The Israeli government has taken a significant step in response to the ongoing scandal involving the United Nations agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) by ordering the expropriation of the land occupied by its offices in East Jerusalem. In addition, it has banned entry into its territory of UN special rapporteur Francesca Albanese, who had criticized Israel’s actions in Gaza.
Israeli Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf issued the order to expropriate the land occupied by UNRWA’s offices in East Jerusalem after receiving instructions from the head of the Housing portfolio. This move would affect not only UNRWA’s offices in Maalot Dafna and Kafr Aqab but also other territories leased to Israel under International Law. Goldknopf justified his decision by stating that UNRWA “acted in service” of Hamas, a terrorist group that governs Gaza, and even participated in the brutal massacre on October 7th. He added that his intention was to put an end to this situation and remove UNRWA from Israel entirely.
The Israeli authorities have been highly critical of UNRWA since it became known that some of its employees were being investigated for collaboration with Hamas during attacks launched on Israeli territory in early October. The ban on Francesca Albanese, an independent presumption expert appointed by the United Nations, came after she criticized French President Emmanuel Macron’s description of Hamas’ assault on Israel as “the largest anti-Semitic massacre of our century.” Albanese reacted swiftly on social media, stating that Israel’s ban was not new and pointing out that they had banned all special rapporteurs on Palestinian territories since 2008. He argued that these actions should not detract from attention from Israel’s atrocities committed against Palestinians in Gaza.
UN special rapporteurs are voluntary and independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to investigate human rights violations worldwide. However, their actions have been subject to suspicion and criticism due to links between UNRWA employees and Hamas activities against Israel. As a result, there is now a growing concern about their role within international law and whether they are trustworthy sources for investigating human rights violations against Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.