Top News & Analysis from Israel & Palestine: January 2-13, 2023

What We’re Reading

New from FMEP

Why Did Harvard Deny a Fellowship to the Former Director of Human Rights Watch? Israel,

In this episode of “Occupied Thoughts,” FMEP Non-resident Fellow Peter Beinart is joined by Kenneth Roth (formerly Human Rights Watch) and Harvard professor Kathryn Sikkink to discuss the recent controversy over Harvard’s decision to cancel its offer of a fellowship to Ken Roth, based on accusations of anti-Israel bias by both Human Rights Watch and by Ken.


Also listen to this 12/29/22 episode of FMEP’s Occupied Thoughts podcast, Explained: What Israel’s New Government Means for Settlements, Outposts, & Area C, ft. FMEP Non-resident Fellow Peter Beinart, joined by Ziv Stahl (Yesh Din) to sketch out what the new Israeli government has said – and in some cases already started to implement – its policy on settlements, outposts, and Palestinian life in Area C will be. In addition, Ziv discusses the deepening challenges facing human rights organizations and their employees.

Forced Population Transfer in Masafer Yatta

Israel continues demolitions in Masafer Yatta as residents brace for mass expulsion,

“Last Sunday, Israel informed the Palestinian Authority’s liaison office that all 12 villages will be evacuated soon….”Residents now worry about a possible Israeli expulsion at any moment,” Sami Hreini, activist and resident of Masafer Yatta, told TNA. “With demolitions taking place every week, with settlers’ aggressions and by banning us from building or connecting to water or electricity, the occupation has tried to push us out of Masafer Yatta of our own will,” Hreini said.” See also EU Demands Reparations From Israel for Demolition of European-funded Palestinian Structures (Haaretz)

Fast-tracked war crime: Israel informs Palestinians from Masafer Yatta of imminent expulsion,

“Today (Monday, 2 Jan. 2023), the Israeli District Coordination and Liaison Office (DCO) notified the Palestinian DCO that in the coming days, about 1,000 Palestinians from Masafer Yatta whose land was designated “Firing Zone 918” will receive notices to evict their homes. The Israeli DCO added that the state plans to offer the residents an alternative location, to which they will be expelled. B’Tselem responded: “Forcible transfer of protected persons in occupied territory is a war crime. Therefore, the Israeli ‘offer’ of an alternative is meaningless. It is a violent threat that leaves the residents with no choice.”” See also Israeli Army Advances Eviction of Eight Palestinian Villages in West Bank (Haaretz); Widowed mother struggle for her children’s shelter (Ali Awad//Humans of Masafer Yatta); J Street Action Memo: US Must Act Now Against Forced Relocation of Palestinians in Masafer Yatta (J Street); See also FMEP’s spotlight on Masafer Yatta with additional resources linked on each program’s landing page.

Apartheid/Occupation/Annexation/Human Rights

Israel kills 3 Palestinians as raids continue in West Bank,

“Israeli forces killed three Palestinians on Thursday as deadly attacks in the occupied territories continue. Habib Kamil, 25, and Abdulhadi Nazal, 18, were shot dead by live fire from Israeli troops during a raid in the town of Qabatiya, near the northern West Bank city of Jenin, the Palestinian health ministry said…The Israeli army earlier killed a Palestinian man as he was standing on the roof of his home during a raid on a refugee camp in occupied East Jerusalem, according to Palestinian officials.” See also Israel forces kill young Palestinian in West Bank refugee camp raid (New Arab); Nighttime Israeli arrests haunt Palestinian children and families (New Arab); Palestinian father who ‘tried to prevent son’s arrest’ killed by Israeli forces (Middle East Eye); Palestinian loses eye after police stun grenade explodes in his face (+972);

2022 Saw Highest Number of Palestinians Killed in West Bank by Israeli Forces Since Second Intifada,

“It’s hard to explain the death of Rafik Ghanem, one of 144 Palestinians killed by Israel’s security forces in the West Bank in 2022 (excluding East Jerusalem). This is the highest number since 2004, according to the human rights organization B’Tselem. Most of these killed were armed, the army claims, in an attempt to explain these figures. However, research by Haaretz – based on IDF reports in real time – reveals that only in 45 percent of these cases was there a specific claim that the deceased had been armed, or that the lethal shot had taken place during clashes in which there was an exchange of gunfire. And in these cases, even according to the army the dead Palestinian didn’t necessarily take part in the exchange.” See also 231 Palestinians were killed in 2022. These are their stories (Mondoweiss); The odds of a violent Israeli soldier facing charges? Under 1 percent (+972)

Netanyahu Gov’t Pledges to Advance Transfer of Swaths of West Bank Lands to Pre-1948 Jewish Owners,

“According to estimates obtained by the NGOs Peace Now and Bimkom, this move could affect about 13,000 dunams (3,250 acres) of land in the West Bank and about 70 buildings in Hebron, said to be owned by Jews before 1948. Most of the land is in Gush Etzion (Bethlehem area) and north of Jerusalem, but other plots are in the area of Nebi Samuel, Batir and Beit Furik.”

The Legacy of Mahmoud Abbas,

“Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas is one of the world’s oldest leaders, and as his presidency exceeds its democratic mandate by 14 years this year, Al-Shabaka policy analysts reflect on his legacy…In this roundtable, Tareq Baconi, Yara Hawari, Alaa Tartir, and Tariq Kenney-Shawa offer incisive critiques of Palestinian leadership. Collectively, they make clear that Abbas has presided over the continuation of the status quo of Israeli occupation and apartheid, the criminalization of Palestinian resistance, the suppression of the democratic process, and the abandonment of a comprehensive vision for a decolonized Palestinian future.”

December 2022 Newsletter,

“According to data issued quarterly by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), as of 30 September 2022, there were 4,529 Palestinians (West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza) held as “security prisoners” in detention facilities including 129 children (12-17 years). In the case of children there was an 4 percent increase in the number compared with the previous month and an annual decrease of 12 percent compared with 2021. Seven children were held in administrative detention. According to the IPS, 68 percent of child detainees were transferred to prisons inside Israel in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. More statistics” 

As a Researcher, I Study the Health of Palestinians. It’s Time to Pay Attention.,

“The closure of Nablus ended shortly after my return to the U.S., and the almost daily killing of Palestinians has now slowed down, albeit slightly. Palestinians are back to what the rest of the world often calls relative calm but in reality are circumstances that no population can or should accept. Looking only at physical well-being as it relates to the aftermath of shootings in the West Bank or bombing campaigns in the Gaza Strip flattens the experience of living, working, playing, raising children, going to school and trying to build a life in such an environment of uncertainty, trauma and violence. One that has lasted for decades and may easily last decades more.”

After UN vote on ICJ, Israel preps sanctions for Palestinian Authority,

“Israel’s security cabinet approved sanctions against the Palestinian Authority Friday in response to a UN resolution adopted Dec. 30…Israel has been threatening sanctions against the Palestinian Authority since the United Nations voted in favor of a resolution to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the situation in the West Bank.” See also After years of diplomatic inertia, what can the ICJ offer Palestinians? (Hugh Lovatt//+972); Israel’s hardline govt revokes Palestinian FM’s travel permit over UN move (New Arab);

Right Wing Ascending: New Israeli Government

Washington won’t admit the full danger of Israel’s far right,

“In the space of a few weeks, Israel’s new coalition has reorganized large segments of the state’s bureaucracy to pursue all the policies that the Biden administration claims it stands against: an illiberal, theocratic, and racist regime that aims to unravel the judiciary, target ethnic and gender minorities, and unilaterally annex the occupied territories…Washington’s intransigence in the face of these cold realities — which Palestinians and their allies have been flagging for years — is not surprising. But it is a disturbing indication of how much the U.S. political establishment has washed away any “red lines” when it comes to Israel. That free rein may well be tested as the new government, sworn in just last week, begins implementing its radical program with all the violence and aggression that its leaders have promised. But that, too, may be met with little more than the same verbal acrobatics we have become accustomed to. When Ben Gvir kicked off his first week as minister by visiting the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif on Tuesday, both the U.S. Embassy in Israel and the State Department denounced it as “unacceptable” with the “potential to exacerbate tensions and to provoke violence.” How many “provocations” will it take, though, for Washington to use an ounce of leverage to back up its words?” See also Jake Sullivan: I’ll Be Clear on Opposing Policies That Undermine Two-state Solution During Israel Visit (Haaretz) For more on Israel’s new government, see: Israel’s Far-right Government Explained | Who’s in Charge of What: The Full Coalition Agreements of the New Netanyahu Government (Haaretz); You’ve heard of Bibi and Ben Gvir. Now meet the rest of the new government (+972) What Israel’s New Far-Right Government Means for Palestinians (Isaac Chotiner interviews Al Haq founder Raja Shehadeh in the New Yorker); Land grabs. Homophobia. Radicalized police: What to expect from Israel’s far-right government (+972//Natasha Roth-Rowland);  What is the Temple Mount, and why did Itamar Ben Gvir’s visit stoke tension? (Washington Post)

Levin unveils bills to remove nearly all High Court’s tools for government oversight,

“The overhaul of the judicial system will grant the government total control over the appointment of judges, including Supreme Court justices; severely limit the High Court of Justice’s ability to strike down legislation; and allow the Knesset to re-legislate laws the court does manage to annul with a majority of just 61 MKs. The government will also be able to appoint a Supreme Court president and vice president who has not previously served on the Supreme Court, and potentially has not even served as a lower court judge. Coalition officials have said the government aims to get the package of legislation passed into law by the end of March.” See also President of Israel’s Supreme Court attacks judicial changes (Washington Post); Justice minister unveils plan to shackle the High Court, overhaul Israel’s judiciary (Times of Israel); Jewish Currents January 10th Newsletter; Netanyahu Surges Ahead With Judicial Overhaul, Prompting Fury in Israel (NYT)

Ben Gvir wants to ban the Palestinian flag. Here’s why it won’t work,

“More than anything, the directive illustrates the Israeli right’s fear of any symbol that seeks to remind it that, despite Israel’s best efforts, the Palestinian people refuse to disappear, and no amount of repression will help. Palestinians, who live under colonialism, occupation, and apartheid, won’t go quietly into the night…While Ben Gvir hopes to reduce the presence of Palestinian flags in the public space, it is reasonable to assume that his new directive will have the opposite effect. Attempts to stamp out Palestinian national symbols during the First Intifada, when Israeli soldiers raided sewing workshops and forced Palestinian children to climb electricity poles to remove flags, did very little; people began sewing flags at home and painting them on walls in public areas. Even now, just days after Ben Gvir’s announcement, activists and demonstrators who previously did not wave Palestinian flags have begun wondering where they can obtain them, while others have uploaded photos of themselves with flags on social media. In recent years, demonstrators in East Jerusalem have used balloons, kites, and drones to display Palestinian flags during protests in Sheikh Jarrah and the Old City.” See also Israel’s Ben-Gvir orders police to bar Palestinian flags from public spaces (Middle East Eye); Outrage as Ben-Gvir compares Palestinian flag to ‘Nazi symbol’ (New Arab); Explainer: What is behind Israel’s Ben-Gvir ban on Palestinian flags in public spaces? (Al Monitor)

The struggle brewing inside Israel’s anti-government movement,

“On Tuesday, Benny Gantz, until recently the defense minister and previously the chief of staff of the Israeli army, warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he is dragging the country into civil war. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak has already called for “civil disobedience” against this government. Other retired high-ranking generals, as well as opposition leaders, pundits, educators, and jurists have made similar statements. (In response, two members of the coalition called for the arrest of opposition leaders for treason.)…Those opposing these steps are about more than just talk. Last Saturday, around 30,000 people marched against the new government in Tel Aviv, in what was one of the largest demonstrations in Israel in the last decade. The protest, organized by the left-wing Standing Together movement, took place under the slogan, “This is the home of all of us” — a direct rebuttal to National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s dog-whistle election campaign slogan, “Who here is the lord of the land?” (implying that the answer is “only Jews”)…These demonstrations, likely the first of many, are but one of several forms of resistance Israel has seen in recent weeks…” See also The Israeli right is the minority — the left need only realize it (Meron Rapoport//+972: “It’s time for the Jewish left to understand that by aligning its struggle with the Palestinians, it can be part of a majority against occupation and apartheid.”); Opinion | For Netanyahu’s Anti-democratic Regime, the Truth Is Dead. We Must Fight to Revive It (Yair Lapid//Haaretz)

Lawfare//Redefining Antisemitism to Quash Criticism of Israel

“Folks who want to use US laws to quash free speech critical of Israel…are doubling down” ,

“Less than 2 weeks into the new year, and it is clear that the folks who want to use US laws to quash free speech critical of Israel – & to exploit these laws as a model to quash progressive activism more broadly are doubling down — a quick thread on what has been intro’d so far: Virginia is in the lead, with a flood of legislation…Alaska…Arkansas…New Hampshire…Missouri…New York…North Dakota…Oklahoma…South Carolina…Texas…West Virginia…Iowa…” See also ALEC, Anti-ESG, & the Battle Against Palestinian Rights (Occupied Thoughts podcast with Tara Van Ho (Univ. of Essex, UK) in conversation with FMEP’s Lara Friedman) and also Lara Friedman’s reference tables, which she constantly updates: Using “Anti-Semitism” to Quash Israel Criticism – in Congress & States; Legislation to Constrain Boycott of Israel/Settlements (in States); Israel-focused Anti-Boycott Legislation — A Template for Targeting Protest on Other Issues

I once ran Human Rights Watch. Harvard blocked my fellowship over Israel,

“the Kennedy School’s dean, Douglas Elmendorf, vetoed a human rights fellowship that had been offered to me because of my criticism of Israel. As best we can tell, donor reaction was his concern…But as the Nation showed in its exposé about my case, several major donors to the Kennedy School are big supporters of Israel. Did Elmendorf consult with these donors or assume that they would object to my appointment? We don’t know. But that is the only plausible explanation that I have heard for his decision. The Kennedy School spokesperson has not denied it.” See also Why the Godfather of Human Rights Is Not Welcome at Harvard (The Nation); Harvard Kennedy School condemned for denying fellowship to Israel critic (Guardian); Harvard Kennedy School Palestinian Alumni call for the resignation of HKS dean, reinstating HRD Kenneth Roth (WAFA); ‘Criticise Israel, you can be cancelled’: Outrage after former HRW chief denied Harvard fellowship (Middle East Eye); Harvard’s rejection of human rights leader sends chilling message (Boston Globe); A Human-Rights Leader Was Denied a Harvard Post Over Alleged ‘Anti-Israel Bias.’ Now a Dean Faces Calls to Resign. (The Chronicle of Higher Education); and the new episode of FMEP’s Occupied Thoughts podcast, “Why Did Harvard Deny a Fellowship to the Former Director of Human Rights Watch? Israel” 

US lawsuit equates Palestine advocacy to 'terrorism', court hears,

“A lawsuit in the US against a Palestinian rights advocacy group is trying to link the organisation’s support for Palestinian protest to “international terrorism”, an appeals court heard on Thursday. The Jewish National Fund (JNF) sued the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR) in 2019, alleging that the group is liable for militant attacks against Israelis and American citizens because of its support for the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and Gaza’s Great March of Return…”It makes it clear that this case is about punishing the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights for its advocacy and its support of Palestinian rights and boycott, which their complaints repeatedly equate in conclusory terms as terrorism,” said Diala Shamas, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, who is representing the USCPR. “There is no factual support for that egregious and extreme allegation.””

Bonus Reads

Designing the Future in Palestine,

“Palestinian women and feminist organizations are reimagining what liberation can look like beyond national independence.” See also The Palestinian ecovillage putting grassroots democracy into action (+972)

The racial logic behind Palestine’s partition,

“Partition was rarely endorsed as a solution to settler colonialism. But Europe’s racialization of Jews distinguished Zionism from other settler enterprises.”