Uproar as State Department official criticizes UN expert following report on Gaza crisis

Matthew Miller's comments came after Albanese presented a report concluding that actions by Israel in Gaza could be classified as genocide, sparking a fierce debate on the international stage.

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Image Credit: U.S. Department of State

The U.S. State Department finds itself in the eye of a storm following spokesperson Matthew Miller’s contentious remarks about United Nations special rapporteur Francesca Albanese. Miller’s comments came after Albanese presented a report concluding that actions by Israel in Gaza could be classified as genocide, sparking a fierce debate on the international stage.

During a recent press briefing, Miller accused Albanese of making antisemitic statements, particularly in relation to her views on the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants on Oct. 7. This accusation has stirred controversy, raising concerns about the safety and credibility of Albanese, given her influential role in assessing human rights situations.

Albanese’s report to the UN Human Rights Council meticulously outlined why Israel’s prolonged assault on Gaza might meet the criteria for genocide. The document pointed to acts that included killing members of the group and inflicting conditions calculated to bring about its physical destruction, suggesting a deliberate attempt to obliterate the Palestinian population in Gaza.

The treatment of UN special rapporteurs by Israel is not new. The narrative stretches back to Richard Falk, a respected academic, who faced detention and expulsion while attempting to carry out his mandate in the occupied Palestinian territories. Successive rapporteurs have encountered similar hurdles, with their efforts to uphold international law often dismissed as biased or antisemitic.

The fallout from Miller’s statement has led to vocal demands for his resignation from various human rights groups and advocates. They argue that his unfounded allegations not only undermine the integrity of a UN official but also endanger her life amid an already volatile situation.

This incident adds to the growing discourse around the strategic use of antisemitism accusations to delegitimize and silence voices advocating for Palestinian rights. Critics argue that such tactics distract from legitimate criticisms of Israel’s policies and actions in the occupied territories.

In response to the backlash, a chorus of support for Albanese has emerged from the international community, with human rights organizations, scholars, and fellow UN officials rallying to her defense. They assert that her work is grounded in a rigorous analysis of international law, devoid of any prejudice or bias.

The Biden administration’s dismissal of genocide allegations against Israel contrasts sharply with the perspectives of various human rights entities and UN experts.

The escalating dispute following State Department spokesman Matthew Miller’s criticism of UN special rapporteur Francesca Albanese highlights the intricate interplay between diplomatic discourse and human rights advocacy. Miller’s assertion of antisemitism in response to Albanese’s report, which scrutinized Israel’s actions in Gaza, has ignited a fervent dialogue on the appropriateness and repercussions of such charges in the realm of international diplomacy.

Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, contextualizes the situation by noting, “Israel has a long history of weaponizing false charges of antisemitism to attack and undermine those fighting for human rights for Palestinians—and UN officials and experts have been among the most consistent victims of those attacks.”

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