Top News & Analysis from Israel & Palestine: March 1-8, 2023

What We’re Reading

New from FMEP

Backlash and Perseverance: The UC Berkeley LSJP Bylaw and Its Aftermath,

FMEP non-resident fellow Maha Nassar speaks with Berkeley Law Students for Justice in Palestine members Malak Afaneh and Risa Nagel about the pro-BDS bylaw that nine Berkeley Law student clubs passed last fall, the national uproar that followed, and where things stand now.

Learning & Unlearning Palestine Part 4: Allyship & the Fight for Palestinian Liberation,

In this fourth webinar episode in FMEP and Al Shabaka’s four-part series, Learning and Unlearning Palestine, Saleh Hijazi (BDS Movement) and Nadya Tannous (Palestinian Youth Movement) join Tariq Kenney-Shawa (Al Shabaka) to explore what allyship and solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle has looked like, and what it can and should look like moving forward.

Huwara Pogrom & Aftermath

Israeli attack wounds Palestinians as settlers and soldiers dance,

“Israeli soldiers have been filmed dancing with Jewish settlers on the streets of a Palestinian village where settlers attacked five members of the same family. The five Palestinians were hospitalised after the attack on Monday night in Huwara, in the northern occupied West Bank, only a week after a settler rampage through the village that has been described as a “pogrom”…The Idris family were in their parked car outside a supermarket when at least three settlers ambushed them in an incident caught on surveillance camera footage. “The settler broke the car window and beat me with a hatchet. They sprayed tear gas on us all, we couldn’t open our eyes,” Omar Idris told local media. “When I got out of the car, I saw bullet holes on the car but I was too frazzled to notice in the moment,” he said. Omar said that settlers beat Idris’s father with a rock, cutting his head open. The Israeli human rights group Yesh Din said that Israeli soldiers were present at the incident, but did not stop the attack.”

Analysis | In Hawara, the Palestinian Authority Was Nowhere to Be Seen,

“The five hours during which hundreds of Jews rampaged unhindered through Hawara, attacking people and property and setting fires, encapsulated decades of encouragement of settler violence and the calculated disregard and leniency on the part of the Israeli military, police, state prosecutors, courts and successive governments. But those five hours also proved yet again how compliant the Palestinian Authority is with the artificial division of the West Bank into categories A, B and C, set by the Oslo Accords – a division that was supposed to be temporary and expire by 1999. This is one more reason that the Palestinian public despises and detests the leadership of the Palestinian Authority. While its security forces, who underwent training in Arab and Western countries, have not found a way to protect their compatriots against settler attacks, they are always there in order to suppress them.” See also A “Pogrom” in Palestine (Human Rights Watch)

Army blocks Israeli rally supporting torched West Bank town,

“Israeli troops fired stun grenades and tear gas on Friday to block busloads of Israeli left-wing activists from staging a solidarity rally in a Palestinian town that was set ablaze by radical Jewish settlers earlier this week, protesters said. The soldiers shoved protesters to the ground in the occupied West Bank town of Hawara, activists said, pressing their knees into their necks and backs before briefly detaining them…a group of soldiers violently pushed former Israeli parliament speaker, Avraham Burg, until he stumbled to the ground.” See also Israeli Army Throws Stun Grenades at Left-wing Activists on Hawara Solidarity Visit (Haaretz)

‘I couldn’t see if my brother’s murderer was a soldier or settler’,

“Last Sunday night, when Israeli settlers launched a pogrom on the West Bank town of Huwara, a Palestinian man, Sameh Aqtesh, was fatally shot during a simultaneous settler attack in the nearby village Za’atara. And according to an analysis of 14 videos by Palestinian residents obtained by +972 and Local Call, Israeli soldiers — as in Huwara — were escorting the settlers during the shooting of Aqtesh. The videos do not show the shots being fired, making it difficult to determine whether the shooting came from the soldiers or the settlers — or from a third party that does not appear in the videos. However, the documentation clearly shows that Israeli security forces were not only present in the area at least 15 minutes prior to the shooting, but they did nothing to prevent the settler attack, nor to identify or catch the perpetrator who killed Aqtesh.” See also ‘They were burning our house with kids inside. The army didn’t let us through’ (Yuval Abraham//+972): “Children trapped by settlers. A mutilated pet. Checkpoints blocking aid. A Palestinian family recounts the horrifying night of the Huwara pogrom.” See also Huwwara riots: Video shows Israeli soldiers present when Palestinian was killed (Middle East Eye)

Opinion | In Hawara We Saw Our True Face,

“Ben-Gvir and Smotrich would not wield the power they do if not for the generous indulgence people here have toward Jewish terror, and if Jewish supremacy was not the water we swim in – clear, natural, taken for granted…I have no great expectations from the opposition leaders in the Knesset, but the hundreds of thousands who take to the streets every week are definitely a cause for hope. If thousands of protesters work up the courage to break through more circles and see through the smokescreen that the goal of the coup is first and foremost to hurt the Arabs and their political representatives, if every protester would dare to set the value of equality against the regime of supremacy, that will be a dramatic step forward for all of us. This is the only way to victory.” See also Why there are no two sides to the Huwara pogrom (Haggai Matar//+972): “Huwara is not a story of ‘two sides fighting each other.’ It’s the story of a regional superpower that tramples over millions of disenfranchised people.”; 

See also What is a pogrom? Israeli mob attack has put a century-old word in the spotlight (The Conversation//Joshua Shanes); Top Israeli General Dubs Settler Rampage ‘Pogrom,’ Claims Military Was Caught Off Guard (Haaretz); The Huwara Riot was no ‘pogrom’ (Gil Troy//Haaretz); Israel should ‘wipe out’ Palestinian village of Huwara, says far-right minister Smotrich (Al Monitor)

Apartheid/Occupation/Human Rights

A new generation of Palestinian fighters is rising up in the West Bank,

“Fighters like Abu Dhraa are not tied to a party or a political ideology. But they have easy access to guns and are committed to the fight. In their youth and independence, they represent a new kind of threat — not only to Israel but to an ever-weaker Palestinian Authority, run by unelected men in their 70s and 80s. In earlier generations, Palestinian political factions ran the brigades during street fighting against Israel. Now, cells of teenagers and young men in their early 20s from the neighborhood are calling the shots…Over the past year, the Israeli military has carried out increasingly lethal near-daily raids across the occupied West Bank, targeting Palestinian militants it says are responsible for, or planning, attacks against Israelis. Under the most far-right government in Israel’s history, sworn in late last year, the raids have escalated, taking a heavy toll on civilians. The cycle of gun battles and funerals in Nablus, Jenin and elsewhere have inspired revenge attacks, and appear to be fueling the growing militancy rather than containing it. Israeli soldiers and settlers have killed more than 60 Palestinians so far in 2023, the highest rate in years; Palestinian attacks have killed at least 14 Israelis, seven of them in a shooting outside a synagogue in East Jerusalem in January.” See also How Israel’s killings turned this Palestinian into a Lions’ Den fighter (Middle East Eye); Israel kills 15-year-old Palestinian ‘shot in the back’ (Al Jazeera); In West Bank, New Armed Groups Emerge, and Dormant Ones Stir (NYT)

Israeli forces kill at least 6 Palestinians in latest Jenin raid,

“Israeli forces have killed at least six Palestinians and wounded 11 others during a raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, according to the Palestinian Authority’s health ministry…Israeli authorities said one of the Palestinian men they killed was behind the shooting of two brothers from an illegal settlement near the Palestinian village of Huwara last week.” See also Six killed in Israeli raid on Jenin as settlers attack Palestinian town again (WaPo); Palestinians launch strikes and protests after Israel’s brutal Jenin massacre (New Arab)

Palestinian security forces fire tear gas at fighter’s funeral,

“Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces have fired tear gas at mourners at the Nablus funeral for one of the six Palestinian men killed in an Israeli raid on Tuesday in Jenin…Soon after the funeral began, dozens of PA security forces descended onto the streets and suppressed the procession by firing tear gas at mourners, and attempted to block the march with their vehicles. Local reports said the body of Kharousheh was dropped to the ground during the incident.” See also The Palestinian Authority’s controversial role in West Bank security (Middle East Eye); Nablus: PA forces crack down on funeral of Palestinian killed by Israel (Middle East Eye)

‘They ransack our village for sport’: one Palestinian farmer’s story of Israeli settler violence,

“Doha Asous is an olive farmer from a village near Nablus in the occupied West Bank. She is in Britain for Fairtrade Fortnight to talk about agriculture in Palestine and to promote local produce – olives and their oil, as well as other typical foods, such as dates. Here she describes life in her village during the recent violence between Palestinian locals and Jewish settlers.” See also Settlers hurl stones at home of Hebron activist as soldiers appear to stand by (Times of Israel)

Israel’s Ben-Gvir orders Arab home demolitions in East Jerusalem during Ramadan,

“Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has reportedly instructed police in Jerusalem to carry out demolitions of homes during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins on March 22, and which could ignite more flare-ups between the Israelis and the Palestinians…Ben-Gvir’s order on East Jerusalem goes against a decision taken by Israel’s security agencies of suspending such moves during Ramadan, considered a sensitive time for Israeli-Palestinian relations. This year, the Jewish holiday of Passover falls during the month of Ramadan (April 5-12), further complicating the situation. Thousands of Israelis are set to visit Jerusalem during Passover, including an expected rise in visits to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City. Israeli media report that seniors within the Israeli security system and Israeli police have been warning the minister against what they consider provocative actions, likely to increase existing tensions even further.” Also see Multiple Palestinian Families Face Eviction Threats Before Ramadan (Ir Amim)

Military Court Watch February 2023 Newsletter ,

“Detention figures – According to data issued quarterly by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), as of 31 December 2022, there were 4,604 Palestinians (West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza) held as “security prisoners” in detention facilities including 157 children (12-17 years). In the case of children there was an 5 percent increase in the number compared with the previous month and an annual decrease of 9 percent compared with 2021. Seven children were held in administrative detention. According to the IPS, 71 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”

"Shrinking the Conflict"

At Davos, talk of Palestinian prosperity without freedom is ‘a charade’,

“In January, during the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in the Swiss town of Davos, Israeli and Palestinian business leaders met behind closed doors as part of the Breaking the Impasse (BTI) initiative. The meeting, which was inaccessible to journalists, included high-profile Israelis and Palestinians such as former Bank of Israel governor Karnit Flug and Bank of Palestine executives Hashim Shawa and Kamel Husseini. According to the agenda, those present discussed how “public and private diplomacy can keep the momentum of the two-state solution” going, and how to “jumpstart the Palestinian economy.”…Indeed, at no point during its meeting in January, which focused on the economic wellbeing of Palestinians, did these influential figures discuss how Israeli apartheid and occupation infringe on the Palestinian economy. And from a series of conversations with sources close to the BTI, in addition to documents such as the agenda and attendee list, seen by +972, it is clear that the BTI’s normalization of the status quo and refusal to address more fundamental issues that would substantially improve Palestinians’ livelihoods make it deeply unfit for purpose.”

Shrinking the Conflict: Debunking Israel’s New Strategy,

“Since 2021, Israeli leaders have proposed a new series of economic policies under the approach of “shrinking the conflict.” This strategy aims to afford Palestinians more economic opportunities and so-called freedoms as a way to sustain the Israeli occupation. In this policy brief, Al-Shabaka policy analyst Walid Habbas debunks the framework and explains why Palestinians will not be pacified with economic incentives.”

US Scene

White House says it will not meet with Israel’s Bezalel Smotrich when he visits the US,

“Biden administration officials will not meet with Bezalel Smotrich, the Israeli finance minister who called for a Palestinian village to be “wiped out” then backtracked, and who is visiting the United States next week to meet with leaders of Israel Bonds, a U.S. organization.” See also Scoop: Trump’s former ambassador to Israel slams Bibi’s judicial overhaul plan (Axios); U.S. says Israeli minister’s call to wipe out Palestinian town is “disgusting” (Axios); U.S. Officials Decline Invite to Conference With Far-right Israeli Politician (Haaretz)

ADL Staffers Dissented After CEO Compared Palestinian Rights Groups to Right-Wing Extremists, Leaked Audio Reveals,

“Greenblatt stressed in his address to his staff, “the ADL is a Zionist organization. We will never apologize for this. This fact will never change.” Still, the questions asked in the meeting suggests that some ADL staffers remain uneasy with the organization’s insistence on prioritizing Zionism, especially as the Israeli government continues to entrench its repressive rule over Palestinians. “I think there’s a recognition that the [ADL’s] hardline position on Israel is unwilling to accommodate the reality of the changing politics of Israel and the immense strain that Israel’s democracy is under,” said the former senior ADL staffer. “Morale is low—there’s discontent about this particular approach.””

U.S. Jewish Community Slams Smotrich Over ‘Repugnant’ Comment as Washington Visit Looms,

“U.S. Jewish organizations are following the Biden administration’s lead in strongly condemning Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s call for the destruction of a Palestinian village, days after that West Bank community was attacked by settlers who torched dozens of homes and cars. The condemnations are the latest example of the unprecedented rift between the American-Jewish community and the Israeli government since Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right coalition took power two months ago…AIPAC, meanwhile, reversed its earlier statement saying that it does not announce possible future meetings with officials. It has now confirmed that it will not be meeting with Smotrich.” See also Statement from American Jewish Leaders: Smotrich should not be given a platform in our community (Israel Policy Forum); Jewish groups: Israel’s Smotrich ‘not welcome’ in US after bigoted comments (Al Monitor); American rabbis, wrestling with Israel’s behavior, weigh different approaches from the pulpit (JTA); Opinion | America Can’t Keep Writing a Blank Check to Israel’s Authoritarian Government (Brad Lander, Comptroller of New York City//Haaretz); Can American Jewish Support for Israel Survive This New Government? (New Republic); American Jews, You Have to Choose Sides on Israel (Thomas Friedman//NYT); Michael Bloomberg: Israel Is Courting Disaster (NYT)

Unconditional U.S. Support of Israel Fuels Jewish Extremist Violence,

“Instead of preserving the status quo of a stable Israeli occupation with minimal resistance from Palestinians and the international community, the Biden administration’s obstinate refusal to hold Israel accountable is in fact enabling its violent implosion…If the United States were really the “honest broker of peace” it has long claimed to be, then there are several steps the Biden administration could take to prove it. For instance, it could condition the roughly $3 billion in U.S. tax dollars it provides to Israel annually on the country abiding by international law and ending the occupation. It could also recognize Israeli war crimes, such as the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, as violations of the Leahy Law, which stipulates that U.S. weapons must only be used for defensive purposes. Alternatively, Washington could hold Israel to the same standards that it applies to other countries—by ending its practice of shielding Israel from accountability in international forums like the United Nations or the International Criminal Court.”

Lawfare//Redefining Antisemitism to Stifle Criticism of Israel

US anti-boycott laws could take a ‘draconian’ turn. But the fight is not over,

“ACLU lawyer Brian Hauss clears up misinformation about the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear a local newspaper’s challenge of Israel boycott legislation.” See also ‘It’s an onslaught right now’: film details US battle against anti-boycott bills (Guardian); Jewish youth groups oppose UK’s ‘anti-BDS bill’ as a ‘curtailment’ of basic rights (Middle East Eye); Israel boycott bans are threatening our First Amendment rights (Tariq Kenney-Shawa//Al Jazeera)

Christian Aid claims it was subject to act of ‘lawfare’ by pro-Israel group,

“A leading NGO has broken its silence on a bruising legal battle with a pro-Israeli advocacy group, describing it as an act of “lawfare” aimed at inflicting financial and reputational damage on organisations that do charitable work with Palestinians. Christian Aid, the UK-based charity, was forced to spend about £700,000 defending itself against accusations that it had provided “material support” to terrorists, chief executive Patrick Watt has said. The complaint, filed in 2017 by the New York-based Zionist Advocacy Center (TZAC), dragged on for more than five years before being thrown out by the US courts in September…Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP), said she believed the aim of TZAC’s lawsuits was to send a “chilling effect” through the international NGO sector. “It’s letting organisations know that: if you stick a toe in this Palestine work, it could take down everything you’re doing worldwide,” she said.” See also Palestinian Rights Advocates Prevail as D.C. Court Dismisses Lawsuit Against American Studies Academics (Center for Constitutional Rights)

London hospital takes down artwork by Gaza schoolchildren after complaint,

“A display of artwork by Palestinian children at Chelsea and Westminster hospital in London has been removed after a complaint by a pro-Israel organisation, which said it made Jewish patients feel “vulnerable, harassed and victimised”. The display of decorated plates, designed by children at two United Nations schools in Gaza and accompanied by brief explanations, was on show at the entrance to the children’s outpatients department. Earlier this month, UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) wrote to Lesley Watts, the chief executive of the Chelsea and Westminster hospital NHS foundation trust, asking for the display, called Crossing Borders – a Festival of Plates, to be removed. The display was removed a few days later.”

Israeli Government & Scene

Moody’s warns judicial shakeup could scorch Israel’s credit outlook,

“The Moody’s rating agency said Tuesday that the Israeli government’s plans to curb the judiciary could weaken the country’s institutional strength and negatively affect its economic outlook. The warning was the latest signal from the business community that the government’s plans may hamper continued investment in the country, with reports saying some investors have already begun curtailing or completely freezing the flow of money into Israel.” See also Israel’s bank to report more frequently on transfers of money abroad (Reuters)

Protests Over Netanyahu’s Judiciary Overhaul Spread to Israel’s Military,

“Hundreds of soldiers in the military reserves either have signed letters expressing a reluctance to participate in nonessential duty or have already pulled out of training missions, officials said. The affected units include the 8200 division that deals with signal and cyberintelligence and whose graduates have helped drive the country’s tech industry, as well as elite combat units. The military leadership fears that growing anger within the ranks over the government’s plans will affect the operational readiness of Israel’s armed forces, according to senior military officials. It is most concerned about unrest within the Air Force, with reserve duty pilots increasingly upset over the government plans, the officials said. They also fear that they may be asked to engage in illegal operations, and that restraints on Israel’s judiciary may strengthen foreign calls to prosecute them in the International Criminal Court, the officials said. Reserve duty pilots often lead Israel’s regular airstrikes on Syria and the Gaza Strip, and would be involved in any major Israeli attack on nuclear facilities in Iran.” See also These Longtime Israeli Reservists Never Considered Conscientious Objection. Until Now (Haaretz); Israel air force reservists to skip training in Netanyahu protest (Al Jazeera)

A mass wave of Israeli army refusal could be a transformative moment,

“Or Heler, a military correspondent for Channel 13 news who has been closely covering the current developments, warned that this historic revolt risks putting the Israeli army in an “unprecedented crisis.” He is right. And for the movement struggling to end Israeli rule over the Palestinian people, this crisis presents a moment of unprecedented opportunity…As a researcher on civil resistance — the use of strikes, boycotts, mass protests, and other nonviolent actions to withdraw cooperation from oppressive regimes — in global justice campaigns, I can safely say that this level of involvement in civil resistance campaigns is unparalleled in Israeli history.” 

Israeli police violently crack down on protest over judicial overhaul,

“Israeli police launched a forceful crackdown Wednesday on thousands of protesters who were marching along a central highway in Tel Aviv calling for a halt to a rapidly advancing judiciary overhaul. Police lobbed hundreds of stun grenades, fired water cannons and arrested at least 40 people in response to Wednesday’s “Day of Disruption,” in which flag-waving Israelis flooded the streets and blocked major thoroughfares in dozens of places across the country. Eleven Israelis were hospitalized with injuries suffered during the violent confrontation with police, which escalated after protesters breached a barricade, shouting, “Shame!” Officers, many on horseback, scrambled to disperse the crowd, at times appearing to use indiscriminate force…Such aggressive police tactics are rarely seen inside Israel and were more reminiscent of Israeli military operations in the West Bank, where soldiers are often heavy-handed with Palestinian civilians.” See also Israeli Police Use Water Cannons and Stun Grenades on Protesters in Tel Aviv (NYT); This government’s pyromania may be its downfall (Meron Rapoport//+972)

The Origins of Netanyahu’s “All-Systems Assault” on Israeli Democracy ,

“To understand what is happening in Israel and what the protests mean for its political future, I recently spoke by phone with Dahlia Scheindlin, an analyst and policy fellow at Century International, and also a columnist for Haaretz. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed why the different strains of the Israeli right joined forces in the latest government, the distinct threats that the government poses to the country’s democratic norms, and how much of Israel’s current course was inevitable in light of its failure to end the occupation.” See also Israel is at a crucial crossroads: it can save itself or slide into despotism (Dahlia Scheindlin//Guardian)

​​10% of Israeli Jews think terrorist Baruch Goldstein is a 'national hero' - poll,

“Ten percent of Jewish Israelis think Baruch Goldstein, the American-Israeli terrorist who massacred 29 Palestinians in the Cave of the Patriarchs on Purim in 1994, was a “national hero,” although a majority think he was a terrorist, according to a poll by the left-wing NGO Breaking the Silence.The survey was conducted through the Smith Institute ahead of the 29th anniversary of the massacre…Some 57% of the Jewish Israelis polled said they thought Goldstein was a terrorist, while about a third of respondents did not know whether to regard him as a terrorist or a national hero. Among right-wing voters, about 20% of respondents said they saw Goldstein as a hero. Among left-wing voters, 91% said they saw Goldstein as a terrorist. Over a quarter of Jewish Israelis (27%) said they knew someone who sympathized with Goldstein’s actions.”

International Women's Day Bonus

International Women’s Day: When Palestinian women brought Israel’s occupation to the brink of collapse,

“Palestinian women have served a vital role in the resistance, from fighting the British mandate to Israel’s colonialism, occupation and apartheid. Farrah Koutteineh looks back at their radical history during the First Intifada.”

Jerusalem’s first female pastor on equality, Israeli occupation, and her new role,

“Growing up, Sally Azar would often accompany her father to the Church of Jerusalem as well as attend meetings and bible study sessions…Now, at age 26, Azar has become the first Palestinian female pastor in the Old City of Jerusalem. She was ordained in a Lutheran Church ceremony earlier this year, and will head the English-speaking congregation at the Church of the Redeemer, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.”