Top News & Analysis from Israel & Palestine: May 18-25, 2023

What We’re Reading

New from FMEP

Israel’s new anti-NGO legislation: An Effort to Eradicate Opponents of Illiberalism,

Three days from now — on Sunday, May 28th — the Israeli government’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation (a body of ministers in the government which decides whether or not to give government-backing to proposed legislation in the Knesset) is scheduled to vote on an extremely dangerous bill targeting civil society organizations and, in particular, the human rights sector. The legislation would in effect remove the tax-exempt status of these groups and replace it with an onerous, and quite openly punitive, vindictive tax rate of 65% applied to the groups’ income and/or endowments. In this episode of FMEP’s Occupied Thoughts podcast, FMEP President Lara Friedman speaks with two formidable experts on human rights and civil society about this legislation: Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967; and Jessica Montell, Executive Director of the Israeli human rights organization HaMoked and formerly executive director of the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem.

Living Memory: Palestinian Artists Mark 75 Years of the Nakba,

FMEP & Project48 proudly present a very special podcast commemorating 75 years of the Palestinian Nakba. We are honored to share the voices of 10 powerful Palestinian artists, sharing their works and that of other iconic Palestinian creators. Featured artists are: Ahmed Abu Artema, Hala Alyan, Suad Amiry, Zeina Azzam, Cherien Dabis, Fady Joudah, Tamer Nafar, Raja Shehadeh, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Waleed Zuaiter – reading their own work and that of other iconic Palestinian artists. 

Palestinian Hunger Striking and Defiance of Israel’s Carceral Regime,

In this episode of “Occupied Thoughts,” 2022 FMEP non-resident Fellow Dr. Maha Nassar speaks with Dr. Basil Farraj about the recent death of Khader Adnan – a 45-year-old Palestinian prisoner who died on May 2, 2023 in an Israeli prison cell following a hunger strike that spanned nearly three months. Israel has refused to return Khader Adnan’s body to his family. Adnan was protesting Israel’s widespread policy of arbitrarily detaining Palestinians against fair trial guarantees and in abhorrent conditions. Khader Adnan had been arrested at least 12 times, spent around eight years in Israeli prisons, and went on hunger strike five times.

Shireen Abu Akleh: Her Life, Legacy, & the Continuing Fight for Justice,

In this episode of FMEP’s Occupied Thoughts, FMEP’s Lara Friedman speaks with preeminent journalist Dalia Hatuqa on the 1-year anniversary of the killing of her friend and fellow journalist Shireen Abu Akleh’s – killed by Israel on May 11, 2022 – including reflections on the continued efforts to secure justice and accountability for her death, and on Shireen’s legacy.

Nakba & Commemoration

Reflections on the 75th Anniversary of a Nakba That Never Ended,

“So where do we begin when talking about the Nakba on its 75th anniversary? Well, for starters, we must acknowledge that the inclusion of the words “anniversary” and Nakba in the same sentence is a misalliance; the timeframe, 75 years, is a miscalculation. Even the English translation of Nakba—“Catastrophe”—is reductive, because the Nakba wasn’t a sudden disaster, nor is it a tragic relic from the past. It didn’t begin or end in 1948. Rather, it is a planned, organized, and, most important, an ongoing process of ethnic cleansing. For Palestinians, the Nakba is relentless and recurring. It happens in the present tense—and it happens everywhere on the map. Not a corner of our geography is spared, not a generation since the 1940s. For my own family, the Nakba was my grandmother’s experience of expulsion from Haifa by the Haganah in 1948—but it was also her cautionary tales warning me of what would inevitably be my fate when army-backed settlers with Brooklyn accents took over half of my home in Sheikh Jarrah in 2009, declaring my house their own by divine decree.” See also

The Nakba at 75 – Palestinians’ struggle to get recognition for their ‘catastrophe’,

“In 1998, as Palestinians marked 50 years of exile, activists in the United States and around the world organized commemorative events. For the first time, organizers centered the events around a single theme: remembering the Nakba. That same year, Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat also made official what had long been unofficial: May 15 was declared Nakba Day…In 2009, the Israeli education minister banned the use of the Arabic term in Israeli textbooks. Then in 2011, the Israeli parliament passed a “Nakba Law,” authorizing the government to withdraw funding from civil society groups that commemorate the Nakba. That law remains in effect. The restrictions aren’t limited to Israel. Last year, German courts upheld the Berlin police’s decision to cancel several planned Nakba Day protests in that city. Despite this opposition, Palestinians continue to mark Nakba Day. That’s because, as long as they remain under Israeli occupation and exiled from their land, Palestinian rights groups say, “the Nakba is ongoing.” Many also see May 15 as a day to affirm Palestinians’ resilience, despite the ongoing oppression they face.” See also In First, Palestinian Displacement Commemorated at United Nations (NYT); Bernie Sanders hosts Rashida Tlaib’s ‘Nakba Day’ after Kevin McCarthy canceled it (Jewish Insider); Get a Room? | How the McCarthy-Tlaib Fight Over a Nakba Event Played Out (Haaretz) IMEU Twitter thread with photos from the Nakba event at the Capitol

Where can we Palestinians mourn our catastrophe?,

“For the second year in a row, the Berlin police preemptively banned all Nakba commemorations and demonstrations, surpassing the upswing in violent policing tactics being reported elsewhere in Western Europe, including the U.K. The ban was implemented on the basis that the Nakba Day events posed an “immediate danger” of antisemitism and the glorification of violence. Last year, Berlin police arrested and detained 170 people, including some who did not even participate in a demonstration…Following this year’s ban, the only event allowed to take place was a purely cultural one at Berlin’s Hermannplatz last Saturday. But even this was authorized with heavy conditions: police banned all speeches, took down signs at stands that included the words “BDS” or “Nakba,” confiscated political pamphlets, and at one point even told organizers that dabke, the traditional Palestinian dance, was “too political.” See also Berlin Police Claim pro-Palestine Chant Is Banned at Jewish-led Nakba Day Rally (Haaretz: The police allegedly moved to arrest protesters at a Nakba Day demonstration after the chant ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ was heard in the crowd.”)

Executions and Mass Graves in Tantura 23 May 1948,

“Commissioned by the Haifa-based legal centre Adalah, Forensic Architecture has spent the past year conducting a comprehensive analysis of the available cartographic, testimonial, and photographic evidence related to the Palestinian village of Tantura before and after the 1948 war…Using archival maps, photographs and videos (including previous documentary films about the fall of Tantura), aerial photographs and satellite images, village surveys, memory sketches drawn by former residents of Tantura living in exile, an original survey of the village’s remaining buildings, and a ‘situated testimony’ interview with a living survivor of Tantura, we created a model of Tantura—reconstructing a place long since wiped from the contemporary landscape. The model reveals two key sites, which are very likely mass graves from the time of the village’s occupation—one previously unidentified. Our methodology and findings are detailed in a report that constitutes one element of a historic legal initiative undertaken by Adalah, which seeks to have the sites of mass graves officially recognised and demarcated…Taken together, the component parts of our investigation demonstrate the ways in which the memory of the land supports the memory of its inhabitants.”

Gaza Strip

Even the Survivors Are Poisoned,

“On May 9th, the Israeli army began its latest round of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip. The bombings lasted five days, killing 33 Palestinians and terrorizing the population, whose movement is severely restricted by the ongoing blockade. This article (which previously appeared in our email newsletter) is a diary of that bombardment by Kholoud Balata, a Gazan essayist who has previously written for Jewish Currents about the way Zionist brutality undermines Palestinian childhood and the ambivalence of celebrating Ramadan, when Israeli violence habitually mounts during Islam’s holiest month. In her latest piece, she documents her experience of last week’s attacks, chronicling her attempts to hold onto “a fragile normalcy” under siege.” See also We are ready to rebuild and rewrite Gaza’s narrative (+972//Haneen AbdAlnabi); Gazans mourn loved ones, lick their wounds, as truce is reached with Israel (Al Monitor); The Intentional Cruelty of “Conflict Management” in Gaza (Joshua Leifer//Jewish Currents); War on Gaza is the glue that binds Israel’s opposing camps (Orly Noy//+972); What is Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the militant group Israel is targeting in Gaza? (WaPo); Gaza: The children killed in Israel’s assault, named (Middle East Eye)

Jerusalem/Al Quds

Far-right minister says Israel ‘in charge’ on visit to Jerusalem holy site,

““I am glad to ascend the Temple Mount, the most important place for the nation of Israel,” Ben-Gvir said during his visit to the compound, the most sensitive point between Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem and the scene of repeated confrontations. “Police are doing wonderful work here and again giving a reminder of who the master of the house is in Jerusalem. All of Hamas’s threats won’t help. We are the masters of Jerusalem and all of the land of Israel.”” See also What’s driving Israeli excavations under Al-Aqsa Mosque? (Al Jazeera video); Far-right Israelis shut down Jerusalem’s Old City with flag march (Al Jazeera); U.S. Slams ‘Outrageous’ Racism and Violence at Jerusalem Day Flag March (Haaretz); Jerusalem: Palestinians assaulted as Israeli ministers join divisive ‘flag march’ (Middle East Eye)

Apartheid/Occupation/Human Rights

'I Left for My Children' | West Bank Palestinian Village Residents Flee Amid Ongoing Israeli Settler Violence,

“A community of some 200 Palestinians living in tents and temporary structures in the West Bank village of Ein Samia have decided to leave their home, which they have been inhabiting since the 1980s, due to ongoing Israeli settler violence. The B’Tselem nonprofit organization has documented several settler attacks in the area of the village over the years, including one in which a Palestinian was attacked with a bat and another involving spike strips being placed on the road leading to the village. “We decided to leave out of fear of the settlers,” Khader, a father of nine, told Haaretz. “I left for my children. My youngest said to me, ‘I don’t want to live here – the settlers come and throw stones. Tomorrow they could kill me.’”” See also Palestinian school razed after campaign by gov’t-linked settler group (Yuval Abraham//+972); EU angered as Israel razes Palestinian school built with European funds (JPost); Israel property demolitions, confiscations displace 50 Palestinians in two weeks (New Arab); 5,000 Trees Vandalized in Palestinian West Bank Villages in Less Than Five Months (Haaretz); Israeli Army Refuses to Investigate Soldiers Who Seized, Vandalized and Trashed Private Building in Hawara (Haaretz);

"tens of settlers - accompanied by soldiers -  have invaded the village, burning a number of homes",

““Following a diplomatic visit expressing solidarity with the residents of Burqa earlier today, tens of settlers – accompanied by soldiers –  have invaded the village, burning a number of homes. Several Palestinians already reported injured from live fire. Diplomats from several EU and other states visited the Burqa village council earlier today to learn about the injustice and danger the villagers face at the hands of violent settlers from Homesh who are illegally squatting on private village lands seized from them 45 y ago. The State of Israel is currently undertaking to establish a new settlement in Homesh, on private lands belonging to the residents of Burqa and in contravention to international law. These are the settlers who they will be rewarding.” See also Eighty Israeli Soldiers for 30 Settlers: Inside Homesh’s Revival (Haaretz); Israeli Army Permits Settlers to Enter Evacuated West Bank Outpost, U.S. ‘Deeply Troubled’ (Haaretz); Defense Minister, Smotrich Approve Israeli Settlers’ Groundwork in Contested West Bank Outpost (Haaretz)

New Israeli raid on Balata 'most violent in years', say Palestinian residents,

“Israeli forces left the camp after causing extensive damage to property and injuring dozens of Palestinians, in addition to the three residents who were killed, locals said.” See also Three Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in raid on Nablus (Al Jazeera); Palestinians: Eight Wounded in Israeli Military Op Near Jericho (Haaretz)

West Bank: Hamas-linked bloc wins second major student election,

“The Hamas-affiliated Islamic Wafa bloc won the Birzeit University’s student union election in Ramallah on Wednesday in the latest sign of shifting political sentiments in the occupied West Bank. The Wafa bloc swept 25 seats out of the 51 in the Student Union Council, winning 49 percent of the votes and maintain a plurality of seats for the second consecutive year. Beshara Doumani, a Palestinian-American academic and president of Birzeit University, hailed the “democratic atmosphere” in the university after the election results were announced. This is the second major university election won by the Hamas-affiliated student bloc this year. Last week, the Islamic bloc won a majority of 40 seats at An-Najah University in Nablus, in the north of the West Bank, while PA’s endorsed Shabiba bloc secured 38 seats, and three seats were won by the PFLP’s bloc.”

The Palestinian Village in Smotrich’s Sights,

“Destroying the hamlet of Khan al-Ahmar has become a priority for Israel’s settler right, which aims to “cut the West Bank into two.”…The current Israeli government has given the extreme settler right massive power to execute its agenda—an agenda exemplified by the work of Regavim…However, on the issue of Khan al-Ahmar, Netanyahu has pushed back on his government’s settler flank. Experts say this is a testament to international pressure campaigns that have sought to protect the village from destruction…While Netanyahu is generally more “defiant” than “risk-averse,” [Jerusalem expert Daniel] Seidemann said, in the matter of Khan al-Ahmar, “he is deterred by the international reaction.””

The Technology of Occupation Has Become One of Israel's Main Exports,

“My aim in The Palestine Laboratory is to show how the Israel/Palestine conflict has been exported globally. The tools and technologies Israel uses to repress Palestinians are sold to over 130 nations around the world. Repression and surveillance tech, from spyware to facial recognition tools, are “battle-tested” in Palestine and then marketed to countries across the globe, many of which want to oppress their own unwanted populations, from journalists and human rights workers to dissidents and critics. I wrote this book as both an investigation and warning to remind people that Israel’s occupation isn’t just brutalizing Palestinians but also finding its way into countless other countries.”

'I am not free if I am in exile': Salah Hammouri talks exclusively on being silenced, solidarity and how Palestinian unity is as strong as ever,

“In an exclusive interview, Palestinian-French human rights lawyer Salah Hammouri speaks to The New Arab about his life in forced exile, the conditions of his new activism, and his perspectives on Palestine’s future.”

Israeli Scene

New Bill From Netanyahu's Party Targets Foreign Donations to Israeli NGOs, Drawing Sharp U.S. Criticism,

“The Israeli Ministerial Committee for Legislation is set to debate on Sunday a bill that aims to restrict the ability of Israeli human rights organizations to accept donations from foreign governments…The bill’s accompanying explanatory note highlights its aim to curb foreign “interference” in Israeli democracy through taxation. It specifically targets financial support provided by nonprofit organizations and public benefit corporations that engage in activities involving “interference” in Israeli legal matters, political endeavors, government policies, municipal policies, or public opinion at large.” See also US sounds alarm over Likud bill targeting rights groups backed by foreign governments (Times of Israel); Israeli Government Introduces Bills Advancing West Bank Annexation, Hampering Academic Freedom (Haaretz); 

Budget dedicates billions for West Bank roads, settlements and illegal outposts,

“The state budget passed in the early hours of Wednesday morning will invest several billion shekels in West Bank settlements and transportation infrastructure, further entrenching Israel’s presence in the disputed territory.” See also After Passing Budget, Netanyahu Vows to Press on With Judicial Overhaul (Haaretz); Far-right Israeli Minister Lays Groundwork for Doubling West Bank Settler Population (Haaretz: “Israel’s Finance Minister, Bezalel Smotrich, has asked to prepare for 500,000 more settlers to move to the West Bank by updating the infrastructure in settlements and illegal outposts”)

These Israeli youth are burning their draft orders — and no longer feeling alone,

“Left-wing high schoolers describe how the anti-government protests have provided a window for the mainstreaming of views long deemed illegitimate.”

U.S. Scene

U.S. response remains muted a year after slaying of reporter in West Bank,

“In the year since her death, Abu Akleh’s family has demanded an independent investigation — and justice. The U.S. government pledges to protect its citizens and media freedoms. But Abu Akleh’s family is still waiting…The response is not good enough for some members of Congress, who in letters and legislative amendments have pressed for an independent investigation into why a U.S. citizen and journalist was gunned down with apparent impunity. Nearly half of Democrats in the Senate signed a letter to Biden in June reiterating the United States’ “obligation to ensure that a comprehensive, impartial, and open investigation into her shooting death is conducted.” Some in Congress are also calling for full transparency around two government reports in the works, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told The Post on Monday. An FBI investigation is underway, with which Israel said it would not cooperate. The USSC recently submitted a report to the State Department — but Van Hollen said the State Department plans to make “unspecified changes” before sharing it with Congress. Last week, he sent a letter to Blinken calling for the release of the unedited version.” See also At Washington Commemoration of Abu Akleh Killing, Fresh Calls for Accountability Surface (Haaretz); ‘We won’t forget’: US lawmakers call for justice for Abu Akleh (Al Jazeera)

17 Democrats Introduce Bill Targeting Israeli Human Rights Violations in Latest Litmus Test for U.S.-Israel Ties,

The “Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act,” led by Rep. Betty McCollum, largely mirrors a version of the bill she introduced at the beginning of the last session of Congress, though comes at a time when Israeli actions toward the Palestinians are under ever-growing scrutiny. While the bill is assured not to pass, it marks a valuable litmus test for growing Democratic criticism of Israeli policy.” See also from Middle East Eye: US congress members urge PayPal to open services to Palestinians; US Senate Republicans reintroduce bill to sanction enablers of ‘terror groups’ in Palestine; US senator reintroduces anti-BDS legislation 

New York law aims to stop funding of illegal Israeli settlements in West Bank,

“New York’s state assembly is to consider legislation to stop registered charities from sending tens of millions of dollars a year to fund illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. State assembly member Zohran Mamdani has introduced the “Not on our dime!: Ending New York funding of Israeli settler violence” act to prohibit tax-deductible donations from being used to expel Palestinians from their land and other activities widely regarded as war crimes under the Geneva conventions…The legislation is backed by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights and Jewish Voice for Peace among others.”

Efforts to Redefine Antisemitism to Stifle Criticism of Israel

A manufactured ‘mainstream’ wants the White House to define antisemitism on its own flawed terms,

About the IHRA definition of antisemitism: When it comes to confronting antisemitism, some of today’s Jewish leaders might imagine that American Jews can achieve unity that has long eluded them or Jewish institutional life. They might be so certain of this vision as to pretend that it is true, with fundraising and media blitzes that appear to speak on behalf of all Jews…But don’t let the powerplay bulldoze you…Instead of arriving at the field ready to play an honest game, “mainstream” Jewish institutions and their leaders want to be the only players. To argue that we must all agree on one definition in order to talk about antisemitism is like clearing the field before the game even begins.”

See also FACT SHEET: Biden-⁠Harris Administration Releases First-Ever U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism (Released 5/25); Yousef Munayyer’s early analysis on Twitter here;

See also Israel ‘mudslinging’ threatens to overshadow White House antisemitism strategy (Forward); More than 175 American, global Jewish groups urge U.N. to endorse IHRA definition (Jewish Insider); Hundreds of rabbis say Biden’s plan to fight antisemitism should embrace a disputed definition (JTA)

Opinion | When the Jewish State's Government Defends Antisemitism,

“Again, in a historical twist that doesn’t cease to produce a bleak irony, Israel’s government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, finds itself on the side of the propagators of global antisemitism. This time, the fully right-wing government mobilized in the defense of a host of ugly statements made by businessman Elon Musk about the American-Hungarian Holocaust survivor billionaire George Soros. This, despite widespread condemnation from all sides, and the fact that these statements spurred an anti-Jewish wave of conspiracy theories online.” See also Israel’s Diaspora Minister Courts Canada’s Christian Far Right – and Causes a Diplomatic Scandal (Haaretz); Israel pivots to say Elon Musk attacks on George Soros now not antisemitic (WaPo); The Israeli Minister Who Is Defending Elon Musk (Atlantic)


Liberating a Palestinian Novel From Israeli Prison,

“Rafeedie, who had poured his experiences into the novel, was unable to reproduce it and eventually accepted that it had been stolen. As a consequence, and until the moment of receiving the letter in 1996, he figured that his novel was exclusively in the hands of the occupying enemy. But as it turned out, The Trinity of Fundamentals was being widely read across the Occupation’s prisons. Another copy had been made, unknown to both Rafeedie and the prison guards…Today, The Trinity of Fundamentals is now reaching English-language readers by way of the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM), an organization of young Palestinians and Arabs whose vision is to mobilize Palestinian youth in exile, to strengthen their role and assume responsibility and accountability to the Palestinian national liberation struggle. The first English translation—done by Muhammad Tutunji and collectively reviewed by a group of 14 PYM members—as part of the organization’s political education committee, the Popular University, will be published later this year by 1804 Books. By disseminating this text to an English-reading audience for the first time, the publication of the novel carries on the tradition of defying Israeli attempts to intercept, destroy, loot, and criminalize Palestinian knowledge production.” See also Before and after the Nakba: Palestinian literature of resistance and love for a lost homeland (The Conversation)