Top News & Analysis from Israel & Palestine: November 11-18, 2022

What We’re Reading

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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.

Gaza Strip

Gaza: at least 21 people die as fire breaks out at party in residential block,

“At least 21 people have been killed and several others injured after a fire broke out during a party in the northern Gaza Strip, in one of the deadliest recent incidents outside the violence stemming from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…Gaza’s interior ministry said an initial investigation revealed that large amounts of gasoline had been stored at the site, fuelling the blaze, which quickly engulfed the building. Gaza, ruled by Hamas and under a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade, faces a severe energy crisis. People often store cooking gas, diesel and gasoline in homes in preparation for winter. House fires have previously been caused by candles and gas leaks.”

Investigating the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh

U.S. to probe killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, spurring outrage in Israel,

The United States will launch an investigation into the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, the veteran Palestinian American journalist for Al Jazeera who was killed while covering an Israeli military raid in the West Bank, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement Monday. He added that Israel, which has published its own probe, will not cooperate with the proceedings…In July, a U.S.-led forensic and ballistics analysis concluded that Abu Akleh probably was killed by unintentional Israeli gunfire, despite wearing clearly marked press gear in an area far from Palestinian gunmen, according to eyewitnesses and fellow journalists interviewed by The Washington Post.” See also Israel will not cooperate with FBI inquiry into killing of Palestinian American journalist (The Guardian); Shireen Abu Akleh’s family welcome news of US investigation (Al Jazeera)


See also the Washington Post’s Editorial, “Opinion  Accountability is justified — and needed — in a U.S. reporter’s death”: The Justice Department’s reported decision to investigate the still-unexplained killing of a well-known Palestinian American journalist during an Israeli raid in the West Bank this spring is a step in the direction of determining the truth…if the department has, in fact, decided to launch a probe, it would underscore that critical questions remain unanswered, including who pulled the trigger and why. The Israel Defense Forces is in the best position to supply those answers. It has not done so. Instead, it provided no evidence to support its conclusion in September that the shooting was accidental…”

Officials: White House told Israel it wasn't behind FBI's Abu Akleh probe decision,

“The White House and the State Department told the Israeli government they were not behind the FBI decision to open an investigation into the killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, three Israeli and U.S. officials told me. Why it matters: The FBI decision is unprecedented and it has led to a bilateral crisis between the Biden administration and the Israeli government…Israeli officials said they urged the Biden administration to “fix the situation” before the investigation leaked to the press, warning that once news of the probe became public, the situation would turn into a bilateral crisis.” See also FBI’s Shireen Abu Akleh Probe Is a Watershed Moment in U.S.-Israel Ties (Haaretz)

Israel's New Government

As Netanyahu Nears Power, the Far Right Wants to Oversee the Army,

“As Benjamin Netanyahu attempts to form a new government in Israel, one likely member of his cabinet has drawn particular concern in Washington and in Israeli security circles: Bezalel Smotrich, a far-right lawyer angling to lead Israel’s powerful Defense Ministry. Mr. Smotrich, 42, is a former settler activist with a history of hard-line positions, including support for segregation in Israeli maternity wards; governing Israel according to the laws of the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible; and backing Jewish property developers who won’t sell to Arabs. Mr. Smotrich has described himself as a homophobe, refuses to shake women’s hands for religious reasons and has said it was a “mistake” that Israel’s founders did not expel more Arabs when the country was founded. Now, Mr. Smotrich wants to be defense minister, the second-most-powerful position in government, and one that would give him oversight over the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and airstrikes on Gaza. It would also make him a central point of contact between Israel and the United States, which provides the country with more than $3 billion in military aid each year.” See also: Israel’s Netanyahu agrees to legalise West Bank settler outposts (Al Jazeera), Lawyer for group bankrolling Jewish terrorists running coalition talks for Ben Gvir (Times of Israel), Israeli Human Rights Groups Call on U.S. to Sanction Ben-Gvir, Smotrich Over Human Rights Violations (Haaretz), Israeli lawmaker Ben-Gvir’s wife pictured holding gun, tells public ‘deal with it’ (The New Arab)

Opinion | Netanyahu Is Just a Different Shade of the Same Jewish Supremacy,

“The fact that the reality was already intolerable for Palestinians even before the election does not mean that things can’t get worse, and fast, becoming more horrific and blood-soaked. Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit) is one point on a spectrum; saying this does not mean that the range of positions along this spectrum is a marginal issue not worthy of reflection. The spectrum of positions has significance, but there is also significance to the question of the affinity between the different stances along this spectrum…This reality must be changed. From its foundations.”

Apartheid/Occupation/Human Rights

Israeli Raids in the West Bank Push Palestinians to the Brink Again,

“The United Nations last month warned of an “explosive situation” as 2022 is on track to become the “deadliest year” in the West Bank since 2006, with at least 105 Palestinians, including 26 children, killed there: a 57 percent increase over last year…But deaths are only one way to measure the worsening situation in the West Bank, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians also face restricted mobility, land expropriation, and economic hardships created by the occupation. Movement restrictions by way of Israeli checkpoints and road closures, in particular, have been tightening, while attacks by settlers, often operating with the military’s protection, have become more frequent…Whether mounting Israeli violence across the West Bank over the last several months will plunge the territory back into the large-scale fighting of the past remains in question — but it’s a question Palestinians and others are increasingly voicing, with some referring to it as a “simmering intifada.”” See also Three Israelis Killed in West Bank Attack, Palestinian Assailant Shot Dead (Haaretz), ‘All we could do was watch’: Israeli army demolishes six family homes in occupied West Bank (Middle East Eye), 15 Year-old Palestinian Girl Killed by IDF Gunfire Near Ramallah (Haaretz), Israeli forces uproot 2,000 olive trees in the West Bank (Middle East Eye), Israel deploys remote-controlled robotic guns in West Bank (AP)

Settlers Carry Out 20 Attacks Against Palestinians, Israeli Soldiers in Less Than 48 Hours,

“Some 20 incidents of violence against Palestinians and Israeli soldiers in the West Bank have been reported since the deadly terror attack on Tuesday morning which saw three Israelis murdered over a span of 25 minutes.” See also There’s Only One Way to Describe This Settler Attack: A Pogrom (Gideon Levy//Haaretz); Israeli far-right leader gives talk to soldiers in occupied Hebron (Middle East Eye, referring to Baruch Marzel, “the former right-hand man of ultra-nationalist ideologue Meir Kahane”)

Palestine: Nablus rallies around the Lions' Den despite setbacks,

“Following the 11 October shooting [of an Israeli soldier by the Lions’ Den], Israel imposed a military siege on Nablus…As the siege bit, the group’s popularity soared…In the past few weeks, a new armed group called the Balata Brigade, based in the Balata refugee camp east of Nablus, started releasing statements on Telegram about shooting incidents against Israeli targets. One fighter from the group was killed on 9 November while confronting Israeli forces raiding Nablus. Another smaller group called Jaba Brigade has also appeared, based in the village of Jaba, north of Nablus. In addition, there is the ongoing rise of armed wings belonging to traditional Palestinian political parties such as Fatah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, which have been active in Jenin refugee camp. Especially relevant here is the Jenin Brigade, a quasi-branch of Islamic Jihad’s main armed wing, al-Quds Brigades.” See also Analysis | From Lions’ Den to Lone Wolves: Israel Thought It Had Quelled West Bank Violence. It Was Wrong (Haaretz)

Military Court Watch October Newsletter ,

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

Dispossession and Population Transfer in Masafer Yatta

In Masafer Yatta, teachers like me can’t guarantee our students an education,

“​​The residents of Masafer Yatta, where I live, are living through some of the most difficult days of their lives. The decision of Israel’s Supreme Court in May to displace eight Palestinian villages in the area — supposedly in order to clear the way for military training exercises, but in reality as a means of ethnically cleansing Palestinians — has destroyed the lives of the hundreds of people who have lived in these villages for generations…The four schools serving children from Masafer Yatta are all now under immediate threat of demolition…This situation makes it difficult for Palestinian teachers to even reach their schools; indeed, soldiers have detained teachers for several hours while on their way to school…Students also face real problems trying to reach school, including being detained for hours under the strong sun without cause. In some cases, including just last month, students lost consciousness from heatstroke. These continuous injustices of the occupation have led to students frequently missing school; some have even dropped out because of these conditions.” See also Israel to demolish Palestine school in Masafer Yatta (Middle East Monitor) and these profiles from Humans of Masafer Yatta: Ibrahim Awad from Tuba, Wadi Ejheish by Basel Adra

Expulsion by Other Means: Israel’s Campaign Against Palestinians in Masafer Yatta,

“The Israeli government is waging a campaign of harassment, deprivation, and property destruction against Palestinians in Masafer Yatta that is gradually making their lives unsustainable, with the apparent goal of making them opt to leave. In May 2022, Israel’s High Court upheld the longstanding expulsion order against the Palestinian communities inside the area Israel designated as Firing Zone 918. In less than six months since the Court’s decision – as Israel’s Haaretz newspaper has reported – “life in the area has changed beyond recognition.”…The campaign to make Palestinians’ lives unsustainable in Masafer Yatta: 1) Dispossession and Resource Deprivation…2) Violence and Threat of Physical Harm…3) Intimidation and Isolation…”

US Scene

AIPAC Spent Big to Defeat Progressives This Election Cycle,

“In the wake of last week’s midterms, the impact of AIPAC’s massive campaign spending has come into full view. By dumping at least $28.5 million into the elections, AIPAC sought to keep candidates critical of Israel’s human rights abuses from gaining greater power in Congress, to replace retiring progressive incumbents with allies, and to make progressives think twice about criticizing Israeli apartheid at all.”

At ZOA Event, Trump Again Attacks U.S. Jews for Supporting Democrats,

“You do have people in this country that happen to be Jewish that are not doing the right thing for Israel – too many,” Trump said, echoing a post he made on social media last month that drew heavy criticism from the American-Jewish community. ”The Democrats get 75 percent of the [Jewish] vote, which is hard to believe. We can’t let that continue,” he said…The former president was enthusiastically received by the crowd of ZOA members and supporters, who gave him repeated standing ovations when he entered the room and during his speech. They also stood and burst into raucous applause when other speakers mentioned his name.”

Israel’s new far-right coalition deepens divides among Jewish Americans,

Israel’s new government, expected to be the most right-wing in its history, has rattled segments of the American Jewish community, and even though many leading Jewish institutions are unlikely to change their approach to Israel, progressive Jews are optimistic the government’s formation will open the community’s eyes to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Activists have told Middle East Eye that Jewish institutions are likely remain steadfast in support of Israel, however, the new government risks pushing Jewish Americans to increasingly question those institutions’ legitimacy as representatives of the community.” See also Israel Election | Far-right Plan to Change Law of Return Could Make Millions Ineligible for Aliyah (Haaretz: “If the religious parties set to be in Israel’s next governing coalition have their way, nearly 3 million people with Jewish roots – the overwhelming majority of them from the United States – could lose their right to immigrate to Israel…A key demand of the religious parties in the coalition negotiations is the cancellation of the “grandchild clause” in the Law of Return, which governs eligibility for aliyah and Israeli citizenship. Under the current law, an individual with at least one Jewish grandparent is eligible to immigrate to Israel and receive automatic citizenship. Concerned that too many immigrants in recent years do not fulfill the halakhic definition of Jewish, the religious parties want to change the law so that only individuals with at least one Jewish parent would be eligible for aliyah.”)


Key UN committee seeks legal opinion on Israel's occupation,

“A key U.N. committee approved a draft resolution Friday calling on the International Court of Justice to urgently issue its opinion on the legal consequences of denying the Palestinian people the right to self-determination as a result of Israel’s actions since the 1967 Mideast war. The measure was vehemently opposed by Israel, which argued it would destroy any chance of reconciliation with the Palestinians. The vote in the General Assembly’s Special Political and Decolonization Committee was 98-17, with 52 abstentions. The resolution will now go to the 193-member assembly for a final vote before the end of the year, when it is virtually certain of approval.” See also Opinion | Thanks to Putin, the World Is Suddenly Interested in Israel’s Occupation (Haaretz), ‘A breakthrough’: UN committee votes to request ICJ opinion on Israeli occupation (Middle East Eye) and Opinion | Israel’s Chutzpah at the United Nations (Noa Landau//Haaretz)

Who are the real winners of the Israel-Lebanon maritime deal?,

“Notwithstanding the limited benefits to the national interests of both Lebanon and Israel, upon closer inspection, the biggest winners of the agreement are arguably not even the parties directly involved…Perhaps the biggest winners of the agreement, though, are actors based far away from the Mediterranean coastline: the Biden administration, the European Union, and the American and European gas companies contracted to operate the gas fields.” See also Israel, Jordan sign first environmental agreement at COP27 (Al Monitor), Netanyahu, Erdogan pledge new era of Israeli-Turkish relations in phone call (Al Monitor), Azerbaijan to open embassy in Israel, the first Muslim Shi’ite country to do so (Times of Israel)

Lawfare//Redefining Antisemitism to Stifle Criticism of Israel

Ben & Jerry’s board bemoans West Bank, east Jerusalem sales,

“Ben & Jerry’s board of directors on Tuesday rebuked the sale of products bearing any of the ice cream maker’s insignia in West Bank settlements, the latest salvo in the Vermont-based company’s feud with its corporate parent over ice cream sales in the territories…Ben & Jerry’s independent board said in a statement Tuesday that Unilever’s sale was made without the board’s consent and any products sold by Blue & White Ice Cream Ltd. “should not be confused with products produced and distributed by Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc.””

Cancellation of award for playwright Caryl Churchill condemned,

“Some of the leading names of British theatre and film have criticised the cancellation of a prestigious lifetime award to the playwright Caryl Churchill because of her support for Palestinian rights, saying the move is “nothing less than modern-day McCarthyism”…In April, she was named the recipient of the 2022 European Drama award in recognition of her life’s work. The prize – worth €75,000 (£65,000), the biggest in Europe – is given by Schauspiel Stuttgart and sponsored by the Baden-Württemberg ministry of science, research and arts. But earlier this month, the jury appointed by the theatre company retracted its decision and cancelled this year’s award, saying it had been “made aware of previously unknown information”. In a statement, the jury said Churchill had been chosen for the award “in recognition of her life’s work. However, we have meanwhile become aware of the author’s signatures in support of boycott, divestment and sanctions [BDS]…The state government’s arts minister, Petra Olschowski, supported the move. “In Germany, we have a special historical responsibility. That is why we as a country take a clear and non-negotiable stance against any form of antisemitism…”…In response to the cancellation of the award, Churchill said: “I stand by my support for BDS and Palestinians.””


Why the Head of ACLU’s Human Rights Program Has Regrets About Emigrating From Israel,

“Palestinian-Israeli lawyer Jamil Dakwar, who heads the American Civil Liberties Union’s Human Rights Program, has worked toward justice at Guantanamo, represented CIA torture victims and developed a unique view of U.S. and Israeli rights violations”

The dwindling promise of popular uprisings in the Middle East,

“From Iran to Palestine, protest movements are fighting regimes that have grown stronger and smarter since the Arab Spring. Can this time be different?”

Piecing together the fragments of our Arab-Jewish identity,

“Siblings Yoni and Sivan Battat discuss how collaborating on the former’s music album became a means of reconnecting with their Iraqi family and heritage, and of disentangling Mizrahiness from Israeliness.”

U.S. intelligence report says key gulf ally meddled in American politics,

“U.S. intelligence officials have compiled a classified report detailing extensive efforts to manipulate the American political system by the United Arab Emirates, an influential, oil-rich nation in the Persian Gulf long considered a close and trusted partner. The activities covered in the report, described to The Washington Post by three people who have read it, include illegal and legal attempts to steer U.S. foreign policy in ways favorable to the Arab autocracy. It reveals the UAE’s bid, spanning multiple U.S. administrations, to exploit the vulnerabilities in American governance, including its reliance on campaign contributions, susceptibility to powerful lobbying firms and lax enforcement of disclosure laws intended to guard against interference by foreign governments, these people said…The document was compiled by the National Intelligence Council and briefed to top U.S. policymakers in recent weeks to guide their decision-making related to the Middle East and the UAE, which enjoys outsize influence in Washington. The report is remarkable in that it focuses on the influence operations of a friendly nation rather than an adversarial power such as Russia, China or Iran. It is also uncommon for a U.S. intelligence product to closely examine interactions involving U.S. officials given its mandate to focus on foreign threats.”