Ending Jewish Israel’s domination a “re-humanising act”: UN Special Rapporteur

Nov 16, 2023
Press briefing by Francesca Albanese, Special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian Territories at UN Headquarters on October 27, 2022 Image; Alamy/ lev radin / Alamy Stock Photo

Invoking a “shared humanity”, UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese called for a rehumanisation discourse in the Israel/Palestine conflict, in which ending Jewish Israel’s domination would be a re-humanising act for Jewish Israelis as well.

On Saturday last, UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories, and Italian lawyer, Francesca Albanese delivered the Edward Said Memorial Lecture (ESML), the 19th such annual event hosted by the Australian Friends of Palestine Association in Adelaide 

Ms. Albanese was introduced by a former deliverer of the lecture, and former MHR for Fremantle, Melissa Parke.

Ms. Albanese acknowledged her indebtedness to Edward Said. What follows is but a summary of Ms. Albanese’s lecture.

Ms. Albanese made it clear that she sought to speak to both the Palestinian and Jewish communities in Australia. She outlined the history of military attacks on Gaza commencing in 2008, and recurring in 2012, 2014, 2021, and 2022, arriving at the current conflict.

Acknowledging the Hamas attack on 7 October as a war crime, Ms. Albanese proceeded to record the 11,000 Gazans killed since, including 4,500 children. She specifically noted that those dead included journalists, medical personnel and some 192 UN humanitarian staff. She further drew attention to the facts of 50% of houses being destroyed, entire neighbourhoods levelled, and the 16 year old unlawful blockade depriving the citizenry of the basics for life. Such intentional targeting constituted genocide.

Ms. Albanese then addressed Israel’s apparent intentions as revealed by the flyers dropped on citizens calling upon them to leave the land, i.e. the land not only of Gaza, but also of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. She questioned how the international community could not see what Israel’s intentions are – to cleanse the land of Palestinians. She emphasised what has occurred over the past 75 years and regretted the failure of the international community to recognise what the Nakba means. She decried the fact that truth is the victim, one reason for which was the fact that international journalists cannot readily enter Gaza.

Ms. Albanese addressed the legacy of colonialism and imperialism, evidenced by systemic violence, and domination, mainly through an economic framework. This has resulted in a gradual erosion of space available to the Palestinian people.

She noted the weaponisation of the allegation of anti-semitism, epitomised by the IHRA definition, and the chilling effect which same has on free speech. In Palestine, Palestinians were presented as an existential threat to Jews.

Ms. Albanese then turned to the question of resolution of the conflict, calling for a “rehumanisation of the discourse itself”. She addressed the mantra of the two state solution but emphasised the need for a political solution in line with international law. That law recognised the right to self-determination and a political community of its own. She described how these essentials had been denied to Palestinians since 1967, by the loss of territorial sovereignty, the control by Israel of natural resources in the West Bank, Israel’s cultural suppression of Palestinians by such measures as the banning of Palestinian flags, the elimination of Palestinian history, and the repression of political activity.

Some facts were asserted. Since 1967 over 1 million Palestinians, including children as young as 12, have been arrested and detained. “Mass incarceration … has been used as a tool to subjugate an entire population, depriving them of self-determination, enforcing racial domination, and advancing territorial acquisition by force”.

Palestinian self-determination was advanced as a fundamental precondition, of any peace. This is because today, democracy is for the Jews, not for the Palestinians. In the West Bank, each village is a gaol, maintained as such by checkpoints, and bureaucratic control, e.g. the hundreds of permits required for needs such as travel, relationships, marriage.

Ms. Albanese called for an immediate ceasefire to the current conflict. She called for the liberation of both the hostages, and those Palestinians presently incarcerated. She called for the prevention of forced displacement in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank including East Jerusalem. She called for an arms embargo on both Israel and the Palestinians.

There was a need to stop the mantra of ‘negotiation’. Compulsion was required through sanctions, the removal of embassies. Justice for victims was required. Invoking a “shared humanity”, Ms. Albanese called for a rehumanisation discourse. She noted that ending Jewish Israel’s domination would be a re-humanising act for Jewish Israelis as well.

The lecture ended. As someone privileged enough to be present, I could feel the emotion in the audience. And I continue to feel it.

Ms. Albanese was thanked by Australian lawyer and UN Commissioner Chris Sidoti, one of the three member commission of enquiry into alleged crimes committed in the Occupied Territories in 2021 and thereafter.

I believe that Australia and Australians are breaking the chains that have been imposed upon them. We are seeing a change in what Australians are allowed to know. Might we, Australia, lead the world back to sanity and righteousness by starting with the simple recognition of the State of Palestine?

Finally, the Australian Friends of Palestine (AFOPA) must be commended for inviting Ms. Albanese to deliver the 19th ESML.


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