Top News from Israel & Palestine: April 16, 2021

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Annexation, Human Rights

Thousands of Palestinians attend Ramadan’s first Friday in Al-Aqsa,

“Since the early morning hours, the Israeli occupation authorities sealed off the checkpoints separating Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and deployed police around and across the Old City, obstructing the movement of Palestinians and their vehicles and forcing them to walk for long distances to reach the holy site. Inside the Old City of occupied Jerusalem, policemen set up iron barriers, inspected the identity cards of passer-by in the alleyways leading to the mosque compound, issued fines against others purportedly for not wearing face masks and briefly detained others purportedly for lacking entry permits. Despite all the occupation measures, thousands were able to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque from its various gates as the Islamic Religious Endowment (Waqf) Authorities were keen to implemented safety measures to rein in the spread of the novel coronavirus.” See also Israeli police detain eight Palestinians from Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque” (WAFA), “70,000 Muslim worshipers flock to Jerusalem for 1st Friday prayers of Ramadan” (TOI)

Israel Bolsters Police Presence in East Jerusalem as Tensions Rise Ahead of First Ramadan Prayers,

“Israel has bolstered forces in preparations for the first Friday prayers of Ramadan in East Jerusalem and amid rising friction between the police and local Palestinians. In a departure from previous years, Israel is only permitting 10,000 West Bank residents, all of whom must be vaccinated, to attend the prayers….The tension began this week in the wake of the police decision to close off the steps leading to Damascus Gate using barricades, leaving only a narrow passage, in spite of the fact that hundreds of Palestinians traditionally gather to sit on the steps during Ramadan nights. Clashes have broken out during the past three nights after Palestinian youth tried to remove the police barricades. The clashes involved dozens of police and young Palestinians, who threw stones and bottles. One policeman and around 10 Palestinians were injured and required treatment. Police arrested a number of suspects.”

Occupation forces injure four Palestinians during West Bank protests ,

“At least four Palestinians were injured by Israeli rubber-coated bullets today during protests and subsequent clashes with the Israeli occupation forces in the villages of Beit Dajan and Kafr Qaddum in the occupied West Bank, according to witnesses.”

Hundreds protest takeover of Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem - report,

“Hundreds of participants attended a protest at the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in east Jerusalem on Friday, Israeli media reported. Participants are protesting against the expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes in east Jerusalem by Jewish settlers.”

Israeli army says it targeted ‘Hamas military sites’ in Gaza,

“Israeli warplanes have carried out air raids at several locations after midnight on Friday in the Gaza Strip in response to a rocket fired from the besieged Palestinian enclave that hit southern Israel. Fighter jets and attack helicopters struck a “weapons manufacturing site, a weapon smuggling tunnel and a military post” operated by Hamas, the movement which governs Gaza, the Israeli military said in a statement on Friday….The latest attack comes weeks after the Israeli military carried out night-time raids against Hamas positions in the southern part of the Strip.” Also see Israel targets Hamas sites after rocket attack” (Al-Monitor)

US Policy

Mccollum introduces historic legislation: Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act,

“Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.), released the following statement today after introducing the Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act, building upon legislation she introduced in the 115th and 116th Congresses to promote the human rights and safety of Palestinian children. McCollum’s legislation prohibits Israel from using U.S. taxpayer dollars in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem for: the military detention, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention; to support the seizure and destruction of Palestinian property and homes in violation of international humanitarian law; or, to extend any assistance or support for Israel’s unilateral annexation of Palestinian territory in violation of international humanitarian law.


Original Cosponsors: Bobby L. Rush (IL-01), Danny K. Davis (IL-07), Andre Carson (IN-07), Marie Newman (IL-03), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Cori Bush (MO-01), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04)”


See also:

House Democrats Introduce Bill Seeking to Regulate U.S. Aid to Israel,

“The legislation is unlikely to advance far, but is the latest and perhaps most significant example of growing criticism of Israeli policy within the Democratic Party. According to Gallup’s annual survey on American views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 34 percent of Americans want to see the U.S. government push Israel further on the matter. Most notably, for the first time a majority of Democrats – 53 percent – now support this approach…AIPAC slammed the latest bill as “unnecessary and redundant” while claiming it would “condition aid to Israel, undermine U.S. interests and make peace less likely.” McCollum rejected the criticism, saying “AIPAC wants U.S. taxpayer dollars to Israel to be spent on abusing Palestinian human rights? Imprisoning children? Demolishing homes? Annexing Palestinian land? Apparently they do.”

Antony Blinken expects other countries to sign onto Abraham Accords this year,

““The United States welcomes and supports the recent normalization agreements,” Blinken said, referring to the Abraham Accords brokered last year by the Trump administration between Israel and four Arab states. “We will continue to urge more countries to normalize relations with Israel — and will look for other opportunities to expand cooperation among countries in the region. As a result, I expect Israel’s group of friends to grow even wider in the year ahead.””

EXCLUSIVE As Biden advances UAE F-35 sale, senators seek more control of arms deals,

“Two senior Democratic senators will introduce legislation on Friday that would reassert Congress’ oversight of international weapons deals, after President Joe Biden’s administration decided to go ahead with a $23 billion sale to the United Arab Emirates that had worried lawmakers, congressional aides said. The bill, seen by Reuters, will be introduced by Senators Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Dianne Feinstein, a senior member of the intelligence committee….Among other things, it would bar the sale of the F-35s – which can take years after a deal is agreed – unless any president makes detailed certifications to Congress that the critical technology would not fall into the wrong hands, or otherwise compromise advanced technology. It also would require that any sale to a Middle Eastern country other than Israel not compromise Israel’s military advantage over such countries, and come with assurances that the aircraft would not be used in operations harmful to Israel’s security.” See also US legislators ‘concerned,’ vow to review resumed UAE arms sales” (Al Jazeera)

US ready to facilitate Lebanon-Israel maritime border talks ,

““America stands ready to facilitate negotiations on the maritime boundary between Lebanon and Israel,” Undersecretary for Political Affairs David Hale said during remarks at Lebanon’s presidential palace in Baabda. “These negotiations have potential to unlock significant economic benefits for Lebanon. And this is all the more critical against the backdrop of the severe economic crisis the country is facing,” Hale said. On Monday, Lebanon’s Public Works and Transport Minister Michel Najjar signed a decree formally expanding his country’s claim in the disputed waters. Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz responded by accusing Lebanon of trying to derail the postponed talks and promised “parallel measures by Israel.” Hale said the United States would get involved “on the basis on which we initiated these discussions,” hinting that the US administration won’t accept Lebanon’s new claim.”

J Street wants to put confederation on the US political map,

“J Street is set to use its national conference this year, which will convene virtually on April 18-19 with an array of high-profile American, Israeli, and Palestinian politicians and leaders, to outline the principles and policies it hopes the Biden administration will pursue to reignite peace efforts in the Middle East. According to J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami, that includes a robust discussion on a potential new way forward: an Israeli-Palestinian confederation.” Also see Abbas to address J Street confab as group seeks to top DC’s Israel lobby scene” (TOI)

Top Republican To AIPAC: Trump Wanted To ‘Marginalize’ Palestinians,

” “I think the goal here is to marginalize the Palestinians,” [Texas Rep. Michael] McCaul told donors and supporters of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in a closed-door meeting last month, referring to Trump’s negotiations with Muslim-majority countries…By marginalizing the Palestinians, Trump’s policy would “put leverage on them in both the Arab and Muslim world to get them to the table to once and for all work out a peace agreement with the state of Israel,” the congressman said.”

Palestinian Scene

Arafat’s Nephew Is Coming for Abbas,

“A poll by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that the Qudwa and Dahlan lists could pose significant problems for Fatah, particularly in the Gaza Strip. But the emerging struggle is only the latest evidence of broader dysfunction within the party, which has been years in the making. “Al-Qudwa’s decision to run an independent list is a sign of the intense dissatisfaction within Fatah with the direction of Abbas’s leadership and his authoritarian and increasingly paranoid grip on power,” said Khaled Elgindy, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute.”

EU Representative: Israel has no right to hinder Palestinian elections in Jerusalem,

“European Union’s Representative to Palestine, Sven Kuehn von Burgsdorff, affirmed today the right of the Palestinian people in all of the Palestinian Territories, including occupied East Jerusalem, to cast their vote in the upcoming elections. During a meeting with Fatah Central Committee Member Jibril Rajoub in Ramallah, he said the Israeli occupation has no right to handicap the holding of the elections in occupied East Jerusalem, adding that the EU will spare no effort to facilitate the holding of the elections in all of Palestine.”

Israel cracks down on Hamas as Palestinian election nears ,

“Even before Hamas registered its electoral list, Israel had launched an arrest campaign against leading candidates on Hamas’ list in the West Bank. The number of arrested candidates has reached 11, including seven who were apprehended shortly before the list’s registration and two who already were imprisoned…The arrests have not been limited to candidates, but also involved top officials and leading figures working for the movement ahead of the elections.

Palestine confirms 1774 new COVID-19 cases, 19 deaths,

“Minister of Health Mai Alkaila announced today that 1774 new coronavirus infections, 19 deaths and 2276 recoveries were registered in Palestine during the past 24 hours. In her daily report on the coronavirus pandemic, she said seven corona-related deaths were registered in the West Bank, eleven deaths in the Gaza Strip, and one death in occupied Jerusalem.”

Israeli Scene

Analysis // Israel Stands Alone on Iran ,

“The businesslike but chilly tone adopted by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on his visit to Israel on April 11-12 is just the tip of the iceberg with which Israel risks colliding in the coming months. Although this has not been completely verified, Israel apparently did not convey to the Americans in full a detailed warning of the operations and attacks it allegedly planned to mount on Iranian targets over the past two weeks — with suspicious timing proximity to the renewal of talks with Iran on its nuclear program and Austin’s visit to Israel. Is Israel branding itself, for the second time in six years, as a confrontational power raining on official international parades, as the “enfant terrible” sticking its tongue out at the entire world regarding the handling of the Iran problem?”

International Scene

Iran begins uranium enrichment at highest level yet as Vienna nuclear talks continue,

“Iran’s parliament speaker said Friday that Tehran has successfully enriched uranium to 60 percent purity, its highest level yet, in a move that the United States and its European allies warned would complicate efforts to revive a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers…Iran’s government vowed earlier this week that it would increase enrichment from the current top level of 20 percent, in what officials cast as retaliation for a suspected Israeli attack, days earlier, on Natanz. The announcement seemed to add a new obstacle to multilateral negotiations currently underway in Vienna aimed at restoring the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers.”

Also see:

Dutch shop fined for omitting the word ‘settlement’ from label of Israeli wine from the West Bank,

“Dutch government inspectors fined a store for labeling wine made in an Israeli settlement as “a product from an Israeli village in Judea and Samaria.” The Israel Products Center near Amsterdam received the $2,514 fine last week following its refusal to replace the label with one acceptable to the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, which requires such labels read “Product from the West Bank (Israeli settlement).” The Israel Products Center, a shop and importer run by the pro-Israel group Christians for Israel, has had legal problems over labeling since 2019.”

Why does international support for the ICC stop at Palestine?,

“It is therefore concerning to see purported supporters of the ICC and of international justice cast shade on the judicial process and abandon victims with such cavalier disregard. It is particularly egregious to make an argument — as many of these states have — that political negotiations between Palestine and Israel should take precedence over an international criminal process, implying that such a process would hinder “a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.” Such arguments have been made in all conflicts where Rome Statute crimes are committed, and they are never valid. On the contrary, by pursuing accountability, the ICC can play a critical role in breaking the “cycle of impunity” which so often frustrates a durable and just peace.”

Free Speech, Lawfare, & Weaponization of Antisemitism

‘It was a disaster’: Inside a fierce battle over antisemitism at CUNY,

“Both of the resolutions, the latest in a spate of similar initiatives at campuses across the country, dealt with the very definition of antisemitism — a seemingly esoteric issue that has increasingly become a proxy for larger questions concerning the polarizing politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, identity and free speech. And, after the intervention of national pro-Israel groups, both resolutions failed to pass at a contentious, hours-long Zoom meeting of CUNY’s Student Senate on Sunday….One resolution would have had the entire CUNY system adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism; the other promoted a different definition backed by a group of anti-Zionist Jewish students and Students for Justice in Palestine. The conflagration at one of the nation’s most diverse and democratic institutions of higher education may preview the future of Israel debate on campus, as attention shifts away from the movement to boycott the Jewish state and toward policing pro-Palestinian activism…Marx-Arpadi and Kiswani both said that they are hoping to build off their momentum to perhaps to draft a new resolution focused on defending free speech. This “wasn’t just about providing a definition,” Kiswani said. “It was about emphasizing the need for solidarity between our groups — and that none of us are free until we’re all free.””

Battle of Antisemitism Definitions is Actually War for Criticism of Israel ,

“This is the division: equality vs. Jewish supremacy as the fundamental axiom of legitimacy. And this is why Israel is not only the dividing point of Jews today, but also sits at the heart of conversations about antisemitism like IHRA and the JDA. The debate ultimately comes down to Israel and whether discourse that calls for an end to Jewish supremacy—even while insisting that equality means Jewish equality too—is antisemitic. IHRA can be easily used to make that case and the JDA cannot. Those in the camp of Jewish power must cling to the IHRA “working definition” as God’s final word on antisemitism in order to use the charge to suppress challenges to that power. It’s heating up now not principally because antisemitism is getting worse, though it is, but because Israel is growing increasingly committed to its apartheid occupation of the West Bank and deepening discrimination against Palestinian citizens through legislation like the nation-state law. Israel’s choices—at the ballot box and beyond—are making the case for Israel harder to make. “

Opinion | Between Antisemitism and anti-Zionism: The Intellectual's Dilemma,

“Faced with a complex and mined field, what is the Jewish intellectual to do? The alternative has been set up for him or her in an impossible way: either join the ranks of those who fight for a democratic Israel and run the risk of being dubbed an antisemite; or make the struggle against antisemitism the primary object of moral concern, at the expense of ignoring a historical injustice committed by Israelis against the Palestinians.”