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Under scrutiny for Jew-hatred, Harvard hosts UN official who blames Jews for Oct. 7

Francesca Albanese doubled down during an event at Harvard on her controversial claim that Hamas terrorists only hate Israel, not Jews.

Francesca Albanese, U.N. special rapporteur, briefs reporters at U.N. headquarters. Credit: Loey Felipe/U.N. Photo.
Francesca Albanese, U.N. special rapporteur, briefs reporters at U.N. headquarters. Credit: Loey Felipe/U.N. Photo.

Anti-Israel vultures of a feather flock together.

Harvard University, which is already under fire for its negligence in curbing Jew-hatred on its campus in Cambridge, Mass., hosted U.N. official Francesca Albanese less than two days after her most recent anti-Israel comments drew international condemnation.

The U.N. special rapporteur for the Palestinian territories, Albanese spoke remotely to an audience at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy on Monday afternoon.

On Saturday, Albanese responded to French President Emanuel Macron, who said that Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror attack was the “greatest antisemitic massacre of our century.”

“The victims of Oct. 7 were not killed because of their Judaism, but in response to Israel’s oppression,” she wrote in French. “France and the international community did nothing to prevent it. My respects to the victims.”

Later that day, she added that she was disappointed that “some” read her post as justifying Hamas’s attack. “I reject all racism, including antisemitism, a global threat,” she wrote. “But explaining these crimes as antisemitism obscures their true cause.”

The German and French foreign ministries and Washington’s envoy to the U.N. Human Rights Council, which appointed Albanese to her role, condemned her statement.

“Francesca Albanese has a history of using antisemitic tropes. Her most recent statements justifying, dismissing and denying the antisemitic undertones of Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack are unacceptable and antisemitic,” wrote Michèle Taylor, U.S. ambassador to the UNHRC. “We expect more of independent U.N. experts and condemn all forms of antisemitism.”

Deborah Lipstadt, U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, responded to Taylor’s post. “We fully support the French Foreign Ministry’s condemnation of any attempt to dispute or justify the Oct. 7 terrorist massacre, the largest antisemitic incident of the 21st century,” she wrote. “We must stand together against antisemitism.”

The French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs wrote in French, in response to Albanese’s post, that the Oct. 7 attack “is the largest antisemitic massacre of the 21st century. Disputing it is a mistake. Seeming to justify it, by including the name of the United Nations, is a shame. These comments are all the more scandalous since the fight against antisemitism and all forms of racism are at the heart of the founding of the United Nations.”

Francesca Albanese
Francesca Albanese, U.N. special rapporteur, briefs reporters at UN Headquarters. Credit: Loey Felipe/U.N. Photo.

The German Foreign Office shared the French ministry’s post. “To justify the horrific terror attacks of Oct. 7 and deny their antisemitic nature is appalling,” it wrote. “Making such statements in a U.N. capacity is a disgrace and goes against everything the United Nations stand for.”

During Monday’s event, Albanese doubled down on her original statement, despite the widespread criticism.

“Saying that the motivation was antisemitism is wrong and dangerous,” she said. “I’m not saying that people in Hamas are absolutely not antisemitic. This was not the argument. But, the argument is that this attack was launched as a way to break the occupation, against the apartheid.”

‘Destructive criticism’

During the virtual event, Albanese also launched renewed accusations that Israel was weaponizing Jew-hatred. She told viewers on Monday that it is self-serving to say that Hamas was motivated in the massacre by hatred of Jews.

“I understand why Israel is using this argument of antisemitism, because by saying ‘We were attacked because we are Jews,’ it’s bringing the existential threat that many Jews fear,” she said. “The real threat is the apartheid that Israel imposes on the Palestinians, which is a threat to both Palestinians and Israeli Jews.”

In a talk at the National Press Club of Australia in mid-November, Albanese referred to “Anti-Palestinian racism which is a separate chapter of anti-Arabism. But you need to see that. The moment you see that, you cannot unsee it anymore.” It wasn’t clear in that talk, or from her remarks at Harvard, why she saw “anti-Palestinian racism” as part of “anti-Arabism” but being “anti-Israel” as different from antisemitism.

In her remarks at the Harvard event, Albanese continued to assert that Israel has no right to deploy a military response to Hamas. Instead, it must “act under the framework of international humanitarian law in terms of law enforcement, because this is the power that it has as an occupying power,” she said.

She claimed Israel is limited to taking action “to repel the attack on its own territory, arrest and detain and treat humanely the people who had been arrested and ensure justice” via the international court system. (Albanese claimed the same in a recent interview with JNS.)

Despite extensive evidence to the contrary, Albanese said during the event on Monday at Harvard that no evidence suggests that Hamas leaders exhibit “aggression against the Jews.” She said that Palestinians use the Arabic word yahud (“Jews”) interchangeably to refer to Israelis and Jews, and that rather than being antisemitic, they are calling for death and harm to Israelis, not Jews.

Albanese’s claims evidently convinced Mathias Risse, faculty director of the Carr Center.

At the event’s conclusion, Risee accused Albanese’s critics of distorting her statements, deeming it a “massive onslaught of very destructive criticism.”

U.N. officials tend to be hesitant to criticize the work and commentary of special rapporteurs, under the guise of protecting the latter’s independence.

But the spokesman for António Guterres, the U.N. secretary-general, said on Monday of Albanese’s stated position on Hamas’s motives on Oct. 7, “the secretary-general does not agree with Ms. Albanese.”

Harvard, too, drew criticism.

“Only a university as tone-deaf and dishonorable as Harvard could promise to clean up its rampant antisemitism problem while at the same time inviting Francesca Albanese, who just justified Hamas’s Oct. 7 slaughter—to talk about human rights,” wrote the watchdog Canary Mission.

“Heaven forbid Harvard had any red lines or self-respect left,” wrote Arsen Ostrovsky, CEO of the International Legal Forum. “All Jew-haters, massacre supporters and callers of genocide are welcome!”

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