Top News from Israel & Palestine: August 5, 2020

What We’re Reading

Beirut Catastrophe

Israeli involvement in massive Beirut port blast ruled out by both sides,

“Senior Hezbollah officials told OTV Lebanon that social media rumors about an Israeli attack were false. ‘There is no truth to rumors about an Israeli strike against Hezbollah weapons in the port,’ a source told the station. An Israeli official told journalists that Israel was not involved. The official spoke on condition of anonymity. Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi also indicated that Israel was not involved, telling the country’s Channel 12 news ‘I see no reason to not believe the reports that it was an accident.’”

Israel offers Lebanon medical assistance after Beirut blast,

“In a rare humanitarian gesture toward Lebanon, Israel has offered medical aid after a massive explosion tore through the capital of Beirut on Tuesday, causing widespread damage and killing scores of people. ‘Israel approached Lebanon through international defense and diplomatic channels to offer the Lebanese government medical humanitarian aid,’ read a statement from Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.” Also see: Times of Israel – Israel’s offer of aid to Lebanon is normal, minister says, as some question help; Haaretz – Tel Aviv Announced Solidarity With Lebanon. Accusations of Cozying Up to Israel’s Enemy Were Quick to Follow

Right-Wing Israeli MK Celebrates Beirut Explosion,

“Likud MK Moshe Feiglin celebrated the explosion on Wednesday, saying that it was received in honor of Tu B’Av, the ‘Holiday of Love’ that began on Tuesday evening after the explosion. ‘You don’t really believe that this was some messy gas warehouse, yeah? Do you understand that this hell was supposed to fall on us as a rain of missiles?!’ wrote Feiglin on Facebook. Feiglin compared the explosion to a nuclear bomb, saying that it looked similar to a mushroom cloud. ‘I have been warning for years that the withdrawal from Lebanon and the new strategic balance against Hezbollah inserted Israel into a balance of terror that is equivalent to a nuclear bomb by the terrorist organization on our northern border. Today is Tu B’Av, a day of joy, and a true and huge thank you to G-d and all the geniuses and heroes really (!) who organized for us this wonderful celebration in honor of the day of love,’ wrote Feiglin.”

Head of Gaza support committee calls for urgent aid for Lebanon,

“The head of the Popular International Committee to Support Gaza has made an urgent appeal for humanitarian aid to help the people of Lebanon. Dr Essam Yousef made his appeal in the wake of the massive explosion in Beirut yesterday. The veteran activist and aid worker expressed his condolences to all of the victims and their families, and urged governments and humanitarian institutions to be generous in their aid. ‘This is a massive disaster affecting hundreds of thousands of people in a few seconds,’ explained Yousef. ‘It is essential for us all to work together to provide humanitarian support for the Lebanese people to overcome the effects and repercussions of the blast.’”

Beirut Blast Shockwaves Will Be Felt by Hezbollah for a Long Time,

“The Beirut port blast could now at least lead to some changes in the public discourse, and even possibly among some political leaders, resulting in a demand to remove Hezbollah’s weapons and ammunition warehouses from population centers, which the organization is likely to oppose, as it would expose it to Israeli military actions that for now are being prevented as Israel supposedly wouldn’t want to strike civilians.”

Environment minister warns of 'Beirut-like disaster' in Haifa Port,

“Minister of Environmental Protection Gila Gamliel warned on Wednesday of a catastrophic event in the Haifa Port chemical deposits a day after a massive blast shook the Lebanese capital of Beirut in an event believed to have stemmed from similar storage units. The Likud minister said she has been warning about the potential dangers of the Haifa Port chemical facilities since she entered office in May. Gamliel added she is promoting a plan that will see all chemical depots moved out of the Haifa metropolitan area within five years.” Also see: Israel Hayom – Haifa residents after Beirut explosion: We could be next

Annexation (de facto & de jure) Watch

What the Israeli Public Really Thinks About Annexation, From 1967 to Today,

“…the annexation comet could make another appearance in the skies over Israel one of these days. Even if it doesn’t, the recent sighting is a reminder that 53 years after the start of the occupation, Israelis have never decisively sought to arrive at a national consensus regarding what they would like to see happen with the territories. With the Jewish settlements. With the nearly 3 million Palestinians living in the West Bank.  A similar ambivalence can be observed among successive Israeli governments. On the one hand, a natural instinct to settle and build wherever possible in the historic ‘Land of Israel’ has characterized them all, but it is in tandem with an awareness of international law, of American warnings against unilateral action, and widespread understanding that any hope of peace with the Arab world would likely be dependent on Israeli withdrawal from all or part of the territories.”

In a first, Ariel U. professor elected to key committee,

“Ariel University is on the map: Professor Shiri Navon-Venezia of the Microbiology Department at Ariel has been elected a member of the Planning and Budgeting Committee in the Council of Higher Education, the first representative of Ariel University on the committee. The move is a significant one because the Committee of University Heads has refused to accept the university status of Ariel (formerly Ariel University Center of Samaria). The Planning and Budgeting Committee handles the budget for Israel’s entire system of higher education and decides on both regular budgets and development budget for the country’s institutions of higher education.”

Palestinian Scene/Occupation

For Gaza patients, uncertainty over Israeli permits is a matter of life and death,

“Israel’s permit regime has become even more arduous for Palestinian patients since the PA halted coordination, with rights groups trying to fill the vacuum.”

Israel Releases Jerusalem Governor Adnan Ghaith Detained on 'Terror' Charges,

“The Israeli Magistrate Court in Jerusalem ordered on Tuesday the release of Jerusalem Governor Adnan Ghaith, who was detained on ‘terrorism’ charges in July. The Palestinian news agency (WAFA) said that Ghaith and Jerusalem intelligence chief, Jihad al-Faqih, were released and ordered to avoid contacting each other and the Fatah and Palestinian leaders in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Ghaith has been arrested by Israeli security forces more 17 times over the past two years, but typically over the minor offence of engaging in “illegal” political activities in the disputed city.”

Israel Scene

Majority of Israelis despondent about future of democracy here, survey shows,

“Israelis perceive the threat to the nation’s democracy as looming larger than the external security threat, according to a survey published Wednesday. The Israel Democracy Institute survey found that only 38 percent of the respondents felt optimistic about the future of democratic governance in Israel, with 54% pessimistic. This compared to 59% who are optimistic about national security, with 35% pessimistic.”

MKs vote down bill allowing Knesset to override High Court,

“Lawmakers overwhelmingly vote down a bill that would limit the High Court of Justice’s power to strike down laws, with MKs from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party staying away from the vote. The vote on the bill, backed by Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked, is 71 against to 5 in favor. MKs from the coalition’s Blue and White, Shas and United Torah Judaism all voted against the proposal, which would allow the Knesset to override High Court decisions.”  Also see: Times of Israel – Justice minister: Rejection of override bill a vote for democracy

Lawfare/Delegitimization/Weaponization of false claims of antisemitism

Cori Bush, candidate who expressed support for BDS, defeats longtime congressman in Missouri Democratic primary,

“Cori Bush, a civil rights activist who has expressed support for the boycott Israel movement, defeated a longtime pro-Israel incumbent in a Democratic congressional primary in St. Louis. Bush defeated Lacy Gray by 3 percentage points, 48.6% to 45.5% in the primary Tuesday. In a now-deleted page on her campaign website, first uncovered by Jewish Insider, Bush expressed support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, or BDS. ‘In these times, it is important to be specific with our language and direct in the actions we take. In our current geopolitical economy, money talks far louder than speech alone,’ the website said. ‘This is why nonviolent actions like the BDS movement are so important—and why the effort to mischaracterize and demonize the BDS movement by its opponents is so urgent.’ If Bush still holds these views, she is set to become the third BDS supporter in Congress; Missouri’s 1st District is solidly Democratic.” Also see: Jewish Insider 8/4: Rep. Lacy Clay hits his primary opponent over her BDS support

Rashida Tlaib wins re-election race with ease,

“Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has comfortably fended off a serious primary challenger all but securing re-election for a second term in the heavily Democratic district in Michigan. Tlaib quickly rose to national prominence after being elected to the House of Representatives in 2018, becoming one of the first two Muslim women in Congress. An outspoken critic of Donald Trump, she became the target of frequent right-wing attacks, including by the president himself. On Tuesday, she defeated Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones. Preliminary results showed Tlaib with a substantial lead with almost double of Jones’s vote tally (61,090 to 31,487).  The congresswoman declared victory early on Wednesday. Tlaib thanked her friends and supporters for the victory, stressing that ‘the work continues’.” Also see: The Forward – Early results show Rep. Rashida Tlaib, staunch supporter of BDS, crushing primary opponent

Activist targets New Israel Fund for ‘electioneering’ via anti-racism groups,

“A pro-Israel activist has filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service that, if successful, could severely restrict freedom of speech for non-governmental organizations. David Abrams’ lawsuit alleges that the nonprofit New Israel Fund ‘electioneered’ in violation of its tax-exempt status by supporting grantees in Israel who are vocal on political issues. Among other things, the lawsuit cites the NIF for supporting Israeli organizations that have sought to have candidates barred from running for office for being racist, for calling candidates racist and for praising candidates who embrace their initiatives…Critics say the NIF activities Abrams is targeting are routine for many nonprofits, Jewish and otherwise, and that if he is successful it would impede the efforts of those groups to work on behalf of political issues they care about…Marc Stern, the general counsel for the American Jewish Committee, said that if Abrams wins it would unleash internecine warfare among Jewish organizations already polarized by the Trump presidency.”

Palestinian leaders are worried following PMW's report and Cong. Lamborn’s letter to Trump,

“Palestinian Media Watch’s report last week sent waves across the Palestinian political landscape. PMW’s recommendation that the US government declare the Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, and its director Qadri Abu Bakr ‘sponsors of terror,’ was adopted by Congressman Doug Lamborn, who wrote to US President Trump urging him to adopt PMW’s recommendation.”