2 senior UN envoys could face sanctions for terror-sympathizing remarks

Both Francesca Albanese and Tor Wennesland could face sanctions by Israel after expressing sympathy with a Palestinian man who attacked an Israeli police officer and stabbed him.

United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories Francesca Albanese and UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland could face Israeli sanctions following statements viewed in Jerusalem as sympathizing with Palestinian terrorists.

A Palestinian man, Ammar Mefleh, attempted to steal an Israeli police officer’s rifle on Friday, stabbing him, which led the officer to shoot Mefleh dead. The stabbing and shooting can be seen clearly on security camera video footage.

Wennesland took to Twitter to send condolences to the attacker’s family, writing, “Horrified by today’s killing of a Palestinian man, Ammar Mefleh, during a scuffle with an Israeli soldier near Huwara in the o. [occupied] West Bank. My heartfelt condolences to his bereaved family. Such incidents must be fully and promptly investigated and those responsible held accountable.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon tweeted the following day that Wennesland’s remarks were “a total distortion of reality.”

“This incident is a terror attack, in which an Israeli policeman was stabbed in his face and the life of another police officer was threatened and consequently he shot his assailant. This is NOT a ‘scuffle.’ This is a terror attack!” Nahshon wrote.

 IDF soldiers secure the scene after a Border Police officer was stabbed in Huwara, December 2, 2022. (credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90) IDF soldiers secure the scene after a Border Police officer was stabbed in Huwara, December 2, 2022. (credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)

Israel is considering taking steps against Wennesland in response to his statement, KAN reported, starting with a rebuke from a senior Foreign Ministry official.

Wennesland has faced difficulties getting meetings with top Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office officials, in what can be viewed as a quiet snub in response to similar past statements, though both ministries denied the allegations in the past.

Francesca Albanese

Albanese recently gave a speech justifying Hamas attacks on Israel, among other similar statements. Yediot Aharonot reported last week that her remarks led the government to decide to ban her from the West Bank, as Israel has done for her predecessors Michael Lynk and Richard Falk.

The rapporteur tweeted at the time that she was “going to Amman for my first official non-visit to the occupied Palestinian territory,” meaning, her plan was to meet with Palestinians in Jordan.

Nahshon said, “Special rapporteurs, like all other UN workers, must follow the UN’s regular rules, including that official entry to a country requires the appropriate visa. The rapporteur asked to enter without a visa, and it was made clear to her that this is prohibited and violates the UN’s rules.”

A day later, Albanese shared a tweet by a Palestinian news outlet carrying the report from Yediot, adding, “I trusted Israeli authorities. They told [me] they would issue a permit. I had no reason to doubt.... Even the Taliban allowed [Special Rapporteur] Richard Bennett to visit the country, multiple times. No need to lie, distort, manipulate.”

Albanese addressed a Hamas conference in Gaza last Monday, in which she said, “You have a right to resist this occupation.... Israel says ‘resistance equals terrorism,’ but an occupation requires violence and generates violence.”

The rapporteur issued a report in October accusing Israel of “apartheid practices” and “persecution” of Palestinians.

When Palestinians launched a thousand rockets into Israel in August, Albanese tweeted, “Palestinians’ right to resist is inherent to their right to exist as a people. An unlawful act of resistance does not make the resistance unlawful. An unlawful act of an unlawful occupation makes the occupation more unlawful (and the list on the desk of the [ICC] Prosecutor longer).”

Albanese has also repeatedly compared the Holocaust and the Nakba, the Arabic word for “catastrophe” that Palestinians use to describe Israel’s establishment.

“Just as tragic, terrible, unspeakable is the tragedy that befell the Jewish people with the Shoah, so for the Palestinians, the Nakba represents the crumbling of the connective tissue of a people, and the physical and institutional crumbling,” she told Italian station Radio Radicale.

Legal Adviser to the Mission of Israel to the UN in Geneva Merav Marks wrote to the UN Human Rights Council in April that Albanese was unfit for the position because of her “harboring significant bias against the Jewish state.”

The special rapporteur has “a one-sided mandate dedicated to delegitimizing and demonizing Israel,” Marks wrote.

Israel is the only country to which the UNHRC has assigned a permanent investigator.