The National Press Club has invited a United Nations official who has been accused of making remarks using antisemitic themes to give an address.
Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur for Palestinian Human Rights, is appearing at the event in Canberra on November 14.
Albanese has in the past been criticised for using antisemitic imagery to demonise Israel and the Jewish people by comparing what happened to Palestinians in 1948 to the Holocaust, comparing Gaza to the Warsaw ghetto and claiming that America has been subjugated by the Jewish lobby.
Her Press Club appearance is being promoted by the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN), which has told supporters they need to ensure that the event is a success by filling the room and is offering discounted tickets to help make that happen.
Zionist Federation of Australia director of public affairs Bren Carlill questioned the Press Club’s choices.
“The fact that a supposedly neutral UN official is being sponsored by an organisation that supports the discriminatory BDS movement and doesn’t support a peaceful, negotiated two-state outcome to the Israel-Palestinian conflict should have raised some red flags,” he said.
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubinstein also said it is disappointing the National Press Club is providing an unfettered platform to Albanese, “who has a documented history of publishing ugly tropes about Jews and extreme, virulent views about Israel, both before and during her tenure with the UN”.
“Francesca Albanese has made disgusting social media comments about the supposed power of the so-called ‘Jewish lobby’ and ‘the Israeli lobby’, has endorsed social media postings comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, and justified terrorism against Israeli civilians,” he said.
“One has to ask whether the National Press Club would host another individual who has a similar history of making derogatory comments about a minority group. We hope that, at the very least, the journalists there will vigorously seek to hold Albanese to account.”
National Press Club chief executive Maurice Reilly said they promote the cause of free speech and a free media, and in its 60-year history the club has not had to censor speeches or speakers.
He said speakers speak for approximately 25 to 30 minutes and journalists ask questions of the speakers for the balance of the hour event.
“You are welcome to attend and ask a question, you are welcome to be critical of the speaker and the event if so see fit. Our Australian democracy deserves no less,” Reilly said.
APAN executive officer Jessica Morrison said allegations that Albanese has used antisemitic themes are baseless and unsurprising.
“They appear designed to disseminate disinformation and tarnish the reputation of Mrs Albanese and her mandate. Such tactics have long been employed by certain of Israel’s support groups to shield Israeli apartheid policies towards Palestinians from scrutiny, and, as a former special rapporteur aptly noted, to deflect attention from the harsh realities on the ground,” she said.