Top News & Analysis from Palestine & Israel: January 20, 2022

What We’re Reading

New from FMEP

Israel Again Tries & Fails To Connect Palestinian NGOs to Terrorism,

In this episode of “Occupied Thoughts,” FMEP’s Lara Friedman speaks Oren Ziv (photojournalist, a founding member of the ActiveStills photography collective, and a staff writer for Local Call) about the latest twist in the story of Israel’s assault on Palestinian human rights NGOs. This twist comes in the form of a blockbuster report, co-authored by Oren and published January 13th by +972 Magazine, entitled “Israel’s new secret document still fails to tie Palestinian NGOs to ‘terrorism’

FMEP Weekly Original Research,

FMEP publishes two resources on (most) Fridays: Lara Friedman’s Legislative Round-Up and Kristin McCarthy’s Settlement & Annexation Report. To subscribe to those reports, click here. To read last week’s reports, click here.

Dispossession/Apartheid/Occupation/Human Rights

Sheikh Jarrah: Israeli forces tear down Salhiya house in overnight raid,

Israeli forces raided the home of the Salhiya family in Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem in the early hours of Wednesday, violently arresting and assaulting family members, before emptying the house and demolishing it. At around 3am local time, a large number of police units, including counterterrorism and riot police forces with bulldozers, stormed the Salhiya house.  Yasmin Salhiya, resident of the house and daughter of the owner Mahmoud Salhiya, told Middle East Eye the large Israeli force cut off the electricity supply to the house as they raided it, and started firing teargas, blocking everyone’s vision. Yasmin said officers then assaulted the family and arrested five of them, including Mahmoud. Around 22 supporters who were camping inside the property in solidarity with the family were also assaulted and detained….After emptying the houses, Israeli forces started firing rubber bullets at journalists and supporters who were outside the house and prevented ambulances from accessing the site, Yasmin said. Bulldozers finished the demolition three hours later, leaving the house in ruins and the family’s possessions scattered on the ground.” See photos: In Pictures: Palestinian home demolished in Sheikh Jarrah (Middle East Eye) See also: Sheikh Jarrah: Israeli forces tear down Salhiya house in overnight raid (Middle East Eye), Israel demolishes Palestinian home, arrests family in flash-point Jerusalem neighborhood (WaPo), ‘War crime’: Israel widely condemned for Sheikh Jarrah demolition (Middle East Eye) Premier, foreign ministry, Arab League describe Israeli demolitions in occupied Jerusalem as ethnic cleansing” (WAFA), US pans eviction of Palestinian family from Sheikh Jarrah home (Times of Israel), European Countries Call on Israel to Stop Home Demolitions After Sheikh Jarrah Eviction (Haaretz) and Israel Police Arrest Over a Dozen During Sheikh Jarrah Overnight Demolition (Haaretz)

Israeli Authorities Forcibly Evict the Salahiya Family from Sheikh Jarrah Home,

“While most eviction lawsuits in Sheikh Jarrah are initiated by state-backed settler groups aiming to establish Jewish enclaves in the neighborhood, the eviction demand against the Salahiya family was filed squarely by the Israeli authorities. The Jerusalem Municipality is the Israeli body who sought the eviction of the Salahiya family under the pretext that their property is necessary for the construction of educational institutions for Palestinians in East Jerusalem. The municipality formally expropriated the property in 2017 for such purposes and thereafter initiated eviction proceedings against the family….Although Israeli law allows for the expropriation of private property for public purposes, it is typically only carried out in the absence of alternative options. The authorities have had various options at their disposal, including use of other plots of open land in the neighborhood, which would not have necessitated the Salahiya family’s eviction. Rather than using such plots, the municipality saw it reasonable to dispossess a Palestinian family to meet such needs. While the municipality expropriated the family’s property to build schools, it transferred an empty plot of land in Sheikh Jarrah, allocated for such purposes, to an ultra-Orthodox Jewish association for the construction of a yeshiva.”

‘I’m not leaving, even if I die’: Sheikh Jarrah family staves off forced expulsion,

“In a last-minute and partial reprieve, a Palestinian family in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah averted forced expulsion on Monday, even as Israeli authorities destroyed local businesses located on the family’s land — including a family member’s place of employment….When the police showed up that morning, Mahmoud Salhiyeh, along with several youths, secured his family’s home with gas canisters and threatened to detonate them if the eviction went ahead. Reporters began arriving, along with activists and European diplomats; special police forces also arrived alongside firefighters and paramedics, who were preparing for a forceful eviction. “They can build five schools here and my house will remain,” said Mahmoud Salhiyeh, as he stood on the roof of his house clutching a glass bottle filled with petrol alongside a gas canister. Around 10 teenagers stood with him with more canisters. “We had homes in Ein Kerem, they can’t expel us again,” Salhiyeh added, referring to the Palestinian village whose residents were forced out by Zionist forces in 1948, and which later become part of West Jerusalem. “I’m not leaving, even if I die.””

‘How do they expect my children to grow up and not be full of hatred?’,

“Following the expulsion, bulldozers entered and destroyed the family home, where Lital Salhiyeh, her husband Mahmoud, their four children, and Mahmoud’s mother lived. The remains of the home and the family’s belongings, which included photo albums and children’s backpacks, laid strewn out in the rubble….“I have nowhere to go, I have no home,” Lital said. “What will we do? Will we go live with another family? We are a lot of people. They destroyed the house so we would have nowhere to go back to. How do they expect my children to grow up and not be full of anger and hatred against them? This is no longer my country. After today, this is not my country.””

A few Twitter responses to the overnight eviction & demolition,

From scholar Dana El Kurd: “In a recent interview, Mahmoud Salhiye said “Give me back Ein Karem (from which his family was expelled in 1948), & I wouldn’t want Sheikh Jarrah.” The Nakba wasn’t a moment but a process. Those responsible continue their impunity because they know they face no consequences” 

From +972 editor Amjad Iraqi: “Cruelty is baked into Israeli apartheid. And today’s destruction of the Salhiyeh home in Sheikh Jarrah — in the freezing cold before dawn, after their defiant stand against the police on Monday — is designed to be cruel, both to the family and to all Palestinians watching. Cruelty is needed to terrify, demoralize, and incapacitate Palestinians. The state needs us to feel this powerlessness, to feel trapped by the sense of failure, to rob us not just of the will to resist, but the will to live. It needs our total submission, or our complete erasure. That intentional cruelty was on full display this past week: in the mass funeral of Haj Suleiman, who was run over by a police truck in Umm al-Kheir; in the arrests of young Naqab Bedouin for protesting their dispossession; in the shuttered gates of besieged Gaza; and much more. Many Palestinians felt that pain sharply today. Many of us felt helpless. But then came our rage. And then came our resolve. A ‘resilient’ society is a tortured one, often relying on plain stubbornness to pull it through. But it’s what defies the cruelty when nothing else does.” 

From scholar Jehad Abusalim: “Anti-Palestinian racism leads to normalizing making Palestinian families homeless, kidnapping children from their classrooms, and uprooting an entire people. Anti-Palestinian racism is fatal, deadly, and toxic. It is a violent form of bigotry and hatred.” 

Video from journalist Yuval Avraham: “My hands are shaking. This is what their home looks like now: The Salhiye family of 15, kicked out in this freezing weather from their home in Sheikh Jarrah.”

West Bank: Thousands mourn revered activist killed by Israeli tow truck,

“A fierce activist, who had dedicated his life to resisting the Israeli occupation, Hathalin succumbed on Monday to wounds sustained when an Israeli police tow truck ran him over two weeks ago. On Tuesday morning, thousands of Palestinians gathered on the hills of Umm al-Khair for Hathalin’s funeral procession.” See alsoWest Bank: Iconic Palestinian activist dies after being run over by Israeli forces” (Middle East Eye) “Israeli Police Ran Over a Palestinian Anti-occupation Protester – Then Fled the Scene” (Haaretz) and FMEP Occupied Thoughts podcast last week with South Hebron Hills activist Ali Awad: “We don’t have another place to go:” Dispossession, Settler Violence, & Resistance in Masafer Yatta

Tuesday News Bulletin on Haj Suleiman Hathaleen of Umm el Khair,

“An iconic activist, Suleiman was well known in the remote southern corner of the West Bank for his willingness to engage in civil disobedience. According to Gideon Levy and Alex Levac, writing for Haaretz, there was “virtually no demolition, confiscation, operation or arrest in recent times that he did not try and prevent physically.” He had been in custody a dozen times, and he always eschewed violence. Video footage of a typical protest shows him in his long, flowing white headscarf, carrying a shepherd’s cane and waving a Palestinian flag, berating soldiers, and walking directly in front of bulldozers in one of the dozen or so Palestinian villages that dot the southern West Bank….Suleiman’s life story, and the story of his village, are synecdoches for the story of Palestine. Suleiman is the descendent of Bedouin who fled their homes in what is now the Israeli city of Arad during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence—what Palestinians call the Nakba, or catastrophe. His family arrived in the South Hebron Hills and purchased a plot of land during the ensuing years. For a number of decades, they lived just as they had before the Nakba—dry farming and building shanties and tents alongside pens for their livestock….But in 1980, more than half the villagers’ land was seized by the Israeli military—a seizure subsequently recognized by Israel’s High Court as legitimate on the basis of “military needs.” By 1983, the Israeli government declared the seized property “state land” and transferred it to a quasi-state body: the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization. The Division quickly established a permanent settlement on what had been Um El-Khair’s land and called it Carmel.”

Negev: Israeli police arrest dozens of Palestinians in night raid,

Israeli authorities have arrested dozens of Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Negev region, south of the country, as protests continue against forestation plans by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in the area. In the early hours of Tuesday, Israeli police forces stormed the towns and villages of al-Zarnouq, Abu Talool, Khashm al-Zina, and Tel al-Sabe, detaining almost 41 Palestinians, the youngest of whom is only 10 years old. Local media reported that those arrested by the Israeli police on Tuesday were accused of being involved in the protests against JNF’s plan to plant trees in the Negev, which Palestinians see as a project to uproot them from their land.” See also:When a forest has more rights than a Bedouin village” and “As Naqab protests intensify, Bedouin women are taking the helm” (both from +972) 

Israeli forces attack Palestinian protesters trying to block settler march in Beita,

“Occupying Israeli forces attacked dozens of Palestinians with stun grenades and tear gas at the entrance of the town of Beita south of Nablus in the West Bank on Tuesday evening. Palestinian residents of Beita gathered at the town’s entrance to confront potential attacks by Israeli settlers who had planned a march to Nablus. The Samaria Regional Council, a settler organisation, organised the march using the slogan “we want a Jewish state”.”

Palestinian American who died after Israeli detention was unresponsive when released, witnesses say,

“The elderly Palestinian American man who was found dead early Wednesday after being detained by Israeli soldiers in a late-night encounter was unresponsive when they left him blindfolded on the ground, according to two villagers who say they witnessed the episode.” See also Family of Palestinian-American who died after IDF arrest wants US pressure on probe (Times of Israel). Members of Congress have also called for an investigation; see Lara Friedman’s Legislative Round-up from last week for details.

Rain Floods Palestinian Jerusalem Neighborhood. Again,

“After every exceptionally heavy rainfall, East Jerusalem suffers from serious drainage problems and flooding. But the worst hit of all is Kafr Aqab, a neighborhood in northern Jerusalem. Although within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, it’s on the West Bank side of the separation barrier. Like other Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond the barrier, Kafr Aqab is overcrowded, because thousands of homes have been built there without permits or planning. In addition, infrastructure in all these neighborhoods has been neglected by the Jerusalem municipality and other Israeli authorities. On Saturday night, the Jerusalem region experienced heavy rainfall within a few hours. By early Sunday morning, the low-lying streets of Aqab’s Al-Matar section began to flood….Dozens of homes and cars were flooded. In one underground parking garage, 10 cars vanished under some three meters (10 feet) of water. In the streets, the water came up to cars’ steering wheels. And inside some homes, the water reached a height of a meter, causing serious property damage and power outages. What made matters worse was that the rainwater flowing through the streets was mixed with sewage and garbage, creating a serious pollution problem.”


The NSO File: A Complete (Updating) List of Individuals Targeted With Pegasus Spyware,

“So far, targets have been found across the world: from India and Uganda to Mexico and the West Bank, with high-profile victims including U.S. officials and a New York Times journalist. Now, for the first time, Haaretz has assembled a list of confirmed cases involving Pegasus spyware.” See alsoHalf of Global Cybersecurity Investment Has Been in Israel, PM Bennett Says” (Haaretz) and “Pegasus Spyware Used Against Dozens of Women Activists in the Middle East” (The Intercept), “Pegasus attacks in El Salvador: spyware used to target journalists and activists” (Access Now) and “More Polish NSO Group phone-hacking victims likely – researcher” (JPost)

Israel police uses NSO’s Pegasus to spy on citizens,

“Israel police uses NSO’s Pegasus spyware to remotely hack phones of Israeli citizens, control them and extract information from them, Calcalist has revealed. Among those who had their phones broken into by police are mayors, leaders of political protests against former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former governmental employees, and a person close to a senior politician. Calcalist learned that the hacking wasn’t done under court supervision, and police didn’t request a search or bugging warrant to conduct the surveillance. There is also no supervision on the data being collected, the way police use it, and how it distributes it to other investigative agencies, like the Israel Securities Authority and the Tax Authority.” See alsoIsraeli police accused of using Pegasus spyware on domestic opponents of Netanyahu” (WaPo) and “Analysis | Police Using Pegasus Spyware Against Israelis Shows: NSO Is an Arm of the State” (Haaretz)

Analysis | NSO Scandal Shows Israelis Are Fine With Human Rights Violations as Long as Judges Approve,

“The original report in Calcalist emphasized over and over, in the headline and throughout the text, that this surveillance was carried out “without supervision or inspection.” Or, in more detail: “Without a court order or the supervision of a judge.”…Either way – and without an external committee of inquiry we may never know the truth – the obsessive preoccupation with the almost metaphorical question of who gave the order proves, once again, how Israelis are far too blasé when their laws, their judges and their courts are nothing more than rubber stamps for violations of their fundamental rights. “If a judge approved it and issued a court order, then everything’s fine and dandy,” say those who are reassured by court orders, who allow themselves to be reassured by the establishment, and for whom the Israel legal system is holier than holy, infallible and incapable of clumsy blunders. This is a factually distorted view of the Israeli legal system, according to which it supervises the country’s security bodies with total objectivity. And it starts, of course, with the legitimization of the injustices of the occupation…The Supreme Court has given the military regime a free hand to violate human rights in the territories. Some of its rulings have actively condoned violations of international law; and, of course, it also legitimized the greatest violation of all – the settlement enterprise. This is the kind of judicial supervision that everyone seems to be proud of and reassured by.”

Racism and Incitement Index 2021: Increase in Racism and Incitement against Palestinians and Arabs During the Year,

“7amleh – the Arab Center for Advancement of Social Media released on Tuesday, 18 January 2022, the findings of the “Index of Racism and Incitement on Israeli Social Media in 2021”, which indicated an increase in hate speech by 8% since 2020, monitored 620,000 conversations including violence and inciting speech against Arabs, and recorded an increase by 46,000 posts including violence speech, compared with 574,000 in 2020. The 2021 index showed an increase in incitement by 3 times since 2020. Violence speech against Palestinians, Arabs and their representatives further intensified, constituting 11% of overall speech online – an unprecedented rate since 2017. The peak of violent speech was recorded in March 2021, during Israeli elections, and April-May, during the May Uprising and Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip. Twitter was reported as the most utilised tool to share hate speech and incitement, with 58% of violent speech hosted on the platform.” See alsoOnline anti-Palestinian hate speech, incitement rose in 2021: report” (The New Arab) and “Sharp rise in anti-Arab and Palestinian hate speech reported on Israeli social media” (Middle East Eye)

Israel expanding its Palestinian occupation into digital realm,

“Sa’ar is currently Israel’s justice minister and deputy prime minister…Sa’ar is taking the Israeli military occupation of Palestinians into the digital realm. What is known as the “Facebook law” is set to grant “Israeli courts the power to demand the removal of user-generated content on social media content platforms that can be perceived as inflammatory or as harming ‘the security of the state,’ or the security of people or the security of the public,” according to the Palestinian Digital Rights Coalition. The PDRC and the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council stated last month that Israeli censorship of Palestinian content online has deepened since 2016, when Sa’ar’s bill was first introduced. In their statement, the two organizations highlighted the fact that Israel’s so-called cyber unit had submitted 2,421 requests to social media companies to delete Palestinian content in 2016. That number has grown exponentially since and the cyber unit alone has requested the removal of more than 20,000 Palestinian posts. The groups suggest that the new legislation, which was last month approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation and will next go before the Knesset, “would only strengthen the relationship between the cyber unit and social media companies.””

Israeli Scene

Netanyahu plea deal talks appear to be in dire straits, as AG’s departure looms,

“Contacts on a plea deal between former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the state prosecution appeared to be in dire straits Wednesday evening, with sources close to both sides telling Hebrew media outlets that it appeared increasingly unlikely that an agreement could be reached in the near future….Channel 13 said that the latest offer for a deal sent to Netanyahu’s attorneys includes a “moral turpitude” clause, which would bar the former premier from political life for seven years. The deal drawn up by Mandelblit and prosecutors would also require the opposition leader to perform seven to nine months of community service.”

Israeli Military, Intel Agencies to Enlist High Schoolers for Weapon Development Program,

“Israel’s defense and education ministries launched a program about two weeks ago for gifted students that has the involvement of the Mossad intelligence service, the Shin Bet security service and the IDF. The involvement of the defense establishment in the education system, although not new, has raised some eyebrows when it comes to the program….Speaking through a darkened screen, he said the new program, which is called Odem, is seeking to enlist 14- and 15-year-olds in a long-term program that includes engineering studies and service in the Mossad’s technology unit, the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Defense Forces.” 

Three Israelis Arrested for Attacking Arabs Socializing With Jewish Women,

“Three young Israeli Jewish men were arrested recently on suspicion of racially-motivated, attempted murder of two Arabs in addition to other offenses, the police said Thursday. The three are suspected of attacking and injuring two Arab men and two Jewish women in November after spotting them sitting together in a park in the city of Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv.” See alsoFour Jews charged with attempted murder over racist attack on Arab men in Bat Yam” (Times of Israel)

Palestinian Scene

UN agency seeks urgent support for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon,

“The UN Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, provides food, cash assistance and other basic services to an estimated 5.7 million registered Palestinian refugees and their descendants in the Palestinian territories as well as in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. In Lebanon, more than 479,000 Palestinian refugees and their descendants are registered with UNRWA, just under half of whom live in the country’s 12 refugee camps. The decade-long war in neighboring Syria has also forced some 27,000 Palestinian refugees to flee Syria for Lebanon.”

Culture // Protest

Benjamin Law resigns from Sydney festival board over Israeli embassy sponsorship,

“Sydney festival board member Benjamin Law has resigned following the festival’s refusal to terminate a $20,000 sponsorship deal with the Israeli embassy. In a statement issued by Law on Saturday, the author and screenwriter said his resignation was an act of allegiance with fellow artists, who had been put in a situation not of their making….Dozens of artists have pulled out of the 2022 Sydney festival over the $20,000 Israeli embassy sponsorship of the Sydney Dance Company production of Decadance, a work devised by Tel Aviv choreographer Ohad Naharin.”

​​A letter to the Sydney Festival about Palestine solidarity,

“We came to you as an intersectional, intergenerational collective of artists — all with histories of deep engagement in creative, activist, academic, and community practice — to tell you why it is harmful that one of Australia’s most iconic, annual cultural events has embraced the Israeli Embassy in Canberra as a “Star Partner” of its 2022 program…We explained to you that the very source of these funds is, in fact, an apartheid regime that is systemically oppressing and dispossessing the Palestinian people. We elaborated, that while the Israeli state purports to promote free artistic and cultural exchange, in the same breath, it persecutes and punishes Palestinian artists and performers like Dareen Tatour and Hafez Omar for daring to speak out against its violence. That this state’s occupation forces are systematically attacking Palestinian cultural institutions, disrupting their events, destroying historical archives, and denying Palestinians access to their own creative legacies. That the regime you accepted funds from prevents Palestinians from practicing their own art, let alone traveling to perform, participate, or collaborate in artistic opportunities abroad….We were honest with you about the consequences of crossing that picket line. Boycotts are a powerful tool in holding cultural institutions accountable to the ethical standards they claim to subscribe to….With over 100 artists, creatives, and crew withdrawing, we have disrupted almost 40 percent of the festival events and productions.”

How to Shut Down an Israeli Weapons Factory,

“Palestine Action have won a major victory against British complicity in Israel’s war crimes: permanently shutting down an Elbit Systems weapons factory in Oldham. Sustained direct action against a consistent and material target is what made this possible—and is what we’ll use to shut down Elbit’s nine remaining sites in Britain…Over an eighteen month period since Palestine Action launched in 2020, activists occupied and dismantled the factory, chained gates, blockaded roads, threw paint and more to prevent operations at the site. Some of these actions saw the factory closed for repairs for weeks at a time, and in one action alone police estimated £500,000 of damages were caused….Taking this action involves obvious risks. Thirty-six activists were arrested over the course of our campaign against Elbit in Oldham, and many have endured harassment, intimidation, and in some cases physical injury at the hands of the police.”

Bonus // Long Reads

I spent a week watching the Israeli Fox News. Here’s what I learned,

“Now 14, Israel’s first all-news station, was designed to promote the right’s agenda, spread conservative ideology, and fight progressives…Now 14 does not even pretend to be “fair and balanced;” it seeks to become the home channel of the new, pro-Netanyahu right in Israel. And as such, it reflects this camp’s mood: unashamed, occasionally racist, hateful of anything that smells remotely left wing or progressive, and teetering between arrogance and paranoia.”

The Arab world is re-embracing its Jews,

“From Morocco to the Gulf, a surprising number of Arab countries are welcoming back Jews and embracing their Jewish heritage. The reasons vary. The failures and excesses of Arab nationalism and Islamism have forced many countries to rethink chauvinist dogmas. Modernising autocrats have jettisoned communal tropes and pursued multicultural agendas. And the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no longer seen as a priority in the region. “The Arab world has too many problems to still care about Palestine,” says Kamal Alam, an expert on Syria and its Jewish diaspora. “Instead they begrudgingly look at Israel and Jews as models for running a successful country that feeds itself without oil.””

'This occupation is not going to die of old age': An interview with Michael Lynk, UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories,

“In an exclusive interview with Al-Araby Al-Jadeed Newspaper (The New Arab’s sister Arabic site) the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Michael Lynk, said that Israel will not end its occupation of the Palestinian people as long as the international community doesn’t hold it accountable by excluding it from trade, cultural, and investment agreements and ending arms sales.” See also: The International Community and Israel: Giving Permission to a Permanent Occupation, Michael Lynk’s article from last week in Just Security.