Top News & Analysis from Israel & Palestine: September 30, 2021

What We’re Reading

Escalation against Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills

Scenes from a Sukkot pogrom,

“The attack on the village began at 1 p.m. after a group of masked settlers assaulted a Palestinian shepherd. They slit the throats of three of his sheep, after which the shepherd fled with two children who were accompanying him, one of whom was his son. Soon after, several dozen more masked settlers arrived armed with handguns, stones, clubs, and sticks. At least 60 Israelis participated in the attack on Mufagara, which has been a target of settler violence before — but never like this….According to Mufagara’s residents, the settlers began by throwing stones at their village, then went home to home while cutting water pipes with knives and machetes. Many of the residents fled to the nearby valley for safety. A few of the masked attackers even entered the homes and wreaked havoc inside. Others turned over vehicles belonging to the residents and tried to roll them down into the nearby valley. One settler opened fire on a Palestinian man who was throwing stones at him from inside of his home, but was unharmed. Israeli soldiers were present during the attack, but instead of stopping the violence, they simply stood behind the masked settlers. The soldiers also fired large amounts of tear gas and rubber bullets at Palestinians who were defending themselves from the attack with stones. Settler-soldier cooperation is nothing new in the West Bank, but over the last few months it has had lethal repercussions for Palestinians.


Also see: Several Palestinians injured as masked settler mob attacks Hebron villages (Middle East Eye) and Israeli settlers attack Palestinian village, wound toddler (Washington Post). For video from Basel Adraa and Nasser Nawa’je, and a description in Hebrew from B’Tselem fieldworker Nasser Nawa’je, see here

Analysis | Settler Attack on Palestinians in Hebron Hills Serves Israeli Policy,

“Basel Adraa, an activist from the nearby village of al-Tuwani, wrote that dozens of masked men “went from house to house, and broke windows, smashed cars with knives and hammers. A large stone they threw hit a 3-year-old boy, Mohammed, in the head, who is now in the hospital. The soldiers supported them with tear gas. The residents fled. I can’t forget how the villagers left their houses, terrified, the children screaming, the women crying, while the settlers entered their living rooms, like they were possessed with violence and wrath.”… The official, governmental process of uprooting a rural population from their houses takes lots of time and paperwork: There are petitions to the High Court of Justice, appeals, legal opinions, a little bit of international oversight and rather weak European condemnations. But a direct threat to the lives of the residents, which was represented by this attack, is a means of direct expulsion. This and hundreds of other attacks initiated by the Jewish Israelis interested in the West Bank real estate are meant to expedite the process of making Palestinian life intolerable. In Masafer Yatta, as in the rest of the territory of the West Bank, the seemingly privatized violence of the settlers serves the official policy.

The brutality of denying water to Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills,

“The lack of local water infrastructure for Palestinians means average daily water consumption per capita among Palestinian West Bank residents stands at 28 liters per capita per day, whereas consumption in the Israeli settlements in the South Hebron Hills is 211 liters per capita per day. This consumption level is similar to that in humanitarian crisis areas around the world such as Darfur, according to B’Tselem. Denying water to the Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills is one of many brutal methods for expelling the local population in order to take its land and hand it over to Jewish settlers.”

Opinion | Israel Declares War on Palestinian Water,

In the Masafer Yatta area this year, Israeli authorities have uprooted and destroyed a critical water supply network. They have conducted training exercises in residential and agriculture areas, which have damaged water pipes and cisterns. They demolished a well for collecting rainwater for one of the many local communities lacking access to piped water. Targeting water infrastructure is a precise and brutal way of making life unlivable for Palestinians, particularly in Area C. This military violence is bolstered by settler violence. Just this week, dozens of masked settlers wreaked havoc on the Hamamdi family’s village, injuring 12 residents, including a three-year-old boy, and destroying anything they could, including water tanks. In Masafer Yatta, seven illegal settlements have been established in the area this year alone, all of which have contributed to an increase in settler violence across the West Bank.”

Human Rights/Occupation/Annexation

Al-Aqsa: Thousands of Israeli settlers break into mosque over one week,

“Thousands of Israeli settlers broke into Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam, during the seven-day Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which ended on Monday, in violation of a longstanding agreement between Israel and Jordan….On Monday, more than 770 Israeli settlers entered Al-Aqsa Mosque and raised an Israeli flag. On Sunday, the number hit 1,000. An official from Jerusalem’s Islamic Waqf said that Israel has turned the site into “a military barracks” during the settlers’ tours.”

I call on the world to help my son, an aid worker wrongfully imprisoned by Israel,

“my son, Mohammad El Halabi – has not been home with his family for more than five years. Instead, he sits in an Israeli jail on the basis of trumped-up charges….He was held without access to a lawyer for weeks, during which time he says he was beaten up by interrogators – the UN has said his treatment under interrogation “may amount to torture”….Tellingly, ever since the second year of his incarceration, they have been offering him freedom if he agrees to a plea bargain. But Mohammad has refused to admit to a crime he didn’t commit.”

Palestinian village pledges to struggle ‘until land is returned’,

“Palestinian residents of Kufr Qaddoum have paid a high price for their resistance to the Israeli occupation. At least 170 people have been arrested and several hundred people shot with live ammunition and rubber-coated steel rounds, according to locals…“While we haven’t achieved our goal of getting our land returned, our village is united in resisting the occupation,” said Qaddoumi. “We set an example for other villages in the area in our determination to resist the occupation, relatively peacefully.” Shteiwi said the protests will not stop “until we achieve our rights, our land is returned, and we are able to travel on our road”.”

Documentary on Lea Tsemel, Israeli Lawyer Who Defends Palestinians, Wins Emmy,

“The Israeli documentary film, “Advocate,” which follows noted human rights lawyer Lea Tsemel, who defends Palestinians in Israeli courts, won the award for the Best Documentary on Wednesday at the 42nd Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards. The film, directed by Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaïche and originally produced for Israel’s Hot 8, focuses on the personality of Tsemel, a human rights lawyer who represents Palestinians in Israeli courts. It was an Oscar documentary nominee in 2019….Following their win, filmmakers released a statement referencing to part of the film, in which talk show host Judy Nir-Mozes tells Tsemel, “I can’t understand you at all.” Tzsemel responds: “You should try to understand me, because…I’m the future.” “It seems as if the future is already here,” the filmmakers said. “What’s left now is to build a future here of justice and equality for everyone.””

New from Al Shabaka

Hamas: Dismantling the Dilemmas of Governance and Resistance,

“this commentary discusses the major dilemmas with which Hamas has attempted to reckon. It argues that, although the movement has partially overcome the doubts and allegations regarding its stance vis-à-vis democracy and its ability to govern while continuing to operate as a resistance movement, it faces an even more serious challenge: namely, the attempts to circumscribe its political role exclusively within Gaza, thereby forcibly isolating it from the rest of colonized Palestine. Hamas has worked to counter this isolation by adopting a two-fold strategy of expanding its forms of resistance and, second, gradually abandoning the strategy of self-governance under occupation.”

Iron Dome Funding: News & Analysis

The Great 2021 Iron Dome Supplemental Debacle,

This Iron Dome debacle is an own-goal of epic proportions for Democratic leaders (both in Congress and in the White House). There is no way Democratic leaders didn’t know that a not-insignificant-number of House Democrats had concerns about or objections to the proposed $1 billion in supplemental funding for Israel for Iron Dome. So why did they decide to try to sneak this funding into the CR?…Regardless of why it happened, the decision to sneak the $1 billion in extra funding for Israel for Iron Dome into the CR suggests outright contempt from Democratic leaders for their progressive colleagues, weak/cowardly leadership, and incredibly poor strategic thinking.” See these other reports by Lara Friedman; FMEP Legislative Round-Up: September 24, 2021” and “The Iron Dome Supplemental – Members [of Congress] on the Record

A Guide to the Fight Over Iron Dome Funding,

“Last week, Congress was consumed by a debate over whether the United States should give Israel an additional $1 billion in military funds to restock the country’s anti-rocket Iron Dome system following the May conflagration in Israel/Palestine. On September 23rd, after the funding request sparked clashes between progressive and establishment Democrats and fueled claims by Republicans that the Democrats had become an anti-Israel party, the House of Representatives voted 420 to 9, with two members voting “present,” to give Israel the additional money. This $1 billion is on top of the $3.8 billion in weapons funding that the US gives Israel annually—a number that includes $500 million every year for the Israeli counter-missile systems David’s Sling and Arrow 3, as well as Iron Dome. Now the funding request will go to the Senate, where it’s expected to pass easily. The House vote surfaced tensions between Democrats, focused attention on Iron Dome, and raised questions about why the US was gifting Israel another billion dollars in military aid. As we followed these developments, we asked our readers to send us their questions about the vote and its political context. Here are answers to some of those questions.”

How Ayanna Pressley shifted her stance on Israel,

“What changed between Pressley’s 2019 vote condemning BDS and last week’s vote against Iron Dome funding? “Only when she arrived in Washington did she enter into a relationship with Palestinian women and expose herself to a different perspective than the one she was coming in with,” said one progressive member of the Boston Jewish community who knows Pressley but asked to remain anonymous to share details of private conversations….It was after that July 2019 vote that Pressley met with local progressive Jewish activists who are critical of Israel….Her vote against the supplemental Iron Dome funding last week seemed to place Pressley to the left of J Street, which supported the measure. But J Street’s Vice President of Communications Logan Bayroff told JI that the organization respects Pressley’s vote, and pointed out that she voted to advance $3.3 billion in funding to Israel earlier this year. “While we have a different view than Rep. Pressley on this, we respect that she and a number of her colleagues have legitimate concerns about the process and rationale behind the request to appropriate this large amount of additional money for Iron Dome at this time,” Bayroff said. “We are appalled by hyperbolic attacks that seek to present Rep. Pressley and her colleagues who did not vote for this supplementary appropriation as anti-Israel or somehow sympathetic to terror.”” See also “Opinion | Ignore It All You Like, but ‘The Squad’ Represent Deeper Shifts on Israeli Occupation” (Haaretz)

On the Palestinian Prisoner Escape, two new conversations to listen to:

Prisoner Politics: Palestinians in Israeli Jails,

“The dramatic escape of six Palestinian prisoners from a high-security prison in Israel earlier this month has cast a bright light on the long-neglected and intensely polarizing issue of Palestinian political prisoners, their status in Palestinian society, and their treatment at the hands of Israel. Although all six men have since been recaptured by Israeli authorities, their daring escape became a symbol of Palestinian defiance and hope for ordinary Palestinians and leaders alike. For Israelis, most of whom regard the men as little more than terrorists, the incident was seen as a major security failure and an embarrassment for Israel’s vaunted security establishment. Although the Biden administration did not weigh in on the incident, the issue of Palestinian prisoners remains the subject of intense focus and even congressional legislation in Washington. What are the conditions of Palestinians being held in Israeli jails? Why does the issue generate such intense emotion among both Palestinians and Israelis as well as in Washington?”  With Jawad Boulus (Palestinian human rights lawyer), Sahar Francis (General Director of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association), Lara Friedman (FMEP), and Khaled Elgindy (MEI).

Banned by Facebook for calling Palestinian prisoners “heroes”: Orly Noy with Peter Beinart,

“After the Palestinian prisoner escape, Orly Noy – a journalist, translator of Farsi literature into Hebrew, and political and Mizrahi activist – wrote a post on Facebook in which she described the prisoners as freedom fighters and said that “every Palestinian who survives the occupation and persists in continuing to live is a hero. For that post, Orly was temporarily banned from Facebook. Peter Beinart speaks to Orly about the prisoner escape, Mizrahi identity and politics, and solidarity with Palestinians.”

International Context & Diplomacy

Don’t Buy into Occupation Report,

“The “Don’t Buy into Occupation” (DBIO) coalition is a joint initiative between 25 Palestinian, regional and European organisations based in Belgium, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom (UK). The coalition aims to investigate and highlight the financial relationships between business enterprises involved in the illegal Israeli settlement enterprise in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and European Financial Institutions (FIs)….Main findings [include]: New research by a cross-regional coalition of 25 Palestinian and European organisations shows that, between 2018 and May 2021, 672 European financial institutions, including banks, asset managers, insurance companies, and pension funds, had financial relationships with 50 businesses that are actively involved with Israeli settlements. During the analysed period, US$ 114 billion was provided in the form of loans and underwritings. As of May 2021, European investors also held US$ 141 billion in shares and bonds of these companies.” See also: “Nearly 700 European financial firms backing businesses involved in Israeli settlements” (Middle East Eye)

As world leaders gather at the UN, the violation of Palestinian rights must be on the agenda,

“It is incumbent on the UN, then, to urgently investigate Israeli apartheid as a first step toward dismantling it. In the meanwhile, states are called upon to adopt effective accountability measures to show Israel that there are serious consequences to its violent and relentless violations of Palestinian rights and its disregard of the rule of law. Silence, vague diplomatic statements, or rhetorical condemnations will not deter Israel from continuing to methodically dispossess and oppress Palestinians. A serious riposte must involve a broad range of effective and targeted sanctions by the world community that has respect for international legality and human rights. UN member states can begin by imposing a two-way military-security embargo on Israel and prohibiting all trade with complicit companies that are listed in the UN database of businesses implicated in Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise. By standing against Israeli apartheid, the UN general assembly can truly express the world’s conscience and demonstrate its relevance in the global pursuit of freedom, justice and equality for all.”

Washington’s three gifts to Naftali Bennett,

“The UN speech, Nides’ confirmation hearing, and the Democrats’ Iron Dome debacle is fantastic news for the Israeli prime minister. Bennett — a former head of the Yesha Council, the umbrella organization that represents the interests of the settlement movement — has spent his entire career opposing the establishment of a Palestinian state, and has recently declared that he intends on maintaining the occupation by pursuing a strategy of “shrinking the conflict.” In other words, Bennett’s plan is to deepen the so-called status quo — and thus Israel’s apartheid policies….Perhaps more than anything, this last week is a clear signal that, whether it’s Trump or Biden, or whether it’s Bibi or Bennett, there is hardly anyone with any modicum of power who will stand up and say enough to Israel’s accelerating, endless military rule. For now, Washington remains committed to ensuring that time is on the side of apartheid.” See also Bennett tells settlers he said no 3 times to Biden, on Iran, consulate, building” (Times of Israel) and “Israel’s Bennet makes first speech to UN” (Al Monitor)

Opinion | On Palestine, Biden Is on the Wrong Side of History,

“As settlements continue to expand and Palestinian homes continue to be demolished, as permanent infrastructure paving the way towards a million Israeli settlers in the West Bank is being built, as Gaza remains under blockade and Palestinians continue to be killed with impunity by Israeli security forces – “shrinking the conflict” are the magic words a non-Netanyahu prime minister of Israel needs to articulate in order for the international community to accept an ever-shrinking Palestine. This rebranding of stale ideas now being regurgitated – think “economic peace” or “confidence building measures” – does provide policy makers in Western capitals with renewed deniability for what they are actually doing: continuing to back Israeli apartheid. But people of conscience will never unsee the concrete blocks, bars and walls that Israel imposes on half of the people between the river and the sea.”

Lapid officially inaugurates Israeli embassy in Bahrain,

“Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif al Zayani officially open Israel’s Embassy in Manama, the capital of Bahrain. “May our people live in peace and prosperity forever,” says Lapid. He adds in Hebrew: “Israel made a major, historical step today in the Gulf.” “It is an unmistakable signal to all that we are determined,” says Zayani. “We are not done.””

Lawfare, Surveillance, Quashing Dissent

The Alarming Rise of Lawfare to Suppress Civil Society: September 2021 The Case of Palestine and Israel,

“This report focuses on the use of legal forums for political purposes – a practice known as “lawfare” – that is more concerned with inflicting damage on an opponent than prevailing with a particular legal argument or proving facts based on evidence. Specifically, it focuses on lawfare attacks that seek to silence and shut down the work of civil society organizations that support Palestinian rights and operate humanitarian, peacebuilding and other programs….Lawfare groups have capitalized on this shrinking civic space to go after organizations that have supported Palestinian rights, using the tactics described in this report. They attempt to force the hand of governments by using whistleblower laws and lobbying for investigations that, if successful, could institutionalize their extreme and harsh interpretations of the law. Lawfare can take many forms, including litigation, regulatory complaints and pressure campaigns aimed at cutting off funding. Their claims are generally based on disinformation or misrepresentation of the facts. While they rarely prevail on the merits or succeed in forcing settlements on NPOs, the costs and chilling impacts of lawfare attacks further exacerbate the shrinking civic space problem. In the context of the ongoing Israel/Palestine conflict, over the last six years lawfare has emerged as a tactic against human rights, humanitarian, and peacebuilding organizations (and those that support them), as self-described “pro-Israel” groups reacted to human rights litigation against Israeli officials by going on the legal offensive against human rights defenders.”

Israeli Diplomat Pressured UNC to Remove Teacher Who Criticized Israel ,

“This August, Israeli consular officials in the southeast U.S. arranged meetings with a dean at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to discuss a graduate student teaching a course on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to two UNC professors with knowledge of the meetings, who asked for anonymity for fear of retribution, the Israeli official accused the Ph.D. student of antisemitism and said she was unfit to teach the course. The intervention by an Israeli government official, Consul General to the Southeastern United States Anat Sultan-Dadon, followed a pressure campaign by right-wing pro-Israel websites and an advocacy group to remove the graduate student, Kylie Broderick, from teaching the history department course called “The Conflict over Israel/Palestine.”…In a statement to The Intercept, Sultan-Dadon confirmed the meeting with the dean of UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences about Broderick….“Regarding the matter of the course ‘The Conflict over Israel/Palestine’ at UNC Chapel Hill taught by PhD student Ms. Broderick, I do have significant concerns regarding public statements that have been made by Ms. Broderick on this subject matter, some of which are not only heavily biased, but fall clearly under what is defined as antisemitic by the IHRA working definition of antisemitism,” Sultan-Dadon said, referring to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s heavily contested definition of antisemitism.”

Social Media

7amleh releases a new research on hate speech on social media platforms among Palestinians,

“7amleh – The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media has launched a new study entitled, “Hateful Network: Hate Speech on Social Media Platforms Among Palestinians and its Impact on Their Digital Rights,” which sheds light on the spread of hate speech among Palestinians in the digital space and its repercussions on their digital rights. The study indicates a noticeable increase in the use of hate speech among Palestinians on social media platforms, influenced by events and tensions in regional politics, as well as by global events generally.”

Inside the Green Line

‘Their Agenda? Expelling Arabs’: The Contentious Movement Taking Root Across Israel,

“The Garin Torani [“Torah nucleus group”] in Acre is one of dozens of similar groups that are active in cities across Israel. In recent weeks they have been at the center of a firestorm on social media. Tweets with the hashtag #mitnahelod (“#settlerlod”), referring to the city of Lod, and other hashtags connected to activity by Torah nucleus groups elsewhere were posted by the thousands, amid heated quarrels between critics of the movement and its supporters. One bone of contention is the public resources that are allocated to these groups and the unnecessary friction between their members and the Arab populations in mixed Jewish-Arab cities, where the strongest groups usually establish themselves….The groups arrive with a systematic doctrine and a desire to wield influence according to their worldview, which is that of the religious, right-wing side of the political map….[“Dr. Yael Shmaryahu-Yeshurun, who studied the Garin Torani phenomenon for her doctoral dissertation (completed 2020)”]: “On one side of the street are ramshackle buildings and across the road stand tall, clean, new structures. The nucleus group set up a branch in Ramat Eshkol in order to have an impact there, too. In my study, I asked one of the group’s leaders, ‘What do you think will happen when you enter a neighborhood that has an Arab majority? Where do you expect them to go?’ He replied, ‘We want to have a Jewish majority everywhere [in Lod], for there not to be a situation in which Arabs are the majority.’”