Top News from Israel & Palestine: December 1-8, 2023

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Continuing War

Surviving a day in Gaza means facing the danger of the next,

“The week of the temporary ceasefire in Gaza felt like the fulfilment of a dream of a stranded person in the desert yearning for water. We had great hopes that this halt in Israeli aggression would turn into a permanent one, giving us the time and space needed to try and rebuild our shattered lives. These last few days, after the ceasefire was broken, have perhaps been the toughest days of this war yet. The renewed bombings have certainly been just as devastating as before, causing even more destruction and displacement as Israeli ground troops make their way to the south of the Strip. But what has made this round even harder is that, for a brief few days, we had just tasted life and love again. Palestinians will never get used to the bombs descending upon our people, even though it feels like the bombs themselves have grown accustomed to us.

We have become desperate in our daily search for bread, in what has now become our life’s primary mission, stripping us of our humanity and dignity…Everyone I know in Gaza feels lost. We don’t know where to go, and we are constantly questioning if it would be wiser to relocate to another neighborhood or elsewhere in the Strip. There is no longer a functioning government or any authorities to even guide us or tell us what to do…The Israeli army recently published a map dividing the Gaza Strip into countless tiny blocks, some of which it claimed were designated “safe” zones. The map, however, is incomprehensible.” See also Israel’s new grid maps add to confusion and anger in Gaza (NBC News); Gazans Find Scant Aid at Village Where They Were Advised to Relocate (NYT); Gaza civilians find no good options to escape widening Israeli strikes (WaPo); ‘We have no choice’: illness in Gaza as clean water becomes a luxury (Guardian); IDF instructions on Gaza refuge zones cruel ‘mirage’, say aid agencies (Guardian); No end in sight as death toll rises in Gaza and Israel escalates attacks (Al Jazeera)

Huge Craters, Dead Children, Collapsed Homes: In Southern Gaza, There's Nowhere to Flee,

“The resumption of bombing is pushing Gazans further south towards Rafah, where a million displaced persons live in unbearably crowded conditions. People are fighting each other for insufficient supplies of food and water while the police try to maintain a modicum of order.” See also Unexploded bombs, many U.S.-made, could make parts of Gaza uninhabitable (WaPo); Israel’s assault forced a nurse to leave babies behind. They were found decomposing. (WaPo); So Many Child Deaths in Gaza and for What? (Nick Kristof//NYT: “Consider this: The most dangerous place to be a child in the world today is Gaza…Already it appears that more than twice as many children have died in Gaza just since the war started on Oct. 7 as in all the conflicts worldwide in 2022, according to United Nations figures.”)


See also Israel: Strikes on Journalists in Lebanon Apparently Deliberate (Human Rights Watch); Over 60 Journalists Have Been Killed in the Israel-Gaza War. My Friend Was One. (Lama Al-Arian//NYT)

Gaza Civilians, Under Israeli Barrage, Are Being Killed at Historic Pace,

“While wartime death tolls will never be exact, experts say that even a conservative reading of the casualty figures reported from Gaza shows that the pace of death during Israel’s campaign has few precedents in this century. People are being killed in Gaza more quickly, they say, than in even the deadliest moments of U.S.-led attacks in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, which were themselves widely criticized by human rights groups. Precise comparisons of war dead are impossible, but conflict-casualty experts have been taken aback at just how many people have been reported killed in Gaza — most of them women and children — and how rapidly. It is not just the scale of the strikes — Israel said it had engaged more than 15,000 targets before reaching a brief cease-fire in recent days. It is also the nature of the weaponry itself. Israel’s liberal use of very large weapons in dense urban areas, including U.S.-made 2,000-pound bombs that can flatten an apartment tower, is surprising, some experts say.” See also Refaat Alareer: Tributes pour in for Palestinian scholar and poet killed by Israeli air strike in Gaza (Middle East Eye)

Humanitarian catastrophe as policy,

“Life in the Gaza Strip right now is an unimaginable nightmare, and its residents’ chances of survival are diminishing with each passing day. The Strip has been closed off almost entirely for two months, and the humanitarian crisis is breaking records daily. Aid organizations have lost the capacity to deal with the fallout and struggle to find words to describe the disaster and the dangers it presents. There is not enough fuel, food, water and medicine. There are no hospitals capable of providing medical care for the thousands injured in Israel’s incessant bombings all over the Gaza Strip, which have already killed more than 15,000 people, including about 6,000 babies, children and teenagers and roughly 4,000 women…The humanitarian crisis is not a side effect. It is the policy. The humanitarian crisis currently underway in the Gaza Strip is not a side effect of the war, but the direct intended result of the policy implemented by Israel. The people behind this policy see inflicting a humanitarian crisis on more than two million people as a legitimate way to put pressure on Hamas.” See also Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas. Yet the group remains largely intact. (WaPo); U.N. says its Gaza aid humanitarian program in ‘tatters’ amid fighting (WaPo)

Palestinians detained by Israel in Gaza blindfolded, stripped to underwear,

“At least 100 Palestinian men detained by Israeli forces have been stripped to their underwear, blindfolded and made to kneel on a street in northern Gaza, according to images and videos widely circulated on social media and confirmed by the Israeli army.” See also Israeli troops erect Jewish menorah candles amid Gaza destruction (New Arab)


Harris Says U.S. Strongly Opposes ‘Forced Relocation of Palestinians From Gaza’,

“Vice President Kamala Harris said on Saturday that the United States fiercely opposes forcibly relocating Gaza residents outside the enclave as Israel resumes its bombardment of Hamas terrorists, or in the days and weeks after the war eventually ends. In a statement after meeting with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt in Dubai, officials said Ms. Harris rejected the idea of moving Palestinians into Egypt or refugee camps elsewhere and offered her strongest statement to date urging Israel to reduce harm to civilians in its war campaign. “The vice president reiterated that under no circumstances will the United States permit the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank,” the statement from the White House said. She also rejected an idea suggested recently by some Israeli officials that the borders o Gaza could shrink after the war is over to accommodate a security “buffer zone” between the interior of Gaza and Israel. The statement said the United States would not permit “the redrawing of the borders of Gaza.”” See also Scoop: Egypt warned Israel of “a rupture” in relations if Palestinians flee to Sinai (Axios)

Palestinian PM: Working With U.S. on 'Day After' Plan, Which Must Include Hamas,

“The Palestinian Authority is working with the United States on a plan for the “day after the war” in the Gaza Strip that would include PA control with Hamas participation, according to the Palestinian prime minister. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh told Bloomberg that dismantling Hamas is unrealistic. He also said he believes that Hamas should take part after the war in building a new independent Palestinian state that includes the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.”

Who will run Gaza after the war? U.S. searches for best of bad options,

“The Israelis say they don’t want the job. Arab nations are resisting. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas might volunteer, but the Palestinian people probably don’t want him. As the Biden administration begins to plan for “the day after” in Gaza — confronting problematic questions such as who runs the territory once the shooting stops, how it gets rebuilt and, potentially, how it eventually becomes a part of an independent Palestinian state — the stakeholders face a host of unattractive options…The Biden administration is pushing to install a “revitalized” Palestinian Authority as Gaza’s administrator, but it is an unpopular idea with the Israeli government and even among many Palestinians. U.S. officials acknowledge the challenge, but say the group is the best, and perhaps the only, solution among a list of worse options, which include a return to direct Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip.”

UN secretary-general invokes Article 99 on Gaza,

“The rare move on Wednesday comes as the 15-member Security Council is yet to adopt a resolution calling for a ceasefire between Israel, Hamas and their allies. Article 99 allows the secretary-general to “bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security”. In his letter to the council’s president, Guterres invoked this responsibility, saying he believed the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, “may aggravate existing threats to the maintenance of international peace and security”…Article 99 is a special power – and the only independent political tool given to the secretary-general in the UN Charter – that allows him to call a meeting of the Security Council on his own initiative to issue warnings about new threats to international peace and security, and matters that are not yet on the council’s agenda.” See also Antonio Guterres urges UN Security Council to push for Gaza ceasefire (Al Jazeera); Ahead of key Israel-Hamas ceasefire vote, where do UNSC members stand? (Al Jazeera); UN hears accounts of sexual violence during 7 October attacks by Hamas (Guardian)

October 7th

Hamas Committed Documented Atrocities. But a Few False Stories Feed the Deniers,

“Politicians, army officers, search-and-rescue volunteers and social-media activists have all provided testimonies about Hamas’ atrocities on October 7. Most are supported by extensive evidence, but a few have been proved untrue, providing ammunition to deniers of the historic massacre…A variety of evidence is available on Hamas’ cruelty, which includes the murder of parents in front of their children and children in front of their parents. There were sexual assaults, rapes and mutilations, while some victims were bound and some of the dead were desecrated. Some homes were burned with the people still inside…None of this is in dispute. But some people have disseminated unverified information on the events that day.” See also Here are the hostages released by Hamas and those remaining in Gaza (WaPo)

Reeling from October 7, Bedouin citizens struggle to make their losses known,

“Seventeen Bedouin citizens from the Naqab (Negev) desert were killed [on October 7th], both as a result of rockets fired from Gaza and after being shot by militants who breached the fence that encages the Strip. A further six Bedouins were kidnapped and taken to Gaza; two of them were released as part of a hostage-prisoner exchange during last week’s temporary ceasefire, while the other four remain captives. “Do you understand that nobody is considering us?” al-Huzail asked, with desperation in his voice.”

And in the West Bank:

Inside ‘little Gaza’: The civilians trapped in a West Bank war zone,

“The camp [Jenin Refugee Camp], home to more than 22,000 people, was established in 1953 to house Palestinians displaced during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Along with the surrounding city of Jenin, it is nominally controlled by the Palestinian Authority, the governing body in parts of the West Bank. But in a community that has long been a bastion of armed resistance to Israeli occupation, militant groups are the true authority. At night, Israeli forces hunt them. In response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, Israel has stepped up raids in and around the camp to kill or capture militants…Residents say the incursions over the last month have been more frequent — and more violent — than any they’ve experienced in decades. Following a template established by Israel during a blistering two-day raid in July, they now involve drone strikes that can destroy multistory buildings in an instant.”

While War Rages in Gaza, Israeli Troops and Settlers Grow Trigger Happy in Ramallah,

“But the most serious problem is not that the roads surrounding Ramallah have been closed off to Palestinians, or the fact that Palestinian workers have been banned from entering Israel – it’s that in this part of the West Bank many people have been killed since the war broke out on October 7 – far more than usual. According to data collected by Iyad Hadad, the regional field researcher for the B’Tselem Israeli human rights organization, 31 people have been killed here in less than two months. And in contrast to the Tul Karm area, which we wrote about here last week, where most of those killed were armed, here, in and around Ramallah, none of the victims was armed and none were active in resistance organizations. Hadad’s estimate is that six of the dead were probably killed by settlers, or by settlers and soldiers together.”

US Scene

Building the Case for US Complicity,

“Despite stacked odds, Palestine advocates are pursuing legal avenues to charge American officials with aiding and abetting Israeli war crimes.” See also UK government faces legal challenge over arms exports to Israel (Guardian: “The Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq and the UK-based Global Legal Action Network (Glan) have applied for a judicial review of the government’s export licences for the sale of British weapons capable of being used in Israel’s action in Gaza…Ahmed Abofoul, a lawyer at Al-Haq, said: “The UK has a legal and moral obligation to not grant licences for the sale of British weapons to regimes that commit atrocity crimes.””)

U.S. imposes visa ban on Israeli settlers who attacked Palestinians,

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday announced it has imposed sanctions on several dozen Israeli settlers believed to be involved in attacks against Palestinians, banning them from traveling to the U.S. Why it matters: The move shows how concerned the Biden administration is about escalating attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank — and that the Israeli government isn’t doing enough to prevent the violence. The State Department also announced a travel ban on several dozen Palestinians who were believed to be involved in attacks against Israelis. The names of the people being added to the department’s visa restrictions blacklist won’t be added, two U.S. officials said. It is the first time the U.S. is sanctioning extremist settlers since the Clinton administration, the officials said.”

All of a sudden, it's no longer taboo to talk about placing conditions on the billions of dollars in US aid to Israel,

“Over the last several weeks, members of Congress have openly discussed the idea of conditioning US aid to Israel…Conditions aren’t likely to happen, at least in the near term…But a willingness to discuss the topic, ranging from the sober observations of more mainstream Democratic senators to the fiery pronouncements of progressive House members, represents the unexpected shattering of a longstanding taboo in Washington. “It is quite astonishing how much of a sea change there has been on this issue,” said Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, a longtime supporter of conditioning aid to Israel. Even Democrats who are opposed to the idea in principle are acknowledging that it’s a fair conversation to have — and that it could have positive consequences.” See also Senate Democrats press Biden for more oversight over civilian deaths in Gaza (WaPo); Thirteen Senate Democrats to push amendment conditioning Israel aid (Jewish Insider); Opinion  Israel’s war against Hamas is just, but it must be fought justly (Senator Chris Van Hollen//WaPo: “I’m calling upon President Biden to require more accountability from the government of Benjamin Netanyahu. He should insist the prime minister produce a verifiable plan to reduce the unacceptable level of civilian casualties and fully cooperate with our efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza. Until then, the United States should not support the current resumption of hostilities.”)

Israel-Palestine war: US Congress rules that anti-Zionism is antisemitism,

“The US House of Representatives has passed a resolution with an overwhelming majority that equates anti-Zionism with antisemitism, sparking backlash from lawmakers, advocates for Palestinians, and progressive Jewish groups who say the measure could restrict free speech rights in the country. The Republican-led measure “clearly and firmly states that anti-Zionism is antisemitism” and also calls on elected officials to “condemn and fight all forms of domestic and global antisemitism”. The bill is nonbinding and is more of a symbolic measure than one with legal ramifications, but its passing could be used as a precedent to justify other related binding measures.”

United Auto Workers calls for ceasefire in Gaza – the largest union to do so,

“The United Auto Workers, one of the US’s largest labor unions, has come out in support of a ceasefire in Israel and Palestine as a temporary ceasefire ended on Friday with Israel resuming military operations in Gaza. The UAW is now the largest union to have called for a ceasefire. It represents 400,000 workers in the US and more than 580,000 retired workers…Ceasefire resolutions among local and national labor unions in the US have been increasing since early October. The American Postal Workers Union, the UE union, the California Nurses Association, the Chicago Teachers Union and several other local unions and worker groups have issued public calls for an immediate and permanent ceasefire.” See also this Ceasefire Tracker (Working Families Party): “As of December 7th, 2023, at least 61 members of Congress have called for a ceasefire or cessation of hostilities in Israel and occupied Palestine” See also More than 500 staffers of Jewish groups, most of them progressive, appeal to Biden to press for ceasefire in Israel-Hamas war (JTA)

US Universities

At a Hearing on Israel, University Presidents Walked Into a Trap,

“So later in the hearing, when Stefanik again started questioning Gay, Kornbluth and Magill about whether it was permissible for students to call for the genocide of the Jews, she was referring, it seemed clear, to common pro-Palestinian rhetoric and trying to get the university presidents to commit to disciplining those who use it. Doing so would be an egregious violation of free speech. After all, even if you’re disgusted by slogans like “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” their meaning is contested in a way that, say, “Gas the Jews” is not. Finding themselves in a no-win situation, the university presidents resorted to bloodless bureaucratic contortions, and walked into a public relations disaster.” See also Penn loses $100 million donation over antisemitism hearing (Axios); Foxx Announces Formal Investigation into Harvard, UPenn, and MIT (US Congress); US university presidents face firestorm over ‘evasive’ answers on antisemitism (Guardian); Also from Michelle Goldberg: The Backlash to Anti-Israel Protests Threatens Free Speech (NYT)

Scholars Who Study the Middle East Are Afraid to Speak Out,

“How have those scholars who write, research, and teach the conflict navigated the post-October 7 wave of campus polarization? Have college and university administrators protected their freedom of speech? How do they manage the political passions and personal sensitivities of their Jewish and Palestinian students? To explore those urgent questions, we recently carried out a unique poll among scholars focused on the Middle East who are members of the American Political Science Association, the American Historical Association, and the Middle East Studies Association…The findings were stark: Eighty-two percent of all U.S.-based respondents, including almost all assistant professors (98 percent), said they self-censor when they speak professionally about the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Just over 81 percent of those self-censoring said they primarily held back their criticism of Israel, while 11 percent said they held back from criticizing Palestinians. Only 2 percent said criticizing U.S. policy was the biggest issue…When asked about the primary reasons for limiting the speech about the Palestinian-Israeli issue in an academic or professional capacity, nearly 60 percent cited “concern about campus culture or offending students.”… More than half the respondents offered the second-most-common response: “concern about pressure from external advocacy groups.” An astonishingly wide range of respondents described an intensely toxic atmosphere where polarized opinions run hot, external groups fan the flames, and administrations do little to help.”

Inside of Israel/'48

‘It would’ve been better if they shot us’: Palestinians recount prison abuse,

“The release of 240 Palestinian prisoners and detainees during the recent temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has shed light on the severe deterioration of conditions inside Israeli prisons since the war began. Restrictions imposed since October 7 by the Israel Prison Service, under the instruction of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, include the limiting of food provisions and recreation time; the confiscation of personal items; a prohibition on hot water, shoes, and pillows; and a ban on visits by family members and lawyers. These restrictions, however, are only the tip of the iceberg. Testimonies gathered by +972 Magazine from Palestinians released from Israeli prisons in recent weeks — both as part of the ceasefire agreement and independently of it — paint a picture of a surge in abuse and humiliation inside prison cells, in interrogation rooms, and during arrests. According to these testimonies, Israeli forces and prison authorities have used methods of torture, threatened to rape a female detainee and her young daughter, and beaten a prisoner to death — one of six Palestinians known to have died in Israeli custody since October 7.”

Analysis | That's Life – and Death: Arming Israeli Civilians Is a Terrible Security Policy,

“First, the premise that armed citizens make a significant contribution to stopping terror attacks is ill-supported by data, at best. But the expansive policies regarding guns and how they’re used in Israel, which began well before Ben-Gvir, have been doing terrible damage even before October 7.” See also Israel is trying to arm more citizens with guns since the Hamas attack (NPR: “This week, the national security minister said the ministry has received more than 260,000 new firearm permit requests since Oct. 7 and is approving up to 3,000 of them per day, compared with 100 approvals a day before the attack.”)

Corruption trial of Israeli PM Netanyahu resumes,

“A court in Jerusalem is set to start hearing the case, which is focused on several corruption charges against Netanyahu, on Monday, according to reports in the Israeli media. The trial was paused on an emergency order from the country’s justice minister following Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7. Netanyahu has been charged with fraud, bribery and breach of trust in three cases filed in 2019, known as Case 1000, 2000 and 4000.”