Teach-In Session 20

This talk with UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese will discuss the decisions and ramifications of a number of countries withdrawing their funding of UNRWA following Israel's largely unsubstantiated claims that UNRWA employees were affiliated with Hamas.

Gaza in Context Collaborative Teach-In Series

We are together experiencing a catastrophic unfolding of history as Gaza endures a massive invasion of genocidal proportions. This accompanies an incessant bombardment of a population increasingly bereft of the necessities of living in response to the Hamas attack in Israel on October 7. The context within which this takes place includes a well-coordinated campaign of misinformation and the unearthing of a multitude of essentialist and reductionist discursive tropes that dehumanize Palestinians as the culprits, despite a context of structural subjugation and Apartheid, now a matter of consensus in the human rights movement.

The co-organizers below are convening weekly teach-ins and conversations on a host of issues that introduce our common university communities, educators, researchers, and students to the history and present of Gaza, in context. 

Co-Organizers: Arab Studies Institute, Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, George Mason University’s Middle East and Islamic Studies Program, Rutgers Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Birzeit University Museum, Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Brown University’s Center for Middle East Studies, University of Chicago’s Center for Contemporary Theory, Brown University’s New Directions in Palestinian Studies, Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Comparative Muslim Studies, Georgetown University-Qatar, American University of Cairo’s Alternative Policy Studies, Middle East Studies Association’s Global Academy, University of Chicago’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, CUNY’s Middle East and Middle Eastern American Center, University of Illinois Chicago’s Arab american cultural Center, George Mason University’s AbuSulayman’s Center for Global Islamic Studies, University of Illinois Chicago’s Critical Middle East Studies Working Group, George Washington University’s Institute for Middle East Studies, Columbia University’s Center for Palestine Studies, New York University’s Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies


Francesca P. Albanese
is an international lawyer and researcher and the author of various publications and opinions on the question of Palestinian refugees, the longest and most protracted refugee situation since WWII. Together with Lex Takkenberg, she has recently authored a new book Palestinian refugees in International Law (OUP, June 2020), which provides a comprehensive overview of the Palestinian refugee question from its origins to present day, through a rigorous legal and historical account. While being a new edition of Takkenberg’s seminal work The Status of Palestinian Refugees in International Law (OUP 1998)Albanese&Takkenberg’s is a new book on the foundation of the first edition, with new contents, from archival and doctrinal research, review of recent case law and jurisprudence, and new literature on the matter. On top of a clear analysis of the status of Palestinian refugees under various branches of international law –such as IHL, IHRL, IRL, the framework to protect stateless persons– and the ‘distinctive’ regime set up for Palestinian refugees within the international refugee framework (including UNRWA and UNHCR), the book meticulously analyses the status and treatment of Palestinian refugees in about sixty countries across the world and proposes a framework to advance international protection for, and solutions to end the over seventy-year-old plight of, this refugee group. 

Prior to becoming a full-time researcher, Francesca worked for ten years with the United Nations (2003-2013), including the UNRWA Department of Legal Affairs (based in Jerusalem), dealing primarily with the implementation of a human rights approach through the work of the agency in support to its protection function; UNDP (Morocco), supporting inclusive and participatory approaches through governance and local development initiatives; and the UN OHCHR (based in Geneva), with a portfolio covering national human rights institutions in the MENA and then the Asia-Pacific region), During that time, her work focused on strengthening independence and effectiveness of national human rights institutions, including in the area of the prevention of torture. Other professional experiences include advising governments and civil society in the MENA region and South East Asia on human rights issues, the protection of refugees and asylum seekers, and monitoring fairness and transparency of electoral processes (e.g. EU mission in Haiti, Guinea Bissau, and Pakistan).

While in Washington DC (2013-2015) Francesca worked for an American NGO (Project Concern International) as Technical Advisor on protection issues during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. 

Francesca lectures on ‘the question of Palestinian refugees in context’, in a number of universities and research centers, including the MICAD program of the University of Bethlehem, where she also supervises master students’ theses.

Francesca holds an LL.M from SOAS (in Human Rights) and a BA in Law from the University of Pisa (cum laude). She is an affiliate with ISIM as of 2015 (non-resident since 2016) and also to the Issam Fares Institute of the American University of Beirut.

Bassam Haddad (Moderator) is Founding Director of the Middle East and Islamic Studies Program and Associate Professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. He is the author of Business Networks in Syria: The Political Economy of Authoritarian Resilience (Stanford University Press, 2011) and co-editor of A Critical Political Economy of the Middle East (Stanford University Press, 2021). Bassam is Co-Founder/Editor of Jadaliyya Ezine and Executive Director of the Arab Studies Institute. He serves as Founding Editor of the Arab Studies Journal and the Knowledge Production Project. He is co-producer/director of the award-winning documentary film, About Baghdad, and director of the acclaimed series Arabs and Terrorism. Bassam serves on the Board of the Arab Council for the Social Sciences and is Executive Producer of Status Audio Magazine and Director of the Middle East Studies Pedagogy Initiative (MESPI). He received MESA's Jere L. Bacharach Service Award in 2017 for his service to the profession. Currently, Bassam is working on his second Syria book titled Understanding the Syrian Calamity: Regime, Opposition, Outsiders (forthcoming, Stanford University Press).