Top News & Analysis from Israel & Palestine: October 28-November 4, 2022

What We’re Reading

New from FMEP

“Masks Off”: Responding to the Israeli Elections,

In this episode of “Occupied Thoughts,” FMEP’s Sarah Anne Minkin conducts a series of short interviews with analysts and experts discussing what’s new and what’s not new in the results of this week’s Israeli elections. Tune in to hear: Yousef Munayyer, non-resident fellow at Arab Center DC; Amjad Iraqi, editor and journalist at +972 Magazine; Dr. Maha Nassar, associate professor at the University of Arizona and non-resident fellow at FMEP; Hagai El-Ad, executive director of the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem; and Lara Friedman, president of FMEP.

Original Research,

FMEP publishes two resources on (most) Fridays: Lara Friedman’s Legislative Round-Up and Kristin McCarthy’s Settlement & Annexation Report. To subscribe to those reports, click here.

Israeli Elections

For Palestinians, Netanyahu’s victory is merely a changing of the prison guards,

“For Palestinians, more than seven decades of oppression, theft and colonisation of land has shown that, left or right, the government makes no difference to their future. The Israeli regime is fundamentally built on their oppression. That’s why at the end of the day, Palestinians don’t want different prison guards. They want to break free of the prison.” See also: Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy (PIPD)’s PalTakes: Perspectives on ’48 Palestinians Political history and organizing

Israel: Meet the new Knesset members of the far-right Religious Zionism party,

“After the fifth attempt in three years, an Israeli election has finally delivered a decisive victory for the right-wing camp with ultra-nationalist parties emerging as the biggest winners. Tuesday’s election was perhaps most notable for the rise of the Religious Zionism party, which will help seal the return of Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister…The politicians who head Religious Zionism – few of whom are women – are likely to occupy key ministerial positions in the upcoming Netanyahu-led government. These were their top ten candidates in Tuesday’s vote:” See also +972 Magazine’s excellent resources on the politics and politicians of the Religious Zionism party; Democracy Now’s “From Terrorist Backer to Kingmaker: Itamar Ben-Gvir & Israeli Far Right Help Netanyahu Regain Power” featuring Natasha Roth-Rowland, scholar of Jewish extremism and editor at +972, and FMEP’s 2021 webinar/podcast, Mainstreaming the Extreme: How Meir Kahane’s Vision of Jewish Supremacy Conquered Israeli Politics, also featuring Natasha Roth-Rowland.

What do Israel’s new far-right kingmakers want?,

“Anti-Arab policies and pushes for expulsions…Intolerance to gay rights and the nonobservant…Acceptance of violent extremism…” See also Israel’s Police Chief Blamed Ben-Gvir for Igniting Gaza War. Now He May Find Himself Reporting to Him (Haaretz) and This Ultra-Extremist Politician Makes Far-Right U.S. Lawmakers Look Mild (The Mehdi Hasan Show with political analyst Diana Buttu and Haggai Matar of +972)

Israel Election | Netanyahu's Next Government Could Ban Articles Like This,

“Will this article still be publishable after the election if it ushers in a right-wing government led by Netanyahu, Smotrich and Ben-Gvir? All signs indicate that this trio is plotting to turn Israel into an authoritarian state in which criticizing the government or replacing it will only be a pipe dream…The ideological objective of a right-wing government will be to entrench and deepen a regime of Jewish supremacy on both sides of the Green Line. This idea is not new, and one could argue that Zionism espoused it from its inception, applying it by force with the establishment of Israel in 1948 and the occupation of new territory in 1967. But it always enabled internal criticism and freedom of expression, on which Israel’s democracy was based…If a Netanyahu-Ben-Gvir coalition is formed, the moves taken by its predecessors will look like a small-scale prelude. In such a world, Arab parties will be officially defined as supporters of terror, as in rightist propaganda. The labeling of people and groups as “enemies of Israel” will pass from private organizations such as Im Tirzu, Ad Kan and activists such as Shamai Glick to government institutions…This is the tangible, clear and present danger of a right-wing victory today: the turning of Israel into a regime that persecutes its critics, while perpetuating its rule. The legal underpinnings have long been in place. All that’s needed is a government that will use this framework to repress and silence dissent from within. Such a government is at our gates.” See also from Aluf Benn: The Latest Incarnation of the Right: Kahanist Bibi-ism (“The outlook of the world of Kahanist Bibi-ism can be summed up as racism toward non-Jews, and as presenting the political expression of the Arab public as support for terror”) 

In Israel’s Election, the Judiciary Is on Trial,

“In mid-October the extremist and ascendant Religious Zionism party released a plan for judicial reform that it called “the Law and Justice Plan.” Critics were scandalized that the plan would strike from the books a key crime in Mr. Netanyahu’s indictments, “fraud and breach of trust,” while providing substantial immunity for the prime minister, cabinet ministers and legislators. It has been called a “rescue plan for Netanyahu” that would turn corruption into the “official religion of Israel.” The implications of the proposal go far beyond Mr. Netanyahu. Importing one of the greatest flaws of the American system, the plan calls for more definitive political control over judicial appointments, by contrast to the balanced mix of politicians, justices and bar representatives today, and would weaken the role of the attorney general. Most striking is the attempt to suppress judicial review: The plan would make it very hard for the Supreme Court to strike down laws deemed to violate basic rights, and Parliament could almost automatically relegislate such a law — dissolving an essential constraint on government power, and on majority rule…The party would seek to re-legislate a law the court struck down in 2020, retroactively legitimizing settlements in the West Bank. In other words: judicial reform serves de facto annexation.” See also After strong showing, Religious Zionism says High Court override bill a top priority (Times of Israel) and Netanyahu Will Return With Corruption Charges Unresolved. Here’s Where the Case Stands. (NYT)

The generals are the supremacists of the past. Ben Gvir is the supremacist of now,

“In a state that is militaristic to the core, where students are taught to worship the military from the day they are born, one could have expected Gantz’s party, which also includes former army head Gadi Eizenkot (and previously included another, Moshe Ya’alon), to be a resounding success…The fact that Ben Gvir, who never served a day in the Israeli army, defeated two giants of the Israeli army, is indicative of larger shifts taking place in the country. Gantz’s party embodies the Jewish supremacism of yesterday. The kind whose actual realization is in the hands of three groups of elites: the political echelon, the military, and the settlers in the occupied West Bank, who operate under the auspices of the first two. These three groups are the most pious gatekeepers of the social hierarchy built into Israeli Jewish society…Ben Gvir is the supremacist of tomorrow…This is a new ethos of supremacy, based neither on the “security” discourse of the center-left, nor on the discourse of demography, which has been the common denominator from the Zionist left to the right. Ben Gvir’s supremacy is based on Jewish DNA. Its fulfillment does not require one to enlist in the army or establish outposts on the hills of the West Bank… For Ben Gvir, realizing Jewish supremacy requires little more than waking up in the morning as a Jew. That is why it is so enchanting to the different segments of Israeli society that have traditionally been excluded from the centers of power held by the old elites, including Mizrahim and parts of the Haredi public.”

The radicalizing rebellion of Israel’s Haredi youth,

“Haredi voters consistently turn out in higher than average numbers. And although the Haredi sector’s socioeconomic and religion-versus-state issues are well-documented, the political aspect of their influence has been blithely overlooked: Haredi voters, and their parties in turn, are becoming increasingly ensconced in the right wing of Israeli politics — a shift that is especially evident among the younger generation…With 25 percent of all Jewish schoolchildren in Israel enrolled in the Haredi system, the radicalization of the Haredi sector has the potential to transform Israeli politics as we know it.” See also Israel’s Haredi voters drift hard right in leadership vacuum (Washington Post) and A Netanyahu-led government would see sharp drop in women in coalition (Times of Israel)

U.S. Administration Fears Ben-Gvir Domino Effect, Considers a No-contact Policy,

“While a de facto no-contact policy, at the very least, is under consideration, it remains too early to tell what track the administration will pursue. While it may be difficult for U.S. officials to justify engaging with him based on his history, positions and criminal background though it may not be a dealbreaker…”For Biden, avoidance of conflict with Israel is the paramount goal. This was true during the tenure of the previous government, during which the U.S. refrained from demanding accountability for the deaths of an American journalist and an elderly American man, both at the hands of the Israeli army; when it failed to challenge Israel’s targeting of Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations; when it was chose not to oppose Israel’s imposition of draconian restrictions on entry to the West Bank; and when it took no meaningful steps to prevent settlement expansion or to hold Israel accountable for settler violence,” Foundation for Middle East Peace President Lara Friedman said. “While it is certain that the list of brazen Israeli violations of Palestinian rights and even the rights of American citizens will continue to grow under an Israeli right-wing government that elevates its most unabashedly racist, Islamophobic, homophobic political forces, there is no reason to believe that U.S. policy of embracing Israeli impunity will suddenly change,” she added.” See also Scoop: U.S. unlikely to work with Jewish supremacist expected to be made Israeli minister (Axios) Israel’s US backers face ‘moment of reckoning’ as far right rises (Al Jazeera), India’s Modi, Italy’s Meloni congratulate Netanyahu (Al Monitor)

These US Jewish groups are staying quiet on far-right extremists’ election success in Israel,

“The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Jewish Federations of North America and B’nai B’rith International issued statements focused only on expressing gratitude for Israel’s robust democracy…A statement from leaders of the Reform Jewish movement named Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, who heads the Religious Zionist Party. “Including Ben Gvir and Smotrich in the government will likely jeopardize Israel’s democracy and will force the country to reckon with its place on the world stage,” the Reform movement’s statement said…Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of the liberal Jewish Middle East lobby, J Street, said the elevation of the extremists  “should force a moment of serious reckoning for all Americans who care about the nature of the US-Israel relationship and a just, equal and democratic future for both Israelis and Palestinians.” The Zionist Organization of America, which has allies in the settler movement and on the U.S. and Israeli far right, was an outlier among the U.S. Jewish groups, welcoming the result and insisting that Ben-Gvir’s party was not “extreme.” See also J Street: Israel election results should spur serious reckoning for pro-peace Americans (Times of Israel); U.S. Jewish Groups Finally Address Ben-Gvir Sized Elephant in the Room, Though Most Say ‘Business as Usual’ (Haaretz)

Apartheid/Occupation/Human Rights

West Bank: October was deadliest month in 'deadliest year' for Palestinians,

“Israeli forces killed at least 29 Palestinians in the West Bank last month, making October the deadliest month there so far in what the United Nations’ humanitarian office said on Tuesday was on course to be the “deadliest year” since it started counting fatalities across the Palestinian territories in 2005. According to MEE’s analysis, it is also the highest death toll in the West Bank in a single month since May last year during nationwide Palestinian protests against Israeli attacks on al-Aqsa Mosque, the Sheikh Jarrah evictions and the bombardment of the Gaza Strip.”

Rising Israeli Settler Violence in the Occupied West Bank,

“Violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians is rising at a staggering rate. We visualized this aspect of life under Israeli military occupation in collaboration with Premiere Urgence Internationale Palestine Mission, who has been monitoring Israeli settler violence since 2012, including casualties, property damage, intimidation, and harassment.” See also Jewish extremists accused of vandalizing cars, homes in Palestinian town (Times of Israel), Palestinian family harvesting olives beaten up in latest attack on pickers (Times of Israel), Israeli Army Declares Palestinian Activist’s Home Military Zone After Complaints of Settler Attacks (Haaretz)

Understanding Apartheid,

“Embracing a radical critique of Israeli apartheid is a precondition for bringing it to a just end.”

Shireen Abu Akleh 'targeted' and 'denied medical care' after Israel shooting,

“Palestinian human rights group Al Haq and Forensic Architecture showcased their painstaking investigation into the events of 11 May when the reporter was gunned down in Jenin, the occupied West Bank…Their 3D reconstruction of Abu Akleh’s murder used verified videos from eyewitnesses as well as visibility and spatial analysis to determine four important conclusions: that Shireen was clearly identifiable as a journalist from the sniper’s position, that Shireen and her colleagues were repeatedly targeted, that there was no one between Shireen and the Israeli sniper, and that civilians who tried to help her were then shot, thus denying her medical care.”

Israel lifts siege on Nablus as Lion’s Den group gains more popularity,

“On Nov. 3, the Coordinator of Israeli Government Activities in the Territories, Ghassan Alian, announced that the Israeli authorities approved the lifting of all restrictions imposed on movement and traffic in Nablus and the removal of all the checkpoints erected on the city’s entrances…The decision to ease the siege came after Israel killed Oct. 25 the leader of the Lion’s Den group, Wadih al-Houh, and after other group members turned themselves in to the Palestinian security services so that Israel would stop pursuing them.”

Lawfare//Redefining Antisemitism to Stifle Criticism of Israel & Advocacy for Palestinian Rights

ACLU Asks Supreme Court to Take Up Right to Boycott,

“The Arkansas statute is one of 28 similar laws that make government contracts conditional on pledges not to boycott Israel. Supported by Christian evangelicals and Jewish establishment groups and boosted by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, these laws aim to weaken the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel over its human rights abuses against Palestinians. “We know what these laws’ overall intent is and that’s because their backers have been very clear about this. It’s to try to suppress speech for Palestinian rights,” said Radhika Sainath, a senior staff attorney at Palestine Legal, a group that defends the free speech rights of Palestinian rights advocates…Anti-boycott laws’ impact goes beyond the Palestine advocacy world. In the past few years, states have passed or considered a wave of copycat laws modeled on anti-BDS legislation, aiming to protect fossil fuel companies and gun manufacturers from boycotts. The top court’s decision could thus have major implications for the legality of political boycotts writ large. If the Supreme Court does take up the case, it would lead to a first-of-its-kind ruling on whether anti-boycott laws violate the First Amendment. If the court declines to take the case, the lower court’s ruling upholding the constitutionality of Arkansas’s anti-boycott law stands, serving as a binding precedent in the states under the Eighth Circuit’s jurisdiction and a potential model for decisions on anti-boycott laws in other circuits.”

128 scholars ask UN not to adopt IHRA definition of anti-Semitism,

“More than 100 scholars have urged the United Nations not to adopt the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism due to its “divisive and polarising” effect. In a statement published on Thursday, the 128 scholars, who include leading Jewish academics at Israeli, European, United Kingdom and United States universities, said the definition has been “hijacked” to protect the Israeli government from international criticism…The statement by the scholars said the definition was “vague and incoherent” and welcomed a recent report by Professor E Tendayi Achiume, the UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, who heavily criticised the IHRA definition for its negative impact on human rights.”

U.S. Scene

AIPAC Super PAC Makes First-ever Spend on Democrat vs. Republican Race Against Summer Lee,

“AIPAC’s United Democracy Project Super PAC on Sunday made its first-ever spend in a Democrat vs. Republican election battle, setting a new landmark for the pro-Israel organization’s political experiment launched ahead of the primaries…“AIPAC’s Super PACs spent millions of dollars in the Democratic primary attacking Summer Lee, falsely suggesting she wasn’t a real Democrat. Now, eight days before Election Day, they are spending thousands to elect an extremist anti-choice, insurrectionist-aligned Republican,” Justice Democrats Executive Director Alexandra Rojas said. “It’s time for Democratic Party leadership to finally denounce AIPAC’s active role in campaigning for and funding a Republican majority in Congress. Democratic Party leaders must demand AIPAC stop spending against Summer Lee and that Democratic resources be invested to help elect the first Black woman to ever represent Pennsylvania in Congress,” she added.” See also Pittsburgh Jews decry pro-Israel group’s support for Republican extremists (Guardian)

Twenty House progressives argue against Israel’s inclusion in Visa Waiver Program,

“Twenty House progressives argued in a new letter late last week that Israel remains ineligible for the Visa Waiver Program, and urged the Biden administration to “address… discriminatory restrictions” on U.S. citizen travel to the West Bank. The lawmakers, led by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), wrote to Secretary of State Tony Blinken last week to highlight restrictions on U.S. citizens traveling to the West Bank and arguing against Israel’s inclusion in the program…The letter goes on to highlight new restrictions on West Bank entry that the signatories describe as “onerous and discriminatory” and say “impact the ability of Americans to travel and reside in the occupied West Bank, and lead to many Americans being denied entry.”

Israel’s Far-Right Kingmakers Draw on U.S. Funding - Despite Terror Classifications,

“As a Nation investigation detailed in 2019, Chasdei Meir, Otzma Yehudit, and HaZionut HaDatit (also known as National Union or the Religious Zionist Party) are supported by a network of tax-exempt American nonprofits that fund Israeli extremists — many of them based in New Jersey and next door in New York. At least one of the far-right Israeli groups receiving support subsidized by American tax breaks is designated as a terror organization by the U.S.”