river to the sea”). As Albanese notes, such spatial delimitation of apartheid are not directly relevant to refugees in the occupied territories and neighboring countries, as well as to the several million involuntary exiles living in various places around the world living outside the boundaries of Palestine.

Dismantling settler-colonial occupation

Beyond that, without satisfying the full spectrum of Palestinian basic rights, including economic and social rights, there is no assurance that Israel would not be able to maintain exploitative forms of domination characteristic of settler-colonialism even should Israeli apartheid be dismantled.

For Albanese, it is indispensable to recognize that justice for all the Palestinian people will not be done until their right of self-determination is fully implemented. She analyses this Palestinian right by reference to two principal dimensions: free choice of the form of political governance and permanent national sovereignty over natural resources.

The resounding message of this historically significant report is its call for a solution premised on respect for relevant history and international law

In essence, as articulated by Albanese, the right to self-determination is the right of a people “to exist as independent both demographically (as a people) and territorially (within a given region) and to pursue their cultural, economic and social development through what the territory and associated resources offer.”

In the more prescriptive sections of her report, Albanese puts her analytic skills to work in clearing a path forward for the Palestinians. In doing this she does not exempt the UN from its many past failures to uphold international law in relation to the struggles for justice and the rule of law in Palestine and is insistent that it should do better in the future.

She indicts the UN as having “systematically failed to hold Israel accountable”, thereby enabling Israel’s imposition of settler colonialism accompanied by flagrant, repeated violation of international humanitarian law.

In passing, she also argues that Israel’s defiant rejection of a stream of General Assembly resolutions calling upon Israel to uphold Palestinian rights, including the rights of self-determination “legitimated a Palestinian right of resistance” and undermined the legality of Israel as an occupying power.

The Palestinian People Deserve Respect for their Rights under International Law

The resounding message of this historically significant report is its call for a solution premised on “respect for history and international law.” It is to be enacted by the immediate withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories and the payment of reparations for decades of unlawful harm inflicted on the Palestinian people.

Albanese is to be commended for the clarity and forthrightness of this report to the UNGA, but it would be naive to suppose that it will by itself bring overdue liberation to the Palestinian people.

What it does bring is an authoritative and deeply informed legitimation of Palestinian resistance to occupation and a convincing critique of UN weakness when it comes to the implementation of basic rights.

It would be wrong and misleading to conclude from the realization that the UN has been useless in relation to the Palestinian struggle. Even though the UN is helpless to change the behavior on the ground, it remains crucially important in the symbolic and normative domains of legitimacy wars, which have controlled the eventual political outcomes of major anti-colonial wars. These outcomes have astonished ‘realists’ who continue to exert a dominating influence over the formation of foreign policy. Astonished but not persuaded. These realists continue to suppose that the side with the better military technology and smarter tactics should be able to prevail even in anti-colonial wars, and so the bloodstained failures of imperial warfare are repeated, ignoring this record of defeat.

A Concluding Remark

This sense of UN impotence to achieve substantive results whenever the dictates of justice clash – as here – with the vital strategic interests of a geopolitical actor is an operative fact of international life. Such a phenomenon is at play in the Ukraine Crisiis.

At the very least, Francesca Albanese’s courageous report should serve as a wake-up call for the Global South and a reminder to all of us that the anti-colonial movement still faces a formidable challenge.

12 Responses to “FRANCESCA ALBANESE’S ILLUMINATING FIRST REPORT AS UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON OCCUPIED PALESTINE

  1. Pikos Apikos October 31, 2022 at 1:29 am #

    Reblogged this on penelopap.

  2. Beau Oolayforos November 1, 2022 at 10:22 am #

    Dear Professor Falk,

    Not wishing to cavil or split hairs, especially not with you, but are we in danger of referring to ” the vital strategic interests of a geopolitical actor”, without any qualification? In that, we might seem to be conferring legitimacy to empty nationalist propaganda. Whose “vital interests” were at stake in Iraq? Halliburton’s? Chevron’s? Raytheon’s? It certainly wasn’t your neighbor’s, nor fellow- PTA member’s.

    The same is true today, in spades. Neither the CIA nor the Likud are anywhere close to their own nations’ true interests, though we understand that they are prime actors in these present conflicts. Biden & Blinken are, of course, servile yes-men, but for whom? In any case, RIP and never forgotten, poor Mary Pinchot, and her lover.

    • Richard Falk November 1, 2022 at 10:59 am #

      Your observation is well taken. I should have qualified in such a way to make clear at least that such behavior
      was regarded as ‘vital’ by those responsible for the formation of foreign policy, which as you say may reflect special sub-national interests, and not that of nations as a whole. i will. be more careful in the future!

  3. Sari November 4, 2022 at 5:29 am #

    I don’t understand why posting one or two comments takes days to be posted.
    Iranians and Palestinians people have the same enemy and these mass murderers want them to be vanished from the face of earth so they can steel their territories. In case of Iran the ‘mahsa’ who died of Cerebral hypoxia and NOT because she was beaten (this was a LIE that zionist media told you to fool the public) will resist and expose the Jewish mafia and its supporters the evil empire’s crimes against humanity all over the world. The European Union countries, all COLONIES, are complicit in this CRIME against humanity. The Neocons in the US and Israel designed and implemented the 9/11, killing 3000 Americans, then framed Afghanistan must be held accountable and put on TRIAL for crimes against humanity. These criminals never abandon their terrorism, assassination, criminal sanction, invasion, kidnapping, theft of the resources and territories, bombing of the cities. In case of Iran, these criminals are targeting Iran’s territorial integrity using their proxy the Kurdish Terrorist Groups in the north of Iraq where Israel has many military bases training and funding these terrorist groups. They continue their criminal activities until people throw them in the GARBAGE bin for good.
    Is the CIA Supporting Another Color Revolution in Iran—Like the One that Installed the Shah in 1953?
    https://covertactionmagazine.com/2022/10/10/is-the-cia-supporting-another-color-revolution-in-iran-like-the-one-that-brought-in-the-shah-in-1953/

    Today, the Iranian people in a large demonstration against the criminal west and its extension Israel, send the following message: “WE ARE DISGUSTED WITH CONSTANT WESTERN INTERFERENCE in IRAN’s
    INTERNAL AFFAIRS” get lost.

    • Richard Falk November 4, 2022 at 8:55 am #

      I have approved most of your comments, despite coming close to the line of outright hate speech. Those that
      cross that line will not be posted.

      • Sari November 4, 2022 at 10:02 am #

        Please post it and let people judge for themselves. People of the world have been censored and lied to for too long in order to keep the status que. Let people judge, and stop being afraid what the Zionists might say. This is their method to censor people. We are NOT afraid of them. The tactic of the terrorist ADL is known to the world.
        The following book is NOT hatred of others, rather everyone should read it to found out about the truth, that the zionists who rule over the occupied Palestine are not Semites. Also must knowthat the erection of Israel in the Middle East is a criminal project of the WEST.

        Arthur Koestler book: “The Thirteenth Tribe”

    • Kata Fisher November 4, 2022 at 2:20 pm #

      Sari –
      Sari – they are not haters – they are deceived and accursed.

      Also, Armageddon is misunderstood – which they are. It’s the spiritual battel that takes place against human flesh and bloodlines against the Church and ancient.

      The Palestinian minority in Holy Land is of the descendance of the authentic Ancient Diaspora that was returned (by God Himself) in Holy Land, and authentic of Ancient descendance of the End-Times believers.

      There is nothing significant that happens during the End of the Church age – when Grace is extended to the Gentiles (they do become bloody Whore, Babylonia / False Church … the one that is in strong delusions along with the Anti-Jesus Christ of Nazareth). This means that they are prosecuting/killing both the authentic Church, and ancient.

      At that point in time, authentic Church is almost non-existent – but it exists.

      Also, the World Order something they talk about in reality is nothing other than Human/Ecclesiastical World Order.

      However, this does not happen within Satanic-human-order in the world. Again, they misinterpret the Scripture and Times and are accursed just by that. By the way, the river Euphrates has started to dry up. We are getting very much nuclear heat.

      The ancient Church it certainly it is not more than 30.000 sect and cults that can be numbered in this point in time /strong delusions.

      I am in a hurry – its afternoons sweet snack time.

      O’ by the way – you should know that only golden words open all doors. However, who needs all doors opened among wicked and accursed. They are killers, murderers, and hateful racist.

      I wish I can read all your posts – so, I hope you know about Golden Words (lol). 🙂

      K.F.

  4. parshad November 4, 2022 at 6:16 am #

    Like in Palestine, Syria, Libya and Iraq, now in Iran the ‘protesters’ and secessionists kill people in the car, in the street and in shrine. This is the West and Israel want. We don’t want YOU be comfortable in your warm houses while your government train and fund (with your tax money) these terrorists pose as ‘protesters’ to bring Syria and Libya and Iraq to Iran so you can steal their resources and to partition their countries for the interest of apartheid Israel in the region. Israel has been injected into the middle east region to capture the resources and weaken the regional states by injection of chaos and terrorism, turn into petty colonies like the ‘European Union countries’ and beyond.
    You should watch the following to see the result of your SILENCE. Iran is supporting the liberation of Palestinians, therefore, the criminal int. zionism think Iran must be destroyed. We say those who are a threat to world peace must be destroyed. US/Israel are threat to world peace on earth.

  5. Sari November 4, 2022 at 6:31 am #

    The evil empire supports the crime against humanity of an apartheid entity where has been forced upon the region. They have no connection to the land of Palestine or the region.

  6. parshad November 6, 2022 at 4:53 am #

    The zionist liars are targeting Iran’s territorial integrity.These terrorists from FDD, Mark Dubowitz, are circulating LIES to achieve their goal. ‘Iran International’ is an Saudi funded outlet but is run by Mosad.
    Mark dubowitz is circulating many lies including fabricating death bodies to keep the ‘protest’ in Iran alive which is funded and supported by the evil empire, Zionist baby killers. The latest FAKE death body fabricated by these terrorist groups is the following:
    Mark Dubowitz Retweeted
    Iran International English
    @IranIntl_En
    Iranian PhD candidate Nasrin Ghaderi, 35, who was studying philosophy in Tehran died on Saturday after being beaten by security forces with baton during Friday protests.
    Under the regime’s pressure, however, her father announced today she died of flu and underlying disease.
    This is what Nasrin’s father said to Irna, Video is included:

    [Sanandaj – IRNA – The father of “Nasreen Qadri”, a 35-year-old woman from Marivani who died on Friday at her home in Tehran, denied the connection between her daughter’s death and the recent riots and said: “My daughter had an underlying disease and due to influenza, her illness worsened.” He did and died. Ahmad Qadri said in an interview with reporters on Sunday: “My daughter was having a seizure these days and she was suffering from influenza, that’s why she died. Also, on the night of the day she died, my son (her brother) was with her until 12:00 in the night.” and we even had a phone call with him. He added: The next day, when we called my daughter, she didn’t answer, so we had to ask my other daughter to go to Nasreen’s house and inform us about her condition, so she and her husband went to Nasreen’s house. Kaderi’s father added: When my daughter and son-in-law went to the door of Nasreen’s house, there was no news of her, so with the coordination of one of the neighbors, they broke the door of the house and found her lifeless body. He recalled: My daughter and son-in-law immediately called the emergency and information and my daughter’s body was transferred to Shahriar forensic medicine. She was in Saghiz, Kurdistan.
    Mark Dubowitz, should be arrested and put on trial for deliberate spreading
    misinformation against Iranian government. Read the following link with right click, then hit ‘translate to English’.
    All the empire’s outlet, VOA, Radio Farda, BBC, Iran International’, funded by saudis and run by Mosad and the secessionist kurdish terrorists are spreading LIES wheret she was beaten to death in Tehran and then the body was transferred to Saghiz her city. The reason they say this lie is because most of the protests were in Tehran NOT saghiz. These terrorist groups, Empire’s outlet and their accomplices FDD, Dubowitz, must be exposed all over the world. The evil empire and apartheid entity are deeply involved in destabilization of Iran which is against the international law and must be condemned by any civilized country or individual.
    The West and zionist supported ‘protests’ need FAKE death body as ‘victim’ to stay in business and survive.
    https://www.irna.ir/news/84934109
    https://www.mashreghnews.ir/news/1433254
    Nasrin’s father on video tells that her daughter died of flu

  7. sari November 6, 2022 at 5:09 am #

    Seyed Mohammad Marandi
    @s_m_marandi 3h
    This is how western/Saudi funded & trained thugs attack Iranian police. Last Friday these killers attacked 3 officers. As the officers retreated into their police vehicle, they called on the rioters to stop. They were then badly beaten & repeatedly stabbed by these barbarians.

  8. satya November 6, 2022 at 11:51 am #

    Arrest the zionist mafia Roya Hakakian, pose as a writer, in fact a CIA/Mosad propagandist in the business of Iran destabilization. She is a terrorist. Iran does not support FGM and it is NOT even Islamic. According to Freud, the Circumcision was a cultural activity where adopted by the Hebrews and the Muslims later adopted this activity from the Jews. Shame on Hakakian, an agent of misinformation for mosad.

    Roya Hakakian
    @RoyaTheWriter 1h
    Dear #popntif:
    Thanks for speaking against female genital mutilation. How about doing the same for mandatory dress code laws in the Islamic countries where, at least in Iran in the past few months, have led to the deaths of many young women?

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