Top News from Israel & Palestine: April 20, 2021

What We’re Reading

Human Rights, Annexation, Occupation

Israel demolishes al-Araqib village for 186th time,

“Israeli forces again demolished on Monday a Palestinian Bedouin village in the southern Negev region. The forces demolished the al-Araqib village for the 186th time despite the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Aziz al-Touri, a member of the Committee for the Defense of al-Araqib, told Anadolu Agency. Al-Touri said the demolition was the 11th since the beginning of coronavirus pandemic and confirmed that the villagers intended to rebuild their destroyed dwellings and other structures as soon as possible.”

Ill-Gotten Gains: Theft of Palestinian land ,

“Israel uses declaration of public land (“state land”) in the West Bank as a significant means to reinforce its settlement enterprise in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). This report presents and analyses a specific feature of Israel’s declaration policy: declaring Palestinian land to be “state land” in areas where settlement of title was halted after Israel occupied the West Bank, in order to appropriate this land….This report depicts a policy of land theft that is inseparable from the broader Israeli effort to increase Israeli control over land in the West Bank and retroactively authorize all illegal Israeli construction in the West Bank.”

PWA condemns vandalism of water reservoir in Nablus-district village,

“The Palestinian Water Authority today condemned the vandalism of the main water reservoir in Asira al-Qibliya village, southwest of Nablus city. During an inspection visit to the site of the vandalized reservoir, head of the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA), Mazen Ghneim, decried the sabotage by Israeli settlers of the reservoir as “a systematic and serious violation of the basic human rights”, particularly that it resulted in depriving over 6,000 Palestinians of water, particularly during the Ramadan fasting month. He added that the settlers came from Yitzhar, an illegal settlement inhabited by hardcore fanatic Jews, while pointing that it was not the first act of settler vandalism against the site.” Also from WAFA: “Israeli occupation issues demolition and stop construction orders against 13 Palestinian-owned houses” and “Palestinian resident of Jerusalem forced to demolish his house

Opinion | Israeli Settler Slapped a Palestinian Activist. A Jerusalem Court Slapped Her Back,

“Settler Anat Cohen was ordered last week by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court to pay 7,000 shekels ($2,144) to a resident of Hebron, Issa Amro, because she had slapped him as he and other activists accompanied Palestinian children to a local school. The court handed down its ruling last week in a civil suit filed by Amro, while rejecting a countersuit filed by Cohen, who is head of the education department for Hebron’s Jewish community, according to her testimony. The trial itself, with its huge heap of documents, is a painful and necessary reminder of the violent combination of government policy, settler aggressiveness and military repression – all of which are responsible for  being virtually emptied of its Palestinian residents.”


Israeli police clash with Palestinian crowd in Jerusalem,

“Israeli police clashed with hundreds of Palestinian protesters outside Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday, firing stun grenades and a water cannon to disperse the crowd, Israeli media said. Similar clashes have occurred nightly since the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began last week. Palestinians say they typically gather on the stairs outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate each evening during Ramadan but that this year Israeli police put up barriers to keep away the crowds. The move has angered Muslims who like to meet at the plaza to pass the Ramadan nights after the daily dawn-to-dusk fast ends. Police accuse the crowds of disorderly conduct and throwing stones at security forces.”

See also For the sixth night in a row, Israeli police attack Palestinians in East Jerusalem” (WAFA) and “For Sixth Night in a Row, Palestinians Confront Israeli Police in Jerusalem’s Old City” (Haaretz)

Israeli police detain 7 Palestinians in Jerusalem,

“Israeli police detained seven Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem, according to a police statement on Monday. “Five suspects were arrested last night in the Bab al-Amud area for interrogation on charges of throwing stones and assaulting policemen,” the statement said. Two Palestinian youths were also rounded up on Monday on suspicion of attacking an Israeli in the same area, police said in a separate statement. For the sixth consecutive day, Israeli police forced Palestinians to evacuate the Bab al-Amud area, one of the gates to Jerusalem’s Old City, triggering clashes between Palestinian youths and police personnel. Since the beginning of the Muslims’ holy month of Ramadan, Jerusalem has witnessed skirmishes between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces due to the latter’s attempts to prevent annual Ramadan gatherings and activities in the city center.”

Six Arrested in Downtown Jerusalem After Alleged anti-Arab Attacks,

“The police arrested Tuesday overnight six suspects in allegedly anti-Arab attacks on passersby in downtown Jerusalem. According to witnesses, the suspects were walking around the city center asking people questions and trying to find out if those who answered had an Arabic accent. The suspects then attacked those who were presumed Arabs. Moreover, dozens wandered around Jerusalem’s center chanting “Death to Arabs” throughout the night.” Also see Several attacked as Jerusalem mob chanted ‘death to Arabs’; 6 arrested” (ToI)

Israel bans Al-Aqsa Mosque preacher from travel,

“Israeli authorities on Monday banned Al-Aqsa Mosque preacher Sheikh Ekrima Sabri from travel for a period of four months…The statement did not clarify the reason behind the travel ban against him.”

Israel interrogates Al-Aqsa Mosque director amid 'Ramadan harassment' of Palestinian worshippers,

Israel’s intelligence service on Sunday interrogated the director of Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Islamic Endowments Authority said, amid a campaign of “harassment” of Palestinian worshippers at the Jerusalem holy site.”

Deputy Mayor: Large riots in eastern Jerusalem 'something we've never faced',

“In the wake of violent riots by Palestinian Arabs in eastern Jerusalem, Arutz Sheva interviewed Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Aryeh King to get a sense of how Israeli police are dealing with record large crowds of protestors in a very volatile situation. King, who has personally gone to the areas in question to see firsthand what is taking place, said that the situation on the ground is very dangerous. He noted that while there have been similar violent protests during past Ramadan periods, the current disturbances are “one of the worst ones” he has seen.”

US Scene & Policy

Bernie Sanders: U.S. Should Have a Say in How Israel Uses Military Aid,

“Sanders said “In terms of aid to Israel, in my view, the American people do not want to see that money being used to support policies that violate human rights and that treat the Palestinian people as second class human beings.” He added “when we talk about restricting aid, it’s important to note that this isn’t about singling out any one country. It’s about acting in an even-handed way in the region, and making sure that American aid works to advance American values, not undermine them.” Sanders called on Israel to better facilitate COVID-19 vaccinations for the Palestinians. “Let us be clear: As the occupying power, under international law, Israel is legally obligated to provide for the health and well-being of all people under its control,” he said. “While the Oslo Accords gave the Palestinian Authority considerable responsibility for the health care of Palestinians, which they should also be urged to uphold, the Accords do not supersede Israel’s responsibility under the 4th Geneva Convention.””

Elizabeth Warren suggests U.S. explore conditional aid to Israel,

““But if we’re serious about arresting settlement expansion and helping move the parties toward a two-state solution, then it would be irresponsible not to consider all of the tools we have at our disposal,” her speech went on. “One of those is restricting military aid from being used in the occupied territories. By continuing to provide military aid without restriction, we provide no incentive for Israel to adjust course.” During the J Street speech, Warren also reiterated support for a two-state solution, condemned the continued expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and called on Israel to help Palestinians access Covid-19 vaccines. She called on the Biden administration to restore access to the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem to Palestinians, to reopen the Palestine Liberation Organization delegation office in Washington, D.C., and to take steps to end the ongoing blockade and ensuing humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.”

See also “Sens. Sanders, Warren call for ‘restricting’ US aid to Israel at J Street confab” (ToI)

Menendez and Feinstein renew push to limit F-35 sales to UAE,

“Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) are making a new push to create roadblocks for the sale of advanced F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates and other foreign powers after the Biden administration announced last week it would allow the deal to go forward. The senators’ first attempt to halt the sale, in October 2020, failed to receive a full Senate vote.”

Bipartisan bill seeks to boost joint U.S.-Israel cybersecurity initiatives,

“A bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers is introducing legislation that would provide $30 million over five years to facilitate joint cybersecurity partnership programs between the United States and Israel…The legislation would establish a Department of Homeland Security grant program to fund research by a range of actors, including government entities, private companies, nonprofits and academic institutions, under the condition that they partner with corresponding entities in the other country.”

Betty McCollum's bill won't pass. So what's the Israel lobby so afraid of?,

According to Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, the bill’s requirement that the Secretary of State report each year on whether or not Israel is complying with US regulations, “crosses a red line for many defenders of Israel, who oppose any official US government acknowledgement of Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, and who would no doubt fear that such a report would strengthen future calls for conditions on aid to Israel.” While it might become the basis for future legislation that would carry penalties were it to be enshrined in US law, and despite some histrionics from pro-Israel groups, it does not restrict or limit aid to Israel in any way. It merely requires that Americans be fully aware of how US aid is used and are notified of any breaches of US law. That is hardly an onerous demand. …  Despite its limitations, AIPAC’s reaction is indicative of the potential impact and the unprecedented nature of this bill. Groups as diverse as the Adalah Justice Project, al-Haq, Jewish Voice for Peace Action, CAIR, Americans for Peace Now, and even J Street are supporting it. A list that includes strongly pro-Palestinian groups along with pro-Israel groups as moderate as J Street is formidable, and reflects a growing sense among Democrats that Israel should be treated like any other country, and be accountable to US law.” 

Israeli Scene

In Blow to Netanyahu, Rivals Secure Key Parliamentary Panel,

“The anti-Netanyahu bloc won a key vote to determine the composition of the Knesset arrangements committee on Monday. The committee is responsible for setting the Knesset agenda during the transitional period between an election and the formation of a new government. This means that the committee controls which bills come before the Knesset for a vote during this time, giving the committee’s extraordinary influence.”

See also:

Desperate Netanyahu could fail to compose government,

“In the evening hours of April 19, in a stunning Knesset upset, he lost a crucial procedural vote to the so-called bloc of change, led by Yesh Atid party Chair Yair Lapid and New Hope party Chair Gideon Saar. Arab Knesset member Mansour Abbas voted with Lapid on the control of the parliamentary Arrangement Committee, which sets the agenda of the house. Their brilliant maneuver knocked Netanyahu out for the count, although he remains in the ring. It’s not over until it’s over, but it’s the start of the end…Netanyahu of April 2021 is a wounded animal. His attention to running the affairs of state — chief among them the emerging nuclear deal between world powers and Iran — is severely compromised. His prime goal is to save himself. His options are fading. A proposed initiative of electing him to the ceremonial post of president to succeed Rivlin is not taking off. Prospects of changing the electoral system are also slim. Nonetheless, Netanyahu is the ultimate comeback kid. He has returned from the dead more than once. Can he do so again?”

Attack on 'Settler' Yeshiva Head in Jaffa Triggers Violent Clashes Between Residents, Police,

“Clashes erupted on Sunday between protesters and police, hours after the head of a yeshiva in the city was attacked, marking an escalation in the fight over plans to sell a local building to the Jewish religious institution….Jaffa residents have recently held weekly demonstrations against the sale of assets that the government seized decades ago from Arabs who fled the country during 1948 war, which led to the establishment of Israel. Abed Abou Shhade, a Tel Aviv-Jaffa councilman hailing from Jaffa, charged that yeshiva officials and “settlers” had tried “to come to the family’s home, and Jaffa’s young people had to set limits for them and tell them there are people who will respond and they shouldn’t try to test the limits. The way to calm tempers now is for the yeshiva people not to expel Arab families.” But right-wing councilman Haim Goren said: “We’re staying here and will strengthen the institutions of the yeshiva and the [Jewish] community.””

Palestinian Scene & Elections

Newspapers Review: Dailies highlight the Fatah Central Committee meeting on elections,

“The Palestinian Arabic dailies highlighted today on their front page Fatah Central Committee meeting in Ramallah and its statement on the Palestinian elections. Al-Hayat al-Jadida daily quoted President Mahmoud Abbas telling the meeting that he is committed to holding the elections in all the Palestinian territories, including in East Jerusalem. Al-Ayyam and al-Quds dailies quoted the Central Committee saying that Jerusalem and its residents are a red line. Al-Hayat al-Jadida said the European Union reiterated its support for holding general elections in Palestine, including in East Jerusalem. It quoted the spokesman of the Central Elections Commission, Farid Tamallah, saying that elections in Jerusalem are a political issue, not technical.”

Abbas adviser: Palestinian elections ‘very likely’ to be postponed,

“A senior adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday that the upcoming Palestinian national elections are “very likely” to be postponed if Israel does not allow voting in East Jerusalem. Nabil Shaath told the An-Nahar newspaper that if Israel continues to ignore the PA’s request to hold the elections in East Jerusalem, “the electoral process will be postponed.”” Also see EXPLAINER: Jerusalem dispute could derail Palestinian vote” (AP)

Palestinians say most in East Jerusalem can vote, regardless of Israeli approval,

“Most Palestinians in East Jerusalem will be able to vote in the upcoming Palestinian elections regardless of whether Israel allows voting to take place inside the  city, the Palestinian Central Elections Commission said on Monday. According to the commission, around 150,000 residents will be able to vote in what Palestinians call the “Jerusalem suburbs” — towns and villages that ring the capital. Israel defines these areas as lying in the West Bank, while the Palestinian Authority see them as part of its “Jerusalem Governorate.”… But Israel resists Palestinian Authority activity in Jerusalem, which it views as a violation of its sovereignty. On Saturday, Israel Police arrested three Palestinian candidates planning to hold a press conference on the elections at Jerusalem’s St. George Hotel.”

Will Abbas postpone the elections to appease Israel and its allies?,

Washington is, apparently, giving the green light for the Palestinian presidency to postpone the legislative election scheduled for next month; the Biden administration willfully “understand” if this happens. The question now, therefore, is not if the elections will be postponed, but when….It now looks as if regional and international parties are willing to postpone the much-needed elections for one reason, and one reason only: Hamas is likely to win again, which is something that the current leadership, the Israelis, and the Americans want to avoid.”

Palestinian Authority purchases 4.5 million Pfizer and Sputnik V vaccines: report,

The Palestinian Authority (PA) said on Tuesday it had purchased 4.5 million doses of the Pfizer and Sputnik V coronavirus vaccines, according to a report from Ynet. Ramallah officials said they spent more than $27.5 million on vaccines, which are expected to reach Palestinians “soon.””

Also see

Palestinian Elections: As In 2006, A Dangerous Idea,

“Thus the fundamental problems that presented themselves in 2006 remain: can there be a democratic election in a non-democratic entity like the PA, half run by Hamas and half by Fatah, neither part run democratically? Should the focus not be, first, on expanding the space for free political debate, and building democratic institutions? Why should the armed terrorist group Hamas be permitted to run in an election as if it were a peaceful and democratic political party — and what are the implications for Palestinian politics, and for Israel, Jordan, and the so-called ‘peace process’ should Hamas win a majority or a strong minority presence?”

International Scene, Normalization, & Weapons Deals

Israel and Greece sign record defence deal,

“Israel and Greece have signed their biggest ever defence procurement deal, which Israel said would strengthen political and economic ties between the countries as the two countries’ air forces launched a joint exercise. The agreement includes a $1.65bn contract for the establishment and operation of a training centre for the Hellenic Air Force by Israeli defence contractor Elbit Systems over a 22-year period, Israel’s defence ministry said on Sunday.”

See also “Israel sighs major defense deal with Greece” (Globes)

Iran Rattled as Israel Repeatedly Strikes Key Targets,

“Most alarming for Iran, Iranian officials and analysts said, was that the attacks revealed that Israel had an effective network of collaborators inside Iran and that Iran’s intelligence services had failed to find the moles….The attacks represent an uptick in a long-running campaign by the intelligence services of Israel and the United States to subvert what they consider to be Iran’s threatening activities.”

Sudan officially annuls 63-year Israel boycott law,

“The Sudanese ruling sovereignty council and cabinet on Monday officially voted to annul the so-called Israel boycott law as part of the normalization process between Khartoum and Jerusalem. The decision to scrap the 1958 law was confirmed earlier this month by the Sudanese prime minister’s office, which said ministers also affirmed Sudan’s support for the establishment of a Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution.” Also see Sudan annuls 63-year-old law covering boycott of Israel” (MEMO)

Israel approves Covid-19 medical aid for Jordan but no vaccines,

“Israel has approved a Jordanian request for coronavirus-related medical aid which will be sent to the kingdom on Tuesday but the batch will contain no vaccines, Haaretz has reported. Describing the assistance as “extensive”, the Israeli daily added it is thought ventilators, Covid-19 tests, and both medical-grade and regular face masks will be transferred. Vaccinations, however, are not on the list, a key bone of contention between the two countries since Israel announced plans to supply vaccines to allies in February.”

Bahrain airline to launch direct flights to Tel Aviv,

“Gulf Air, Bahrain’s state-owned airline, is launching direct flights to Tel Aviv in June, another marker in the country’s ongoing normalization of ties with Israel.”

UAE, Israel firms establish joint artificial intelligence venture,

“UAE’s Group 42 (G42) and state-owned Israeli Advanced Defense Systems firm, Rafael, have agreed to establish a joint venture for artificial intelligence and big data technologies based in Israel, news agencies reported yesterday. The two firms agreed to name their joint venture Presight.AI, and it will conduct research and develop products for different sectors, including banking, healthcare, and public safety.”

Free Speech, Lawfare, and the Weaponization of Antisemitism

Florida university accused of fostering anti-Palestinian racism,

“The complaint is the first time Palestinian rights advocates have used Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to charge a school with allowing and fostering anti-Palestinian racism. The law prohibits universities that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin….“Holding an event or a documentary on campus does not discriminate against you on the basis of national origin or race,” Amira Mattar, a fellow at Palestine Legal, told +972 Magazine. “But calling a Palestinian student a ‘dirty ass towelhead’ [as Daraldik was] is discrimination.”

For a discussion of Ahmad Daraldik’s experience at Florida State University, see his participation in this February 2021 FMEP webinar, “The IHRA Definition & the Fight Against Antisemitism part 6: Implications of the IHRA Definition on Palestinians.”

Facebook shuts down page of academic program sponsoring Palestinian event,

“On April 12 Facebook removed the event page for a panel on Palestine. The next day the tech company shut down the page for the academic program that sponsored it. The sponsor of the event is the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED) Studies program at San Francisco State University. Last September they sponsored a similar event that was censored by Facebook, Zoom, and YouTube.” See alsoAmid Uproar over Planned SFSFU Event with Leila Khaled, Zoom Changes Policy to Give Universities More Control” (Algemeiner)