UN expert calls on EU to sanction Israel, not individuals

Racism behind western outrage over killing of white aid workers but not the rising Palestinian death toll, Francesca Albanese claims

UN special rapporteur Francesca Albanese is an Italian academic who recently wrote a report on the war in Gaza titled Anatomy of a Genocide. EPA
Powered by automated translation

The EU should impose sanctions on the Israeli state, not only on extremist settlers, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian Territories said on Wednesday.

“Settlers operate as part of Israel's expansionism over what remains of historic Palestine,” Francesca Albanese said in an online press conference.

“It's a state endeavour that wouldn't happen without the Israeli army or the Israeli state's active support and facilitation,” she said in response to a question from The National.

“So it is Israel, not settlers per se, [that has] to be targeted by sanctions.”

Ms Albanese's comments came as the European Union prepares its first batch of sanctions on extremist settlers in occupied Palestinian territories, in an attempt to put pressure on Israel over its conduct during the war in Gaza.

Israel has been the target of increasing western criticism over the high civilian toll, after an initial period of strong support following the Hamas-led October 7 attacks.

France in February became the latest western country after the US and the UK to sanction settlers who live illegally in the occupied West Bank and attack Palestinians, forcing them to leave their land.

The West views such attacks as an obstacle to a two-state solution, which is widely supported by the EU and the US but rejected by the Israeli government.

The EU's 27 countries are deeply divided on the Middle East conflict.

Last month, they agreed on sanctioning settlers in principle but only after further Hamas listings for atrocities committed on October 7.

Some of Israel's sharpest critics within the bloc, including Spain and Ireland, have not issued their own sanctions against settlers because they believe they would be more effective at EU level.

The two countries have also called for the EU Commission, the EU's executive arm, to review a trade agreement with Israel due to alleged human right breaches.

The commission has so far not responded to the request made by Dublin and Madrid, which have also said they are ready to recognise Palestinian statehood.

Ms Albanese, an Italian academic who recently wrote a report on the war in Gaza titled Anatomy of a Genocide, has publicly clashed with EU heavyweights France and Germany.

Gaza residents hold Eid prayers by ruins of mosque

Gaza residents hold Eid prayers by ruins of mosque

Israel and many of its allies, including the US, reject claims of genocide.

Earlier this year, Paris and Berlin criticised Ms Albanese for saying the October 7 attacks were not anti-Semitic in nature but a reaction to “Israeli oppression”.

Ms Albanese then wrote she was disappointed that some interpreted her post on X as justifying the Hamas crimes.

“I reject all racism, including anti-Semitism, which is a global threat. But explaining these crimes as anti-Semitism obscures their true cause,” she said at the time.

Questioned by reporters on Ms Albanese’s recent report, the French Foreign Ministry last month said she did not represent the UN.

Special rapporteurs are independent experts who do not receive a salary for their advisory work for the international organisation.

Ms Albanese told Wednesday's media briefing she had held “informal discussions” with Germany and France but no official exchanges.

“I put them in front of a mirror and instead of replying on the findings, they diverted the attention, pointing at me,” she said.

“It’s so convenient to target the messenger in order to not deal with the heavy content of the message.”

Israel banned Ms Albanese from entering its territory after the anti-Semitism controversy but she had been denied visas before the clash, according to the Israeli government.

Ms Albanese is planning a visit to the occupied Palestine territory this week, she said, despite fears for her security and the Israeli ban.

“I hope to be granted access, of course, taking security arrangements, because frankly I don't feel safe so much anywhere these days, given the mounting hatred against me,” she said.

“Those who hate are little, but they are dangerous, and I can feel that from the way things are evolving.”

Ms Albanese also sharply criticised the US for being “complicit” in the “genocide” in Gaza, for selling weapons to Israel as well as providing financial and political support to the country.

“The impunity granted to Israel is absolutely unparalleled and unprecedented,” she said.

She said she hoped her report would act as a “wake-up call … to unleash some more honesty in how we approach this continuous ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people”.

“I’m glad that some member states like Colombia already asked the ICJ [International Court of Justice] to consider my report as having probatory effect,” said Ms Albanese. “Those in command will have to be held accountable.”

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday said he thought Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was making a mistake in his conduct in the war in Gaza.

But Mr Biden has refused to heed calls such as those made by Ms Albanese to sanction Israel and suspend weapons exports.

“There are measures that need to be taken in line with international law to stop Israel’s hubris and this is not an act of charity,” said Ms Albanese.

She also described US outrage over the recent killing of western aid workers in Gaza as “racism”.

“This means the other 190 aid workers that were killed in the previous six months meant nothing. Why so? Because they are Palestinian.”

Updated: April 11, 2024, 11:12 AM