Top News & Analysis from Israel & Palestine: February 3 – February 10, 2023

What We’re Reading

New from FMEP

Learning & Unlearning Palestine Part 2: Limited Paradigms,

In the second episode in FMEP and Al Shabaka’s four-part series, this webinar features Dr. M. Muhannad Ayyash, Dr. Lana Tatour  & Dr. Yara Hawari examining various limiting paradigms that, in spite of their liberal facade, have sought to contain the Palestinian experience and limit critique on the Israeli settler colonial project. This webinar includes a critique of the international law and apartheid frameworks. Visit here for information on the rest of the “Learning and Unlearning Palestine” series and join us for the next webinar, “Normalizing and Peacemaking as Discourses of Violence,” on February 27, 2023.

Settler Violence: More Than Criminal,

In this episode of FMEP’s Occupied Thoughts podcast, Kristin McCarthy (FMEP’s Director of Grants & Operations) speaks with Ziv Stahl (Executive Director of Yesh Din) about the phenomenon of settler violence, including it’s goals and utility, the totality of its affect on Palestinians, how it is used as a means for land takeover, and the complete lack of accountability or protection provided by the Israeli police and army. Yesh Din recently published a data sheet tracking trends in settler violence and lack of accountability from 2005-2022, available here.

Dispatches from the Near Future,

In this episode of Occupied Thoughts, Jehad Abusalim (FMEP 2022 Palestinian Non-Resident Fellow) speaks with Sarah Anne Minkin (FMEP Director of Programs and Partnerships) about the political and historical context of current escalations and his expectations for what the coming weeks and months will bring. The conversation draws from Jehad’s recent article, “The West Bank is on the Brink of Collapse” and his Twitter thread on “the gravity of the current situation between the river and the sea.”

Escalations & the new Israeli Government

Israel-Palestine: CIA chief warns current tensions resemble Second Intifada,

“The CIA director has warned it will be a big challenge to prevent “explosions of violence” between Israelis and Palestinians amid tensions that bear a “resemblance” to the Second Intifada. William Burns made his remarks after returning from a trip to Israel and the occupied West Bank last week, where he held talks with leaders on both sides that left him “concerned”. “I was a senior US diplomat 20 years ago during the Second Intifada, and I’m concerned – as are my colleagues in the intelligence community – that a lot of what we’re seeing today has a very unhappy resemblance to some of those realities that we saw then too,” Burns said during an interview at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service in Washington on Thursday. He added that the CIA is working with Israeli and Palestinian security services to prevent “explosions of violence” but admitted that it’s “going to be a big challenge”…Israeli forces have killed 42 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem this year so far, continuing a trend of growing lethal policy since last year…In 2022, at least 220 people died in Israeli attacks across the occupied territories, including 48 children. At least 167 were from the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Palestinians killed 30 Israelis, including one child, the highest death toll since 2008.” See also ‘Guns are everywhere’ in Israel, occupied territories as violence spikes (Washington Post); In West Bank, Settlers Sense Their Moment After Far Right’s Rise (NYT)

Why Security Cooperation With Israel Is a Lose-Lose for Abbas,

“Security cooperation between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel, which Abbas has described as a “sacred” responsibility, has been a central pillar of the Oslo process since 1993. Moreover, it is vital to the survival of the PA itself—and, from Israel’s standpoint, the PA’s raison d’être. Thus, despite Abbas’s repeated threats to cut security ties with Israel over the years, he has only ever done so once before—amid fears of imminent Israeli annexations in the West Bank following the release of the Trump administration’s peace plan in 2020—but quickly resumed cooperation following the election of Joe Biden as U.S. president. At the same time, however, PA-Israel security coordination remains hugely unpopular among ordinary Palestinians of all political stripes, who see it as a form of collaboration with the occupation and, for some, outright “treason,” and it has been a key sticking point in the PA’s on-again-off-again reconciliation process with Hamas. Moreover, maintaining security cooperation with the Israeli army while Palestinians are being killed in large numbers would be political suicide. This dilemma highlights one of the central failings of the Oslo peace process over the past three decades: Whereas the primary role of PA-Israel security cooperation is to prevent attacks on Israelis, whether soldiers or civilians, there are no provisions or mechanisms in place to protect the lives and property of Palestinians, as a population living under military occupation since June 1967, from Israeli incursions, shootings, arrests, land confiscations, and evictions—all of which continue more or less unabated—or from the daily specter of Israeli settler terror attacks.”

Two killed in Jerusalem terror ramming, including 6-year-old boy; driver shot dead,

“A six-year-old boy and a 20-year-old man were killed and at least five others were wounded in a car-ramming terror attack near East Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood, police and medics said Friday…The attacker was identified as Hussein Qaraqa, 31, an Israeli citizen and resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya.” See also Ben-Gvir Calls for West Bank Operation, Netanyahu Orders to Seal Off J’lem Attacker’s Home (Haaretz); Car-ramming attack near Jerusalem settlement kills 2, including 6-year-old (Washington Post)

Palestinian youth killed are all presumed guilty by Israel,

“Young Palestinian men like Abdullah and Wasim, who make up the vast majority of the Palestinians killed in 2022 and thus far in 2023, are highly unlikely to receive an investigation into those responsible. They will probably be classified as dangerous militants regardless of evidence that suggests otherwise. Any political affiliation they may have had or any words denouncing Israel that they may have posted online will all be used to justify their deaths, devoid of any context of the reality of their lives. No evidence of actual crimes is likely to be provided; no apology will be given. This trend—the classification of all young men as militants—is a tactic adopted by other states also. Famously, the US drone program in the early 2010s only reported a few civilian casualties initially because all men above the age of 16 in areas known to be inhabited by groups like Al Qaeda, were considered “military-age”. These victims were therefore regularly counted as combatants, allowing the US to maintain the façade of a just and effective counterterrorism strategy.” See also Israeli forces kill Palestinian teenager in occupied West Bank (Al Jazeera); Israeli forces kill Palestinian near Hebron in West Bank (New Arab); Palestinian teen killed in Israeli raid as CIA fears another intifada (Al Monitor)

Analysis | The Gun Battle in the Quiet Town of Jericho Surprised Its Residents as Well as the PA,

“The fact that a Hamas cell was operating near Jericho – as became clear Monday morning through an exchange of fire between Israeli soldiers and armed Palestinians in a nearby refugee camp – came as a surprise not just to the Israeli security services, but also to the Palestinian Authority’s leadership and security services. In Jericho, which is considered a tourism city, such clashes are rare, and there are no large-scale organizations of armed men as there are in other West Bank cities, first and foremost Nablus and Jenin. Nor does the city suffer from internal struggles between clans the way, say, Hebron does. A PA security source said the incident shows that Hamas is trying to run cells of armed militants in every sector of the West Bank.” See also Israeli forces kill five Palestinians in Jericho raid (Al Jazeera); West Bank: The ‘15-minute’ Israeli raid that left five dead and blood on the Jericho streets (Middle East Eye)

JPMorgan Report Warns Netanyahu’s Judicial Reforms Put Israel’s Economy at Risk,

“The changes to Israel’s judicial system promoted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government have increased the risk of investing in Israel and could lead to a downgrade in Israel’s credit rating, warns a new report from the research department of JPMorgan…The report was issued after Netanyahu proudly claimed last week that JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs did not view the Israeli economy to be high-risk.” See also HSBC warns Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul will harm Israel’s economy (Al Monitor); Top Int’l Economists to Netanyahu: ‘Undermining Judiciary Detrimental to Prosperity and Growth’ (Haaretz) Judicial overhaul plan is ‘regime change,’ will destroy legal system, says former AG (Times of Israel); Knesset Law Committee Chair Calls to Jail Former AG Who Criticized Judicial Overhaul (Haaretz); also see Scoop: U.S. tells Israel if Smotrich gets West Bank authority it’s step toward annexation (Axios); US, Israel closer to signing visa waiver, as Netanyahu rushes to finish line (Al Monitor)

Apartheid/Occupation/Human Rights

Israel steps up Jerusalem home demolitions as violence rises,

“For many Palestinians, the gathering pace of home demolitions is part of the new ultranationalist government’s broader battle for control of east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war and claimed by the Palestinians as the capital of a future independent state. The battle is waged with building permits and demolition orders — and it is one the Palestinians feel they cannot win. Israel says it is simply enforcing building regulations.”…Last month, Israel demolished 39 Palestinian homes, structures and businesses in east Jerusalem, displacing over 50 people, according to the United Nations. That was more than a quarter of the total number of demolitions in 2022. Ben-Gvir posted a photo on Twitter of the bulldozers clawing at Matar’s home. “We will fight terrorism with all the means at our disposal,” he wrote, though Matar’s home had nothing to do with the Palestinian shooting attacks. Most Palestinian apartments in east Jerusalem were built without hard-to-get permits. A 2017 study by the U.N. described it as “virtually impossible” to secure them.” See also Israel ramps up demolition of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem (PBS) and Israel Halts Razing of East Jerusalem Building, Home to 100 Palestinians (Haaretz)

Israel breaks 20-year record for administrative detention of Palestinians - analysis,

“According to the NGO HaMoked, the IDF recently broke its record for administrative detentions of Palestinians, dating back around 20 years to the 2002-2003 era of the Second Intifada, when the number passed the 1,000 mark. Even during the later years of the Second Intifada and during the “Knife Intifada” of 2015-2016, the number of administrative detainees was more in the 700 range. In quieter years over the last two decades, the numbers were usually down closer to 200-300 at a time.” See also Military Court Watch’s Newsletter – January 2023

‘I asked if he broke into my home to stop me from being a journalist’,

“A group of Israeli soldiers raided the house of a Palestinian journalist under the cover of night on Jan. 18 in the occupied West Bank village of Sa’ir, detaining him for four days under Shin Bet interrogation before releasing him without charges. The journalist, Abdul Mohsen Shalaldeh, said …”the entire interrogation was about what I do as a journalist, and one of the police officers even called me an ‘instigator.’” Last year, in a joint investigation by +972, Local Call, and The Intercept, we interviewed Palestinian journalists in the West Bank who described the ways that the Shin Bet carries out its questioning: interrogators regularly framed journalists’ reporting and documentation of prisoners, funerals, and demonstrations as “incitement” and grounds for arrest, mostly without legal basis. In a few instances, Shin Bet officers tried to recruit journalists as collaborators. The investigation also found that from early 2020 until April 2022, Israel imprisoned at least 26 Palestinian journalists for periods ranging from a few weeks to a year and a half, in most cases with no legal basis and without charges, holding them in the legal limbo of administrative detention.”

UN expert: ‘Apartheid is in front of your eyes everywhere you go’,

“Francesca Albanese discusses the recent attacks against her, defining Israel’s occupation as settler colonialism, and using international law to dismantle it.” See also A War Crime in the Making: the UN’s Francesca Albanese on Ethnic Cleansing in the South Hebron Hills, Lara Friedman’s interview with Francesca Albanese in January 2023 and Barcelona mayor cuts ties with Israel, citing Palestinian rights (Al Jazeera)

'It's our home! Why would we leave?': How Palestinians in Masafer Yatta are resisting Israel's expulsion attempts,

“Ali’s car stops at the hilltop, behind a line of Palestinian cars. To the right, the houses of the Israeli settlement of Karmael can be seen meters away, behind a double fence of metal wire. Ahead, a patrol of Israeli soldiers questions passengers of each car, one by one, while one of the soldiers aims his rifle from behind a cement cube, towards the line of vehicles…”What the Israeli government pretends to ignore is that the people of Masafer Yatta are owners and property holders of their lands,” points out Ali, as he makes his way through a rocky hill overlooking a ploughed land. “For generations, the people here have cultivated these lands with barley for their livestock, alternating their living place between the villages and their grazing lands depending on the season,” he says. “It’s just their way of life. These lands are their homes and their livelihood,” he stresses.” See also One of the demolition process stories (Basil Adra) in Humans of Masafer Yatta

The plot to put an Israeli anti-Zionist behind bars,

“The collusion between police and right-wing groups to indict veteran activist Jonathan Pollak is an alarming escalation that threatens all Jewish dissidents.”

Lawfare//Redefining Antisemitism to Stifle Criticism of Israel

Israeli Rights Groups Slam EU’s Top Diplomat For Implying That Amnesty’s Apartheid Report Is Antisemitic,

“Twelve leading Israeli human rights organizations published a joint statement on Tuesday expressing “grave concern” regarding the European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell Fontelles’ remarks insinuating that Amnesty International’s report accusing Israel of practicing apartheid against Palestinians is motivated by antisemitism. “It is not appropriate to use the term apartheid in connection with the State of Israel,” the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy told the European Parliament. On behalf of the European Commission, Borrell responded to a question by 14 pro-Israel lawmakers about whether Amnesty International’s report constituted antisemitism. “Claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor is amongst the illustrative examples included under the IHRA definition,” he told them…The human rights organizations – which included B’Tselem and Yesh Din, which have themselves have levelled the charge against Israel – “wholeheartedly reject[ed] the idea that Amnesty International’s report displays antisemitic animus.” The letter also condemned “the escalating instrumentalization of allegations of antisemitism to prevent an open debate about Israel’s oppressive policies towards Palestinians.”” See also Israelis are calling their leaders fascists. Why can’t British politicians? (Ben Reiff//+972)

New Report Could Hamstring Palestine Advocacy in Britain’s Largest Student Organization,

“Long a platform for anti-Zionist politics in the UK, the National Union of Students has agreed to limit speech about Israel/Palestine.”

Bonus Reads on Justice, Violence, and Protest

For Palestine, justice is not a question of law,

“These days much of the efforts to dismantle Israel’s apartheid and settler colonial systems of domination over the Palestinian people appear to be following a legal approach. Scholars, activists and even policymakers invested in the issue increasingly suggest the path towards Palestinian liberation is through securing a legal opinion officially defining Israel’s violent expulsion of Palestinians as apartheid and colonialism…I wholeheartedly support and encourage all such efforts…Yet I do not believe it is productive or wise to confine all efforts towards Palestinian liberation within the frames of human rights and international law. The Palestinian struggle for liberation must be multifaceted and multidimensional. We need to ensure that the legal approach does not become the predominant face of the Palestinian struggle. It is – and should remain – merely one of its facets. After all, the core of the Palestinian struggle has never been and will never be a legal one. It is a struggle of and for justice, not law. There is a critical difference between the two.”