Top News & Analysis from Israel & Palestine: March 25-31, 2022

What We’re Reading

New from FMEP

Palestinian Politics, Arab Normalization, & Escalating Violence: A Deep Dive with Dalia Hatuqa,

In this episode of Occupied Thoughts podcast, FMEP’s Lara Friedman speaks with preeminent journalist Dalia Hatuqa about Palestinian domestic politics, this week’s normalization “summit” in the Negev, and the long-feared/long-predicted escalation of tensions/violence in the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, coinciding with Ramadan, Easter, and Passover, which many fear will turn into an even bloodier re-play of the events of summer 2021.

Policing the Narrative: Israel & Apartheid in the US Debate,

Last month, Amnesty International published a detailed and thorough report examining Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and concluding that it meets the legal definition of the crime of apartheid. With this conclusion, Amnesty joined the ranks of international and Israeli NGOs, including Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem, and Yesh Din, as well as Palestinian organizations and advocates, including Al Haq and Al Mezan, who have likewise concluded that that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians amounts to the crime of apartheid. And just last week, UN Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk articulated the same conclusion in an official report to the UN Security Council. In this week’s webinar, we explored another aspect of this issue: the dynamics and tactics (some new, some old) on display in the responses from defenders of the status quo to the growing use and acceptance of the apartheid framing — including deflection and misdirection aimed at shifting focus away from factual findings and delegitimization and demonization of human rights defenders and Palestinian rights activists. Featuring Paul O’Brien (Amnesty International), Dr. Maha Nassar (University of Arizona), and Peter Beinart (CUNY), in conversation with Lara Friedman (FMEP).

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.


Israeli security services struggle to stop deadliest terror wave since 2nd Intifada,

“Eleven people have been killed in Israel in three separate terror attacks over the past week, the largest weekly toll since 2006 at the tail end of the Second Intifada. The shooting spree on Tuesday night outside Tel Aviv, which claimed the lives of five people, was the single deadliest terror attack since the 2014 Har Nof synagogue massacre. These three attacks do not appear to have been coordinated in any way, nor were the perpetrators connected to one another…The large body counts and the locations of the attacks, in completely different parts of the country — well outside the normal terror hotspots of the West Bank and Jerusalem — have deeply shaken Israelis’ sense of security, calling to mind the randomness and deadliness of the attacks of the Second Intifada.” See also In Life, They Showed Israel’s Breadth. In Death, They Were Victims. (NYT); What’s behind the spate of Palestinian attacks on Israelis? (Al Jazeera video) .

Israel-Palestine: Itamar Ben-Gvir tours al-Aqsa Mosque under police protection ,

“The visit by Itamar Ben-Gvir, a member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, came days before the month of Ramadan and against a backdrop of increased violence in Israel and Palestine. Authorities approved Ben-Gvir’s visit on Wednesday despite warnings that increased police-protected tours by settlers and far-right Israelis in al-Aqsa will lead to more confrontations…Ben-Gvir’s visit, part of which he filmed, comes days after 11 Israelis were killed in three separate attacks carried out by Palestinians inside Israeli cities. In the wake of the violence, Israeli police and armed forces have raised the alert level to the highest it has been since May last year. During his tour, Ben-Gvir, who is associated with the hardline Kahanist ideology, called Jerusalem’s Islamic Waqf, a Palestinian civilian administration that manages the mosque, “terrorists”. “Whoever controls the Temple Mount controls the Land of Israel. The enemy understands this too,” he said.” See also Mosque Arson, ‘Revenge’ Graffiti in Palestinian Villages in Days After Be’er Sheva Murders (Haaretz); Terror attacks in Israel turn settlers against Bennett (Al Monitor);  Israeli settlers attack Palestinians across West Bank after shooting (Middle East Eye); Bennett criticised for saying ‘West Bank’ instead of ‘Judea and Samaria’ (Middle East Monitor); Israeli forces kill three Palestinians in the occupied West Bank (Al Jazeera); Israeli settlers attack Palestinians across West Bank after shooting (Middle East Eye); Revenge Attacks Against Palestinians Spike (Haaretz);  Israel approves new settlements in Negev following deadly attack (Middle East Eye).

After deadly attacks, Israel targets Palestinian workers for punishment,

“Following the series of deadly stabbing and shooting attacks in the Israeli cities of Be’er Sheva, Hadera, and Bnei Brak over the past week, which have killed 11 people, there have been growing calls in Israel to stop the employment of Palestinian workers in the country. These voices are coming primarily from right-wing activists, but not exclusively: municipal authorities and other public bodies have also announced that they will be preventing the entry of Palestinian workers from the occupied territories. The policy — which is being justified as a security measure, but is effectively a form of collective punishment against Palestinians — has been gaining traction in recent days, though it’s hard to know how long it will last…The Civil Administration — the arm of the Israeli military that governs the occupied territories — issues about 80,000 work permits for Palestinians from the West Bank to work inside the state, and about 30,000 to work in Israel’s West Bank settlements. A further 12,000 workers receive approval to enter from the Gaza Strip. About 40,000 additional Palestinian workers are also estimated to be entering Israel without a permit. There are dozens of gaps in Israel’s separation barrier, and it is an open secret that the army has so far deliberately left them open — both because Israel wants Palestinians to do the low-paying, manual labor jobs that Jewish-Israelis are not willing to do, and because the Israeli defense establishment believes that the employment of Palestinian workers in Israel contributes to stability in the West Bank. Palestinian workers without permits, however, are not entitled to social rights, thus enabling rampant exploitation.” See also Israeli mayors ban Palestinians from working on construction sites (The New Arab); Israel to Revoke Work Permits of Terrorists’ Relatives After String of Deadly Attacks (Haaretz).

PM tells licensed Israeli owners to carry their guns amid ‘murderous terror wave’,

“Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday called on licensed Israeli gun owners to arm themselves in public as he detailed various measures being taken in the wake of three deadly terror attacks over the past week. “Citizens of Israel, we are currently experiencing a wave of murderous terrorism,” Bennett said in a video statement. “What is expected of you, citizens of Israel? Alertness and responsibility. Open your eyes. Whoever has a license to carry a weapon, this is the time to carry it,” he said.” See also Israeli Seriously Wounded After Stabbing Attack on West Bank Bus (Haaretz) Israel: Five killed near Tel Aviv in third attack in a week (Middle East Eye); All of a sudden, Israel cares about illegal weapons (+972)

Normalization / Negev Summit / Ukraine

For Israel, the Negev Summit was all about Iran. For other participants, not so much,

“On the face of it, the Negev Summit presented an excellent opportunity for Israel and its newest allies to come together to discuss the joint threat of Iran, even if Jerusalem’s concerns are primarily regarding Tehran’s nuclear program, whereas the other participants are more worried about its ballistic missile program and support for proxies throughout the region…The senior Emirati official agreed that each participant arrived in the Negev with their own unique interests. “The question is how will this new realignment benefit each country individually while at the same time address regional issues? I don’t have the answer for that yet but this meeting is a good start.”” See also “Israeli business leaders expect surge in trade with Morocco” and “Israeli president meets Jordanian king in landmark visit” (Al Monitor)

From Israel to Russia, occupiers are remaking the world order,

“While most Western governments denounce Russia for its brutal attack on a neighboring country, Israel has an inherent problem speaking out clearly against the occupation of another people’s land and sovereignty. It cannot wholeheartedly join sanctions against Russia or denounce its war crimes while concurrently leading a diplomatic campaign against the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement, or against proceedings in the International Criminal Court regarding suspected crimes committed in the context of Israel’s military occupation…For three decades, Israel was able to push back against international criticism by using the feeble excuse of “peace talks,” while entrenching its rule over Palestinians on the ground and carrying out de facto annexation of their land. The Netanyahu project sought to undermine the legal world order to the point that he could remove Israel’s mask without paying a price. As the former prime minister himself once said, “They [the world] will become more like us than we will become like them.” The great tragedy is that he was right. And now, as Israel chooses to be silent on the occupation of Ukraine, it is doing so to ensure that “they” continue to look “like us.”

An inauspicious start to Biden’s democracies v. autocracies campaign,

“If Secretary of State Antony Blinken wanted to highlight the hypocrisy that so many non-Western nations perceive in President Biden’s efforts to depict the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a global “battle between democracy and autocracy,” he couldn’t have chosen better than to attend the Middle East foreign ministers’ meeting in Israel today. All five of his interlocutors from Israel, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco represent governments that are either monarchical, outright tyrannical, or have invaded and occupy their neighbors’ territory by the force of arms. Blinken’s enthusiastic endorsement of this burgeoning axis of Mideast states regardless of their human rights records marks a return to the familiar Cold War politics where generous U.S. support for all kinds of repressive states, especially in the Global South, was justified by the overriding necessity of containing and defeating the Soviet Union.”

Land Day / Masafer Yatta / Occupation

In Every Corner of Palestine, There Is a Story of Dispossession,

“Everywhere you look on the map, there is a story of dispossession. In the Naqab, Palestinian Bedouins are uprooted and replaced by pine trees. In Silwan, the Occupation forces demolish homes to fulfill a biblical fantasy. In Sheikh Jarrah, ethnic cleansing comes disguised as a “real-estate dispute.” In Beita, settlers build illegal outposts on hilltops, and soldiers kill for them. Out of all the loot, the Land remains—indisputably—the most valuable. As I observe this Land Day, I can tell a dozen stories of dispossession, but today I want to write about the communities of Masafer Yatta, whose villages, tucked in the South Hebron Hills, are under imminent threat of expulsion.” Also see this Land Day report from Al Haq: “Special Focus: On Palestine Land Day, Al-Haq Highlights Israel’s Continued Nakba Through Land Registration aimed at Mass Forcible Transfer” and “Our land means our existence”: Palestinians mark Land Day in Gaza” (Mondoweiss) and Stop the Wall’s “Land Day: A Day to call for sanctions on apartheid Israel

Why can’t my sister sleep at night? Because soldiers keep raiding our home,

Since February, Israeli soldiers have invaded our village — a-Tuwani, in the South Hebron Hills — almost every week. The pattern is always the same: the soldiers roam the streets with no apparent purpose other than to intimidate the residents. It seems like they’re doing training exercises. Tasnim has not been able to sleep at night for two months now, ever since the incursions began. She asks our mother to stay in her room every night and talk to her. Many other kids in the village are experiencing the same fear. When we asked the army last month to explain the invasions, we were told these were just “routine operations.” Well, this is what their routine looks like…When I was Tasnim’s age, 20 years ago, I developed the habit of always sleeping with my shoes on. Soldiers would barge into our homes at night screaming at us to get out, before gathering all the residents — adults and children alike — on the lot. They never gave me time to put my shoes on, so I learned to sleep without taking them off.” For more on IDF raids and settler attacks in Masafer Yatta, follow Basel al Adraa, Ali Awad, Youth of Sumud, and the Center for Jewish Nonviolence on Twitter.

In the West Bank, segregated roads displace Palestinians,

“On the surface, the threat of demolition in Arab Al-Saray’a might sound similar to the types of problems created by urban sprawl anywhere else in the world. But in the occupied Palestinian territory, and in the Jerusalem area in particular, geopolitics loom large over even the smallest of roadworks. For decades, Israel has declared its intention to build settlements in an area just east of Jerusalem, referred to in planning documents as “E1”. Doing so would completely surround East Jerusalem with settlements and preclude meaningful geographic contiguity between the northern and southern West Bank. In addition, such settlements are illegal under international law…Any Palestinian presence in E1, both those living there and even Palestinian traffic passing through, poses a major obstacle to Israel’s settlement plans. However, Palestinians travelling between the northern and southern West Bank must currently use a highway that traverses the so-called E1 area. Israeli authorities, therefore, are working toward “eliminating the need for Palestinians to travel through E1,” according to Amy Cohen, director of international relations and advocacy at Ir Amim, an Israeli organisation that focuses on Jerusalem within the context of the Palestinian-Israeli issue. “The road project lays the groundwork for the future annexation steps of the area of E1,” she adds.”


Critique as movement building: The apartheid reports on Palestine,

“If we come to understand these reports as mere tools, not as the site of liberation, and if we acknowledge the skewed power of Israeli and international media to carry more weight than Palestinian voices, then this moment is imbued with political potential. With Israeli and leading international organizations coming to the fore and inching closer toward the Palestinian narrative, a turning point is in the making, one that we must encourage, capitalize and build on. These reports have the capacity to shift the narrative around Palestine in the mainstream imagination, from one focused on a conflict between two warring parties and on a faulty peace-process, to one of apartheid. Such a paradigm shift is essential, and a prerequisite to our future liberation…All this must be done without our compromising on red-lines…Playing politics should not entail concessions on fundamental principles, otherwise the battle is lost at the outset. This is where critique is essential if delivered with the goal of movement building, of securing power, of constructing rather than destroying. The critiques should ask: how can we utilize these interventions, and build power — use them to our advantage, incomplete as they are?…As long as we, Palestinians, understand what our struggle for liberation is — dismantling a Zionist settler-colonial regime and achieving self-determination in Palestine — then that must be our guiding light. As long as the values animating our movement — freedom, justice, equality — are at the forefront of our political engagement, then we will not misstep, even if we use the compromised tools of human rights and international law.”“ From Africa to Palestine: The pan-African fight against Israeli apartheid” (The New Arab) and “‘Hysterical, dangerous & counterproductive’: Israel reacts to Amnesty’s ‘apartheid’ label” (The New Arab) 

The High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel and Adalah to UN Commission of Inquiry: Israel practices racial segregation against Palestinian citizens of Israel,

“For the first time, an international Commission of Inquiry (COI) will also examine Israel’s human rights violations against Palestinian citizens of the state, and the ‘root causes’ of the conflict. Adalah called on the COI to investigate the Nakba and the ongoing existence of a colonial regime with apartheid characteristics.”

Lawfare / Quashing Criticism of Israel

Legislative Threats to Academic Freedom: Redefinitions of Antisemitism and Racism,

“The past few years have seen an increase in partisan political attempts to restrict the public education curriculum and to portray some forms of public education as a social harm. Two targets are particularly evident: teaching about the history, policies, and actions of the state of Israel and teaching about the history and perpetuation of racism and other accounts of state-enabled violence in the United States….There is a clear connection between recent laws on antisemitic speech and those on teaching about racism. New legislation on antisemitic speech amends civil rights laws to address antisemitism as a special form of discrimination. But civil rights laws already include antisemitism among prohibited forms of discrimination. Thus, while the growth of antisemitism is a severe threat, it can and should be addressed under existing civil rights laws as religious or race discrimination. These new laws, however, expand the definition of antisemitism to encompass political speech, with several discriminatory effects. Political critiques of Israeli state actions—including discrimination and violence against Palestinians—become subject to the charge of antisemitism, skewing the social and legal meaning of equality and obscuring other prohibited forms of discrimination. Redefinitions also feed Far Right attempts to depict teaching about systemic racism, including pedagogy employing “critical race theory,” as discriminating against white people. Such legislation reinterprets social understandings of equality and justice by inverting the very meaning of racism, misrepresenting its perpetrators as its victims. Scrubbed of its past, a now innocent nation bears no responsibility for ongoing racial or settler-colonial violence.”

Lowkey says he will 'not be silenced on Palestine' after push to remove him from Spotify,

British rapper Lowkey said he “will not be silenced on Palestine” after a pro-Israel lobby group campaigned to get his music off Spotify, a music streaming platform, for his pro-Palestine stance. We Believe in Israel, a pro-Israel British grassroots group, said the move is part of its efforts to remove “dozens of instances of problematic material, including Lowkey’s [2010 song] Long Live Palestine – Part 2″…[Director of We Believe in Israel] Akehurst is a regular attendee at Israeli government events aimed at developing ideas on how to ban pro-Palestine solidarity from online platforms. In 2019, the Act.IL online troll army, run by the Israeli government, listed We Believe in Israel as one of its partners.” See also Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, Naomi Klein Join Over 100 Academics Denouncing The Israel lobby’s Attempt To Cancel Lowkey (Mint Press News)

Iowa Passes First State Antisemitism Bill,

“On Wednesday, Iowa became the first state in the nation to pass a bill adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism for use when assessing the motivation behind illegal discriminatory conduct…Similar bills are currently pending in Georgia, Tennessee, New Jersey, and Arizona, and a number of other states are also considering such legislation. South Carolina and Florida have already adopted IHRA for similar use in their education systems, and a total of 19 states have endorsed the definition in some fashion.”

Long/Bonus Reads

The Israeli Government’s Old-New Palestine Strategy,

“Little has changed in the calculations of the main actors in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite the dramatic upsurge in violence almost a year ago. To prevent a reprise, outside powers should push for interim steps as they revisit the core assumptions of their diplomacy.”

Reimagining Palestinian Health and Education with Yara Asi,

Yara Asi joins host Yara Hawari to discuss the Palestinian health and education sectors within the context of the Palestinian struggle for liberation.” 

Carpets, books, and jewelry: Why looting was central to the Nakba,

“Raz’s analysis of looting as a distinct, separate, phenomenon echoes a wider problem: the view of the Nakba as an isolated event outside the wider pattern of Zionist settler colonialism…This absence of the colonial context from Raz’s analysis is reflected in the absence of any consideration of a future of decolonization and the return of Palestinian refugees. If anything, looting is made to appear as another factor that precludes the possibility of return.” For more on Adam Raz’s research on looting, see this FMEP webinar, “A Founding Generation of Looters: New Research on Israeli Theft of Palestinian Property in 1948,” with Adam Raz (Akevot), Yousef Munayyer (Arab Center DC), and Sarah Anne Minkin (FMEP). 

Henna wa zaffe: An inside look at Palestinian wedding traditions,

“The first thing that anyone should know about Palestinian weddings is that they do not happen in one day. The ceremonies and traditions, and the joy that comes with them, can’t be contained in a short space of time, and will often spill over into several days, sometimes even a week. Over the years, Palestinian weddings have changed, particularly for the many living in diaspora, who have resorted to altering certain traditions and creating new ones. Some of these differences have travelled back to Palestine, where the influence of other countries can be seen. However, a number of iconic practices continue to feature heavily in Palestinian weddings, with generations of heritage, rich in symbolism, passed down from generation to generation. Here, in the first of a series, Middle East Eye explores what happens at a traditional Palestinian wedding. Stay tuned for the next part, which will be published next week.”

How an army refusal letter became the last stand of the Zionist left,

“Since 2002, the Israeli military has undergone significant changes — so much so, says Levy, that “one cannot imagine something like ‘The Combatants’ Letter’ happening today.” A far larger proportion of combat soldiers are now recruited from the national-religious sector and the socioeconomic periphery, who see the army as a vehicle for social mobility. New units have been formed which specialize in carrying out the duties of controlling Palestinians under occupation, while reservists have been diverted, for the most part, away from serving in the West Bank and Gaza. The Combatants’ Letter was part of a transformative moment in the history of the occupation and Israel’s relations with the Palestinians, and in the history of the Israeli left. For many people, myself included, refusing was also part of a personal transformation, a gateway drug for a whole new approach to viewing the conflict. “It was a bridge to a new place,” agrees Zonshiene, who is the head of the board of the human rights organization B’Tselem (which lately began to label the entire Israeli regime as one of apartheid)…“If someone would have told me [back then] that the army would bomb Gaza from aircraft, it would have seemed crazy to me,” he continues. “We refused to do far less. So if things get worse, and they certainly have the potential to get much worse, people need to be reminded that the option to say ‘no’ exists.””