The United Nations official who was welcomed to speak at Harvard University on the same day she was banned from Israel for anti-Semitism doubled down at the Ivy League event, stating that Hamas isn’t motivated by hatred of Jews and that Israel has no right to defend itself.
Francesca Albanese, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Palestinian territories, stood by her position on Hamas’s motivation for its attack during the discussion with Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy on Monday afternoon. Albanese found herself in hot water and officially barred from entering Israel after she contended that French President Emanuel Macron was wrong for labeling the October 7 terrorist attack the “greatest anti-Semitic massacre of our century.”
“Saying that the motivation was anti-Semitism is wrong and dangerous,” Albanese said in the Harvard discussion. “I’m not saying that people in Hamas are absolutely not anti-Semitic. This was not the argument, but the argument is that this attack was launched as a way to break the occupation against the apartheid.”
Harvard’s decision to host Albanese on Monday came as anti-Israel protests flare back up on campus. Harvard has dealt with severe backlash for its failure to combat anti-Semitism on campus, but has continued to invite anti-Israel speakers to speak at university events. Just last week it an event was announced with a Palestinian professor who said the terrorist attack was Israel’s fault.
Albanese at the Monday afternoon event accused Israel of falsely claiming anti-Semitism to make it appear that there is an “existential threat” against 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 added. “The real threat is the apartheid that Israel imposes on the Palestinians, which is a threat to both Palestinians and Israeli Jews.”
Today, Harvard hosted UN official Francesca Albanese, who was banned from Israel hours before for justifying Oct 7 as a “response to Israel’s oppression.”
At the webinar she doubled down, stating Hamas wasn't driven by antisemitism & Israel didn't have the right to self-defense. pic.twitter.com/kLhYvpNymF
— Kassy Dillon (@KassyDillon) February 13, 2024
She went on to claim Israel didn’t have the right to respond to Hamas.
“Israel had to act under the framework of international humanitarian law in terms of law enforcement, because this is the powers that it has as an occupying power,” she said. “It didn’t have the right to act in self defense, meaning waging a war because it couldn’t wage a war against the people it maintains under occupation.”
“What Israel had to do was to repel the attack on its own territory, arrest and detain and treat humanely the people who had been arrested and ensure justice,” she continued. “You could have used justice, used its own justice system, go to International Criminal Court and the, the other instead of taking revenge against the entire population.”
Albanese stated during the event that there still hasn’t been an “official investigation” into the October 7 attacks, and that she hasn’t seen “evidence” to establish intent.
“After four months, there is no official reconstruction, no official investigation, and no independent investigation on what has happened on the 7th of October and I’m not saying that to say, ‘oh it was not criminal,’ of course it was criminal, but I do not have evidence to establish the intent.”
“Hamas doesn’t have the capacity to really carry out a genocide,” she added.
She also said that while some Hamas terrorists “may have been motivated by hatred,” that all evidence “at the level of command have not pointed to aggression against the Jews.”
At the end of the talk, Faculty Director Mathias Risse, who led the discussion, accused people of distorting Albanese’s statements, adding that there is a “massive onslaught of very destructive criticism” against her.
“So let me just say, also, thank you for doing this kind of talk,” Risse said. “I think this is really the kind of work that the United Nations should be doing.”
Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Israel Katz, announced Monday that Albanese is barred from Israel and called for her to be removed from her position with the UN.
The time for Jewish silence is past. For the @UN to regain its credibility, its leadership @antonioguterres must unequivocally renounce the anti-Semitic statements made by their "Special Envoy" @FranceskAlbs and remove her from her position immediately. Barring her entry to… https://t.co/WrPG1O9AoX
— ישראל כ”ץ Israel Katz (@Israel_katz) February 12, 2024
“The time for Jewish silence is past,” he tweeted. “Barring her entry to Israel will serve as a stark reminder of the atrocities committed by Hamas, including the ruthless targeting of innocents.”
The French Foreign Ministry also fired back at Albanese, calling her comments “more scandalous since the fight against anti-Semitism and all forms of racism are at the heart of the founding of the UN.”
The U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, Deborah Lipstadt praised France for condemning Albanese and her “attempt to dispute or justify the October 7 terrorist massacre, the largest antisemitic incident of the 21st century.”
“Francesca Albanese has a history of using antisemitic tropes,” the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Michèle Taylor, tweeted. “Her most recent statements justifying, dismissing, & denying the antisemitic undertones of Hamas’ October 7 attack are unacceptable & antisemitic.”
Taylor cited a 2014 example of Albanese accusing America of being “subjugated by the Jewish lobby” and Europe of being subjected “by the sense of guilt about the Holocaust.”
Last year, a bipartisan group of members of Congress called on the United Nations to remove Albanese for her bias against Israel.
“Ms. Albanese has repeatedly refused to condemn terrorist attacks against Israelis while continuing her condemnations of Israel,” the group wrote. “For an official tasked with serving as an independent, neutral, and expert voice on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, her inexcusable silence against terrorism targeting Israelis and her outrageous and prejudicial remarks clearly reflect the irredeemable bias of her mandate.”
Harvard did not respond to a request for comment.