Top News from Israel & Palestine: December 10, 2020

What We’re Reading


Israel's Tony Soprano Policies in the West Bank,

“An Israeli land registration of the West Bank amounts to continued annexation by other means. Palestinians who seek to prove their ownership within this framework will discover that the legal field is biased after years of being tilted by Israel, that information and documents that might assist them are hidden in the administration’s warehouses or in Amman and Istanbul, and that all the Israeli technological power is working against them. Many land owners and their heirs aren’t present in the territory and are even barred from entering it. The registration constitutes a mega robbery that will change the reality and lead to crowding the Palestinians into the built up areas of their communities. Whoever thought the Trump plan to establish Palestinian Bantustans is off the table with Joe Biden’s election will discover it is being advanced via land policy. Whoever seeks to prevent the deepening of Israeli apartheid and wants to preserve a chance for an agreed solution to the conflict, whoever cherishes human rights and whoever opposes annexation, must wage an uncompromising struggle in the coming weeks and months in order to thwart Israel’s intentions of launching a land registration in the West Bank.”

Do Palestinians In Israeli-Occupied West Bank Live Under Apartheid?,

“Do Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank live under apartheid? That word is taboo in Israel, but Israelis confronted that question when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to annex parts of the territory this summer. NPR’s Daniel Estrin reports on the debate.”

In Case You Missed It:

Testimony: A.M.Y.W.,

“About 10 Israeli military vehicles came to the bakery where I was working the night shift. It was around 2:30 a.m. The soldier’s told the owner of the bakery that they were looking for someone who had a similar name to me. The soldiers then asked me for my name and then they left. I was terrified and so was the bakery owner and he drove me home. After the soldiers left the bakery they went to my house and searched it causing a lot of damage to the furniture. They told my parents they were looking for the same person they told the bakery owner. When they did not find anyone with that name they arrested my older brother. When I arrived home the soldiers had already left with my brother. My mother was in a very bad shape, shaking and crying and the house was a total mess.”

Referendum bill on settlement withdrawal advances to Knesset reading,

“The Knesset gave initial approval to a private members bill on Wednesday that would require a referendum or the approval of 80 parliamentarians before Israel could agree to the withdrawal from West Bank territory within the boundaries of the settlements. The bill proposed by MK Zvi Hauser (Derech Eretz) was approved 53-42 and must now undergo three Knesset readings before passage into law.”

Yeshiva Plan in Sheikh Jarrah Likely to be Approved by District Committee Next Week,

“The plan calls for the construction of an eleven-story building with eight levels above ground and three below, including a dormitory for hundreds of students and faculty. In the master plan for Sheikh Jarrah, the land was originally designated for public buildings to serve neighborhood residentsIr Amim’s submission of data, detailing the acute shortage of schools in the neighborhood, during the District Committee discussions in July 2020, served to thwart the plan’s approval at the time. Nevertheless, the committee is likely to approve the plan at the additional discussion scheduled for next week, which is not open to the public this time around. If approved, the construction of the yeshiva will significantly bolster the efforts of state-sponsored settler organizations to transform large portions of Sheikh Jarrah into a large Israeli settlement through evictions of Palestinians and settler takeovers of their homes. Over the past few months, the Israeli courts have upheld eviction demands against 12 Palestinian families, including the Sabbagh family, from the Kerem Al’ajoni section of Sheikh Jarrah, ruling on behalf of settler groups. Various appeals and legal proceedings have only temporarily halted the families forced removal from their homes.”

ICYMI: “[Webinar Video] Impending Dispossession and the Struggle to Live in East Jerusalem: Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah

Military Court Accepts Lenient Plea Deal for Soldier Who Shot Dead Innocent Palestinian,

“A military court accepted a plea bargain on Wednesday for a soldier who shot dead an innocent Palestinian man and seriously wounded another in 2019. Ahmad Manasra, 23, was killed while helping Alaa Raayda, who had gotten into a car accident and was then shot by a soldier, sustaining serious wounds. According to the plea deal signed between the prosecution and the soldier’s representation, the soldier will serve three months of community service and receive a three-month suspended sentence for two years. He will also confess to the details of the indictment, which accuses him of negligent manslaughter.”

An Autistic Man Is Killed, Exposing Israel’s Festering Police Brutality Problem,

“The vast majority of complaints of police violence — 86 percent in the most recent year for which statistics are available — are never investigated, according to Justice Ministry records. Those that are almost never lead to criminal charges or even disciplinary action. Critics say a culture of impunity pervades the police force, particularly in cases with minority victims. Ethiopian-Israelis, ultra-Orthodox Jews and left-wing activists are disproportionately victimized, critics say, while Palestinians receive the roughest treatment. Lethal force, while rare, is wielded almost exclusively against Arabs and other minorities: Of 13 people known to have been killed by the police last year, 11 were Palestinians and two were of Ethiopian descent. “Police officers know that there’s no accountability, so they’re more careless when it comes to certain populations,” said Fady Khoury, a Palestinian human rights lawyer.

Amnesty criticises Airbnb for West Bank settlement listings ahead of IPO,

“Amnesty International accused Airbnb of acting in bad faith towards investors ahead of its stock market debut on Thursday by failing to inform them of its politically sensitive business activities in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Airbnb did not provide comment on Amnesty’s charge. A company spokesman referred Reuters to a statement it made in 2019 saying it would not take profits from its listings in the West Bank. Amnesty, which wants Airbnb to delist rental properties in the settlements, said in a statement that the company should have mentioned them in the “Risk Factors” section of a Nov. 16 regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The San Francisco-based booking company is holding an initial public offering on Nasdaq on Thursday.”

Also See:

You Don't Say... (Lawfare, Free Speech, BDS, & the Weaponization of Antisemitism)

Israeli ‘anti-terrorism’ lawyer was convicted over attacks on Palestinians,

“A lawyer working for an Israeli organisation that says it is dedicated to “fighting terrorism” was himself convicted of violent attacks targeting Palestinian civilians and property in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1980s, Middle East Eye can reveal. Aviel Leitner, who works for the Tel Aviv-based Shurat HaDin, also known as the Israel Law Center, was part of a group linked to the far-right Kach party, which was accused of carrying out six attacks in 1983 and 1984. These included a shooting targeting a bus carrying Palestinian labourers near Ramallah in which six people were injured…Shurat HaDin describes itself as being “at the forefront of fighting terrorism and safeguarding Jewish rights worldwide” and “dedicated to protecting the State of Israel”. It says it works with “Western intelligence agencies [and] law enforcement branches” and utilises “court systems around the world to go on the offensive against Israel’s enemies”. A common allegation in such cases is that Palestinian human rights activists have direct or indirect links to terrorism.”

Trump administration plans to release list of BDS groups,

“The Trump administration plans to release a list of organizations that support the anti-Israel BDS movement, a senior Trump administration official told JNS. The groups are still in the works and being decided this month, according to the official.”

ICYMI: “Identifying Organizations Engaged in Anti-Semitic BDS Activities” (US Department of State, Nov. 19, 2020)

Steering the Biden administration wrong on anti-Semitism,

“The text of the definition, of which I was the lead drafter, was created in 2005 largely to give European data collectors guideposts of what to include and exclude in reports about anti-Semitism, so data could be compared across borders and time. Examples such as denying Jews the right to self-determination by calling the creation of Israel a racist endeavor were important to include because when we saw anti-Israel discourse rise in Europe, we saw increased attacks on Jews too. But for the past decade, Jewish groups have used the definition as a weapon to say anti-Zionist expressions are inherently anti-Semitic and must be suppressed. Reasonable people can have different opinions about when anti-Semitism is reflected in anti-Zionism. But is this – having the government label anti-Zionism anti-Semitism — the number one way we want to ask the new administration to fight the problem? Rather than treat the IHRA definition as a simple symbol, like a flag we want the administration to rally around, we should be asking it to convene a White House Task Force on hate (including anti-Semitism), bringing together leading thinkers and organizations to map out ways we might reduce the vilification of others (including Jews). Rather than use the instruments of state to silence people with whom we might disagree, why not encourage the state to use its resources to cultivate new thinkers and partners – NGOs, academics, social media companies, etc. – to find better ways to reduce the seductive allure of hatred, anti-Semitism included.”

The Trump Administration is Cracking Down Against a Global Movement to Boycott Israel. Here’s What You Need to Know About BDS,

“The Palestinian BDS national committee responded in a statement, saying that “the fanatic Trump-Netanyahu alliance is intentionally conflating opposition to Israel’s regime of occupation, colonization and apartheid against Palestinians and calls for nonviolent pressure to end this regime on the one hand with anti-Jewish racism on the other, in order to suppress advocacy of Palestinian rights under international law.” The committee stressed its opposition to “all forms of racism, including anti-Jewish racism. “If you say anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism then you’re basically condemning all Palestinians as anti-Semites because they decide to exist,” [Noura] Erakat says. The reason that BDS has been met with fierce opposition is because it “morally challenges Zionism as a political project,” she adds.”

Normalization and Broader Middle East

Trump on course to complete UAE arms deal after Senate fails to block him,

“The Trump administration remains on course to complete a controversial $23 billion arms sale to the United Arab Emirates after bipartisan Senate efforts to block the deal failed to gain enough support to clear a critical procedural hurdle Wednesday. A majority of senators voted against two motions to block the sale of F-35 fighter jets, Reaper drones and other military equipment, stymying the effort to stop — or at least slow — the sale of cutting-edge weaponry to a country with which the United States has an exceptionally tense alliance….Advocates of the arms deal have argued that selling the attack aircraft and munitions to the Emirates will improve Israel’s regional security and is a necessary reward to Abu Dhabi for signing the peace deal.”

See also:

For 1st time in over 10 years, PM to make official visit to Egypt,

“In meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, PM Netanyahu to discuss a series of regional issues, chief among them bolstering security and diplomatic ties in light of the Iranian threat and coordinating positions between Jerusalem and Cairo ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s entry into the White House.”

Turkey chooses pro-Erdogan ambassador to Israel in bid to normalize ties,

“Turkey has selected a new ambassador to Israel in line with efforts to normalize relations with the Jewish state and score brownie points with the incoming administration of US President-elect Joe Biden, several well placed sources have told Al-Monitor. The new ambassador, Ufuk Ulutas, 40, is chairman for the Center for Strategic Research at the Turkish Foreign Ministry and a political appointee who studied Hebrew and Middle Eastern politics at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He also worked as director of the SETA foundation, a pro-government think tank, and written numerous papers on the Middle East policy and Jewish history. Ulutas is also an expert on Iran. Sources familiar with Ulutas described him as something of a wunderkind — “very polished,” “very clever” and “very pro-Palestinian.” There has been no ambassador in either country since May 2018, when Turkey asked the Israeli ambassador to “take leave” over escalating attacks against Palestinians in Gaza and the Donald Trump administration’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has fashioned himself as a standard bearer of Palestinian rights in the Muslim world, and once booming relations between Turkey and Israel have steadily deteriorated since his Justice and Development Party (AKP) rose to power in 2002.”

The Knesset Is Set to Dissolve in Two Weeks. Netanyahu Plans to Spend the Day in the UAE,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is preparing for early elections and and is planning his trip to the United Arab Emirates on December 23 – the same day the 2020 state budget expires and the Knesset is expected to dissolve.  Netanyahu planned to visit the UAE last week, following the normalization agreement signed between the two countries. While the prime minister plans to use it to send the message that he was leading a “historic journey” for Israel while his rival Gantz is caught up in “petty politics.” A senior official at Netanyahu’s office claims his trip was delayed only due to security reasons, per the Shin Bet’s request. In response to a request for comment, the Shin Bet said that it does not respond to security matters.”

No labels: Israel’s new Gulf partners seem happy to do business with settlements,

“In this new era of peace, the idea of distinguishing between goods from Israel proper and those that come from areas Israel gained control over in 1967 is no longer in vogue in the Arab Gulf. On Monday, Tura Winery, which is based in the West Bank settlement of Rehelim but proudly labels its products as being “from the Land of Israel,” inked a deal with Dubai-based FAM Holding. “Now it can be revealed: We signed a special cooperation agreement on the distribution of Tura wines and [olive] oil across the UAE,” the company wrote on its Facebook page, together with several pictures of co-owner Vered Ben Sa’adon shaking hands with her new business partner at the signing ceremony in Dubai. “Straight from Rechelim in Israel to the UAE — history!””

For Palestine’s negotiations strategy to work, Gulf must be united,

“Reports about an end of the nearly four-year Gulf crisis pitting a Saudi-led bloc of nations against Qatar is a good omen for the Palestinians, who are seeking to restart the stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiation process.”

Israeli Politics

Polls show Sa’ar at 15-18 seats, remaking map and possibly unseating Netanyahu,

“A day after he announced his departure from Likud and the formation of a new political party to challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the country’s leadership, Gideon Sa’ar was off to an extraordinarily strong start Wednesday. Polls on Israel’s three major news networks forecast his nascent New Hope party getting between 15 and 18 seats if the country goes to elections — shaking up the political landscape and introducing several potential paths to coalitions that do not include Netanyahu, while seriously narrowing the premier’s path to leading the next government.”

Gideon Sa’ar Already Lost to Netanyahu Once. Why Does He Think His New Party Could Change That?,

“Netanyahu has weathered all previous defections from Likud, and most of the parties formed by the splitters have long since disappeared. Only Kadima ever became a party of power, and that was just for a single term. Sa’ar’s yet unnamed party is unlikely to do any better than those that preceded it. But its foundation, especially the timing, is significant…By splitting with Likud now, Sa’ar is hoping to capitalize on the momentum of voters leaving Likud, mainly in exasperation at Netanyahu’s mishandling of the coronavirus, and perhaps increase that momentum. His first goal is to build his own independent platform, to which he hopes that others disenchanted with Netanyahu will join him. At the very least, this will strengthen his hand in any future coalition negotiations. If the momentum continues to build, that coalition could be led by someone not called Netanyahu.”

Right-wing Lawmakers, ex-Gantz Allies Join Forces With Netanyahu Rival Gideon Sa'ar,

“Lawmakers Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Handel of the Derech Eretz faction said Wednesday that they are joining forces with Gideon Sa’ar, pledging to support his candidacy for the premiership. In a press conference, Hauser and Handel said that Netanyahu has wrought two years of political chaos on the country. “We deserve…a right-wing leadership whose self-identification is love of the country and not hatred of the other. Likud has been confused over the past few years. Gideon isn’t.”  “

Netanyahu could reverse decision to tap Erdan as dual UN, US envoy – report,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reconsidering his decision to tap Israel’s new UN ambassador Gilad Erdan as, in addition to his current role, envoy to the United States, and is considering another candidate, a report said Thursday. The report by the Walla news site, which was denied by the premier’s office, said that Netanyahu had held a rare private meeting with Erdan and quoted two unnamed senior sources assessing that he wants to tap Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz as the ambassador in Washington instead.”

Bonus Watch

Interview with Senator Chris Murphy,

“”You must have heard the phrase ‘PEP’ – Progressive except Palestine. Isn’t that how a lot of Senate Democrats are?” I asked Dem Senator Chris Murphy if his party gives Israel a pass on human rights abuses. Listen to his reply on the @MehdiHasanShow.”