Israel has taken a significant step in response to the ongoing scandal surrounding the United Nations agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) by expropriating land occupied by its offices in East Jerusalem. The move, which was announced on Monday, comes after the Israeli authorities deemed some comments made by special rapporteur Francesca Albanese about the attack launched on the Gaza Strip in October as “anti-Semitic.”
In a letter to Yaakov Quint, director general of the Israel Lands Authority (ILA), Yitzhak Goldknopf, the Israeli housing minister, ordered him to immediately end all agreements signed between ILA and UNRWA in order to evict the agency from all territories leased to the State. This measure will affect the UNRWA offices located in Maalot Dafna and Kafr Aqab in East Jerusalem, which have been informally annexed by Israel since 1967 and are part of the Palestinian territories under international law.
Goldknopf justified his decision by stating that UNRWA “acted in service” of Hamas, an Islamist movement and terrorist group that governs Gaza Strip, and even participated in the brutal massacre of October 7. He added that his intention is to put an end to this situation and kick them out of Israel.
The Israeli authorities intensified their criticism of UNRWA after it became known that the organization was investigating some of its employees for having collaborated with Hamas in attacks launched against Israeli territory. These attacks triggered a current war. Francesca Albanese, an independent presumption expert appointed by the United Nations, last week criticized statements made by French President Emmanuel Macron describing Hamas’ assault on Israel as “the largest anti-Semitic massacre of our century.”
As a result of her comments, she was prohibited from entering Israel by Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz and Interior Minister Moshe Arbel who described her remarks as “scandalous.” Albanese responded shortly after on social media and reiterated his stance saying “Israel’s ban is not new; Israel has banned entry to all special rapporteurs on Palestinian territories since 2008! This should not divert attention from Israel’s atrocities in Gaza which reach a new level.”
UN special rapporteurs are defined as voluntary independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to whom they report their findings. However, due to UNRWA’s involvement with Hamas and links between its employees, there is now suspicion surrounding its role in Israel’s view.