Top News & Analysis from Israel & Palestine: February 10 – February 17, 2023

What We’re Reading

New from FMEP

Learning & Unlearning Palestine Pt 3: Normalizing and Peacemaking as Discourses of Violence,

In the third episode in FMEP and Al Shabaka’s four-part series, Learning and Unlearning Palestine, Inès Abdel Razek (PIPD) and Dr. Yara Hawari (Al Shabaka) in conversation with Dr. Maha Nassar (U. of Arizona) will explore how the “dialogue discourse” has been used to undermine the Palestinian liberation movement, including through the insistence to engage in “peace” projects. RSVP Here.

Visit here for information on the other webinars in the “Learning and Unlearning Palestine” webinar series.

Lawfare in Action: Attack on US Campaign for Palestinian Rights as a Case Study,

In this episode of FMEP’s Occupied Thoughts podcast, FMEP President Lara Friedman speaks with Ahmad Abuznaid (US Campaign for Palestinian Rights – USCPR) and Diala Shamas (Center for Constitutional Rights) about the lawsuit filed by the Jewish National Fund against USCPR — which was dismissed by a U.S. federal judge in March 2021 and is now being appealed — as well as about what can be learned from this case about efforts by pro-Israel actors to instrumentalize and weaponize U.S. laws to target and suppress Palestinian activism and solidarity.


Knesset Passes New Bill to Deport Arab Citizens of Israel Charged With Terrorism,

“A majority of Knesset members voted on Wednesday to revoke both the citizenship and residency status of Arab citizens of Israel who were convicted of a terrorism and received funding from the Palestinian Authority, going as far as handing the government the power to deport them to the West Bank. The law gives Israel’s interior minister the power to revoke the residency status of an Israeli citizen if they were convicted of terrorism, served a prison sentence for their act, and received a direct financial reward for the act….Israel’s Interior Ministry already has the power to revoke the citizenship of anyone charged with terrorism, which it has done in the past, but the High Court has ruled that anyone whose citizenship is revoked must still retain residency status if they do not hold another passport.” See also Israel approves law to deport Palestinian citizens and residents (Middle East Eye); Israel votes to strip citizenship from Arabs convicted of terrorism (Guardian)

UN draft resolution demands halt to Israeli settlements,

“A Palestinian-backed U.N. resolution that could be put to a vote in the Security Council early next week would demand an immediate halt to all Israeli settlement activities, condemn Israeli attempts to annex settlements and outposts, “and call for their immediate reversal.” In Washington, the State Department said it believed the resolution as drafted was “unhelpful,” but declined to say if it would veto the document or try to water it down to avoid a contentious vote.” See also Palestinians pushing for UN Security Council vote on Israel settlement expansion (Axios); European allies condemn Israel’s plan to build more housing units in the West Bank (NPR) Senate Judiciary Chair: Netanyahu Has Put His Own Interests Above Israel’s Democracy (Haaretz); U.S. Calls Palestinian UN Resolution on Israeli Settlements ‘Unhelpful’ (Haaretz)

Israel: It's apartheid, not 'democracy', these protesters really want to save,

“Since the installation of the new, most extreme government in Israel’s history, with a Kahanist minister of national security once convicted of supporting a terrorist organisation, tens of thousands of Israelis have been taking to the streets every week in protest, in what is termed a “struggle for Israeli democracy”. This description assumes, of course, that Israeli democracy in fact exists and that it is threatened now by fascist figures bent on destroying it. A meticulous examination of the messages coming from the spokespersons for and participants in these demonstrations, however, reveals that their true purpose is to turn the clock back far enough so that the apartheid regime in Israel can once again be marketed as a functioning democracy, allowing the international community to continue turning a blind eye to the crimes it commits.” See also Opinion | Israel’s Supreme Court Is No Human Rights Savior. Just Ask the Palestinians (Haaretz); Protesters descend on Jerusalem as Netanyahu seeks to weaken the courts (WaPo); The Kohelet Tentacles: Inside the Web Surrounding the Right-wing Think Tank (Haaretz); Opinion | Bring on the Sanctions Against Israel (Akiva Eldar//Haaretz); Report: $4 billion flew out of Israel over judicial reform fears (Al Monitor); Is Israel’s hasbara bubble about to burst? (Meron Rapoport//+972)

Israel is Annexing the West Bank. Don’t be Misled by its Gaslighting,

“At the same time, and with immediate effect, the [Israeli] government has decided to implement changes to its administration and organization of the West Bank which, according to our analysis, reflect annexation in all but name. According to breaking news this evening in Israel, this is also the analysis of the Unites States’ government…we argue that three indicators can show a change in the legal status of a territory, demonstrating de jure annexation, even without a formal declaration: (1) changes made to the organizing normative framework with which a state administers a certain territory (i.e., shifting from one body of applicable law to another); (2) changes to its bureaucracy’s organizational structure; and (3) shifts with respect to the symbolic performance of power…Considered in light of the recent developments in the context of Israel and Palestine, all three indicators demonstrate that annexation is already occurring, even if Israel is attempting to evade its consequences by deferring a declaration to a more opportune moment.” See also Israel to authorise nine ‘wild’ West Bank settlements (Guardian);  Israel legalizes 9 West Bank outposts despite U.S. objection (Axios); US views Smotrich control over West Bank as move toward annexation (Middle East Eye) Israel strikes Gaza, as unrest grows in West Bank (Al Monitor); See also from Middle East Eye: Palestinian teenager shot dead by Israeli forces near Nablus; Israeli forces kill Palestinian during Nablus raid; Israeli settler fatally shoots Palestinian man in West Bank; West Bank: 14-year-old Palestinian killed in Israeli raid on Jenin; Israeli army blows up home of Palestinian it killed last year;

Itamar Ben Gvir: How an extremist settler became a powerful Israeli minister,

“Ben Gvir, 46, now occupies a position of immense power in the same system he has spent his life defying. His political rise is inextricably linked to the violent vigilante settler movement, and to his own rap sheet of anti-Arab provocations, which have inflamed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and won him a devoted following. His ultranationalist Jewish Power party has called for the expulsion of “disloyal” Palestinians, the annexation of the West Bank — the land Palestinians envision as part of their future state — and for “revenge” against anyone who stands in its way. Until last year, it was a fringe movement, repeatedly failing to muster enough votes to enter the Knesset…Followers and critics alike acknowledge that he is among the few politicians who, with his personal charm and oratory acumen, offers a simple, if dangerous, answer to a question long deferred: As the prospect of peace negotiations recedes by the day, what should Israel do about its military occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, home to more than 3 million Palestinians? With Ben Gvir now at the helm of the security forces, many worry his penchant for “pyromania,” in the words of one former defense minister, could set the region ablaze.” See also Jerusalem crackdown could cause ‘broad flare-up’, Israeli officials warn PM (Middle East Eye); Israel’s home demolitions a ‘war on nerves’ for Palestinians (Al Jazeera); 

Apartheid/Occupation/Human Rights

The theft of Harun Abu Aram’s body, home, and life,

“Harun Abu Aram is dead. For two years, he lay completely paralyzed in a dirty cave, without running water, plagued by pain. This was his life from the moment an Israeli soldier arrived in the South Hebron Hills, in the occupied West Bank, to confiscate an electric generator and shot Harun in the neck in January 2021. The army refused to allow his family to build a home for him, despite the fact that the family was on their privately-owned land, and so they were forced to live in the cave. This is what Israeli expulsions and ethnic cleansing look like in the region of Masafer Yatta…A minute’s walk from the cave where Harun died stands the settlement outpost of Avigail, which was built in 2001. Its homes are still standing, despite the demolition orders handed out to each and every one of them. On Tuesday, the government announced that it would formally legalize the outpost, which has long enjoyed paved roads, electricity, and running water. One hill, two laws.” See also The eight villages that are under immediate threat of eviction (Humans of Masafer Yatta)

Israeli soldier filmed assaulting Palestinian activist Issa Amro in Hebron,

“An Israeli soldier’s assault on prominent Palestinian activist Issa Amro in Hebron, in the occupied West Bank, was caught on camera on Monday by a New Yorker journalist…In a video posted on Twitter by Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower, the soldier grabs Amro by his jacket and neck and throws him to the ground. He then kicks Amro before being pulled away by another soldier…Israel’s military on Monday jailed the soldier for 10 days…However, in a Twitter response, Wright said: “The IDF misrepresented what led to this. The soldier initiated the encounter, Amro did not curse him, [he] only asked to call his commander. Nothing to justify the violent assault that followed.” Amro tweeted several videos of the run-up to the incident, writing: “The army spokesman lied about what happened.”” See also this recent FMEP podcast with Issa Amro, Einat Weizman, and Peter Beinart, On Stage: How to Make a Revolution

Palestinian political prisoners begin mass civil disobedience in Israeli jails,

Palestinian political prisoners in jails across Israel have begun a series of mass civil disobedience actions to protest against punitive measures imposed by the country’s new far-right government…The disobedience will culminate in a hunger strike at the start of Ramadan in late March, prisoners say….Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir wasted no time delivering on his plans to create harsher conditions for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.” See also In Jenin, Even Helping the Wounded Means Risking Your Life (Amira Hass//Haaretz)

The PA’s Revenue Structure and Israel’s Containment Strategy,

“The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) budget disproportionately relies on clearance revenues — import taxes collected by Israel on its behalf — that the Israeli regime regularly withholds as political blackmail. As a result, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza suffer severe economic consequences. This commentary departs from discussions around the effects of Israel’s frequent withholding of clearance revenues from the PA, and instead explores the foundational logic of this arrangement. It argues that the PA’s distorted budget is a reflection of the Israeli regime’s strategy of containing the Palestinian people. That is, the PA’s lack of control over clearance revenues arises because of the contradiction of assigning it fiscal spending responsibilities without political sovereignty, a bizarre arrangement codified in the 1994 Paris Economic Protocol (PEP). With a negligible domestic tax base to offset its unusually high reliance on clearance revenues, the PA remains unable to undergo fundamental fiscal reform.  So long as Palestinian leadership lacks control over its borders in the West Bank and Gaza, and other sources of revenue are negligible within a devastated Palestinian economy, transfers of clearance revenues from Israel remain the PA’s economic lifeline.”

The Jurisprudence of Death: Palestinian Corpses & the Israeli Legal Process,

“Palestinians are not exempt from Israeli detention after death. The decision to withhold the body of deceased Palestinian prisoner Nasser Abu Hmeid, who died of cancer while in custody, is the most recent manifestation of the Israeli necropolitical regime that regulates the bodies of dead Palestinians. The history of withholding Palestinian bodies spans several decades. Since 1967, Israel has withheld hundreds of Palestinian corpses, which it has primarily used as “bargaining chips” in negotiations or potential prisoner swap deals. While the exact numbers are obfuscated by a lack of state transparency, between 1991 to 2008, Israel intermittently returned over 400 dead Palestinian bodies. Today, the number of Palestinian corpses Israel continues to withhold is estimated to be over 370: more than 115 bodies are withheld in morgues, in addition to 256 corpses buried in numbered graves without identification known as the “cemeteries for enemy combatants” or the “Cemetery of Numbers.”…This essay highlights and analyzes the Israeli laws and policies pertaining to Palestinian corpses, written and deliberated in a language most Palestinians do not speak.” See alsoPalestinian Bodies Held Hostage by Israel“, FMEP podcast with Budour Hassan, Noura Erekat, and Lara Friedman.

UNRWA strike spotlights spiraling conditions in West Bank refugee camps,

“The protest by workers at the UN agency comes amid funding cuts and escalating pressure to ‘eliminate the Palestinian refugee issue.’”

U.S. Scene & Lawfare: Redefining Antisemitism to Stifle Criticism of Israel

Rethinking philanthropy in the fight for Palestinian liberation,

“There is an enormous disparity between the funding given to organizations that support Israeli apartheid and those that support Palestinians, resulting in the systematic perpetuation of hardline Zionist causes while disempowering and fragmenting Palestinian groups. A new report we published last year addresses this gap and its impact, and proposes new strategies to counteract the imbalance by refiguring how philanthropic funding can be utilized to strengthen the movement for Palestinian liberation.”

Civil Rights Complaint Details an Anti-Palestinian Climate at GW,

“Three students have accused George Washington University (GW) of perpetuating a climate of anti-Palestinian racism on campus, according to a federal civil rights complaint obtained by Jewish Currents. The complaint—filed today with the Department of Education’s (DOE) Office for Civil Rights by Palestine Legal, a group that defends the civil rights of Palestine solidarity activists—documents the experiences of the students, who say that GW school officials denied them campus services for processing trauma related to Israel’s violence against Palestinians and investigated them on charges of property damage for putting up Palestine solidarity posters near campus. “The administration fostered a climate of anti-Palestinianism where political expression is suppressed and Palestinians are regularly discriminated against,” said Radhika Sainath, a senior staff attorney at Palestine Legal. GW did not respond to a request for comment by press time. Palestine Legal’s petition asks the DOE to require GW to end discriminatory investigations of Palestinians and their allies, issue a statement condemning anti-Palestinian racism, and ensure that Palestinian students have equal access to campus services. The complaint also demands that the university officially recognize anti-Zionism as an anti-racist ideology and pledge not to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism”

Biden drops candidate’s nomination to human rights post over Israel remarks,

“The Biden administration has withdrawn the nomination of a leading law professor to an international human rights post, for describing Israel as an “apartheid state” and accusing the top Democrat in Congress of being “bought” by pro-Israel groups. James Cavallaro, of Wesleyan and Yale universities, said he was told by the US state department on Tuesday it had dropped his selection to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) “due to my statements denouncing apartheid in Israel/Palestine”.” See also this Twitter thread from Jim Cavallaro “This morning, the US @StateDept informed me that it would withdraw my nomination to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (@CIDH), due to my statements denouncing apartheid in Israel/Palestine. Let me explain… (1/11)”

Normalization & Weapons Deals

Israeli defense firm Rafael opens first office in United Arab Emirates,

“The announcement comes just days before the start of the IDEX defense expo in Abu Dhabi, expected to feature government representatives and defense firms from around the world…In a growing closeness once unthinkable for the historical rivals, Israel and some Gulf nations, especially the UAE, have made significant strides in defense cooperation ever since the Abraham Accords were signed in 2020. Breaking Defense reported in October that the UAE had deployed an Israeli Barack air defense system for the first time, and last month a UAE defense conglomerate announced an investment in an Israeli unmanned air traffic management system, to name a couple initiatives. “The reality in the Gulf region has changed dramatically, and that is an understatement,” a senior Israeli defense analyst…” See also How Israel’s HevenDrones latest hydrogen-powered drone can help UAE (Al Monitor); ‘Peace in name only’: Opposing the Abraham Accords & Normalization Agreements, FMEP’s podcast with Dana El Kurd, Jehad Abusalim, and Sarah Anne Minkin

Bonus Read