Top News & Analysis from Israel & Palestine: January 20-27, 2023

What We’re Reading

New from FMEP

Learning & Unlearning Palestine Part 1: Who can speak on Palestine?,

FMEP and our partner Al Shabaka are launching a four-part series, Learning and Unlearning Palestine. The first episode, Who Can Speak on Palestine, will examine the history and current reality of the erasure of the Palestinian narrative, the delegitimization of Palestinian voices in mainstream spaces, and possibilities for change. Featuring Nour Joudah (UC Berkeley), Dina Matar (SOAS, University of London), in conversation with Maha Nassar (University of Arizona and FMEP Fellow). 


Stay tuned for upcoming events in this series, including: Limited paradigms, featuring Professors Muhannad Ayyash and Lana Tatour in conversation with Al Shabaka Senior Analyst Yara Hawari on February 8th; Normalizing and peacemaking as discourses of violence, featuring Inès Abdel-Razek from the Palestine Institute of Public Diplomacy and Al Shabaka’s Yara Hawari in conversation with Maha Nassar on February 27th; and Allyship & The Fight for Palestinian Liberation, featuring Saleh Hijazi of the BDS Movement and Nadya Tannous in conversation with Al Shabaka’s US Policy Fellow, Tariq Kenney-Shawa on March 8th.

Apartheid/Occupation/Human Rights

Israel raid in Jenin kills nine Palestinians in 'massacre',

“At least nine Palestinians, including an elderly woman, were killed in an Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank on Thursday. The Palestinian health ministry said Israeli forces shot dead nine people, while a further 20 were wounded. At least four of those were in a critical condition, it added. Heavily armed soldiers entered the camp on Thursday morning, reportedly in a commercial truck, and opened fire on residents attempting to block their entry. Several other army vehicles, including bulldozers, then entered the area and targeted a building used as a meeting place for residents.” See also Israel army kills 10 Palestinians, including elderly woman (Al Jazeera); ‘Continue Killing Them’: Twitter Deletes Post of Israeli MK Who Said Soldiers Did ‘Nice Work’ in Fatal Jenin Raid (Haaretz); Palestinians march in their thousands following Israel’s deadly Jenin attack (Middle East Eye);  Rockets, air attacks in Gaza follow deadly Israeli raid in Jenin (Al Jazeera); PA Cuts Security Ties With Israel, Egypt Urges Gaza to Avoid Escalation After Deadly Jenin Raid (Haaretz); PA announces halt to security coordination with Israel; US cautions against move (Times of Israel); UN Security Council to hold emergency meet following lethal Jenin sweep (Times of Israel); Israel raids: Why are so many Palestinians being killed? (Al Jazeera); CIA Head in Israel Ahead of Blinken Visit (Haaretz)Analysis | Abbas Was Left With No Choice: But Will the Cessation of Security Ties With Israel Actually Hold or Work? (Haaretz)

West Bank: New Entry Rules Further Isolate Palestinians,

“New Israeli guidelines on access to the West Bank for foreigners threaten to further isolate Palestinians from loved ones and global civil society, Human Rights Watch said today…The 61-page “Procedure for entrance and residence of foreigners in the Judea and Samaria Area [a reference to the West Bank]” replaced a three-page document of procedures first implemented in December 2006…While people often visit the West Bank on normal Israeli tourist visas, foreigners on these visas are not permitted to teach, study, volunteer, work, or live in the West Bank.”

What the Rise of Drone Warfare Means for Palestinians,

“In September 2022, the Israeli army escalated by greenlighting the use of armed drones in operations in the West Bank. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) recently denied armed drones have been used to drop bombs in the territory so far, though there are eyewitness accounts of a drone firing a missile in Nablus last October…Meanwhile, armed and surveillance drones, which eyewitnesses say are bigger and louder than those deployed only intermittently in the past, have lingered above Palestinian cities and towns. They are an unsettling omen of what may be to come…Settlers have long been explicit proponents of the army’s use of drones in the West Bank, using their own small surveillance drones to spy on Palestinians and coordinate Palestinian home demolitions and the suppression of peaceful protests with Israeli troops. In Masafer Yatta, a collection of Palestinian villages just south of Hebron, for example, the army and settlers have flown small surveillance drones since the mid-2010s, according to Basel Adera, a journalist born and raised in the area. The army uses its drones to map Palestinian neighborhoods or shoot tear gas during home demolitions; the settlers deploy theirs to surveil and terrorize Palestinians, calling in the army when they spot new Palestinian homes being built and flying drones next to herds of sheep until they run wild across the arid valleys.” Also on Masafer Yatta:A year ago, Israeli police killed an elderly Palestinian activist by running him over with a tow truck. This is Hajj Suleiman’s story.” (IMEU); Masafer Yatta: Holding on to the land despite the Israeli occupation’s unbearable agonies and hardship (WAFA); FMEP’s spotlight on Masafer Yatta.

Ben Gvir turns up the heat on Palestinian prisoners,

“From restricting visitations to demanding the death penalty, the national security minister has begun rolling out his harsher vision for Israeli prisons.” See also Palestinian political prisoners prepare mass civil disobedience in Israeli prisons (Middle East Eye)

Israeli Gov't: Right Wing Ascending

The Mainstreaming of Temple Mount Activism,

“The rise of Itamar Ben-Gvir to the position of Minister of National Security reflects not only the embrace of Temple Mount activism by the Israeli mainstream; it also represents a fundamental shift in the movement’s relationship to the state. From the pre-state militias to the Jewish terrorists of the 1980s and Kahanists (who sought a revolutionary overthrow of the existing regime while also embracing parliamentarism) to the turn to messianic radicalism after the disengagement from Gaza, Temple Mount activists have almost always been at odds with the Israeli government. In recent decades, Temple Mount activists have often expressed an ideology that Inbari calls a “theocratic post-Zionism,” which aims to replace the secular Israeli state with a halachic kingdom ruled by both a monarch and, in some visions, a Sanhedrin, or rabbinic court. But now the party representing the messianic insurrectionists is part of the governing coalition, and its leader oversees the ministry whose mandate has been to keep them in check. With the extreme right in power, the biggest test of the tension between its eschatological agenda and the imperatives of governance will come in April, when Passover and Ramadan coincide.” See also Far-right Ben-Gvir calls for establishment of Israel National Guard to prepare for ‘new Hamas war’ (New Arab); Granting West Bank Authority to Smotrich Is De Facto Annexation, Legal Experts Say (Haaretz); Religious Zionists have captured the state. What will it mean for Palestinians? (+972)

Senior Israeli Economists Warn Judicial Overhaul May Cause ‘Grave Damage’ to Country’s Economy,

“Hundreds of senior Israeli economists published an “emergency” letter Wednesday warning that the new Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s proposed plan to weaken the judiciary may cause “grave damage” to Israel’s economy…The letter comes on the heels of a meeting between PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Bank of Israel Governor Prof. Amir Yaron, in which Yaron warned that senior global economic figures had expressed concerns to him about the potential consequences of the government’s planned judicial overhaul. This comes following warnings by international credit rating agencies including S&P, that the moves may lead them to cut Israel’s credit rating…It also comes against the backdrop of protests within Israel’s business community, most recently by people in high-tech Tuesday.” See also Former Shin Bet Head Slams Judicial Overhaul, Calls to ‘Shut Down’ Israel (Haaretz); Bank of Israel governor says judicial reform could hurt economy – reports (Guardian); Will Less Democracy Kill Israel’s Tech Sector? (Neri Zilber//Foreign Policy); 2 Israeli tech firms to pull funds out of the country, citing risk posed by Netanyahu government (JTA)

Protest Convoy and Mass Rallies: Israel Braces for a Weekend of Demonstrations,

More protests against the new government and its plans to weaken the judiciary system are scheduled during Friday and Saturday night in a number of places across the country, including in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem and Be’er Sheva.” See also ‘No democracy with apartheid’: Inside the radical bloc at Israel’s anti-gov’t protests (+972: “the “radical bloc” has grown larger and more prominent with each demonstration over the past three weekends, growing to a few hundred people on Jan. 21. And while their numbers may be dwarfed by the wider protest, their Palestinian flags and signs calling for decolonization have drawn the ire of both the main demonstration and the people they are protesting against — escalating to confrontations and physical attacks in every protest so far…Instead of merely joining forces with the main protest, activists from the radical bloc told +972 that they are seeking to be a disruptive presence within it, and to convey the message that a return to the status quo ante will not suffice.”; See also Israelis are not demonstrating for democracy (Yara Hawari in Al Jazeera) and A coming out party for Israel’s religious Jewish left (+972: “At a packed conference in Jerusalem, hundreds of Israel’s “faithful left” come together to talk apartheid, feminism, and religion and state.”)

US Role & Scene

US, Israel kick off largest ever military exercise as Iran nuclear talks falter,

“The United States and Israel are set to kick off the largest combined exercise ever held between the two nations’ militaries on Monday as the Biden administration’s attempts to negotiate a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement have faltered and Tehran has turned to Russia to shore up its own defense capabilities…An integrated US-Israeli command will oversee long-range air coordination over the Mediterranean, including aerial refueling and electronic warfare attacks, and culminating in a live-fire exercise involving “suppression of enemy air defenses” and simulated strikes on strategic targets, the senior US defense official said. The drills will also include US special operations and ground forces, combat search and rescue teams and Space Force assets.” See also Opinion  The U.S.-Israel military simulation is a show of force to Iran (WaPo)

Something Is Brewing in Congress, and It Should Alarm Israel,

“The fact that there are now four members of Congress, all of whom are on the top tier of importance for Israel advocacy in Washington – both in public and behind the scenes – warning about the new coalition sets a trend that should cause undeniable alarm in Jerusalem.” See also Opinion | As the Most Senior Jewish Member of Congress, I Now Fear Deeply for the U.S.-Israel Relationship (Jerrold Nadler/Haaretz); Top pro-Israel Democrat [Brad Sherman] Warns Netanyahu Government ‘Mistakes’ Could Erode U.S. Support (Haaretz); New York Jewish Federation Head Offers Rare Criticism of Netanyahu’s Judicial Reform Plan (Haaretz); Netanyahu drags Israeli democracy into the illiberal mire (Ishaan Tharoor//WaPo); Nadler joins list of Jewish, pro-Israel Democrats to raise alarm over new government (Times of Israel)

Biden’s human rights pick withdraws,

“President Joe Biden’s nominee for a top human rights position is withdrawing from contention in the face of unrelenting opposition from a Senate Republican who questions her support for Israel…Margon is a former Capitol Hill staffer and Washington director for Human Rights Watch who now works in a senior role at the Open Society Foundations, the organization founded by billionaire philanthropist George Soros.”

Palestinian officials say the Abbas-Sullivan meeting was bleak,

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ meeting with White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan last week was bleak and didn’t make much progress, Palestinian officials told Axios…”We conveyed to Sullivan the message that the practices of the Israeli government will become more dangerous to the point that the Palestinian leadership and people will not be able to bear them, and therefore won’t remain silent,” a senior Palestinian official told Axios.”

Rashida Tlaib boldly raises Palestinian flag in front of her congressional office,

“”Palestinians may be banned from flying their flag under an apartheid government, but we can still proudly do it at my office,” Tlaib wrote on Twitter. “I’m proud to be a Palestinian American and I want the Palestinian people to know that not all Americans support apartheid. No one can erase our existence.””

Lawfare: Redefining Antisemitism to Quash Criticism of Israel

How a Giant of Responsible Investing Agreed to an Israel Exception,

“After a multi-year campaign by Jewish groups, Morningstar—a major firm known for socially responsible investing—is softening its approach to Israeli human rights abuses…Morningstar itself had spent years resisting making the changes. It adopted them only after a lengthy pressure campaign initiated by the Jewish investing group JLens, which launched in 2012 with the goal of preventing socially responsible investors from putting pressure on companies that do business in Israel/Palestine…JLens was able to mobilize a network of government officials and Jewish organizations to apply pressure on the financial firm, buttressed by a new wave of anti-BDS laws that prevent states from investing their pension funds in companies said to be boycotting Israel…In the face of this onslaught, Morningstar capitulated. On October 31st, the firm announced the additional sweeping changes to its approach to Israel/Palestine—eliminating its use of the term “occupied territory,” ceasing to use the United Nations Human Rights Council and Who Profits as sources, and offering guidance to Sustainalytics analysts that they should not presume operations in the occupied Palestinian territories to be human rights violations.” See also Lara Friedman’s regularly updated research on this and related topics, including: Israel-focused Anti-Boycott Legislation — A Template for Targeting Protest on Other Issues and her podcasts: Promoting Risk & Undermining Rights: Morningstar’s Betrayal of Palestine & ESG; ALEC, Anti-ESG, & the Battle Against Palestinian Rights; Free Speech & Palestinian Rights – Both Weapons & Targets in the Battle Against ESG.

Office of Civil Rights & the IHRA Definition,

“As December 2022 approached, Palestinian-rights advocates grew nervous. That was the month by which the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) had promised to issue a new rule for assessing complaints of antisemitism, to comply with former President Donald Trump’s 2019 executive order on the subject…on January 4th, OCR announced that it was delaying issuing the rule until December 2023 and released a fact sheet affirming its commitment to fighting antisemitism, as well as other forms of bigotry. Jewish groups that support the use of the IHRA definition were dismayed…Although Palestinian-rights advocates breathed a sigh of relief at the news that OCR had not adopted IHRA, their clash with mainstream Jewish groups over whether the definition should be used in adjudicating civil rights claims is far from over. Trump’s executive order remains in effect, and the office could still decide to use IHRA when they issue their rule next year.”

King County should not adopt antisemitism definition used to censor speech,

“Council members should know that the IHRA is a source of deep division and controversy, across and beyond Jewish communities, because it primarily serves to police political speech about Israel while doing little to stop antisemitic violence. I know this from firsthand experience. I am a professor of Jewish history and the history of Israel/Palestine at the University of Washington, where I teach about, among other topics, the long history of antisemitism…Last year, however, I nearly lost most of the funding for my research and for the program in Israel Studies I was hired to direct when critics questioned my suitability for this leadership role using the same arguments relied on by the IRHA definition. The IHRA’s logic falsely and dangerously conflates informed criticism of the Israeli state, and specifically its policies toward Palestinians, with bigotry against Jews. Adopting the IHRA definition would generate more efforts to shut down informed speech like mine across the country…My experience last year is both a lesson and a warning.”

Letter to Co-sponsors of Proposed American Bar Association Resolution 514 on Antisemitism ,

“The ACLU, Americans for Peace Now, Center for Constitutional Rights, Foundation for Middle East Peace, and Palestine Legal, along with 37 other organization signatories, wrote a letter expressing strong objection to the reference to the “International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism” in proposed American Bar Association resolution 514 (Resolution 514). Addressed to the co-sponsors of the proposed resolution, the letter explains how the IHRA definition has been continually instrumentalized to delegitimize critics and criticism of Israel and its policies, as well as suppress voices and activism in support for Palestinian rights. Consequently, any embrace of the IHRA definition by the ABA would undermine fundamental rights of free speech, freedom of assembly and protest, and academic freedom. Moreover, the reference to the IHRA definition in the ABA resolution would undermine the ABA’s own ability to engage on key issues related to Palestinian rights, including in support of human rights defenders who are increasingly under attack.”

Silencing Dissent,

“The HKS decision has the unintended effect of singling out Jews as a group. Why do Israel and, by extension, the Jewish people need to be protected from criticism? Isn’t this another way of ‘failing to treat Jews collectively as normal human beings’, as Brian Klug has put it, ‘with dire ramifications for others’? The affirming of Jewish otherness in this way sets Jews apart yet again. The failure to engage in a critical analysis of Israeli policies presents a triple threat: to Palestinians who are silenced, to Jews who are exceptionalised, and to the integrity of the university.” See also Harvard Changed Its Mind on Ken Roth—Not on Allowing Free Speech About Palestine (Nation) and The Harvard Kennedy School’s Anti-Palestinian Bias (Jewish Currents)

Culture & Bonus Reads

‘Queerness is part of Palestinian culture. We’ve existed forever’,

“Elias Jahshan, editor of the anthology ‘This Arab is Queer,’ discusses sexuality in the Arab world, Israeli pinkwashing, and his dream of a liberated Jaffa…While not shying away from a searing critique of patriarchy within the Arab world, the new anthology equally challenges the idea that Arabs are incapable of supporting LGBTQ+ people within their societies, and offers much evidence to subvert such stereotypes. By uplifting queer Arab voices, “This Arab is Queer” does not seek to merely transplant Western queer culture into an Arab context; rather, it celebrates the queerness of the people and culture of the Arab world that has existed for centuries, yet was obfuscated by guilt and shame during the period of colonialism.”

In a Land of Apartheid, a Trip to the Beach Can Be an Act of Resistance,

“Not too long ago, my friend and I snuck onto a beach reserved for the residents of a moshav 10 minutes south of Haifa. The idea that we were infiltrating (at least in someone’s view) a Jewish settlement to sunbathe didn’t burden me. I don’t believe a beach can be “private property.” Besides, after a year in pandemic-stricken New York, there was nothing on my mind but the Mediterranean.”

The Film That Predicted Israel’s Far-right Takeover,

“In their documentary ‘H2: The Occupation Lab,’ Idit Avrahami and Noam Sheizaf show how the military occupation in Hebron has served as a model for the whole settlement project – and now for life in Israel itself” See also Israel’s Culture Minister Weighs Cutting Funds for Hebron Documentary (Haaretz); ‘Attack on freedom’: Israel moves to claw back state funds from critical films (Guardian); Can Israeli documentary film survive as a haven for criticism of the occupation? (Noam Sheizaf//+972)

Sally Azar becomes first Palestinian woman pastor ordained in Jerusalem,

“Sally Azar, a graduate of intercultural theology in Gottingen, Germany, was ordained on Sunday by a Lutheran church in Jerusalem; she is the first Palestinian woman pastor in the Holy Land. She will head the English-speaking congregation at the Church of the Redeemer.”