Top News from Israel & Palestine: April 1, 2021

What We’re Reading

US Policy

Yes, Israel occupies West Bank, US says,

“US President Joe Biden’s administration said Wednesday that Israel’s control of the West Bank is indeed ‘occupation,’ clarifying its stance after the release of a report that seemed to downplay the term, adopting language used by Donald Trump’s government. The State Department’s annual report on human rights ‘”does use the term ‘occupation’ in the context of the current status of the West Bank,’ State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters. ‘This has been the longstanding position of previous administrations of both parties over the course of many decades,’ he said.”


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Biden administration quietly ramping up aid to Palestinians,

“The Biden administration is quietly ramping up assistance to the Palestinians after former President Donald Trump cut off nearly all aid. Since taking office with a pledge to reverse many of Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian decisions, the administration has allocated nearly $100 million for the Palestinians, only a small portion of which has been publicized. The administration announced last Thursday that it was giving $15 million to vulnerable Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. A day later, with no public announcement, it notified Congress that it will give the Palestinians $75 million for economic support, to be used in part to regain their ‘trust and goodwill’ after the Trump-era cuts.” Reminder: The glaringly dishonest attacks on Biden’s humanitarian aid to Palestinians (Lara Friedman/Responsible Statecraft)

Biden Plans to Repeal Trump-Era Sanctions on ICC,

“The Biden administration plans as early as this week to revoke a Trump-era executive order levying sanctions on the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and a top deputy, removing another source of friction in U.S. relations with key allies, including many of America’s European counterparts, according to two sources familiar with the decision. The expected move is likely to ease a state of open hostility by the U.S. government toward the Hague-based international tribunal, which clashed bitterly with the Trump administration over its efforts to investigate possible war crimes by American personnel in Afghanistan and Israeli security forces in the Palestinian territories. But it is unlikely to end tension between the court and the Biden administration, which, like prior administrations, contends that the tribunal lacks standing to prosecute Israeli and U.S. nationals. Neither country has ratified the 1998 treaty creating the international court.”


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A new effort to sell Israel to American liberals,

“…a new group is being formed that seeks to reach more liberal Democrats. Dubbed ‘Heart of a Nation,’ the new organisation, unlike DMFI, will seek to amplify voices that are simultaneously pro-Israel but also critical of its rightward shift over the past decade. The name of the organisation echoes the title of a book published by Israeli opposition figure, Yair Lapid in 2016, To Be Israeli: The Heart of a Nation, the Soul of a People. Lapid – whose rise to prominence in Israel was spearheaded, in large measure by pollster and strategist, Mark Mellman, currently DMFI’s president – holds centre-right views on virtually all issues regarding the Palestinians, but is widely viewed as the liberal alternative to Netanyahu. He is much more politically aligned with centrist Democrats such as Joe Biden, a connection surely not lost on the founders of Heart of a Nation. Those founders are led by Jonathan Kessler. He has long been a leader in AIPAC where he has focused on reaching out to potentially pro-Israel constituencies in liberal communities. A good portion of his work has been developing and leading campus outreach programmes. He excels at convincing people that support for Israel is compatible with liberal or progressive values, despite its denial of Palestinian rights.”

Occupation, Annexation, Human Rights

Israeli occupation authorities forbid Palestinian families in Jerusalem from enjoying the release of their sons,

“The Israeli occupation authorities continue to forbid Palestinian families in occupied East Jerusalem from celebrating and enjoying the release of their sons after spending years in prison and threaten to re-arrest the freed prisoner. In the latest such incident, the Israeli authorities yesterday broke into the home of Palestinian prisoner, Ghazi Kanaan, 48, in Ras al-Amoud neighborhood of East Jerusalem and threatened to re-arrest him if his family holds any celebrations for his release on the next day.”

Gaza man: After lengthy torture, Hamas forced me to divorce,

“After months of torture and interrogations in a Hamas prison, Palestinian activist Rami Aman says he was offered an unconventional proposition: Divorce your wife and you are free to go. Aman had recently signed a marriage contract with the daughter of a Hamas official, and the ruling Islamic militant group apparently wanted to dispel any insinuation that it supported Aman’s outreach to Israeli peace activists. He says he eventually caved into the pressure. Now he says the love of his life has been whisked out of Gaza against her will, and he may never see her again. ‘I realized I was sent there to do time until I break up my relationship,’ Aman said in an interview on the roof of his Gaza City home. It was the final humiliation in a saga that began with what he believed to be an innocent online meeting with Israeli peace activists. Instead, the episode landed him in a notorious prison cell known as ‘the bus,’ and ultimately destroyed his marriage. His experience shows the tough constraints on free expression in the Hamas-ruled territory, and the militant group’s hostility to any talk of coexistence with Israel.”

Jordan demands Israel to stop meddling in the affairs of Al-Aqsa Mosque and respect the status quo in Jerusalem,

“Jordan called on Israel in an official letter to stop meddling in the affairs of Al-Haram Al-Sharif (Al-Aqsa Mosque) in Jerusalem and respect the city’s status quo. The Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates sent the protest letter through official channels in which it demanded that Israel, as the occupying power, desist from any act that violates the historical and legal status quo of occupied Jerusalem and respect the authority the Jerusalem’s Awqaf (Endowment) department over the Muslim holy compound and other Islamic shrines in the occupied city, according to Dhaifallah al-Fayez, spokesman for the foreign ministry.”

How Israeli rights groups prevent Palestinians from framing their own reality,

“Palestinians know how to frame their own reality; they have been doing so for decades. Our concern is less with how to make Israeli organisations and activists less racist or more accommodating of Palestinians. We are more concerned with how we, as Palestinian activists, human rights organisations and solidarity groups, should respond to this racial dynamic. Our lived realities and knowledge should not be footnotes in the reports of white, Israeli, settler-colonial organisations. A way forward is to centre Palestinian knowledge and the liberationist anti-colonial agenda.”


Official warns of ‘dangerous’ situation in Gaza amid surge in COVID-19 cases,

“With Israel’s blockade in place and amid hard times of the coronavirus pandemic, the ‘epidemiological situation’in the besieged Gaza Strip is now ‘dangerous,’ says Magdy Dahir, deputy director of primary care at the Gaza Health Ministry. The ministry on Wednesday stated that over 1,060 coronavirus cases had been registered during the past 24 hours, the highest daily figure in several months.” Also see: Gaza Strip sees alarming spike in coronavirus cases (Al Anadolu)

World Bank, France and Germany pledge $52 million to support Palestinian municipalities against COVID-19 crisis,

“The French Agency for Development, the German Development Bank (KfW) and the World Bank today signed financing and project agreements worth $52 with the Palestinian Government to support the Palestinian response against the COVID19 pandemic at the local level.”

Why is The Forward afraid of criticizing Israel’s discriminatory vaccine policy?,

“…In my piece, I argued that while the government is vaccinating Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians in East Jerusalem, its exclusion of 5 million Palestinians living in the occupied territories from its COVID-19 vaccine distribution program is based on ethnic criteria. More than that, I argued that this policy is based on the Israeli government’s engineering of its citizenship laws, which grant automatic Israeli citizenship to Jews who move to Israel-Palestine…Following publication, I received multiple requests from The Forward editors to ‘clarify’ my piece, including by withdrawing my central claim. Even after two rounds of post-publication edits, the site added an editor’s note that effectively repudiated the article’s argument and denied the ethnic discrimination baked into Israel’s vaccine campaign. Instead, the note sought to reframe the issue as a debate over Israeli obligations to Palestinians under the international law of belligerent occupation. The editors told me they added the note to clear up ‘confusion.’”


Israeli Elections 

Abbas to make statement as Ra'am split over Netanyahu alliance,

“As Mansour Abbas, who heads Ra’am, prepares to make his first official statement since the elections, some in the Islamist Movement, which the Arab faction is part of, appear to be against a potential alliance with right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The small Islamist party has emerged as an unlikely kingmaker following the March 23 vote as neither bloc has enough seats to form a coalition government.”


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Israel Elections: Bennett to hold fateful meetings with Netanyahu, Lapid,

“Yamina head Naftali Bennett will hold long-awaited meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Yair Lapid, a spokesman for Bennett said on Thursday. The meeting with Netanyahu will take place on Friday at the Prime Minister’s Office and with Lapid on Saturday night, ahead of Bennett’s consultations with President Reuven Rivlin on Monday, in which Bennett will have to reveal who he wants to see form the next government. Both Lapid and Netanyahu want Bennett and the seven MKs of Yamina to recommend them to form the next government during consultations with Rivlin.”


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Netanyahu may run for president to avoid prosecution,

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering running for president to replace Reuven Rivlin, whose term ends in July, in order to avoid prosecution, Arab48 reported yesterday. The Arabic news site reported Israeli website Wallah saying that Netanyahu’s agreement to become president would end the deadlock of forming an Israeli government and prevent the country heading to a fifth election.” Also see: Likud Blasts President for ‘Meddling’ in Elections as He Mulls Whether to Let Netanyahu Form Government (Haaretz)


More Headlines

Palestinian Elections - News & Analysis

PA to EU: Pressure Israel to permit elections in Jerusalem,

“Palestinian Authority (PA) cabinet leader Mohammad Shtayyeh on Wednesday called on Europe to pressure Israel to permit Palestinian Arabs in eastern Jerusalem to participate in the upcoming PA legislative elections scheduled for May 22 and the presidential elections planned for July 31, the WAFA news agency reports. Shtayyeh told European Union (EU) diplomats he met with in Ramallah that Palestinian Arabs in Jerusalem must participate in the elections, whether by voting or as candidates, as per the agreements signed with Israel. ‘Elections are the gateway to ending the division and renewing democracy,’ he was quoted as having said, stressing that elections are a public demand.”

Abbas said to tell Shin Bet head he won’t call off elections: ‘You built Hamas’,

“When the head of the Shin Bet security agency recently urged Mahmoud Abbas to scrap the upcoming elections for the Palestinian parliament if Hamas takes part, the Palestinian Authority president retorted that Israel was responsible for the strength of the terror group, the Kan public broadcaster reported Wednesday. ‘I do not work for you, I will decide if there will be an election and with whom. You built Hamas, not me,’ Abbas reportedly told Nadav Argaman during the meeting.”

Marwan Barghouti forms new electoral list with Arafat's nephew Nasser Qudwa,

“Newly dismissed Fatah member, Nasser Al-Qudwa, yesterday registered the electoral list formed jointly by him and imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, Safa news agency reported. This came after Al-Qudwa and close aides of Barghouti signed an agreement to form their own electoral list for the parliamentary election. The list, named the Freedom List, includes senior Fatah leaders and former prisoners. Al-Qudwa heads the list and Marwan Barghouti’s wife, Fadwa, is his deputy.”


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Free Speech, Lawfare

Lecture by iconic activist cancelled after pressure from pro-Israel students,

“Butler University in Indianapolis has cancelled a scheduled event featuring iconic political activist Angela Davis this week in what seems to be another example of the ongoing campaign by pro-Israel lobbyists against the American civil rights movement…According to the university, the cancellation was due to procedural errors. However, campus and community organisations issued a joint statement saying that Davis was targeted over her support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. ‘Days before Butler University’s shameless censorship of Dr Angela Davis, the Student Government Association was bombarded by pressure from Zionist students who claimed to oppose the event because of her support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a grassroots demand for nonviolent economic pressure against Israel’s illegal military occupation of Palestine,’ explained the organisations. Their statement added that this was not the first time that pro-Israel students have tried to ‘silence free speech and prevent political events on campus.’” Also see: Butler Students Claim Angela Davis Speech ‘Cancelled’ After ‘Zionist’ Pressure, While University Describes Postponement Over Procedure Error (Algemeiner)

UK school textbooks on Middle East conflict altered to favour Israel: Report,

“The international publisher Pearson has paused further distribution of two textbooks used by UK high schools after a group of academics said in a report that they distorted the historical record and failed to offer pupils a balanced view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The report found that alterations had been made to text, timelines, maps and photographs, as well as to sample student essays and questions. It concluded that ‘school children should not be supplied with propaganda under the guise of education’ and called for their immediate withdrawal. The textbook alterations were made last year after an intervention by the Board of Deputies of British Jews working together with UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI).”