Top News & Analysis from Israel & Palestine: February 19-24, 2022

What We’re Reading

New from FMEP

Jerusalem Today – a Microcosm of Israeli Apartheid,

In this episode of Occupied Thoughts, FMEP’s Lara Friedman speaks with Inès Abdel Razek and Munir Nusseibeh about developments in Jerusalem and their broader context and implications. Inès is the Advocacy Director for the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy, PIPD. Munir is a human rights lawyer and academic based in Al-Quds University in Jerusalem.

Talking About Apartheid,

Featuring Salem Barahmeh (Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy), Hagai El-Ad (B’Tselem) and Sherine Tadros (Amnesty International). In this session we explored the increasing adoption by human rights experts of the term “apartheid” to describe the reality in Israel/Palestine, including on both sides of the Green Line, and the view that, today, Palestinians and Israelis live in a de facto one-state, apartheid reality.

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.

Apartheid/Occupation/Human Rights

Israeli soldiers kill 14-year-old Palestinian in occupied West Bank,

“Teenager Mohammed Shehadeh, whom the Israeli military accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail at passing cars, was shot by soldiers in the occupied West Bank town of al-Khader, near Bethlehem. Mohammed’s father, Rizk Shehadeh, 48, said his son had been with friends when the shooting began. Mohammed was shot in the chest, Shehadeh said.” See also “Israel withholding bodies of nine Palestinian children: Report” (Middle East Eye)

Israel to demolish home of 95-year-old disabled Palestinian woman in Negev,

“A 95-year-old disabled Palestinian woman living in a village not recognised by Israel has been handed a demolition order after trying to make her home wheelchair-friendly. Jasia Al-Azazma lived in her old home in Wadi Al-Na’am, in the Negev desert, until her health condition worsened, leading family members to temporarily demolish the building and rebuild it so it can be accessed by wheelchair.” See also Palestinian family ordered by Israeli municipality to demolish its home in an East Jerusalem neighborhood (WAFA)

The Klan on Mt. Qanub: Armed With Axes and Clubs, Settlers Attack a 73-year-old Palestinian,

“Mohammed Shalalda, a 73-year-old shepherd, is sitting on an old bed in a shabby room in Sa’ir, a town near Hebron. His head and hand are bandaged: Shalalda is recovering from a pogrom. He was hospitalized for five days in Hebron and is now recuperating at the home of one of his sons. When he is well again, he’ll return to his tent-home in his family’s small pastoral enclave, which lies a few kilometers to the east, on Mount Qanub. Shalalda, who has 10 children, was born on that mountain and will probably die there, too. Last week he thought death was at hand. While being beaten by settlers with rocks and clubs, laying bleeding and helpless on the ground outside his home, he was convinced that his end had come, he told us this week. He started to recite the Koranic verses designated for the last moments in the life of a believer – all the while being punched and pummeled, while two of his sons stood by helplessly, unable to approach. The army arrived at the last minute and his life was spared.”

Terror funding charge dropped in plea deal with Palestinian aid worker,

“After over a year in detention, a Palestinian aid worker was convicted last week under a plea bargain that saw her admit to membership of in terror group but dropped the main charge against her of financing its operations. Khitam Sa’afin was arrested in November 2020 after Defense Minister Benny Gantz outlawed the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, along with five other Palestinian aid organizations on suspicion that they were funneling cash to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a leftist terror group blamed for previous attacks on Israelis. The Ofer military court in the West Bank eventually convicted Sa’afin on February 13 in a plea deal that saw her confess to membership in the PFLP and to being president of the UPWC….The updated charges no longer accused her of being part of a committee of senior PFLP activists overseeing the transfer of funds from their organizations to the terror group from Europe. The original charges included a broad list of other alleged activities Sa’afin engaged in on behalf of the PFLP, as well as tying her to the other five organizations that were accused of fundraising for the group.” Also see this analysis from Sarit Michaeli (B’Tselem): “The Israeli government case against the 6 Palestinian NGOs is unravelling…The original indictment accused Sa’afin of being in a cabal of terrorists managing the diversion of international aid to the PFLP. The new indictment includes only one event – a memorial service which NGO Monitor “uncovered” on YouTube.” For more on Israel’s assault against Palestinian civil society, see FMEP’s resource page, On Israel’s Declaration of Palestinian Human Rights Groups as “Terrorist Organizations”

Opinion: The U.S. must investigate the death of my Palestinian American father in Israeli custody,

The sad reality is that the type of violence my father experienced is routine. The army unit responsible for my father’s death is notorious for its brutal treatment of Palestinians, including the use of torture. More than 300 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli military in 2021; 75 in the West Bank, like my father. The violent abuse that my father endured is systemic and has been ongoing for decades…My family holds no hopes that Israel will pursue true accountability for my father’s death in a military police investigation, yet to be concluded. I do, however, expect that the U.S. government will answer my calls and those of my American brothers and sisters to independently investigate. And while it’s investigating, it should ask itself why the U.S. should continue to support a regime that keeps Palestinians behind a web of walls and checkpoints, brutalizes and kills them, under a system of control that, with growing consensus among human rights organizations, amounts to apartheid. See alsoA Palestinian-American Died in Israeli Custody. American Jews Help Fund the Unit Responsible.”

Palestine's UN envoy wears 'end apartheid' mask at Security Council meeting,

Palestine’s envoy to the United Nations wore a mask saying “End Apartheid” at the monthly meeting of the Security Council on Wednesday, and urged the body to stop Israel from discriminating against Palestinians. Riyad Mansour used the word “apartheid” at least 15 times during his address, where he called on the council to protect “our long-suffering people”. “This council may not be ready to use the word, but apartheid is –  and has been for a while now – our reality,” Mansour said at UN headquarters in New York.” See also Palestinian Authority asks US Congress to probe ‘Israeli apartheid’ (Middle East Eye)

Israel: Defence minister says Palestinians will have 'entity' not a state,

“Palestinians will have an “entity” in the future but not a full-fledged “state,” Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz told the Munich Security Conference on Sunday….When asked whether a two-state solution was possible, Gantz explained that he had chosen to use the word “entity” as opposed to “states” as a way of marking his rejection of an Israel returning to the pre-1967 lines.”

Amnesty Report on Israeli Apartheid with Saleh Hijazi,

“Saleh Hijazi, Al-Shabaka analyst and Deputy Regional Director – MENA at Amnesty International, joins host Yara Hawari to discuss the organization’s new report on Israeli apartheid, the settler-colonialism framework, and the Palestinian right to self-determination.”


Israeli Authority Backs Down From Jerusalem Park Plan After Outcry From Major Churches,

“Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority said on Monday that it was backing down from an expansion plan to encompass Christian holy sites on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives in a national park, following outcry from major churches. The plan called for expanding the Jerusalem Walls National Park to include property owned by several churches in the city. The heads of the major denominations believed the scheme would infringe on their rights at the sites…This concern led representatives of the three largest churches in Jerusalem – the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III, the Catholic Custos Francesco Patton and the Armenian Patriarch Nurhan Manougian – to dispatch an unusual letter to Minister Tamar Zandberg on Friday with a request to stop the plan….“In recent years,” they wrote to Zandberg, “we cannot help but feel that various entities are seeing to minimize, not to say eliminate, any non-Jewish characteristics of the Holy City by attempting to alter the status quo on this holy mountain. They have failed due to the objection and lack of cooperation from the Churches. After their attempts failed, they resorted to statutory powers by advancing a plan to declare vast parts of the mountain as a national park.”” See alsoIn 1st, Israel advancing plan to expand national park onto E. Jerusalem church lands” (Times of Israel) and “Israel plans to expand national park onto Christian holy sites in East Jerusalem” (Middle East Eye). And this from Danny Seidemann, ““The March 2 meeting of the Planning Cttee on the Mt. of Olives National Park has indeed been postponed…until March 12. 12 days.”

Planned Expansion of National Park in Old City Basin to be discussed by Local Planning Committee in early March,

“In a joint statement by Israeli peace and human rights organizations, Bimkom, Emek Shaveh, Ir Amim and Peace Now, who are working together to cancel the plan, they wrote:“There is a direct link between what is happening in Sheikh Jarrah and the expansion plan. These are various mechanisms used by Israel in East Jerusalem to entrench its sovereignty, to marginalize non-Jewish presence and to prevent much needed development of Palestinian neighborhoods hereby increasing the pressure to push them out of the Old City basin. This plan is part of a process of transforming the symbolic and political importance of the Historic Basin, by increasing the Jewish religious and national significance of this area while increasing the pressure on the Palestinian residents. We object to the cynical misuse of heritage and environment protection as a tool by Israeli authorities for justifying settlement expansion, for re-shaping the historical narrative and for determining ownership over the historical basin.””

Analysis | A Small Respite for Sheikh Jarrah and All of Jerusalem. For Now,

“If all goes as planned, Monday’s decision will delay the eviction at least until after Ramadan. At least one component of the tension has been removed. In light of the police’s announcement that they will not erect checkpoints at the Damascus Gate plaza, as it did last year, there is hope that Jerusalem has been spared another bout of violence. For the Jerusalem of recent years, this is not to be taken for granted. However, it is still too early to celebrate.” See also Return of racist Israeli lawmaker to Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood provokes protest, police attack Palestinians” (WAFA)

Is Israel giving the far right the escalation it seeks?,

“The assassination in Nablus was signed off by the Israeli government. In Sheikh Jarrah, the violence is being carried out by a Kahanist “extremist.” Neither have yet brought about a redo of the events of May 2021. But if there is something we can learn from last May, it is that even sporadic incidents can lead to a surge of violence. And it is very possible that there are those in Israel — whether they are Prime Minister Naftali Bennett or MK Itamar Ben-Gvir — who are interested in just that. Last week, the violence spread from Nablus to Sheikh Jarrah to Jerusalem’s Old City, where right-wing extremists held a small march and attacked Palestinian onlookers. As settler provocations inch closer to the Old City and Al-Aqsa Mosque, there is a greater chance the Palestinian public — whether in Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, or inside Israel — will take to the streets, just as it did last year.”

On the Russian re-invasion of Ukraine

Russia Slams Israeli 'Occupation' of Golan Heights After Jerusalem Supports Ukraine,

“Russia condemned the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights on Wednesday and said it does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty in the region. The statement, issued before Russia’s all-out assault on Ukraine, followed Israel’s first official statement of support for Ukraine in the unfolding crisis and appeared to be a Russian message to Israel…Speaking at the UN Security Council’s monthly briefing on the Middle East, he stressed “Russia’s unchanging position, according to which we do not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights that are an inalienable part of Syria.””

Bennett refrains from condemning Russia in first remarks since invasion of Ukraine,

“Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday avoided condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine — or even mentioning Russia by name — in his first remarks since the incursion began…Israel’s statement on Wednesday had not mentioned Russia by name. Israel had so far been careful in its comments on the conflict and has avoided criticizing Moscow publicly. This is believed to be at least partly due to its need to work with the Russian military presence in neighboring Syria.” See alsoIsraeli foreign minister condemns Russian attack on Ukraine” (Al Monitor) and “Israel torpedoed sale of Iron Dome to Ukraine, fearing Russian reaction — report” (Times of Israel)

Tech // Surveillance // Global

UK lawyers file complaint against Facebook over anti-Palestinian bias,

“A London-based legal and justice centre has filed a formal complaint to Facebook, accusing the social media platform of arbitrarily censoring and suspending accounts affiliated with Palestinian news agencies, advocates and journalists. The complaint, delivered by London law firm Bindmans LLP on behalf of the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) and digital rights group Sada Social, requests that the platform, which rebranded as Meta last October, issue an urgent review of its actions and explain why it censored those accounts.”

How the Occupation Fuels Tel Aviv’s Booming AI Sector,

“Israel hones invasive surveillance technology on Palestinians before it is exported abroad…For now, the impact of surveillance in Hebron is a warning to the rest of the world. Governments worldwide are clamoring for more invasive technologies, and the private market is meeting their demands. Innovation in AI-powered surveillance continues to outpace regulatory frameworks. Reining the private industry in is a small but necessary step to clamp down on the abuse of new technologies—in Palestine and beyond.”

Google to invest $25 million over next five years to diversify Israeli tech workforce,

“Ruth Porat, CFO of Alphabet and Google, announced on Sunday that Google is funding a $25 million skilling initiative over five years to increase opportunities in Israel’s hi-tech sector for underrepresented groups, including women, Arab citizens, ultra-orthodox Jews and residents of the geographic periphery. Google will also announce an initiative for the Palestinian tech sector later this week.”

​​Europe: Ban Trade with Illegal Settlements,

“The European Commission should prohibit EU trade with settlements in occupied territories globally, Human Rights Watch said today as it signed onto a European Citizen’s Initiative (ECI). The citizen-led initiative, registered with the European Commission in September 2021 and initiated on February 20, 2022, calls for adopting legislation to prohibit products originating from unlawful settlements from entering the EU market and to ban EU exports to settlements.”

Lawfare // Quashing Advocacy for Palestinian Rights

Palestine Legal Publishes Report on Trends in Palestine Advocacy and Backlash in 2021,

“As Israel escalated its violence against Palestinians in 2021, people across the United States responded by taking to the streets, making statements on social media, signing petitions, organizing events and academic discussions at high schools and universities, organizing boycott campaigns, and sharing their Palestinian identity and pride. As people rose up in solidarity with Palestinians, Palestine Legal witnessed an intensification of repression strategies by Israel and its allies in the United States as they attempted to thwart a shift in public opinion in favor of Palestinian rights. Palestine Legal responded to 280 incidents of suppression of U.S.-based Palestine advocacy in 2021. This represents a 31 percent increase of incidents responded to from 2020, and a 13 percent increase from pre-pandemic numbers in 2019. Additionally, we responded to 67 legal questions from activists who were concerned their rights were threatened.”

Whitworth gallery director Alistair Hudson forced out over Palestinian statement,

“The director of the Whitworth Art Gallery is being asked to leave his post by the University of Manchester, after a row when a statement of solidarity with Palestine’s “liberation struggle” was removed from an exhibition of works by a human rights investigations agency. Alistair Hudson, who heads the Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery, has been asked to leave by the university, the Guardian understands, after a series of complaints by UK Lawyers For Israel (UKLFI)….The controversy dates from August, when a statement of solidarity with Palestine that formed part of an exhibition by Forensic Architecture, a Turner prize-nominated investigative agency, was removed after a complaint by UKLFI….The university, which runs the gallery, reversed its decision, reopening the exhibition and agreeing to display “different perspectives on the issues raised by the exhibition and help contextualise them”.”


EDITORIAL: How we’re rethinking our journalism in Israel-Palestine,

“As Israel demonstrates that apartheid and occupation are fundamental pillars of its regime, we are striving — in line with our legacy — for a renewed approach to journalism in Israel-Palestine. We believe in a journalism that is intersectional, progressive, and that centers the experiences and demands of vulnerable communities on the ground. Rather than repeat the same news cycle, we aim to break it, and reimagine what is possible in order to guarantee equity and justice for all communities living in this land.”

Deutsche Welle Firings Set Chilling Precedent for Free Speech in Germany,

“Seven Arab and Muslim journalists have lost their jobs for the alleged “antisemitism” of criticizing Israel.”

U.S. Scene

How the Seattle Jewish Federation Blocked a Donation to B’Tselem,

“In November, the Federation told Sussman it would not distribute his family funds to B’Tselem because, in January 2021, the human rights group declared that Israel operates an apartheid regime based on Jewish supremacy. (In response to a request for comment from Jewish Currents, a Federation spokeswoman, Tovah Bigeleisen, said, “we have nothing to add.”.)…The Federation has approved donations to B’Tselem in the past…But since B’Tselem’s apartheid report, it has been deemed to be in violation of the Federation’s partnership guidelines, which include provisions saying that the organization won’t partner with groups that “promote the illegitimacy of Israel as a secure, independent, democratic, and Jewish state.” The Federation was particularly troubled by B’Tselem’s language that Israel operates a regime based on “Jewish supremacy”; in a memo prepared by Federation staff on Sussman’s request that he shared with Jewish Currents, the Federation compared such language to that used by Nazis and white supremacists, saying that while echoing white supremacist viewpoints “may not be the intention of the B’Tselem authors, this language promotes antisemitism and/or an extremist view.””

Ro Khanna reflects on his first trip to Israel as a congressman,

“While in Israel for two days early last week, Khanna faced renewed and intense backlash from an array of far-left antagonists on social media who expressed anger over his Middle East foreign policy positions. Khanna, however, suggested that he was largely unconcerned with such rebukes. “When I get criticized, I always listen to it if people have a good point,” he said. “I’m always open to it. But I’m not going to back away from my belief that Israel is an ally and in the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship. That’s a conviction.” “I am very clear where I stand,” he emphasized, adding: “I believe that there are important economic and technological ties between Silicon Valley and Israel. I believe that the coalition government should continue to work to be as inclusive of all parts of Israeli society and that there has to be a recognition of Palestinian rights.””

The Antisemitic Face of Israel’s Evangelical Allies,

“Evangelical Zionists want Jews to move to Palestine to set the stage for the divine requital of Armageddon. This hasn’t stopped Israel from sealing alliances with even nakedly antisemitic evangelicals, so long as they support the dispossession of Palestinians.”

Palestinian Scene

Al-Haq Launches a Report titled “Cultural Apartheid, Israel’s Erasure of Palestinian Heritage in Gaza”,

“On 23 February 2022, Al-Haq launched its report titled “Cultural Apartheid, Israel’s Erasure of Palestinian Heritage in Gaza”. The report builds from an investigation by the London-based research agency Forensic Architecture using advanced technologies and ‘open-source’ techniques to reconstruct one of the most significant archaeological sites in the occupied Gaza Strip. The report draws on Israel’s strategic bombing of the Gaza coastline to exemplify the erasure of Palestinian cultural heritage and the denial of the relevant human rights. Israel’s bombardments not only breach the principle of military necessity in violation of the laws of armed conflict, but also aim at gradually erasing Palestinian cultural heritage to deny the Palestinian people of their right to self-determination over their cultural resources, and by extension threatens their existence as a people. Such bombings are a gross violation of the Rome Statute, constituting war crimes, and crimes against humanity. In the report, Al-Haq outlines that the bombing of the site may amount to a war crime and contributes to the crime against humanity of apartheid.[1] The targeting of Palestinian cultural heritage, fundamentally affects the core of their identity and existence as a people.”

Living Archaeology in Gaza,

“Along the coastline of the Gaza Strip, beneath layers of rubble, lies one of Palestine’s hidden treasures and one of the region’s most important archaeological sites. Repeated bombings, and the humanitarian disaster inflicted on Palestinian communities by the decades-long Israeli occupation and siege, as well as advancing coastal erosion and necessary development within the enforced densification of Gaza, have placed this unique site under existential threat….In collaboration with journalists in Gaza and abroad, residents, and archaeologists, Forensic Architecture (FA) collected, verified, and located hundreds of pieces of evidence about the site, and used 3D modelling and image mapping technologies to reconstruct its ongoing transformation, in what is a pioneering example of the application of open source visual investigation techniques to a site of archaeological interest.”

Two Cities Across the Bay: Haifa and Akka's Entangled Histories,

“The lights, emanating from the neighboring coastal city of Haifa, descend along Mount Carmel’s steep contours, washing into the Mediterranean Sea, and eventually reaching Akka’s shores. This is the extent of Akka and Haifa’s geographical proximity: a proximity that shaped the two coastal cities’ modern histories, at once entangling them and sending them off on divergent trajectories.”