Australia/Israel Review


Media Microscope: Rapporteur wrap-up

Nov 27, 2023 | Allon Lee

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

During her recent visit to Australia, the outlandish statements and bombastic style of the UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Francesca Albanese, seemed to catch even hardened media professionals by surprise.

On Nov. 3, Albanese told ABC RN “Breakfast” Israel’s intention is “the erasure of Gaza.” Host Patricia Karvelas demurred, saying, “I’ve listened very carefully to many statements and [Israel has] consistently called for the erasure of Hamas, not of the Palestinian people.” 

Asked by Karvelas if she believed Hamas’ October 7 massacre was an act of genocide, Albanese said she did not but her explanation was incomprehensible.

On ABC TV “Q&A” (Nov. 6), Albanese agreed that Hamas must release the 240 plus hostages abducted on October 7, and expressed her sadness that so many of the hostages “are people who have been also fighting against apartheid… It’s a tragic moment,” referring to the fact that some of the abducted Israelis were affiliated with the left. 

Fellow panellist Nasser Mashni, the controversial President of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, and Albanese were in furious agreement that Israel was committing genocide in Gaza. Albanese said, “When I hear Hamas leaders speaking and I hear Israeli military and political leaders speaking these days, I do not hear much difference.” 

Nine Newspapers’ Matthew Knott’s interview with Albanese (Nov. 12), quoted her saying Israel “needs to make peace with Hamas in order to not be threatened by Hamas, which means that it needs to give freedom to the Palestinians.”

Knott’s article said the Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s (ECAJ’s) Alex Ryvchin labelled her “deranged” in calling on Israel to make peace with Hamas, given the terror group vowed it will make “perpetual war” against the Jewish state. AIJAC’s Colin Rubenstein was also quoted by Knott, saying Albanese had “ultra-extreme views about Israel, both before and during her current UN role.”

Speaking to ABC TV’s Joe O’Brien (Nov. 13), Albanese said, “Hamas is not just a military wing… Hamas is a political party,” and, nonsensically added, “it’s very, easy to dismantle Hamas. End the blockade.” 

Albanese’s speech at the National Press Club on Nov. 14, where she seemed to belittle many of those asking questions, was widely picked up in the mainstream media and on social media.

After Albanese’s appearance, the ECAJ’s  Peter Wertheim was quoted by the Australian (Nov. 14) disparaging her claim that Israel has no right to self-defence against Hamas because the UN considers Gaza to still be under Israeli occupation. Wertheim said, “Both the UN Charter and customary international law clearly affirm the inherent right of a State to use force in response to an armed attack, whether that attack emanates from another State or a terrorist organisation like Hamas.”

Following Albanese’s Press Club appearance, Sky News’ Jack Houghton, was quoted in the Australian (Nov. 17) calling her “dangerous”, and labelling her comments “appalling”. Houghton called the Press Club’s decision to “book… her as a speaker… absolutely insane.” 

Sky News’ Peter Stefanovic repeatedly challenged Albanese (Nov. 14), disputing her assertion that Israel’s military operation was designed to “wipe out Gaza”. 

Stefanovic retorted, “That’s not what they’re saying. The leadership is not saying that,” but instead that the operation is about the “destruction of Hamas”.

On Channel Ten’s “The Project” (Nov. 15), co-host Waleed Aly asked Albanese “what Israel should have done in response to the massacre.” She answered, “It could have relied on the United Nations to demilitarise Hamas.” A sceptical Aly replied, “So, to be clear, are you saying Israel should have asked the United Nations to send in its own force to demilitarise Gaza and to remove the military capacity from Hamas, and that the United Nations would have undertaken that task?”

Albanese said Israel should have followed France’s response to the devastating ISIS attack on the Bataclan Theatre in 2015. “It emanated from…a terrorist group in Belgium. Has France… resorted to… bomb entire civilian neighbourhoods in Belgium? No, it used law enforcement operations.” The interview ended fairly abruptly after this clueless statement.

The softest interview Albanese participated in was with ABC RN “Late Night Live” host Phillip Adams on Nov. 14. Adams asked Albanese if she believes, like Nasser Mashni, that the two-state solution is dead. 

Albanese acknowledged that the “international consensus, wall to wall” is for a two-state solution, but added, “Once there are the conditions for the two people to live together harmoniously under one state, why not?” 

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