Top News & Analysis from Israel & Palestine: October 21, 2021

What We’re Reading

New from FMEP

The Occupation and the Biden Administration,

In this episode of Occupied Thoughts, FMEP’s Lara Friedman and MEI’s Khaled Elgindy speak to Danny Seidemann (founder/director of Terrestrial Jerusalem) and Yehuda Shaul (founder of Breaking the Silence) — two of Israel’s foremost experts on the Israeli policies that uphold and expand occupation and dispossession of Palestinians, both of whom are currently visiting Washington, DC — about the new Israeli government and its idea of “shrinking” the conflict, about ongoing and new developments on the ground in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and about the opportunities and challenges facing the Biden Administration.

The Gaza Strip

Words Fail Us,

“The horror in the Gaza Strip has been going on for so many years. We have reported on the blockade, the poverty, the wars. We have shared stories of life without water, without electricity, without hope. We have explained what international law requires and what conscience dictates. Now, words fail us. Eleven days of incessant airstrikes on or near civilian homes. With nowhere to run and no safe place. Dozens of people killed, thousands injured, thousands more bereft of their homes and all their earthly possessions. This is not a mistake, these are no “exceptional cases”. It is the policy. B’Tselem’s field researchers in the Gaza Strip spoke with people who lost their loved ones, their homes, literally everything. These are their words.” See also “It’s a nightmare I can’t shake’: The lives robbed by Israel’s Gaza Assault” (+972 Magazine)

The New Politics of Exclusion: Gaza as Prologue,

“Gaza is an experiment where policy is used to exclude and technology is used to control. In these obscene spaces new weapons and new means of surveillance are continuously being tested, to the great benefit of Israeli industry. But the drones used for surveillance and killing or the indetectable spying software—the latest instance of which is Pegasus—are far from being the most terrifying exports from Israel: they pale before the automated decision system that is built into them…At its core this new ethics speak to a normality that is immoral and inhumane, that aim to invalidate and remove all sites of encounter with the other, where sympathy cannot be elicited or attachments forged—where tragedy and poetry do not exist. Politics and ethics are therefore reduced to economics: everything has a price, including acts of resistance. If the price is high enough, people—in this case, Palestinians—will find it irrational to indulge in such acts. If they persist, the price was too low and needs to be increased until the right level of fear and pain are attained.”

Israel authorizes 3,000 additional entry permits for Gaza workers,

“The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said an additional 3,000 Gazans will be allowed into Israel to work, bringing the total of recently announced permits to 10,000.”


Violent Israeli raids in occupied East Jerusalem wound dozens,

“Israeli forces violently raided Damascus Gate and surrounding streets in occupied East Jerusalem for the second day in a row during a Palestinian national holiday for the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. At least 22 Palestinians were wounded on Tuesday and 25 arrested, according to local media. The majority of those arrested were minors. Widely circulated images and videos showed Israeli forces violently arresting and assaulting young people on Monday – both male and female – beating passersby with batons, chasing after children and families, raiding the main commercial street, and indiscriminately firing tear gas and sound bombs at crowds. They also attacked medical staff.” See alsoJewish prayer continues to rile Al-Aqsa Mosque” (Al Monitor) and “Israel revokes Jerusalem residency of prominent Franco-Palestinian lawyer” (Middle East Eye)

Capturing Palestinian Families Facing Eviction From Their East Jerusalem Homes,

“Israel’s Supreme Court will hold a hearing early next week and the fates of approximately one hundred families living in the Batn al-Hawa neighborhood of East Jerusalem’s Silwan hang in the balance. The families photographed for this project live in two buildings in the neighborhood, and like the rest, are liable to lose their homes because of eviction suits brought by right-wing and settler organizations. These people are not squatters or tenants who have failed to pay rent. They are families who paid for their homes in full, but a discriminatory law passed by the Knesset in 1970 has made them an easy target for eviction.The Legal and Administrative Law enables Jews to reclaim lost property they owned in East Jerusalem prior to 1948. Conversely, Palestinians who owned property within Israeli territory prior to 1948 are not entitled to reclaim it. This law is the basis for all of the eviction lawsuits in Silwan, as well as in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, and has been used successfully by the Ateret Kohanim organization to obtain rights to lands that were Jewish-owned more than a century ago. None of the subjects photographed for this project are Israeli citizens. They are all permanent residents who are not eligible to vote or run for public office in order to influence the policies being used against them. On the issue of ownership, the court is being asked to rule on a political issue cloaked as a legal one. But how can it be asked to decide between citizens of the state and people who are not citizens of any state? Between those who exploit the occupation for their own purposes and those who are being crushed by it?” See also “Leading up to Supreme Court Hearing, Israeli AG Appears to Evade Stating Position in Major Batan al-Hawa Eviction Case” (Ir Amim)

How offshore accounts turned the British Virgin Islands into an east Jerusalem landlord,

“Some of the most contested real estate in east Jerusalem have come under the legal control of the British Virgin Islands in recent years because the Israeli settlers who managed the properties used offshore accounts and failed to pay corporate fees and taxes.” Also see:LISTEN: The Secret Offshore Accounts Bankrolling Israeli Settlements” (Haaretz)

West Bank: Olive Harvest & Rise in Settler Violence

What I would’ve told the Knesset about settler violence — if they’d let me,

“My name is Ali Awad. I was born and raised in the village of Tuba in the South Hebron Hills, located in what your government has declared Firing Zone 918. I have lived under the threat of settler violence since I was born in 1998. As a child, this threat always existed in my mind alongside that of military aggression — and over the two decades of my occupied life, I’ve seen that they actually overlap entirely. The army and the settlers work in tandem to steal our resources and suppress our freedom. Soldiers take our land under the guise of security, only to then give it to settlers to establish agricultural outposts. This is no accident. Settler expansion and violence take place under the protection of the army and with legal support. Whether by declaring a firing zone, or through use of outdated Ottoman laws, the government acts to seize control of huge swaths of land that are then declared state land, and made more susceptible to settler takeover. At every step of the process, there is full cooperation between the settlers and the military….”

Opinion | For 17 Years, Stone-throwing Settlers Have Terrorized Palestinian Children. I Was One of Them,

“Every day I asked myself, and wanted to tell the soldiers: I didn’t choose to be born here and to live like this. Why am I different from other people who work, play, learn and love without being constantly targeted by violence? Am I less worthy? Less human?”

Fazaa: Protecting Palestine's olive harvest from Israeli settler violence,

“For hours each day, a group of young Palestinians move from one village to another in the occupied West Bank to help local farmers tend their olives trees and protect them from possible Israeli settler attacks during the olive harvest season. It is the second year in a row that the activists have launched their voluntary initiative, calling it ‘Fazaa,’ which means assistance in Arabic. The campaigners provide their voluntary support to farmers residing in areas adjacent to Israeli settlements, located in Area C, which are hotspots for violence….”Usually, when the villagers reach their lands alone, they are attacked by the settlers, who try to expel them from their lands, where they establish their own illegal outposts,” [Mohammed al-Khatib, founder of Fazaa] said. This is where al-Khatib and his team come into the picture, with the volunteers dividing themselves into three main groups.The first one harvests olives with farmers. The second one monitors the settlers to prevent them from attacking farmers, and the third group documents any attacks against them and shares the videos and photos on social media platforms.”

Settler attacks wreak havoc on Palestinians during olive harvest,

“Israeli settlers have committed violent, daily attacks against Palestinian villages and residents harvesting their olive trees over the past week. The attacks, which include beatings of farmers and destruction of trees, preceded the formal start of the olive harvest season on October 12 in the occupied West Bank, but intensified in number over the past week. The most targeted areas have been in the northern occupied West Bank, around villages south of Nablus city and Salfit, according to locals observers….While settler attacks are a frequent, near-daily reality for Palestinian villages, the number and intensity of attacks increase during the olive harvest season which runs until November, as settlers target families working on their lands.” See also “Analysis | As Olive Harvest Begins, Israeli Soldiers Prevent Palestinians From Reaching Their Groves” (Haaretz), “Palestinian olive pickers attacked by large group of settlers, PA says” (ToI), “Palestinians defend their olive trees as settler assaults escalate” (Arab News), “Israeli settlers’ blitz on the olive season continues with the uprooting of more than 300 trees in a village near Ramallah” (WAFA).

Opinion | The West Bank's 'Rotten Apples',

“During the olive harvest season, the fountains of Israeli evil, cruelty and chutzpah erupt in their most concentrated form…It is violence that knows the soul of its government. After all, the West Bank is dotted with surveillance cameras, with the watchtowers and observation posts of the Israel Defense Forces, with military and police armed patrols. Despite all this, our destroying and sabotaging forces in the olive groves always return home safely. From the same arenas. To the same home bases.”

Running over, tying to moving car, hanging on tree, pepper-spraying, kicking, burning feet: Settlers abduct 15-year-old and abuse him until he loses consciousness,

“This case may be exceptionally cruel, but settler violence against Palestinians, often with the participation of soldiers, has long since become part of Israeli policy in the West Bank and integral to the occupation routine. The long-term result of these violent acts is the dispossession of Palestinians from growing swaths of the West Bank, facilitating Israel’s takeover of land and resources there.” Also see Calling Israeli attacks on Palestinians ‘settler violence’ is antisemitic – opinion” (Jerusalem Post; the author is the head of the Hebron Hills Regional Council), “U.S. Envoy to the United Nations Calls Israeli Settler Violence ‘Abhorrent‘” (Haaretz) and Housing Ministry looks to double settler population in Jordan Valley (JPost)

Occupation/Human Rights/ "Rule by Law"

Analysis | Israel's 'Gesture' to Palestinians Reveals the Extent of Its Control Over the West Bank and Gaza,

“Tuesday’s announcement once again shows how deeply Israel controls Palestinian civilian life. Twenty-eight years after Israel and the Palestinians signed the Declaration of Principles (the basis of the Oslo Accords) and 22 years after the “interim period” was supposed to end, Israel still controls the Palestinian population registry and determines when, to whom and to how many people the Palestinian Interior Ministry can issue identity cards (aside from people born in the territories, who are registered immediately after the birth). Tuesday’s announcement also once again shows the extent to which Israel toys with the 26-year-old Interim Agreement (also known as Oslo 2). When it so chooses, it declares that the agreement is in force – for instance, with regard to security coordination or forbidding the PA to plan, develop and build in the part of the West Bank known as Area C. And when it so chooses, it scoffs at the agreement’s provisions – like the one that requires it to coordinate with the PA on granting residency to around 4,000 people a year through the family reunification process, a provision that was frozen in 2000. Or the provision that gives the Palestinian Interior Ministry the authority to update the addresses on people’s identity cards in its database and merely inform Israel of the change.” See also: “Israel regularizes status of 4,000 West Bank Palestinians” (Al Monitor)

IDF removes gag on 2016 conviction of officer for raping Palestinian woman,

“An Israeli military officer who has been imprisoned since 2017 was convicted of raping a Palestinian woman, as well as committing sexual assault against other Palestinian women and a man and extorting them for sexual favors, among other crimes, an military court permitted news outlets to report on Wednesday, ending a years-long gag order on the case….The officer, whose name remains barred from publication, served in the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration, which is tasked with overseeing the day-to-day management of the West Bank. The officer, a major, was responsible for issuing permits for Palestinians to enter and work in Israel, a position of power that he repeatedly exploited in order to receive sexual favors from Palestinians.” See also “IDF officer who raped Palestinian was not dismissed for earlier sexual offenses” (Times of Israel)

Israeli forces arrest 70-year-old Palestinian academic,

spent a total of 14 years in Israeli prisons, mostly in administrative detention, without charge….Qatamesh was last released from an Israeli prison in August 2020 after spending seven months in administrative detention. Khaled Qatamesh said that interrogators confirmed to Ahmed that he was arrested at the time because of a lecture he had given to a student gathering at Birzeit University, which Israeli authorities deemed as “incitement”. “When he was released, Israeli authorities banned him from giving public lectures or participating in public gatherings,” Khaled said.” See also “Israel Police Prevented a Palestinian Detainee From Breastfeeding Her Baby” (Haaretz)

Palestinians demand mobilisation to save hunger-strike prisoners,

“Dozens of Palestinians staged a protest at the al-Manara Square in downtown Ramallah on Wednesday, calling for the release of six prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails, some of whom are at imminent risk of death. The six prisoners embarked on open-ended hunger strikes to protest being held on “administrative detention” orders – an Israeli policy that allows detaining Palestinians indefinitely based on “secret information” – without pressing formal charges or putting them on trial.” See also “Palestinian detainee on 90-day hunger strike transferred to intensive care” (Al Anadolu) and “Ayman Odeh, Itamar Ben Gvir clash at hospital by Palestinian prisoner’s bed” (Times of Israel) 

Region, Diplomacy, & Normalization

Turkey Busts Mossad Ring, Arrests 15 Operatives, Report Says,

“Turkey has arrested 15 suspects who have allegedly worked with the Israeli Mossad within its territory, the daily Turkish newspaper Sabah reported on Thursday. According to the report, the suspects were arrested a month ago and have provided the Mossad with information on Turkish citizens and foreign students who study in the country.”

How Arab autocrats benefit from newfound friendship with Israel,

“No country has been more successful in building a network to influence U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East than Israel. However, as the political interests of elites in Israel and several Arab nations have converged, so too have much of their lobbying efforts. Though their interests are not identical in all matters, several Arab autocrats in the Middle East have increasingly sought to tap various elements of Israel’s influential network in Washington. These endeavors appear to be paying off: over the past several years, various individuals and organizations supporting Israel’s interests  have used their influence to shield these governments from human rights criticisms, maintain the flood of arms sales flowing from Washington, and demonize domestic and regional adversaries.” See also “Scoop: Jake Sullivan discussed Saudi-Israel normalization with MBS” (Axios), “Israel, Emirates to collaborate in space” (Al Monitor) and 

'We Might Not Always Agree, but Good Friends Disagree': Swedish FM Visits Israel to Mend Ties,

“Sweden’s foreign minister visited Israel on Monday in an effort to mend ties after years in which the two countries have been at odds over the conflict with the Palestinians….Sweden’s Social Democratic-led government recognized Palestinian statehood in 2014, making it the first large European country to do so since the “We might not always agree, but good friends disagree,” Foreign Minister Ann Linde said at a press conference with her Israeli counterpart. “And I think it’s really, really important that you know that Sweden is a friend of Israel.” See  this tweet from Inès Abdel Razek, Palestinian civil society activist, who also met with the Swedish foreign minister during her visit: “Thank you for giving us the time. I was frank. Sweden’s renewed friendship with Isr*el is only giving them green light/impunity for apartheid& the occupation’s violence. Statements& paying lip-service to a dead peace process are counter-productive. Our rights are not negotiable.” 

Media & Tech

Facebook to investigate Israel-Palestine content suppression,

Facebook will allow an independent body to launch an investigation into content moderation of Arabic and Hebrew posts after the tech giant was accused of removing and suppressing pro-Palestine content. “We have partnered with a non-profit organisation expert in business and human rights, BSR, to conduct human rights due diligence of Facebook’s impacts during May-June’s intensified violence in Israel and Palestine,” Facebook said in a statement on Friday.”

Israeli Far-right Groups on Facebook's Secret 'Dangerous' Blacklist, Report Says,

“Facebook’s blacklist of dangerous groups and people includes Israeli far-right organizations and individuals, according to a list published by The Intercept on Thursday. The list published by The Intercept categorizes the Kahane Chai movement – made up of supporters of the anti-Arab extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane – as a terror organization. Lehava, an organization that says it is against Jewish-Arab mixed marriages and was behind a march this year in Jerusalem that resulted in over 100 Palestinians being hurt, is listed as a hate group. Lehava Chairman Benzi Gopstein, who was blocked from WhatsApp in May, also appears on the list under the hate category, as so dozens of members of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party….It also includes hundreds of groups, companies and people linked to Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hamas.”

New Politico Owner Says Will Enforce pro-Israel Policy,

“Politico’s new owner, Germany’s Axel Springer, expects the U.S. website to adhere to the parent company’s principles including support for Israel’s right to exist, Springer’s CEO told The Wall Street Journal Friday…He told The Journal on Friday that this sentiment – and others such as support for a united Europe and a free-market economy – “are like a constitution, they apply to every employee of our company.” Employees who disagreed “should not work for Axel Springer, very clearly.” Politico staffers, however, will not be required to sign a written commitment to these principles, as employees in Germany must, Döpfner said.”

US Scene

Ritchie Torres Is the Future of “Pro-Israel” Politics,

“As the landscape of Democratic rhetoric on Israel has shifted, Bronx Congressman Ritchie Torres has attempted to stay planted in place. …Both Torres’s allies and his rivals have speculated about the reason for his unique interest in Israel. “Ritchie Torres’s outspoken, uncritical position on the activities of the Israeli government is baffling,” said a prominent New York Democratic activist from Torres’s district who requested anonymity so as not to alienate Torres. The New York Democratic aide cast it as a symptom of the fact that he does not “see himself as accountable to grassroots organizations.” Others argue that aligning himself with pro-Israel Democrats serves Torres’s ambition by giving him access to powerful political allies and donors from around the country. “[He thinks] his path to political stardom in New York City is to be a champion of the pro-Israel establishment,” said a staffer at a progressive organization who requested anonymity because their group engages with Torres.But those who know Torres believe his orientation toward Israel to be sincere. “His sentiments appear heartfelt, and not just about raising money,” said Sheinkopf, the pro-Israel Democratic operative. “This is not just a song he came up with or wrote yesterday.””

Sunrise Movement’s DC chapter boycotts event due to ‘participation of Zionist organizations’,

“[T]he Washington chapter of the Sunrise Movement — an influential progressive environmental advocacy group — released a statement on Tuesday announcing it would not participate in the event “due to the participation of a number of Zionist organizations.” The statement also announced that the movement would no longer join coalitions with Zionist organizations, naming the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) and the Jewish Council on Public Affairs (JCPA). The group rooted its reasoning in its support for Washington, D.C., statehood. “We will continue to fight for statehood for DC in the United States and for the liberation of Palestine,” the chapter’s statement said. “Given our commitment to racial justice, self-governance, and indigenous sovereignty, we oppose Zionism and any state that enforces its ideology.””

Opinion | The Harsh Truth Biden Needs to Tell Israelis Now About Their Future,

“If President Biden really wants to save the endangered two-state solution that the United States supports, he should talk directly to the Israeli people. Given Biden’s long-held positions on this issue, here is the speech he could give.”

Inside the Green Line // Israeli Scene

Palestinians condemn Israeli bill giving broad powers to police,

“Israel is taking steps towards over-policing and increasing its surveillance of the Palestinian population inside its 1949-borders under the pretext of curbing the high crime rate within the community, Palestinians say. In the latest measure, the Israeli cabinet approved a proposal on Sunday granting police with what Palestinians view as overly broad powers – allowing them to freely search homes without a court warrant – “if they think they can find a suspect or evidence related to a serious crime”, according to Israeli media. With the cabinet’s support, the bill will be voted on in the Israeli parliament – the Knesset – before becoming a law.”

Israel's Top Court Denies Bid to Reopen Probe of Officers Who Killed Bedouin,

“Israel’s High Court of Justice denied on Thursday a petition to reopen the investigation of the police officers who shot and killed a resident of the unrecognized Bedouin community of Umm al-Hiran in 2017. The petition was filed on behalf of the family of the victim, Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, against the decision of the state prosecutor at the time, Shai Nitzan, and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to close the case without investigating any of the police involved in the incident. Abu al-Kiyan, an assistant school principal, was killed during clashes between residents and the police overseeing home demolitions. He was shot and seemingly lost control of his vehicle while driving; his car hit and killed police officer Erez Amedi Levy and injured another officer. On the day of the incident, the police accused Abu al-Kiyan of being a terrorist and intentionally running over the officers.” For more on this incident, see “Reconstruction of Umm al-Hiran killings disproves car-ramming claims” (+972 Magazine)

'Unpleasant' War Crimes: The Secret Docs Israel Insists on Censoring,

“The fog that continues to surround the affair is partially due to the work of the Ministerial Committee on the Matter of Permission to Examine Classified Archival Material, which is under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Office. While few people have even heard of this body, in contrast to its name, it acts to censor documents – especially those that the government considers to be sensitive, and ones that deal with the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now, the full list of censored documents is being exposed for the first time. The list includes material related to the expulsion of Arabs in 1948 and the commission of war crimes….The list of documents was received in response to a Freedom of Information Law request from the Akevot Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research. Akevot noted that behind many of the committee’s decisions stood “political and image considerations, which are not based on factual and legitimate reasons.” In a new report documenting the committee’s work, the executive director of Akevot, Lior Yavne, and senior researcher Adam Raz say that the documents continue to be censored “under the pretext of concern for national security and the state’s foreign relations.” The committee’s actions have “caused a distortion of the history of the founding of the state, and harm the public and political discourse in the State of Israel,” Akevot said.”

Redefining/weaponizing "Antisemitism" to quash advocacy for Palestinians

Three Things the US Can Learn from the EU’s New Strategic Plan,

“Last week the European Commission, the Executive Branch of the  European Union, unveiled a new comprehensive EU Strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life to address a significant increase in incidents around the 27-country bloc. While the United States has seen a similar trajectory, our federal government has yet to develop an encompassing governmental response to the problem. Perhaps the EU will inspire the U.S….Our government should, consistent with the First Amendment, follow the EU’s lead and actively promote the implementation of IHRA in anti-discrimination policies at all levels. If necessary, they can even issue a handbook (like the EU did) for IHRA’s practical use. Meanwhile, passing the bi-partisan bi-cameral Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, which reaffirms the use of IHRA on campus, would be a great step in this direction.” 

Fighting anti-Semitism needs solidarity, not definitions,

“So, if you feel that Australia is a racist endeavour (founded on stolen land with a long history of genocidal policies and structural discrimination against Aboriginal peoples) you’ll have plenty of company these days, and a healthy debate in mainstream media. However, if you argue that Israel is a racist endeavour (founded in the forced displacement of Palestinians, enforcing the world’s longest illegal occupation, with countless discriminatory laws aimed at the Palestinians), the IHRA definition will be invoked to label you anti-Semitic, even if you are Jewish.”

Bonus Reads / Listens

A visual history of Black-Palestinian solidarity ,

“Black-Palestinian solidarity has been a notable component of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement that emerged in 2014. The intersection of Black and Palestinian activism is not a new phenomenon, of course, but rather a reemergence of a historic alliance rooted in the global fight against racism and imperialism.” Photos and archival materials include Malcolm X in the Gaza Strip in 1964, the Black Panther Party and the PLO in Algeria in 1969, and Mohammed Ali visiting a refugee camp in Southern Lebanon in 1974.

Exposing Colonial Peace-Building from Palestine to Ireland,

“The framework of peace-building in Palestine and Ireland is profoundly problematic in the context of continued colonization. Over the last few years, western donors and policymakers have been reviving peace-building in Palestine through people-to-people projects. Using the Irish peace process as a model, they argue that dialogue between two sides is the only way forward, obscuring the power asymmetries between Palestinians and Israelis. Why are these initiatives being revived? How and why is the notion of “embedded peace” in Northern Ireland being exported to Palestine? Join Al-Shabaka’s Commissioning Editor, Nadim Bawalsa, in conversation with Al-Shabaka’s Senior Analyst, Yara Hawari, and Assistant Professor of Conflict Resolution at Trinity College, Dublin, Brendan Ciaran Browne, to investigate these questions and more.” Discussion recorded on October 20, 2021.

Sally Rooney is a model for Palestinian allyship,

“At a time when the movement for Palestinian rights is under attack around the world, in just a few hundred words, one of the literary world’s rising stars showed allies of the Palestinian struggle — and allies to any struggle against oppression — how it’s done. Rather than center herself and the (very legitimate) difficulties that often come with making a decision that has already alienated and angered part of her fan base, and despite the torrents of hatred that came her way this past week, Rooney made it clear that none of this is actually about her. It is about Palestinians and the regime that deprives them of their basic rights. Those of us who care about Palestinian liberation stand a lot to learn from her.” See also: “Lies Are Being Told About Sally Rooney Because She Refuses to Ignore Israeli Apartheid” (The Intercept)