Exposed: Francesca Albanese’s Global Influence Network Targeting Israel

The following exposé is Part II of UN Watch’s Dossier on Francesca Albanese. Part I was submitted to the UN Secretary-General on June 3rd.

Exposed: Francesca Albanese’s Global Influence Network Targeting Israel












Francesca Albanese is well known as the Special Rapporteur appointed in 2022 by the UN Human Rights Council with the mandate to “investigate Israel’s violations of the bases and principles of international law.” Less well known is that Albanese has been running a global influence network of more than 100 individuals and NGOs to target Israel by orchestrating lawfare campaigns, whitewashing Hamas terrorism, and cynically manipulating governments into funding UNRWA.

Albanese’s network specifically advocated using overtly racist messaging about the threat of Arab “illegal migration” overwhelming Europe, and “association tensions,” as talking points to be made by network members “particularly to officials from right-wing, anti-immigration governments,” to scare them that failure to fund UNRWA (despite its terror ties) would mean “millions of Palestinians are forced to flee the Middle East.” 

Incredibly, a member of the global lobbying network includes Kjersti G. Berg, whose CMI group helped run the Independent Review of UNRWA. In other words, the international lobbying network for UNRWA and the “independent” group auditing UNRWA are the same.

Albanese’s GNQP Network Includes UN, UNRWA, PLO Officials, Institutions in 22 Countries

Albanese is proud of co-founding and running the “Global Network on the Question of Palestine” (GNQP). She runs it under the auspices of the Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD) in Amman, an organization she joined in November 2018 as a senior advisor.

No other co-founder is listed, however the other leading figures behind the network appears to be Lex Takkenberg, UNRWA’s former legal counsel and chief ethics inspector, who today lives in Vienna and Paris. Albanese was his colleague when she worked at UNRWA’s legal office in 2010-2012, and he likely was the one who hired her. Like Albanese, Takkenberg also works for ARDD, where he is the leader of its Question of Palestine Program, which “aims to to establish a platform in the Arab World for critical reflection with respect to the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian question and the Palestinian refugee issue.”

Global Network co-leader Lex Takkenberg has boasted that their group was a key player in spreading the “genocide” libel against Israel.

In 2020, Albanese and Takkenberg co-authored a book together, “Palestinian Refugees in International Law.” Albanese and Takkenberg are also close collaborators on numerous other projects, including their co-authoring in 2021 the working paper, “Rethinking solutions for Palestinian refugees: A much-needed paradigm shift and an opportunity towards its realization,” and a paper for ARDD, “The Actuality of the Palestinian Refugee Question: An International Law Perspective.”


Notably, the institute funding Albanese and Takkenberg, ARDD, is a listed partner of UNRWA, and its donors include not only UNHCR, UNOCHA, and UN Women, but also the European Union, United States, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland. It is unclear whether the citizens and lawmakers of these governments are aware that they are funding an organization that runs a global influence network which uses orchestrated messaging campaigns to manipulate decision-makers and public opinion.


Albanese appears to have created the “Global Network on the Question of Palestine,” which is described as constantly expanding, a year later, in 2021. Today, her Global Netowrk counts 100 individuals and institutions in 22 different countries, including former cabinet ministers, former senior UN, UNRWA, PLO and government officials, and a former member of the European Parliament.


ARDD is based in Amman and the Global Network has a strong Jordanian connection. Prince Hassan bin Talal, former heir to the Jordanian crown, is listed as a patron. The network includes several former Jordanian government officials: former social development minister Reem Abu-Hassan, former economic affairs minister of state Yusuf Mansur, and Yasin Abu-Awwad, former director general of Jordan’s Palestinian affairs department.


Albanese’s Global Network of 100 Anti-Israel Officials, Activists & NGOS

The Global Network of experts, senior advisors and observers includes senior Palestinian politicians and diplomats, academics, and journalists, as well as many from Western countries such as the U.S., Canada, UK, Austria, Italy and France.

Albanese’s global network includes:

  • Kjersti G. Berg, UNRWA expert and post-doctoral research fellow at Denmark’s Christian Michelson Institute (CMI), one of the three groups that led the recent “Independent Review” of UNRWA. Berg is one of the world’s leading champions of UNRWA and a staunch opponent of holding the agency to account for its links to terrorism. That she was part of a network orchestrating complex schemes to influence countries to fund UNRWA, while also taking part in Catherine Colonna’s “Independent Review” of UNRWA, is outrageous. Berg is involved in most if not all of CMI’s publications on UNRWA. In 2022, she authored a CMI report on UNRWA examining reasons for the agency’s funding troubles and advising steps forward. Berg’s report states that UNRWA’s funding problems are caused by “unfounded claims” that the agency “instigates violence, for example, through school curricula with an anti-Israeli edge.” In other words, although CMI was selected to conduct an “independent review” of UNRWA, Berg’s CMI report had already expressed the opinion that claims of UNRWA incitement—documented over 10 years in a series of reports by UN Watch that show screenshots of UNRWA teachers calling to slaughter Jews—are “unfounded.” Berg’s CMI report also celebrated UNRWA’s political significance “as a symbol of the refugees’ right of return and the international responsibility for their predicament.” Presumably Berg was a focal point for CMI’s work on the Colonna review group. In her CMI reports on UNRWA, and in her other writings, such as a 2021 CMI-sponsored article, Berg strictly adheres to UNRWA talking points, and turns a blind eye to UNRWA’s complicity with and incitement to terrorism. Berg ardently defends funding UNRWA. In her 2023 book, “Palestine: Facts on the Ground,” as in all her other writings on UNRWA, Berg argues in favor of a Palestinian “right of return,” which effectively means the destruction of the State of Israel. In 2017, Berg hosted a lecture with Raja Shehadeh, founder of the group Al-Haq, which was in 2021 was designated by Israel as a terrorist organization


  • Susan Akram, USA, law professor who had applied to be the UN Special Rapporteur mandated “to investigate Israel’s violations of the bases and principles of international law.” Akram co-authored publications on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with former special rapporteur Michael Lynk and has partnered with Palestinian NGO Badil since 2000, publishing a Palestinian refugee protection handbook which described Israel as “non-democratic” and “committed to an apartheid vision of greater Israel.” In her lectures and writings, Akram accuses Israel of “apartheid” and claims it maintains “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group” amounting to “a crime against humanity.” She denies Jewish nationality and Jewish rights to self-determination in Israel, and rejects the two-state solution in favor of “a single multi-national, multi-ethnic state from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean Sea.” Akram advocates for the “right of return” for millions of Palestinians; completely absolves Palestinians of any responsibility for their lack of statehood today; and argues for termination of US military aid to Israel. Akram also has worked closely with Al Haq, a Palestinian group with ties to the PFLP terror organization. Akram taught at Al Haq’s summer school and spoke at an Al Haq conference rejecting the concept of Jewish indigenous rights in Palestine. Elsewhere she criticized the Balfour declaration for discriminating against “native Palestinians in favor of immigrant Jews,” making clear her view that Jews do not possess legitimate rights in the territory. In 2012, Ms. Akram participated in the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, a mock court which put Israel and its Western allies “on trial” and promoted the BDS movement.


  • Ralphe Wilde, UK, faculty member at University College London, also applied to be the UN Special Rapporteur mandated “to investigate Israel’s violations of the bases and principles of international law.” He is an international law professor who has long accused Israel of “apartheid” and “war crimes,” and refers to the creation of the State of Israel using the Palestinian term Nakba (Arabic for catastrophe). He was commissioned to provide an expert opinion on “the interface between Israel and Palestine’s human rights obligations in the OPT” for the pro-Palestinian Swedish group Diakonia, which runs a legal program in Jerusalem that focuses exclusively on attacking Israel and ignores Palestinian violations. In his expert opinion, Wilde wrote that “the legal self-determination entitlement of the Palestinians requires Israel to end the occupation promptly.” At a February 2022 webinar for the Arab Organization for Human Rights in the UK, Wilde suggested that Palestinians could achieve self-determination even without a peace agreement with Israel simply by applying international law to end the “occupation,” which Wilde claimed is “illegal and constitutes aggression, which is a crime in international law.” Wilde spoke at the 2018 Al Haq conference titled The Threshold from Occupation to Annexation where he made a similar argument stating “there is a need to move beyond occupation law in order to challenge the existence of the occupation itself as violations of the right to self-determination.” Wilde has advocated for the Palestinian cause in different fora. In February 2020, he and Palestinian activist Ata Hindi attempted to submit an amicus brief to the ICC in support of the Palestinians’ arguments on statehood, but it was rejected for missing the deadline. Wilde has also signed petitions supporting the Palestinian cause, including a February 2016 statement titled Defending the Right to Support BDS for Palestinian Rights.


  • Hanan Ashrawi, former member of the PLO Executive Committee and PA Minister of Education. Appointed by Yasser Arafat, Ashrawi was the voice of the PLO in major media during the 1980s and 1990s, and pioneered using fashionable academic jargon to justify Palestinian terrorism. When she left the Palestinian government in 1998, she had promised to hold it accountable to demomcratic standards and created MIFTAH, the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy.” But Ashrawi remained an apologist for the PLO, and her group is most famous for posting that “the Jews used the blood of Christians in the Jewish Passover.”


  • Diana Buttu, former PLO lawyer and spokesperson, infamous for justifying Hamas placement of rockets in UNRWA schools during summer vacations.


  • Ramzy Baroud, USA, editor of Palestine Chronicle, now under calls for sanctions because its writers included the terrorist Abdallah Aljamal who held Israeli captives in his home in the UNRWA Nuseirat refugee camp


  • Feda Abdelhaddy-Nasser, PLO Deputy Ambassador to UN


  • Hania Assaly, lawyer, former member of PLO Negotiations Support Unit


  • Karen Abu Zayd, former UNRWA Commissioner-General


  • Damian Lilly, former UNRWA Chief of Protection Division


  • Richard Falk, USA, former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine (2008-2014), denounced by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for 9/11 conspiracy theories, condemned for antisemitism by Britain, US, Canada


  • Michael Lynk, Canada, former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine (2016-2022)


  • Rania Madi, Switzerland, lobbyist for Palestinian advocacy group Badil at UN Geneva agencies


  • Nicholas Morris, UK, former UNHCR Special Envoy and staff member


  • Radhouane Nouicer, Tunisia, former UNHCR official


  • John Quigley, USA, emeritus professor at Ohio State University, author of “The Case for Palestine: An International Law Perspective”


The network has seven “youth leaders,” including Albanese’s research assistant Sara Troian who famously tried, at Albanese’s request, to collect payment from an external group in exchange for a lecture by Albanese at Columbia University, for which she acknowledged that payment was improper.

Albanese’s GNQP also counts in its ranks 10 institutions including the Hamas-linked Palestine Return Centre, Al-Haq and European Legal Support Centre, all of which are active in anti-Israel lawfare campaigns designed to negate Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas terrorism.


Before October 7th: Albanese Begins the “Genocide” Libel

 When Francesca Albanese presented a report in March 2024 accusing Israel of genocide, this was not new. In fact, she had been publicly accusing Israel of genocide since at least 2014:

  • July 25, 2014: Albanese posts article accusing Israel of “incremental genocide”


  • March 1, 2023: Albanese endorses claim that Israeli commits genocide. She is condemned for “a truly sickening and antisemitic” statement. “Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction of a group of people because of their ethnicity, nationality, religion, or race. Accusing Israel of the worst human rights crime — a crime that Jews have been the most prominent victims of over the past century — is not meant to protect Palestinians but to cause pain to Jews.”


  • March 30, 2023: Albanese accuses Israel of being “an oppressive regime that threatens the right of an entire people to exist.”


Her network was mobilized after October 7th to spread the “genocide” libel.


10 Days After October 7th: Albanese’s Global Network Condemns Israel for “Genocide,” Mobilizes Global Lawfare Against Israel

Only 10 days after October 7th, Albanese’s Global Network accused Israel of “genocide” and urged states to bring Israel before the ICJ. One month later, these genocide claims against Israel were echoed in a statement by 41 UN special rapporteurs, initiated by Global Network leader Francesca Albanese. A month later, South Africa filed its genocide case against Israel. Then in January, the Global Network threatened countries that support of Israel would bring legal consequences. A month later, Nicaragua filed a case against Germany at the ICJ for its support of Israel.

Here is a timeline of events:

October 17th: Albanese’s Global Network issues statement strongly condemning the “assault by the Israeli occupation power on the Gaza Strip beginning on the 7th of October” and stating that the actions “amount to genocide under international law.” The statement urged states that have not made reservations to Article 9 under the Genocide Convention to bring proceedings against Israel to the ICJ. The statement notes that states supporting Israel may additionally incur legal responsibility.

November 16th: Global Network leader Francesca Albanese leads joint statement of 41 UN experts alleging that Israeli actions “point to a genocide in the making.” 

November 21st: Global Network co-leader Dr. Lex Takkenberg boasts that their group was “among the first to contribute to the discussion on genocide after 7th of October.”

December 29th: South Africa files genocide case against Israel at the ICJ.

January 29th: Global Network issues statement welcoming the ICJ’s provisional ruling of January 26th, and called for legal consequences against counties aiding or assisting Israel, under the notion of “third-party responsibility.”

March 1st: Nicaragua filed ICJ case against Germany for providing “political, financial and military support to Israel.”

Global Network Slanders Critics of UNRWA

On December 3rd, 2023, the GNQP issued a statement falsely calling UN Watch a “partisan and polemic organization” engaged in a “systematic effort to erase Palestinian history and culture.”


“Ten-Point Recovery Plan for UNRWA”: How Francesca Albanese’s Global Network Planned to Influence Countries to Reinstate Funding

 In the Global Network’s 10-Point Lobbying Strategy & Taking Points Memo to Resinstate UNRWA Funding developed chiefly by former UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness and Albanese partner Lex Takkenberg, network members are encouraged to stress to “officials from right-wing, anti-immigration governments” that it is “far more cost effective and politically advantageous to pay UNRWA to deal with Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, rather than defunding UNRWA and risk millions of refugees heading to Europe.”


Strategic Lobbying & Talking Points Memo

The talking points are presented as a “Ten-Point Recover Plan for UNRWA” with the main purpose of “filling UNRWA’s funding gap by the end of March 2024.” These talking points were drafted in February and published on the Global Network website on March 4.

The document divides the donors into two categories – the “good donors,” being those like Norway, Spain and Ireland who strongly support UNRWA, and can convince the “defunders” to resume funding. The strategy calls for the good donors to convene the Good Donorship Forum (GDF) within 10 days. Presumably this happened.

Of course, the Plan does not consider the possibility that UNRWA’s government-services (education and healthcare) should not be provided by the UN at all. At the end, when it discusses the cost issues and how no other UN agency would be able to take over from UNRWA, it is understood that these services are to be provided by the UN. Only two alternatives are presented: (1) UNRWA and (2) Palestinian refugees to floor Europe and get services there, knowing that European states won’t want this.

The Plan does not offer the third option, which is that Palestinians should be providing these services for themselves. They have created a quasi-state, are demanding state recognition and several European countries (Slovenia, Spain, Ireland, Norway) that also fund UNRWA have now recognized a Palestinian State. Why should these countries not be demanding that the Palestinians take on the responsibilities of statehood, and not just get the benefits? Western donors could in fact fund these services by direct funding to the Palestinian Authority instead of to UNRWA.

Here are some of the main features of the Plan:

  1. Manipulation of European Donors. The Plan explains how to manipulate European donors by feeding donors misinformation so they will resume funding to UNRWA.


    • This would specifically target “right-wing” officials and “anti-immigration” governments by threatening an influx of 6 million Palestinian refugees to Europe (like what happened with the Syrian refugees “as recent history has shown”) and suggesting the only way to prevent that is to support UNRWA to provide for their “aid and security in the Middle East.” This will be “more cost effective and politically acceptable.” (Paragraph 3)


    • The Plan presents UNRWA funding as the lesser of two evils by claiming that since UNRWA took “swift and robust action to separate staff members [accused of participating in October 7], the “neutrality risks” are now “significantly outweighed by the risk of humanitarian implosion.” (Paragraph 3). This approach would make European governments believe that the neutrality risk is not a systemic rot in the agency, but just limited to a few bad apples, and that this small “neutrality risk” is not life-threatening for anyone.


    • To get the EU and Germany to come back, they have to be convinced that the Gulf States will step up. To help with this, the Plan suggests a scheme to redistribute UN Donor Funds whereby the Europeans shift some of their WFP/UNICEF donations to UNRWA and the U.S. will then take its UNRWA money and give it to the WFP and UNICEF. UNRWA will tell the other agencies to align with this plan. In this way the “defunding donors” become just a minor obstacle that can easily be solved simply by changing how donor monies are distributed within the UN. (Paragraphs 7 and 8)


  1. Helping Donors “climb down the ladder” / Give them the Justification to Renew Funding. The main priority here is to maintain the existence of UNRWA while avoiding having to seriously address any of the criticisms related to neutrality and complicity with Hamas terrorism. It suggests that donors don’t really care about the neutrality issue and are happy to donate as long as they are not implicated in any scandals. Since donors don’t truly care about neutrality, but just about their image, the UN investigations are just for show. Thus, the “OIOS Report and/or the Independent Review” will give donors “something visible in the policy arena” to enable them to “justify the policy shift back to resuming aid.” (Paragraphs 2 and 4)


  1. OIOS Investigation Results Predetermined. The Plan claims that “sources in New York close to OIOS have already indicated to journalists and others that they will not be able to substantiate the Israeli claims.” Therefore, the messaging regarding the OIOS report should be that “it will not substantiate Israeli claims against UNRWA.” (Paragraph 2).


  1. Donors Give Each Other Cover. The idea is that the donors all have each other’s backs, so the good donors will lead the re-funding of UNRWA and get other donors (Australia, Netherlands, UK, Switzerland, Germany) to follow (similar to how the defunding happened). The Commissioner-General should lobby in Switzerland. Once the UK and Switzerland are on board, it will be easier to get the other donors.


  1. UNRWA Should Go On The Offensive. Since Netanyahu (doesn’t say Israel) is trying to kick UNRWA out of the OPT and the U.S. is kind of out of the picture, UNRWA needs to go on the offensive to shift the conversation, “purveying overtly political messages.” The narrative should be around peace and stability for Palestinians and Israelis AND Europeans. (Paragraphs 9 and 10).
    These are the key political messages for Western Donors:
    • UNRWA is essential to two-state solution
    •  Political attack on UNRWA is an attack on the two-state solution
    • Only UNRWA can prevent Israel’s extremist government from “undermining the international order including IHL”
    • UNRWA is vital to stability in the Middle East
    • The fact that there are sometimes neutrality breaches (“individual allegations”) is because of the donor states own failure to bring peace. But UNRWA deals with these problems when they arise (“most heavily audited UN agency”).
    • It would be impossible to replace UNRWA with another UN agency, they don’t have enough staff on the ground.
    • Purely looking at the financial aspect, it is more cost effective to pay UNRWA to deal with the Palestinians than to have them come to Europe and get services there. The cost of education for UNRWA is $838 per person per year. It would be several thousand in Europe.


UN Watch