New & Upcoming from FMEP
Three major stories broke over the past week about Israel’s cyber-surveillance of Palestinians, from hacking the phones of human rights defenders and officials, to increased monitoring of Jerusalemites, to the mass deployment of facial recognition software against Palestinians in the West Bank. To discuss these issues and their broader implications, FMEP is proud to host a conversation with four experts – Andrew Anderson (Front Line Defenders), Marwa Fatafta (Access Now), Avner Gvaryahu (Breaking the Silence), and Sophia Goodfriend (7amleh), in conversation with FMEP President Lara Friedman. RSVP Here.
The Nakba, the displacement of over 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland from 1947-49, is among the root causes of the conflict in Palestine-Israel and critical to understanding the failure of the decades-long “peace-process,” and the level of justice and reparations required to achieve a sustainable future. We will hear the personal stories of those who survived the ethnic cleansing of their cities and villages, and learn from them and their descendants how the trauma of the Nakba and Israel’s ongoing policies of erasure have shaped their lives. We’ll also ask about their visions for the future, what justice looks like, and how they sustain connections to their homeland from the diaspora. Nakba survivors and their descendants Nida El-Muti, Dina El-Muti, and Hasan Hammami will join FMEP non-resident fellow Peter Beinart in conversation. Co-hosted with Project48. RSVP here.
- Podcast (11/9): “Israel’s Anti-Terror Law & Pegasus are Terrorizing Palestinian Human Rights Defenders,” featuring Ubai Aboudi, director of Bisan Center for Research and Development, in conversation with FMEP’s Lara Friedman.
- Webinar (11/5): “The Terrorism Smear: Israel’s Move to Shut Down Palestinian Human Rights Work,” featuring leading human & civil rights experts Jamil Dakwar (ACLU), Rabea Eghbariah (Adalah), and Dima Khalidi (Palestine Legal), together with Lara Friedman, discussing the work of the targeted Palestinian NGOs, the context and impact of this terror designation, reactions from governments and NGOs in the U.S. and the EU, and expectations of impact.
- Podcast (11/4): “Secret Israeli dossier provides no proof for declaring Palestinian NGOs ‘terrorists’” featuring journalist Oren Ziv with FMEP’s Sarah Anne Minkin.
Pegasus Surveillance of Palestinian Human Rights Defenders & Officials
“The mobile phones of six Palestinian human rights defenders, some of whom work for organisations that were recently – and controversially – accused by Israel of being terrorist groups, were previously hacked by sophisticated spyware made by NSO Group, according to a report….[Front Line Defenders] FLD’s findings were independently confirmed with “high confidence” by technical experts at Citizen Lab and Amnesty International’s security lab, the world’s leading authorities on such hacks….The revelation is likely to provoke further criticism of Israel’s recent decision to target Palestinian human rights activists. UN human rights experts have called the designation of the groups as terror organisations a “frontal attack” on the Palestinian human rights movement and on human rights everywhere, and said it appeared to represent an abuse of the use of anti-terrorism legislation by Israeli authorities.” See also “Palestinians Were Targeted by Israeli Firm’s Spyware, Experts Say” (NYT); “Report: NSO spyware found on 6 Palestinian activists’ phones” (AP News); “Israel’s Pegasus spyware: Tested in Palestine, sold to the world” (The New Arab); “Palestinians Targeted With Israeli Spyware Decry ‘State Terrorism’” (Haaretz); Hacking of activists is latest in long line of cyber-attacks on Palestinians (The Guardian)
“On 16 October 2021, Front Line Defenders was contacted by-Al Haq, a human rights organisation in Palestine, about the device of a Jerusalem-based staff member and a possible infection with spyware. Front Line Defenders immediately conducted a technical investigation, and found that the device had been infected in July 2020, with spyware sold by Israel-based NSO Group. Front Line Defenders began investigating other devices belonging to members of the 6 designated Palestinian civil society organizations, and found that five additional devices were hacked with the same spyware. Front Line Defenders shared the data it gathered from the phones with Citizen Lab and Amnesty International’s Security Lab for independent peer review. Both confirmed, with high confidence, Front Line Defenders conclusion that the phones were hacked with Pegasus.” See also: “Press Release – Front Line Defenders Investigation Finds Pegasus Spyware on 6 Palestinian HRD Phones” (Front Line Defenders) and “Devices of Palestinian Human Rights Defenders Hacked with NSO Group’s Pegasus Spyware” (Citizen Lab)
“The Palestinian Foreign Ministry on Thursday said it has detected spyware developed by the Israeli hacker-for-hire company NSO Group on the phones of three senior officials and accused Israel of using the military-grade Pegasus software to eavesdrop on them. Officials in the Palestinian Authority told Haaretz that phones belong to people working at the Foreign Ministry who were in charge of preparing the complaints against Israel to the International Criminal Court.”
“…the company’s biggest backer, the government of Israel, considers the software a crucial element of its foreign policy and is lobbying Washington to remove the company from the blacklist, two senior Israeli officials said Monday.” See also: “Isaac Benbenisti quits as NSO CEO after two weeks” (Globes)
“This attack is part of a broader assault on Palestinian civil society, and it raises serious questions about whether Israeli authorities were involved in the targeting….Surveillance of Palestinian human rights defenders violates their right to privacy, undermines their freedom of expression and association, and threatens their personal security and lives. It not only affects those directly targeted, but also has a chilling effect on advocates or journalists who may self-censor out of fear of potential surveillance. Information obtained through arbitrary surveillance can be used to prosecute, monitor, harass, or detain human rights defenders, dissidents, and others who challenge authorities or dare to stand up to those in power….Today, we, the undersigned organizations Reiterate our calls on states to implement an immediate moratorium on the sale, transfer, and use of surveillance technology until adequate human rights safeguards are in place…”
“Democratic lawmakers urged the Biden administration to take further action against Israeli spyware firm NSO Group, days after the company was blacklisted alongside fellow Israeli spyware firm Candiru….The representatives explain that the entity would curtail exports by U.S. companies in support of NSO Group, but would not limit financing for the company by American investment funds “that have been complicit in the company’s abusive business model.” They therefore called on the administration to work with allies to reach multilateral agreements that would stop investors in democratic countries from subsidizing companies selling “hack-for-hire weapons on the open market,” the representatives stated.” See also “Opinion: Blacklisting this Israeli spyware firm is only a first step” (WaPo Editorial)
“Now, when it turns out that for some reason Israel requires Pegasus for its efforts to suppress Palestinian organizations that naturally work against the occupation, the following comparison is warranted: Israel is just another undemocratic country, to say the least, like Mexico, Azerbaijan, Hungary and Saudi Arabia. Anyone who failed to notice this before now knows that it targets civilians – that is, people who oppose its policies through nonviolent means.”
Israeli Crackdown on Palestinian Civil Society
“Prior to this decision, the groups could still legally operate in the West Bank, where they were registered and active, regardless of Israel designating them terrorist organizations. The order means that the army can act against these organizations immediately, arrest their employees on suspicion of membership in a terror group, raid their offices and confiscate equipment.”
“An Israeli military court has convicted a Spanish national living in the occupied West Bank of funnelling European aid to a Palestinian organisation designated as “terrorist” in the EU and the US…Rishmawi has worked as a fundraiser for the Health Work Committees (HWC), a Palestinian aid group, which Israel accuses of having links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)….One of Rishmawi’s lawyers, Avigdor Feldman, said that she did not know that some of the money she handled went to the PFLP, adding that Israel using her confession “as proof that there was a justification for outlawing the [Palestinian] organisations is an absolute sham”.” For more on the HWC, see “Secret Israeli dossier provides no proof for declaring Palestinian NGOs ‘terrorists’“ (+972) and “Israel justifies ban on Palestinian rights groups with testimony of unrelated group” (Middle East Eye)
“+972 was present at Rishmawi’s military court hearing in Ofer Military Prison, and reviewed the final indictment against her. The Israeli government’s account of the case is a far cry from the truth….The Foreign and Defense Ministries claim Ruiz Rishmawi “served as a fundraiser” for the PFLP. But according to the plea bargain, Ruiz Rishmawi said she had only “suspected that the organization was acting on behalf of the PFLP,” yet continued to work with the group. The plea bargain also makes clear that while she agreed to say that some of the funds she had raised allegedly went toward PFLP activities, this took place without her knowledge. In other words, the Israeli government’s accusation that the PFLP used Ruiz Rishmawi for fundraising purposes is not just factually incorrect — it does not appear in the final indictment at all.”
“We work at Addameer, one of the biggest organizations providing direct support to Palestinian political prisoners….Since Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank in 1967, the Defense Ministry has classified more than 400 Palestinian organizations as “hostile,” “unlawful,” or “terrorist.” This criminalization extends to all aspects of Palestinian civil society — from journalists and nongovernmental organizations to students and human rights defenders. Working with prisoners, we have seen intimately how any Palestinian can be criminalized and arrested. The low standard of evidence and the politicized context of Israeli military courts results in a conviction rate of over 99%, making it nearly impossible for Palestinians to challenge a charge against them. Israel’s 2016 counterterrorism law is now being used to expand the powers of Israeli authorities to criminalize legitimate social, humanitarian, political and charitable action by Palestinians.”
“Five European countries expressed “serious concern” at Israel’s designation of six Palestinian civil society organizations as terrorist groups after a Security Council meeting on Monday and said they will be seeking more information from Israeli authorities on the reasons for their listing.” See also: “Press Statement on Israel/Palestine” (Joint press statement by Estonia, Ireland, France, Norway, and Albania); UN Agencies Back Palestinian NGOs, Say Received No Evidence to Back Terror Allegations (Haaretz); “Visiting US lawmakers press Israel to explain Palestinian groups’ terror listing” (ToI); and “Stated Clerk speaks out on actions against six Palestinian organizations” (Presbyterian Church USA). For a longer list of reactions to Israel’s terrorist designation of these groups, see this Twitter thread that Lara Friedman began on October 22nd and has been updated constantly.
“A criminal investigation should be opened against Defense Minister Benny Gantz for his decision last month to classify six Palestinian non-governmental groups as terrorist organizations, attorney Eitan Mack said in a letter he wrote on the matter to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit. “We asked that you open a criminal investigation against Minister Gantz for falsely declaring that six Palestinian human rights groups are terror organizations” and that “you freeze the declaration” until the investigation is completed, wrote Mack. He represents the left-wing Israeli NGO Combatants for Peace.”
“In an October 27 ruling, the Supreme Court denied tax-exempt status to an Israeli-registered group running a school in the West Bank because the school educates Palestinian, not Israeli, children. The precedent-setting decision imposes financial burdens on civil society groups providing services to Palestinians, including groups that step in to fulfil responsibilities that the Israeli government, the occupying power in the West Bank and Gaza, has flouted. The court’s ruling means that Israeli-registered groups operating in the West Bank will get tax breaks if they provide services to Jewish Israelis living in unlawful settlements, but not if they provide services to Palestinians living under military occupation in the same territory.”
Analysis / Commentary on Israel's Designation of Palestinian Human Rights NGOs as "Terrorist Organizations"
“The effective criminalization of Palestinian institutions and the expansion of the settlements are two sides of the same coin. The goal is clear: to silence the independent monitoring of Israel’s human rights violations that stand between total annexation of the occupied West Bank and international accountability….These tactics are seemingly part of a wider, continuing movement to delegitimize, defund and permanently gut Palestinian NGOs. The shrinking space of Palestinian civil society has been well documented. It’s part of a campaign, spearheaded by the Israeli government, with support from groups like NGO Monitor and UK Lawyers for Israel, to disseminate disinformation and pursue these groups in court, targeting civil society organizations that monitor and resist Israeli human rights violations, including the continuing expansion of illegal settlements. These attacks on civil society are not limited to organizations operating in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. They spill out into courtrooms, campuses and government offices across Europe and North America through smear campaigns, the proliferation of unconstitutional anti-boycott laws and lawsuits meant to distract and drain nonprofit organizations providing solidarity to Palestinian civil society.”
“Karim Khan, who was sworn as the new chief prosecutor of the ICC in June this year, is expected to use evidence, material and documentation provided by Palestinian human rights organizations once he convenes the investigation. This includes evidence gathered by Alhaq, one of the organizations banned last month, which also submitted its arguments before the Pre Trial Chamber of the ICC. Alhaq is expected to take a major role in providing evidence, material and documentation for the investigation of Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Occupied Territory. In this sense, the Israeli minister’s recent decision could be read as an attempt to silence Palestinian organizations and prevent them from providing such evidence.” See also: “Israel’s Latest Effort to Fragment and Disempower the Palestinians” (MERIP) and “The Long Arm of Israeli Repression” (Foreign Policy)
“I know how easy it is to become a “terrorist” with a single remark. When the defense minister, the former Shin Bet head and many other former and current senior officials claimed that Breaking the Silence was committing treason for money, thousands of ordinary people stood behind us and refused to erase us because of the defense minister’s claims. But we’re Israelis and they’re Palestinians. We won’t see these Palestinians’ faces on our television screens. We don’t speak their language. And their access to justice is that of subjects with no rights. Nor will we hear from the thousands whom these organizations have helped to achieve a bit of justice under perpetual military rule.”
More Big Surveillance News
“The Israeli military has been conducting a broad surveillance effort in the occupied West Bank to monitor Palestinians by integrating facial recognition with a growing network of cameras and smartphones, according to descriptions of the program by recent Israeli soldiers. The surveillance initiative, rolled out over the past two years, involves in part a smartphone technology called Blue Wolf that captures photos of Palestinians’ faces and matches them to a database of images so extensive that one former soldier described it as the army’s secret “Facebook for Palestinians.” The phone app flashes in different colors to alert soldiers if a person is to be detained, arrested or left alone….To build the database used by Blue Wolf, soldiers competed last year in photographing Palestinians, including children and the elderly, with prizes for the most pictures collected by each unit. The total number of people photographed is unclear but, at a minimum, ran well into the thousands….In addition to Blue Wolf, the Israeli military has installed face-scanning cameras in the divided city of Hebron to help soldiers at checkpoints identify Palestinians even before they present their I.D. cards. A wider network of closed-circuit television cameras, dubbed “Hebron Smart City,” provides real-time monitoring of the city’s population and, one former soldier said, can sometimes see into private homes.The former soldiers who were interviewed for this article and who spoke with Breaking the Silence, an advocacy group composed of Israeli army veterans that opposes the occupation, discussed the surveillance program on the condition of anonymity for fear of social and professional repercussions.”
“Israel maintains comprehensive legislation to protect the right to privacy, however, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem continue to be systematically denied such rights. Instead, Israeli authorities implement and carry out security measures without consultation or communication with those communities subject to intensive surveillance…Researchers have demonstrated how Israeli surveillance firms profit off of the use of their technologies in the occupied Palestinians territories, with places like East Jerusalem serving as a critical testing ground of innovations in biometric surveillance in particular. As this report highlights, such practices have a detrimental impact on Palestinian Jerusalemites’ civil rights. The findings of the report demonstrate how intensified and increasingly high-tech surveillance in East Jerusalem, has led to the erosion of civil and political rights for Palestinian residents of the city and the increase of video and biometric surveillance and digital monitoring has constrained freedom of movement, impeded Palestinian residents’ right to privacy, and eroded Palestinians’ freedom of expression on and offline.”
“The back-to-back revelations…have made it harder for the world to ignore the growing dangers of Israel’s unchecked power. Palestinians have long warned that Israel has turned the occupied territories into a ‘laboratory’ for weapons and surveillance technologies, invoking a narrative of ‘counter-terrorism’ to serve as a guise for domination. The international community has repeatedly paid no heed, blindly accepting Israel’s dubious arguments and prioritizing the need to defend ‘Israeli security,’ without considering what it meant for ‘Palestinian security.’ Now, those states are realizing that Israel’s authoritarian methods are spilling onto their own turf.”
“On Monday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit allowed WhatsApp’s lawsuit against Israeli spyware firm NSO Group to advance, and rejected NSO Group’s attempt to block briefs filed by civil society. In its ruling, a three-judge panel of an appeals court in San Francisco, California, affirmed a lower court’s decision to deny NSO Group’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit….In the lawsuit, originally filed in the Northern California District Court in October 2019, WhatsApp and its parent company Meta (Facebook) are suing NSO for using WhatsApp’s servers to deliver Pegasus spyware to the devices of 1,400 users in violation of U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), California Comprehensive Data Access and Fraud Act, as well as contract and trespass law. While this case is between two private companies, Access Now and our partners’ amicus brief highlighted for the court the human rights implications of NSO’s hacking and the real-life harm it caused.”
“The “Blue Wolf” database — which uses facial recognition technology banned in several countries — is the kind of policy that puts Israel in league with some of the world’s cruelest governments…The army’s attempt to portray this reality — in which an occupying force pours massive resources into a biometric database in order to deepen its control of the local population — as a way to ” improve their quality of life” is laughable. This is all the more ludicrous given that soldiers routinely turn a blind eye, or stand idly by, when armed Israeli settlers attack Palestinians in broad daylight.”
“Israel joined the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence today, Nov. 11, becoming the 20th member of the organization created two years ago under French and Canadian leadership….Renaud Vedel coordinates France’s national artificial intelligence strategy. He explained to Al-Monitor that the organization is made up of countries with advanced artificial intelligence technologies that believe in the values of equality and democracy promoted by the OECD.”
“Tel Aviv prosecutors on Wednesday requested the withdrawal of indictments against four Arab Israeli men who were charged with beating an off-duty soldier in Jaffa in May, because security camera footage showed them arriving at the scene after the attack had already happened….Police had previously said that the four defendants confessed, during questioning by the Shin Bet security service, to participating in the assault, while their attorney claims the confessions were obtained under duress.”
Occupation // Annexation // Human Rights
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November 5, 2021
- Sheikh Jarrah Families Reject Court-Proposed “Deal” with Settlers; Eviction Orders Expected Soon
- Supreme Court Rules Sheikh Jarrah Businesses – Built on Privately-Owned Palestinian Land But Near Settler Sites – Will Be Demolished
- Israel Demolishes East Jerusalem Muslim Cemetery, In Order to Make Way for Public Garden (& Increase Israeli Control Over Old City Perimeter
- Israeli Court OKs Refusal of Israeli Custodian of Absentee Properties to Disclose Extent of Control Over Palestinian Properties
- New Report from HaMoked: The ‘Seam Zone’ & Israel’s Ongoing Dispossession/Annexation
- Bonus Reads
“Incidents of violence led by Israeli settlers against Palestinians are increasing in frequency and scope, human rights groups allege, becoming a key part of settlers’ push to take over land in the area it captured during the 1967 war.” See also “Israel: Settler attacks on Palestinian olive harvest ‘most dangerous in years’” (Middle East Eye)
“However, B’Tselem’s investigation, which includes footage of the incident, found that there was no disturbance of the peace at the time. Al-Hashash was standing on the roof of his home with his brother, filming the soldiers as they were leaving the camp. Clearly, therefore, his killing cannot be justified and the fatal shooting cannot be considered lawful. The shooting of al-Hashash is yet another example of the military’s unlawful open-fire policy. This policy allows soldiers to open lethal fire at Palestinians even when they are not endangering them or anyone else – without the soldiers or their commanders being held accountable.”
“Miqdad al-Qawasmi, a 24-year-old from Hebron city in the southern occupied West Bank, started the strike in the summer to protest his administrative detention, a form of imprisonment without charge or trial imposed by Israel. He has reportedly reached an agreement with the Israeli prison authorities to end his hunger strike and to be released in February 2022.”
“Nearly two decades after Israel sparked controversy worldwide by building the barrier during a Palestinian uprising, it has become a seemingly permanent feature of the landscape — even as Israel encourages its citizens to settle on both sides. Tens of thousands of Palestinians navigate its checkpoints every morning as they line up in cramped terminals to enter Israel for jobs in construction and agriculture. Farmers in Qaffin and dozens of other villages need permits to access their own private property….Eighty-five percent of the still-unfinished barrier is inside the occupied West Bank, carving off nearly 10% of its territory. The Palestinians view it as an illegal land grab, and the International Court of Justice in 2004 said the barrier was “contrary to international law.””
Spotlight on the South Hebron Hills
“At least two Palestinians were allegedly shot and wounded by Israeli settlers during clashes in the south Hebron Hills in the West Bank late Wednesday, witnesses said, adding that both men were hit in their hands….Itay Feitelson, 26, a left-wing Israeli activist at the scene, said the clashes were sparked when Israeli settlers from the area set up a tent near a small Palestinian farm by the shepherding hamlet of Khilet al-Daba. Palestinians in the area saw the tent as an attempt to create a foothold for a new illegal settlement outpost in the area….The tensions rose as the day went on. When Feitelson returned at night, some settlers had already attempted to set parts of the Palestinian farm ablaze, he said.” See also “Four Palestinians injured in settler attack south of Hebron” (WAFA) and these tweets from human rights defender Basel al Adraa, who documented the attack.
“Israeli soldiers prevented Palestinians from Sussia from accessing a playground in their West Bank village on Saturday morning after settlers arrived there….Settlers they came across began to run straight for the playground and broke the entrance gate. Palestinian children who were in the playground at the time left. A settler was filmed chasing off a Palestinian child with a dog….The army also declared the area a closed military zone, despite the fact that it is inside a Palestinian village.”
“As part of a larger project to highlight life in Masafer Yatta…photographer Emily Glick documented the day-to-day reality of residents, capturing their creative resistance to displacement. This week, activists hung posters of Glick’s photographs in public spaces in the cities of Haifa, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv to raise awareness about the threat of eviction facing the villagers; some of the images were quickly destroyed or defaced…These glimpses reveal the texture of daily life in Masafer Yatta, and the diverse and powerful forms of defiance displayed by the people who call it home.” See also “Save Masafer Yatta” for photo essays and a gallery of photos of Masafer Yatta residents.
“Dozens of photographs showing pictures of Palestinians threatened by Israeli expulsion were hung in Israeli cities on Sunday night…The photos, on display in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and South Hebron Hill, are part of a “Global Week of Action” organised in solidarity with the residents of Masafar Yatta in advance of the court hearing.” See also this Instagram post from the All That’s Left Collective to see these photos.
“Jewish settlers from an unauthorized West Bank outpost beat a Palestinian man with a club on Sunday, fracturing his arm….The incident occurred after the settlers, who were herding sheep, directed the sheep to a cistern in a Palestinian village in the Masafer Yatta area, even though the Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank had ruled that the settlers had no right to access the cistern for their flocks. Several Palestinian villagers sought to get the sheep away from the cistern and were attacked by the settlers. In addition to the man who fractured his arm, two women were injured in the clash…The police permitted the settlers to continue to water their flock from the village cistern. The officers took the club from the settlers but minutes later a policeman returned the club to the owner of the farm, Issachar Dar.”
“For generations, Palestinian society has clung to education as a means of maintaining its collective identity, as well as a means of resisting the Israeli occupation. It is relatively a highly educated society, with high rates of university graduates in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.But among the dozens of young educated people whom I spoke to at Meitar and elsewhere, there was a pervasive sense that pursuing higher education is futile. After years of investing in becoming economists, engineers, or doctors, they have discovered that the only way to make a proper living is to work as laborers in Israeli construction sites….“I studied law for four years. Getting to university every morning was challenging, because the army prevents us from paving roads in Tuba, and my family is poor. Studying law in the West Bank costs around NIS 10,000 a year, and my mother and father — both of them shepherds — had to sell their sheep to finance my studies. “And today? I work in construction in Israel, like all of my classmates. There is no other work. We don’t even have a place to do a [legal] internship.””
The Israel Defense Forces didn’t know in advance that foreign media outlets had offices in a building it shelled in the Gaza Strip during its war with Hamas in May. It discovered that the Associated Press and Al Jazeera had offices in the Al-Jalaa building only during the “knock on the roof” procedure, a small missile strike meant to warn the building’s occupants to evacuate before an imminent airstrike, according to sources involved in the incident. When the warning missile hit, the foreign journalists tried to warn both Israeli colleagues and Israeli defense officials of their presence. But even though several defense officials then tried to prevent the ensuing airstrike, warning that the destruction of a building used by the media would cause severe PR damage and could result in pressure to end the fighting, senior IDF officers ordered the strike to go ahead.”
“I am a Palestinian-South African academic teaching literature at Al-Aqsa University of Gaza….The moment we learned about your decision in Gaza, we celebrated, with an obvious relief, the fact that someone of your calibre is hearing our voices….I told my students, who are all refugees living in Gaza’s camps and who are all suffering under Israel’s occupation, that the world is changing.”
The U.S. Scene
“The lawmakers, including Reps. Mark Pocan and Jamaal Bowman, visited Sussia – a village in the South Hebron Hills – alongside prominent Palestinian activist Nasser Nawajah and Avner Gvaryahu, executive director of the anti-occupation NGO Breaking the Silence. Their visit took place days after Israeli soldiers prevented Palestinians from accessing a playground shortly after settlers arrived there. Pocan, who is one of the fiercest advocates in Congress for Palestinian rights, tweeted that they discussed settler violence with Nawajah, adding: “We will be watching to make sure no violence occurs this weekend or anytime.”” See also “Israeli PM Meets Progressive Dems in Jerusalem, Including ‘Squad’ Member Bowman” (Haaretz) and these tweets from Rep. Mark Pocan and Rep. Jamaal Bowman.
“Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has reportedly reiterated to visiting Democratic US Congress members that he won’t allow Washington to reopen the US consulate….a senior US State Department official recently acknowledged that Israel’s permission would be required before the United States could reopen the consulate.” See also: “US ambassador to UN expected to make first visit to Israel next week” (ToI)
“The Biden administration abstained – but did not reject – a General Assembly resolution affirming the right of return for Palestinian refugees to sovereign Israel as part of a broad text in support of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). In doing so, it broke with the voting pattern on Israel set by former US president Donald Trump in which all such texts received an automatic no vote. The Obama administration, however, had traditionally abstained from this particular text, which comes annually before the General Assembly.”
“A federal investigation said that Mike Pompeo violated the Hatch Act when, as Secretary of State, he addressed the Republican National Convention in 2020 from Jerusalem…Pompeo’s Jerusalem appearance took up a substantial portion of the report, in part because he initiated a change to State Department policy banning employees from campaigning just days before his speech on Aug. 25 from atop the King David Hotel — a policy he had reaffirmed just months prior to his appearance.”
“While national political journalists may have chosen to ignore or overlook Miriam Adelson’s clear interest in steering U.S. foreign policy toward hawkish policies in the Middle East, at least inasmuch as the Republican Party can drive policy, the potential 2024 presidential candidates speaking at the event gave every indication that they understood the issues that motivate the Republican Party’s biggest donor: Israel, Iran, and promoting a hawkish U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.”
“Civil rights attorney and human rights activist Huwaida Arraf is running to represent southeast Michigan in the U.S. House….Arraf is a first-generation American born to Palestinian Christians who immigrated to Michigan in 1975. Arraf and her husband co-founded the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian advocacy group that organizes demonstrations against the Israeli military in the West Bank. Arraf criticized members of Congress for being “silent” about human rights abuses by the Israeli government.”
“When unionists wrote a pro-Palestine motion, Israel advocates contrived a wide-ranging campaign to stop it from receiving a vote.”
“The Palestinian Authority’s finances are at a “breaking point”, a United Nations official warned on October 20th. But that didn’t stop Israel’s state-owned electric company from reportedly threatening a week later to cut power to the occupied West Bank if the PA didn’t pay $120m in overdue bills. The threat to plunge Palestine into darkness is a recurring one, but it has renewed focus on the increasingly dire state of the PA’s books, and the role Israel continues to play in further hobbling the occupied West Bank’s already crippled economy when it can least afford it.”
“Cuts to the budget of the UN’s relief agency for Palestinians – including a halving of the UK grant – means the agency is close to collapse, the head of the agency, Philippe Lazzarini, has said….UNRWA was hit hard in 2018 when Donald Trump halted US funding, leaving other countries to scramble to fill the unexpected deficit. But the re-engagement of the US under Joe Biden has been offset by the lack of multi-year commitments as yet from the Gulf countries, and by decreases from other countries such as the UK.” See also “UNRWA chief seeks funding to avert financial collapse” (Al Jazeera)
“The Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, told US lawmakers on Wednesday that “Israel is destroying the two-state solution systematically.” Shtayyeh made his comment during a meeting with a US congressional delegation in Ramallah. He told delegation members that the occupation state’s “settlement campaign” is plunging the region into a perilous situation, as are its “ongoing human rights violations.”” See also “Palestinian PM: Only two-state solution can end ‘apartheid’” (AP)
“Palestinian entrepreneurs and human rights activists are demanding that PayPal ends its exclusion of Palestinians and to understand from PayPal why its policy was structured in the region this way, in clear contravention of international law, which discriminates against users on the basis of national or ethnic origin rather than location, and further entrenches the Israeli occupation.”
“Just over a decade ago, ground was broken on Rawabi – which was billed as a game-changer in the West Bank. A visit to the hilltop city is a confusing experience, though, with a lively center contrasting with empty neighborhoods.”
Global / Region
“The five-day exercise is the first occasion the four countries have publicly acknowledged shared maritime drills and comes after the UAE and Bahrain normalised relations with Israel last year….The training underscores the shifting dynamics of the region following normalisation agreements between several Arab states and Israel during the administration of former President Donald Trump. The countries had previously informally coordinated, particularly in regards to their shared regional foe, Iran.” See also “Israel to export border surveillance technology to Cyprus” (Al Monitor) and “US Jewish leaders visit Saudi Arabia to advance Israel normalization” (i24 News)
“Israel‘s ambassador to the UK was evacuated from the London School of Economics (LSE) on Tuesday, as pro-Palestine students voiced their anger at her appearance. Footage on Twitter showed Tzipi Hotovely, clutching a bouquet of flowers, being bundled into her car by security guards as students chanted: “Shame on you.” At least one protester tried to rush towards her….Hotovely is a hardline supporter of Israel’s illegal settlements and has described herself as “a religious right-winger”. She has opposed interfaith marriages in Israel and is a staunch opponent of a Palestinian state.”
Knesset member Mansour Abbas, head of the Ra’am party, met with King Abdullah of Jordan today in the royal palace in Amman. Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and the king’s Chief of Staff Jaafar Hassan also attended the meeting…After the meeting, Jordan issued a statement saying the two men discussed “the latest developments in the Palestinian territories and ways to advance the peace process.” The statement further said the king emphasized his support for the Palestinians, and for the creation of a Palestinian state in the framework of a two-state solution, with its capital in eastern Jerusalem.”
“The silencing of Palestine advocates goes beyond the highly-charged debate over BDS, however, and is rooted in Germany’s longstanding ideological support for Israel…Yet activists and scholars say that this commitment is not only expressed through Germany’s diplomatic, military, and financial support for Israel: it also, they say, appears in the defamation of individuals and organizations who resist Israeli apartheid in the name of fighting antisemitism. The blow has been particularly significant on German university campuses, where students and scholars say this policy discriminates against them by restricting their access to resources, disrupting their ability to organize, and interfering with their chances of employment.”
Culture & Long Reads
“Future historians may single out 2021 as the year the tide turned for the Palestinian struggle—though it was hard to see coming.”
“Mohammed El-Kurd is a Palestinian poet, writer, and activist who grew up in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. When he was 11 years old, settlers carrying rifles and backpacks, and supported by the Israeli army, took over half his house. This spring, El-Kurd returned to Palestine from the United States, where he was studying for his MFA, to fight a renewed push to expel his family and neighbors from their homes. In the process, he helped spark what has come to be known as the Unity Intifada. He has since been named one of the 100 most influential people of 2021 by Time, and The Nation recently tapped him as our inaugural Palestine correspondent. In October, he published a book of poetry, Rifqa. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.” See also “The unbearable beauty of Rifqa” (a review in Mondoweiss of Mohammed El-Kurd’s newly published book of poetry).
“There are few individuals who can personally be credited with generating a seismic shift in the discourse around a political cause. Mohammed El-Kurd is undoubtedly one of them. Grounded by his community in Sheikh Jarrah, and together with his sister Muna, El-Kurd has left an indelible mark on the way Palestine is talked about in the international media. That imprint is set to deepen with his new post at The Nation, which I am following from Haifa with great excitement. By bringing on El-Kurd as its Palestine correspondent, The Nation is helping to correct a major historical wrong. Palestinians have long been robbed of the ability to narrate our struggle in the United States, forced to watch while others articulated our stories without us. To this day, we are being turned away from mainstream platforms, dismissed as untrustworthy sources, and vilified as racists for questioning a regime that, in its own words and deeds, defines racial supremacy as the lifeblood of its existence.” See “Letters: Readers respond to the hiring of Mohammed El-Kurd as Palestine Correspondent” for letters from Dima Khalidi of Palestine Legal, Yousef Munayyer of Arab Center DC, Professor Maha Nassar, Rebecca Vilkomerson formerly of JVP, and others.
“The No. 1 polluter in the occupied Palestinian territories is the very control Israel exercises over the land and the settlement enterprise. That isn’t a verbatim quote, but that’s the spirit of what Palestinian PM Mohammad Shtayyeh said at the COP26 environmental summit in Glasgow last week….Any number of studies and articles about the environmental conditions in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank draw a connection to Israeli policy.”
“Even 20 years defending peace activists and Palestinians couldn’t fully prepare new Meretz lawmaker Gaby Lasky for the frustration she feels or the restraint she must show as a member of the strangest coalition in Israel’s history.”