New from FMEP
Featuring Palestinians who lived through the 1948 Nakba and their descendants: Nida El-Muti, Dina El-Muti, and Hasan Hammami in conversation with Peter Beinart (FMEP Non-resident fellow). 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.
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), andSophia Goodfriend (7amleh), in conversation with FMEP President Lara Friedman.
Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
- Settlers Secure Deal for Eventual Eviction of Another Sheikh Jarrah Family. 2. Increasing Pressure on the Government, Settlers to Operationalize Plan to Increase Control Over Area C 3. JNF Stops Funding 18-Year Legal Battle Over Beit Bakri in Hebron 4. Demolitions in East Jerusalem Continue, Including in Al-Walaja 5. Settler Violence & Expansionism Continue to Escalate in the South Hebron Hills 6. Bennett Pledges Evyatar Outpost will be Legalized, Sparking Palestinian Ire & More Coalition Threats 7. Government Punts on Outpost Legalization Bill, Knesset Might Move Forward Anyway 8. Bonus Reads
Israel’s Declaration of Palestinian Human Rights Groups as “Terrorist Organizations”
“European Union High Representative Josep Borrell declared on Wednesday that Israel had yet to send definitive proof that six recently banned Palestinian organizations were linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group. “We are asking for answers from the Israeli government, and we have not yet received convincing answers,” Borrell said in a closed-door meeting of international donors to the Palestinians in Oslo.”
“A military court refuted on Tuesday a claim by the defense and foreign ministries that the government hoped to use as justification for its labeling of six Palestinian organizations as terror groups. The Spanish woman convicted of fundraising for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, whose case Israel planned to cite as evidence that its decision was valid, was unaware of and did not take part in the six organizations’ activities, said the military court at the Ofer military base. The court was making a clarification at the request of Spanish citizen Juana Rashmawi’s lawyers, after Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid issued a joint statement linking Rashmawi to the six groups by name.”
“Ghassan Halaika, a Jerusalem-based researcher with Al Haq, recently noticed strange things happening with his phone. “There were some bizarre things happening on my phone such as people receiving calls from me which I hadn’t made,” Halaika told Al Jazeera. As a result of his concerns, Al Haq asked Front Line Defenders, an Irish-based human rights organisation, to investigate the matter….Halaika said he was devastated at the investigation’s findings…“I’m trying to continue my work as normal but it’s not easy,” said Halaika. “What really hurts is that confidential information I had worked on with private contacts, in regard to pursuing Israeli war crimes at the International Criminal Court, was uncovered during the surveillance and has hurt some of my contacts.” See also “Israel’s Anti-Terror Law & Pegasus are Terrorizing Palestinian Human Rights Defenders,”Lara Friedman’s interview with Ubai Aboudi, director of Bisan Center for Research and Development, one of the six NGOs Israel named “terrorist organizations” and also targeted by the Pegasus hacking (FMEP’s Occupied Thoughts podcast).
“The philanthropy open letter urges the U.S. government, European Union, and other governments around the world to protect Palestinian civil society by taking the following actions: Denounce all smear campaigns against Palestinian civil society organizations and press the Israeli government to immediately and fully rescind Gantz’s designation of “terrorist organization” against the six prominent Palestinian human rights organizations; Hold the Israeli government accountable to adhere to international law and human rights standards; and; Ensure that any philanthropic funds designated toward civil society organizations in Palestine reach them without interference by the Israeli government or financial institutions.” See also “NGOs, donors pledge solidarity with blacklisted Palestinian civil society groups” (Middle East Eye)
“Musicians Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Jarvis Cocker and Massive Attack, film directors Laura Poitras, Jim Jarmusch, Costa Gravas and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, actors Mark Rylance, Tilda Swinton, Simon Pegg, Richard Gere, authors Philip Pullman, Naomi Klein, Irvine Welsh, Colm Tóibín and Monica Ali — are among dozens of high profile figures who have signed a statement  criticising the Israeli government for launching what they say is: “An unprecedented and blanket attack on Palestinian human rights defenders beginning with the designation […] of six leading Palestinian human rights organizations as “terrorist” groups.””
“An Israeli court has remanded the former head of Gaza’s World Vision office, Mohammad El Halabi, in another apparent attempt to pressure him to confess accusations against him. El Halabi, 42, was detained and interrogated in 2016 by the Israeli authorities, who accused him of stealing money from global charity World Vision’s Gaza branch to funnel money to Hamas. El Halabi has consistently denied the accusations throughout his 167 court hearings and five years in detention.” For an excellent discussion of Mohammad Halabi’s case, listen to Lara Friedman & Daoud Kuttab in “Using ‘Terrorism’ Charges to Target NGOs: Lessons from the Case of Mohamed Halabi” (FMEP’s Occupied Thoughts podcast).
“Researchers have found new evidence that suggests spyware made by an Israeli company that was recently blacklisted in the US has been used to target critics of Saudi Arabia and other autocratic regimes, including some readers of a London-based news website. A report by Montreal-based researchers from Slovakian company Eset, an internet security firm, found links between attacks against high-profile websites in the Middle East and UK, and the Israeli company Candiru, which has been called Israel’s “most mysterious cyberwarfare company.” See also “Candiru: the other Israeli spyware firm on a US blacklist” (i24); “Candiru: Israeli spyware, blacklisted by US, ‘suspected’ in attack on Middle East Eye” (Middle East Eye) and Hackers Compromised Middle East Eye News Website to Hack Visitors, Researchers Say (Vice)
“Israel can listen to every telephone conversation taking place in the West Bank and Gaza, a former member of the Israeli Army’s elite signals intelligence unit 8200 has told Middle East Eye. Every mobile or phone imported into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing – in Gaza’s south – is implanted with an Israeli bug, and anyone using the only two mobile networks serving the occupied territories – Jawwal and Wataniya – is being monitored as well, the former signals intelligence member said. At any given time, hundreds of soldiers are listening to the conversations being conducted. The audio monitoring falls into two groups. The first is Palestinians who are politically active or who represent a security threat in Israel’s view. The second level of monitoring is used by Shin Bet, the domestic security service to find “pressure points” in Palestinian society.”
“The partnership will see the sides work to develop a Memorandum of Understanding supporting information sharing related to the financial sector, such as cybersecurity threat intelligence; staff training and study visits to promote cooperation in the area of cybersecurity; and cross-border cybersecurity exercises linked to global financial institutions’ financial and investment flows.”
“The advantage NSO has in terms of its business dealings is that the State of Israel and the Defense Ministry have given their stamp of legitimacy to its systems, along with the understanding that Israel and NSO will not interfere in the decisions concerning who purchases the system and whose phones are hacked. This is a crucial point: The advantage of Pegasus is that NSO will make sure that the system will always function, while the State of Israel will turn a blind eye to whom its purchaser decides to surveil – even if the company knows for sure that the targets are not terrorists or violent criminals. In exchange for this service, which is not granted by the manufacturers of other such systems, in recent years rulers of various states were willing to spend tens of millions of dollars for a single installation.” See also “Two UAE Princes Each Got Their Own Personal NSO Spyware” (Haaretz)
The intelligence file Israel gave the United States concerning the airstrike on a Gaza high-rise building that housed foreign news agencies was retroactively edited, according to Israeli sources. This was done in order to justify Israel’s claim that the bombing of the Al-Jalaa tower during the last Gaza conflict was necessary, after it became clear that the intelligence in the hands of the Israel Defense Forces was less than solid, say the sources. The report was given to senior U.S. officials after President Joe Biden demanded an explanation for the May 15 attack from then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli officials expressed concern that submitting the altered report could adversely affect the trust between the two countries, especially on defense issues of strategic importance to Israel.”
“Israeli soldiers pulled Palestinian children out of their beds in the middle of the night and photographed them illegally in the West Bank city of Hebron, a B’Tselem video shows. During night operations in the area of Hebron under Palestinian control, known as H1, Israeli soldiers entered the home of the Dana family, forcing the parents to wake up and gather their children. The soldiers were filmed by an activist of the B’Tselem organization. According to the daily Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, the incident took place in September. The parents, calming their children, obeyed all the soldiers’ orders. The 13 minors, all of whom were in kindergarten and early years of elementary school, were forced to stand outside in a line. Several of the children were trembling and crying. The soldiers ordered the children to “say cheese.” Though the parents protested, the soldiers once again ordered the children to do so, and they obeyed.” See the B’Tselem video here.
“As I write these lines, three of my neighbors are at the hospital in the operating room, two of them with bullet wounds, after armed Israeli settlers attacked the southern West Bank hamlet of Khallet a-Daba’.” … I ran back to Khallet a-Daba’ after hearing Amour’s cries for help. When I arrived, I saw him standing next to his father, 64-year-old Jamil, who was lying on the floor bleeding after settlers broke his leg with stones. Until that moment there were no casualties, and the army was still present in the area. In the darkness of the desert, I could count dozens of settlers. They were holding rifles, batons, and slingshots. They waved their rifles from behind the soldiers’ backs, as if to scare the Palestinians. Then, suddenly, the soldiers got into their jeeps and left — leaving behind a militia of armed settlers. With the soldiers gone, the settlers advanced in our direction.” See also: Palestinian farmers critically wounded during West Bank settler attack (Middle East Eye); Settlers assault Palestinians, Israeli activists in West Bank; several hurt (ToI); Farmers prevented from tending their land southwest of Hebron (WAFA). And follow updates on settler violence in Masafer Yatta via Basil al Adraa’s Twitter feed.
“Settler violence against Palestinians serves as a major informal tool at the hands of the state to take over more and more West Bank land. The state fully supports and assists these acts of violence, and its agents sometimes participate in them directly. As such, settler violence is a form of government policy, aided and abetted by official state authorities with their active participation.”
“Our long history of demolitions in Palestine has taught us two things: violence is always around every corner, and the Israeli occupation never rests. But although this is our reality, we still dream of having normal lives, of spending time with our companions, going on leisure trips, getting married, and having children….In those moments before a demolition raid, we Palestinians don’t just experience the fear of what might happen: we are consumed by the fear of all the events that happened before. On these days, we don’t just live through one home demolition — we live through them all.”
“Director Rona Segal learned filmmaking in the Israeli army. Now, she turns the camera on her fellow soldiers.”
“Palestinian prisoner Sami Umour, 39, died in Israeli custody at Soroka Hospital in the Naqab on Thursday. Imprisoned since 2008, Umour suffered from congenital heart problems that Palestinian prisoner groups say were exacerbated because of Israeli medical negligence and difficult detention conditions.” See also “Palestinian man shot dead by Israeli forces in occupied West Bank” (Middle East Eye)
“Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton affirmed on Thursday her predecessor’s decision to withhold the prestigious Israel Prize from a left-wing professor following his support for boycotting an Israeli academic institution in a West Bank settlement.”
“While the violence in and from Gaza has abated, Jerusalem has again reasserted its role as the epicenter of the conflict. With so much happening, a stocktaking of these developments are in order. 1. Displacing Palestinians for ‘biblically-inspired’ settlements…Sheikh Jarrah…Silwan…2. Consolidating an exclusively Israeli Jerusalem with E-1…3. Eroding the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif ‘status quo’…4. The police’s gratuitous violence…5. Closing the U.S. consulate to keep the city ‘off the table.’”
“The assailant, identified by Palestinian media as Amr Abu-Assab, was shot by an armed civilian who was passing by and then again by the Border Police officers he’d attacked. He was pronounced dead at the scene. According to police, Abu-Assab was 16 years old from East Jerusalem.”
“More than 300 former Israeli generals and security officials have voiced support for the US plan to reopen its consulate in occupied East Jerusalem, a move that would restore Washington’s main diplomatic mission for the Palestinians in the contested city. In a letter organised by Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS), a nonpartisan organisation of former officials spanning senior security agencies in Israel, the members said reopening the consulate was in Israel’s national security interest.” See also “Jewish Republicans lead efforts to head off reopening of US consulate in Jerusalem” (TOI)
“In October 2021, the Palestinian Civil Society Team for Enhancing Public Budget Transparency revealed that the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) security sector continues to receive the largest portion of the PA’s budget….These figures indicate the stark divide between the needs of the Palestinian people and the PA’s priorities. While Palestinians seek to end the oppressive security framework imposed by the Oslo Accords, the PA continues to invest politically, financially, and institutionally in the status quo, entrenching the security framework under the pretext of stability and state-building. Rather than a process of democratization, inclusiveness, and accountability, the PA’s internationally-sponsored security reform processes – which have been the lynchpin of the PA’s post-2007 state-building project – have resulted in repression, persecution, and the professionalization of Palestinian authoritarianism. Thus, structural authoritarianism is imbedded in the Palestinian political system.”
“The military judiciary in the Gaza Strip announced this month new death sentences against collaborators with Israel and drug dealers, amid calls by human rights organizations to stop these illegal and nonhumanitarian sentences.”
“Palestinian banks in the Gaza Strip closed the bank accounts of dozens of associations and civil institutions, sparking anger among those associations and citizens who benefit from the services they provide — a step that prompted accusations against banks that they are tolerating Israel’s campaign against Palestinian civil society organizations.”
“How Israel’s siege, and Palestinian disunity, feed both the ‘resistance’ prestige and extravagant lifestyles of Gaza’s Hamas elite, while young Palestinians are literally dying to escape.”
Weaponizing Antisemitism, Boycotts, and Anti-BDS Laws
““The complaint Elbasha has now initiated against the university with the DC Office of Human Rights alleges that, since June, OAS has been placed under “intense scrutiny and micromanagement” and prohibited “from conducting its regular functions.” It argues that in disciplining the office, the university violated the DC Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in educational institutions. With this claim, Palestine Legal, the advocacy group that is representing Elbasha, is advancing a new legal strategy to combat what it sees as crackdowns on Palestinian expression on campus…The Palestine Legal complaint alleges that GW’s actions constitute discrimination on the basis of national origin because OAS has posted messages of support for other marginalized communities—for example, after the police killing of Breonna Taylor and the massacre of Asian women in Georgia—while Palestinians have been specifically denied resources.”” See also the Palestine Legal Complaint, “George Washington University Selectively Denies Trauma Services to Palestinians: New Civil Rights Complaint.”
“The documentary Boycott, which premiered on Sunday, foregrounds the stories of three Americans suing their state governments for terminating their business contracts when they wouldn’t pledge to boycott Israel, as required by recent state legislation…For this special Wednesday Culture Newsletter, I interviewed Boycott director Julia Bacha about the film’s political message and the decision to highlight these three plaintiffs and the evangelical politicians pushing anti-boycott legislation.” See also “Jewish Currents Tuesday Bulletin: On Ben & Jerry’s, Unilever, and anti-BDS laws” (Jewish Currents) and “Losing kosher certification over politics? It could happen to Ben & Jerry’s” (Forward) and Lara Friedman’s new research, “Targets of State Anti-Boycott Laws – Contracts vs. Investments” (FMEP)
“The complaint made on behalf of students by the California-based StandWithUs, filed last week with the federal Department of Education, was made under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in federally funded programs….But speaking to The Jewish Week, Jewish stakeholders on campus, including the Hillel, have praised the Hunter administration’s work combating antisemitism — while they acknowledge tension and hostility over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Inside of '48 Israel
“Two young men who were sitting with Jewish friends in the coastal city of Bat Yam were attacked on Saturday night by Jewish youths in what police reportedly believe was a nationalist attack. According to a Sunday report on Channel 13 news, three members of the group were hospitalized at Holon’s Wolfson Medical Center — the two Arab men, one of whom was using a wheelchair, and one of the young Jewish women who was with them…The group was sitting in a park when they were approached by a group of Jewish youths who asked if the men were Arab, before leaving. Around 20 minutes later, the group returned armed with knives and firecrackers. Police are also examining whether they had a gun.”
““If you want to understand how the Nakba is still ongoing, then look at Lydd, a city that was traumatized in 1948. Tens of thousands of people were expelled from there, thousands were killed and [thousands displaced],” Younis said. “Then, 70 years after, we still see home demolitions that belong to Palestinians, we still see settlers that are moving into the city to Judaize the space, and we still see Palestinians living in poverty.”…Some Palestinians believe that Israeli authorities intentionally want the gun epidemic to proliferate in their societies to break their social fabric….Systemic discrimination toward Palestinians in everything from housing to employment has limited the opportunities to escape poverty, such that it has become entrenched, making their neighborhoods fertile ground for crime.”
“Last week the Israel Defense Forces’ Northern Command conducted an exercise using armored personnel carriers in Wadi Ara and the city of Umm al-Fahm. The army’s official excuse – because that’s exactly what it was – was that the alleyways there “recalled southern Lebanon.” The exercise came six months after the hostilities with Gaza and the volatile incidents within Israel, and even IDF officers should understand what this maneuver means to the residents of Umm al-Fahm: “We can occupy you at any given moment.” The chairman of the Umm al-Fahm oversight committee, Ali Adnan, later said on Kan Bet public radio that Israel is turning its Arab residents into enemies, like in Lebanon.”
“Israeli authorities have charged a cleaner working in the home of Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz for allegedly offering to spy for the Black Shadow hackers, a group allegedly linked to Iran.”
Bonus Reads & Listens
“Salem Barahmeh is joined by Mohammed Al Kurd, a Palestinian writer and poet from Sheik Jarrah neighborhood, named recently as Time’s 100 most influential people of 2021. He is a writer and poet who recently came out with his debut collection of poetry titled “Rifqa”. Together they discuss the inspiration behind the book and his first hand experience with life under occupation. Listen on Spotify: https://spoti.fi/30rN92H”
“The key lesson from this trajectory is that history did not wait for de Klerk to take the reins; it had to force de Klerk into being. It took a mass movement that combined popular, military, and solidarity tactics to turn the power balance against apartheid, making it unsustainable for white South African leaders like de Klerk to support anything but the dismantlement of the racist regime. History, too, had to take the side of individuals like Nelson Mandela, a lawyer turned military leader who was derided for decades as a “terrorist,” yet was ultimately hailed as a freedom fighter.”
“Seven decades ago, Israel settled over 100 Mizrahi families in Givat Amal, formerly a Palestinian village. Now, the Tel Aviv neighborhood is empty — with no guarantee of proper compensation for its former residents.”
“That’s because, for all the hype that surrounds it, “shrinking the conflict” isn’t a new idea. Again and again over the past five decades, Israeli leaders have promised an enlightened, hands-off occupation that fosters prosperity among the Palestinians under their control. And, again and again, Palestinians have experienced despotism, land theft, and violence. Why? Because it’s impossible to treat people benevolently when you deny them basic rights. People who lack freedom will struggle for it, and there’s no gentle way to crush their yearnings. “Shrinking the conflict” may ease the consciences of Israeli leaders and foreign audiences. To Palestinians, however, it offers only more of the same.”