December 22, 2023
A newsletter by Voice Over
#01 (Out on sept 17th, 2023)
The voice of this issue belongs to Francesca Albanese, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Francesca was one of the protagonists of the first event of the "Decolonizing Narrative" campaign, a series of seminars and public events on freedom of expression, human rights, and public-interest journalism organized by Voice Over. The event "Shrinking Spaces: freedom of expression and protection of human rights in Palestine" took place on April 18 at the University of Milan.
Alongside Francesca were Piero Graglia, professor of International Relations History, Giovanni Fassina and Laila Sit Aboha from the European Legal Support Center - ELSC, an independent organization providing free legal counsel and assistance to associations, NGOs, groups, and individuals advocating for the rights of Palestinians in continental Europe and the UK, Sarah Abdel Qader from The Palestinian Institute for Public Diplomacy - PIPD, and Christian Elia, journalist, author, and co-director of Q Code Magazine.
The Voice of Francesca Albanese
"I think my task is to engage with my commitment in an important ongoing process, the full 'decolonization' of international law".
If only there were more people like her. Individuals who place their body, history, and knowledge in service of something greater. You sense it as soon as you listen to her speak, be it in institutional university halls or during a live on Instagram. Simple and direct, never imprecise but comprehensible to all, even when unraveling thorny issues like international law.
Francesca Albanese, 46 years old, is an international jurist, an Italian academic, and since May 1, 2022, has been appointed as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. She is the first woman in thirty years to hold this unpaid position and from the outset, she decided to transform it into a public role by making the contents of the United Nations known to ordinary people because "human rights belong to people or they serve no purpose", she proudly states. She's one of those people who speaks and acts because it's the right thing to do, even if it means receiving hate mail, letters, and death threats directed at her and her family.
Because defending human rights today means particularly advocating for the rights of Palestinians living in a territory illegally occupied for over 56 years. And if you ask her "how?" she replies, "one must not be afraid because those involved in human rights carry a cross". Her cross is that of international law, an extremely important and neutral tool that should serve to resolve international disputes and protect all peoples, including the most forgotten, like the Palestinian people, but which is often instrumentalized by states for their own interests.
And that's why Francesca Albanese spares no moment: public events, debates, online streams, interviews to raise awareness, inform, and involve, especially the youth. What has happened over the years is a distorted narrative where the violent and brutal occupation by a colonial state - Israel - imposing martial law on people and territories it has illegally occupied, is rarely told. Even less so are the Palestinians and the reasons for their struggle. "Palestinians are fighting for cultural, civil, economic, political, and social rights, and above all, for their right to self-determination, which is the right to exist as a people and to do so as free women and men. This is today's Palestine, this is what Palestinians want, and above all, it means freedom", explains Albanese in an interview by Michela Grasso (Spaghetti Politics) and Sara Manisera on IG.
It's always Francesca's words that offer us a nuanced understanding of what it means to be at the forefront of systemic change: "The invasion of Ukraine has shown how the mentality of the European establishment is steeped in colonialism because while rightly welcoming people fleeing Ukraine, other people were left to die along the Balkan route or in the Mediterranean. The war in Ukraine has made us realize how well the Western world knows how to apply international law in situations of aggression, occupation, and conflict. In this case, it was an aggression, an act of occupation, and diplomatic, economic, and political measures were taken to contain a State that has committed serious violations of international law and international crimes. However, this does not apply to Israel, which for over 56 years has occupied what remains of historical Palestine, from which it expelled 750,000 Palestinians from their lands and homes between 1947-1949, preventing Palestinians from exercising the right to self-determination and guaranteeing their full rights. That's why I think my task is to engage with my commitment in an important ongoing process, the full 'decolonization' of international law". Francesca knows well; defending human rights isn't an easy task, but this burden that she and many others bear serves to secure a better future for all of us.
Explore Further with Us
To learn more about Francesca Albanese's work and to delve deeper into Palestine and the daily lives of its people, you can listen to the interview conducted on IG by Sara Manisera and Michela Grasso (Spaghettipolitics), while here you'll find the transcript published in Voice Over's hub.
But why is the Palestinian issue forgotten and narrated inaccurately by mainstream Italian media?
Journalist Christian Elia explains it here.
Other Useful Resources
In this video, Amnesty Italy explains why an apartheid system has emerged against the Palestinian population.
This podcast produced by Altreconomia on the Oslo Accords of 1993 answers these questions: what remains of the peace process that was supposed to change the Middle East and beyond? How was it supposed to go, and most importantly, how did it end up between Israel and Palestine?
This podcast by Giovani Palestinesi d'Italia collects voices on the Palestinian diaspora in Italy.
In this episode of Omissis, ReCommon's podcast on Radio Popolare's web channels, you can delve into how East Med, the peace pipeline between Israel and Egypt, is harmful to the environment and reinforces the apartheid regime against Palestinians.
Lastly, this episode of The Take podcast, published by Al Jazeera, sheds light on the link between the Israeli tech industry and the occupation.
See you next time!