Top News from Israel & Palestine: December 18, 2020

What We’re Reading


Israel's Compensation for the False Arrest of a Palestinian Is a Fraction of What Jews Receive,

“A rare decision by an Israeli military court in the West Bank on paying compensation for a false arrest has revealed what a lost day in the life of a Palestinian is worth, in the eyes of the military justice system: 75 shekels ($23). At the military youth court at the Ofer army base on Sunday, Lt. Col. Yair Tirosh ordered the payment of full compensation to N.S., a Palestinian who in early 2016, while still a minor, was questioned while his right to legal counsel was violated and was wrongfully detained for 13 days. Tirosh ruled that he should be paid a total of 975 shekels, the maximum amount that military law allows. By comparison, in three separate cases in 2018 and 2019 the right-wing Honenu nonprofit organization was able to make the state pay much larger sums for the false arrests of Jewish minors it represented: 6,500 shekels in compensation for a Jewish minor who was arrested at the West Bank wildcat outpost of Geulat Zion and was kept in the police station overnight after his interrogation ended; 7,500 shekels to a Jewish minor from the Yitzhar settlement in compensation for being harassed by the police and being falsely detained; and 12,000 shekels in compensation for a minor from Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea She’arim for police violence against him, harassment and false arrest.”

'Intentional lethal force': UN experts slam Israel for killing Palestinian child,

“United Nations experts condemned the Israeli military for killing a Palestinian child during a protest in the occupied West Bank earlier this month, calling the shooting of 15-year-old Ali Abu Aliya a “grave violation of international law.” In a statement released on Thursday by the UN Human Rights Office, the experts called on the Israeli government to conduct an “independent, impartial, prompt and transparent civilian investigation” into the boy’s death….Abu Aliya was the sixth Palestinian child killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank in 2020, while more than 1,000 Palestinian minors have been wounded over the past year, according to the UN rights office. Israeli atrocities against children raise “deep concerns” about Israel’s human rights obligations as the occupying power in the Palestinian territories, Callamard and Lynk said. They also underscored that Israeli investigations into lethal use of force against Palestinians “rarely result in appropriate accountability”. “This low level of legal accountability for the killings of so many children by Israeli security forces is unworthy of a country which proclaims that it lives by the rule of law,” the experts said.”

PCHR: Weekly Report on Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,

“This week, IOF demolitions of Palestinian homes and properties continued as part of Israel’s de facto annexation and under various pretexts in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, IOF also served wide-scale demolition and cease-construction notices and confiscated several vehicles. Also, Israeli settlers continued their assaults on Palestinian civilians and their attempts to seize Palestinian lands located near settlements. This week, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) documented 187 violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law (IHL) by IOF and settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). It should be noted that the limitations due to the corona virus pandemic, has limited PCHR’s fieldworkers mobility and ability to conduct field documentation; therefore, the information contained in this report are only part of the continued IOF violations.”

Settlers break into Palestinian houses, assault owners south of Hebron,

Israeli settlers Friday morning broke into several Palestinian houses and assaulted their owners in Masafer Yatta village cluster, south of Hebron city, according to a local activist. Coordinator of the Protection and Steadfastness Committees Fuad al-Amour said that a group of armed settlers, under the military protection, forced their way into several houses in al-Markez community, ransacking them. When the homeowners attempted to prevent the settlers from tampering with their houses, they were assaulted. Another group of armed settlers sealed the entrances to Umm al-Kheir, At-Tuwani and Khirbet Shi‘b al-Butum hamlets, where they stopped and searched vehicles. The settlers came from the nearby colonial settlement outpost of Mitzpe Yair, located about a kilometer to the west of al-Markez community.”

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Israeli forces crackdown on anti-settlement protest northeast of Ramallah,

“Israeli forces today cracked down on an anti-settlement protest in al-Mughayyir village, northeast of Ramallah, according to local source. They said that Israeli soldiers violently dispersed the participants of the rally called for to defend Ras al-Tin area against being seized to make room for the construction of a new Israeli colonial settlement outpost. Under the protection of soldiers, Israeli settler opened fire towards the journalists who came to cover the rally to Ras al-Tin area, which is part of the nearby village of Kafr Malik. No injuries were reported though. It is worth noting that Israeli forces shot and killed 15-year-old Ali Abu Alia, hitting him with a live bullet in the abdomen as he participated in the weekly demonstration in al-Mughayyer village on Friday, December 4.”

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Prisoner start open-ended hunger strike in protest of detention,

“A Palestinian prisoner today started an open-ended hunger strike in protest of his ongoing detention despite the completion of his sentence in Israeli custody. Jibril Mohammad Zubaidi, a resident of Jenin refugee camp, announced going into an open-ended hunger strike in protest of being placed under extended detention although he completed his 10-month sentence in Israeli custody.”


Editorial | Vaccines for Both Peoples,

While in Israel people are debating whether to be vaccinated, in the West Bank and Gaza it isn’t clear where they will get vaccines from, when they will get them, and who will pay for them….If the situation in the West Bank is uncertain, then in Gaza there is total darkness. Gaza has lost control over the spread of the virus and the leadership doesn’t know when vaccines will arrive or in what quantities (as reported by Jack Khoury on Tuesday). According to Palestinian government officials, the expected vaccines are supposed to cover Gazans as well, but international aid organizations in Gaza say they aren’t sure this is so. As a result, Physicians for Human Rights in Israel approached Health Ministry director general Prof. Chezy Levy and the coordinator of government activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rokon, and demanded that Israel supply vaccines to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza as well. The organization explained its demand by saying the Palestinians are under Israeli occupation and control, they do not have a way to buy the vaccines independently but only through the Israeli authorities, and that it’s doubtful the PA can finance the cost of purchasing and distributing vaccines. This is a justified demand. Israel has the legal, moral and humanitarian responsibility to vaccinate the Palestinian population, which lives in distress under its control and whose lives intertwine with the lives of many Israelis. Israelis and Palestinians live in very close proximity to each other, so it really isn’t possible to eliminate the pandemic in Israel proper while it is still raging in the other territories it is responsible for.”

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As vaccinations begin, Israel may offer Palestinians surplus,

“Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch said yesterday that if Israel gets more vaccines than it needs, it may offer the excess to the Palestinian Authority. Speaking at an interview with the public Kan radio station, Kisch said, “Should we see that Israel’s demands have been met and we have additional capability, we will certainly consider helping the Palestinian Authority.” He also said that doing so would help prevent a resurgence of outbreaks in Israel proper.”


Israel concerned about new UN envoy for peace process,

Israeli officials are reported to have expressed concerns that Norwegian diplomat Tor Wennesland has been appointed as UN Special Envoy to the Middle East Peace Process, local media have reported. The appointment was announced on Monday by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. According to Yedioth Ahronoth, one Israeli diplomat has saidthat although Wennesland has extensive experience in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he will operate from a perspective less supportive of Israel than his predecessor, Nickolay Mladenov. The Bulgarian has been named as UN Guterres’s new Special Envoy for Libya. The Israeli diplomat claimed that Wennesland is regarded as being close to Hamas and has good contacts with the movement. At times, he has helped to reduce tension between Israel and the movement. “Mladenov started his post from a more pro-Israel point of view, but this does not make his successor anti-Israel,” added the diplomatic source. Wennesland, 68, has served as Norway’s envoy for the Middle East Peace Process for several years, during which he oversaw Oslo’s role as one of the key donors to the Palestinian Authority.”

Israel’s Sephardi chief rabbi visits UAE, inaugurates Jewish school,

“Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef traveled to Dubai on Thursday in the first-ever visit by a sitting chief rabbi to an Arab country, his office said, in a sign of deepening ties between the Emirates and Israel. “During his visit, he will meet with senior Emirati officials, inaugurate the newly certified Jewish [nursery] school, and, in a special ceremony, invest Rabbi Levi Duchman as rabbi of the Emirati Jewish community,” according to a statement from Dubai’s Jewish Community Center.”

Reported visit of top official to Israel sparks outcry in Pakistan,

“An adviser to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Israel in late November and discussed moving toward better ties between the countries, which do not have formal relations, two prominent Pakistanis have claimed in recent days. The claims from a Pakistani counterterror analyst and a UK-based political scientist who writes for a Pakistani newspaper have led to a backlash on Pakistani social media, with the country’s ruling party wading into the controversy to try and deflect blame toward the nation’s former ruler.”

Trump’s Mideast deals are good for Israel. But they involve bad trade-offs.,

“THE ACCORD announced last week between Israel and Morocco has a notably lopsided character. Like several other Mideast deals negotiated by the Trump administration, it entails Arab diplomatic recognition of Israel — and major concessions by the United States on unrelated issues. In the case of Morocco, President Trump offered U.S. recognition of the kingdom’s claim to the disputed territory of Western Sahara, something Morocco has been seeking for decades. It also agreed to sell Morocco $1 billion in weapons, including advanced drones….But if there was a gain for the United States in the bargain, it wasn’t readily apparent. On the contrary, the recognition of Morocco’s claim to Western Sahara isolated Washington from its European allies, other U.N. Security Council members and dozens of African nations, which have supported U.N. resolutions calling for a referendum on the future of the former Spanish colony. It made more likely the re-eruption of war between Moroccan forces and the Polisario Front, which represents the indigenous Sahrawi people. And it risked further instability in a North African region that is already struggling to contain Islamist terrorism. Mr. Trump brushed aside these considerations in his zeal to build on a strategy of normalizing relations between Israel and the Arab world. That’s a worthy cause, though its benefits will inevitably be limited as long as Israel fails to settle with its immediate neighbors, the Palestinians. Mr. Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu see the diplomatic accords as a substitute for such a settlement; they are not. As long as the Palestinians live under occupation, Israel’s future as a state that is both Jewish and democratic will be at risk.”

Trump’s recognition of Western Sahara is a serious blow to diplomacy and international law,

“President Trump’s recent proclamation recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara was an astounding retreat from the principles of international law and diplomacy that the United States has espoused and respected for many years. This rash move disguised as diplomacy will contribute to the existing deadlock in resolving the long-standing conflict between Morocco and the people of Western Sahara over the status of that territory. … But any success in this effort should never come at the price of abandoning the United States’ commitment to self-determination, the bedrock principle on which our country was founded and to which it should remain faithful. We should not simply turn our backs on the people of Western Sahara as we try to promote better relations between Israel and her Arab neighbors. Sadly, this cynical decision to recognize Morocco’s claim of sovereignty over Western Sahara in return for Morocco’s pledge to establish formal relations with Israel did just that.”

The Abraham Accords Will Change Israel—Just Not in the Way You Think | Opinion,

“There have been two principal progressive critiques of the so-called Abraham Accords—the spate of peace and normalization agreements between Israel and a growing number of majority-Arab and Muslim states. The first is that these states have abandoned the Palestinian cause and have given up their leverage over Israel for a tuppence. The second is that it’s all meaningless theater: Israel was never at war with any of these countries, and has long enjoyed (barely) covert trade and/or security cooperation with nearly all of them. Both criticisms only get it half-right: this is indeed theater, but it is far from meaningless; and far from giving up leverage on Israel, the signatories have increased theirs exponentially….Some of the newfound Israeli-Arab amity is certainly vulnerable to ricochets from the conflict—imagine if in 20 years, the Gulf states find it convenient, for whatever reason, to close the tap on Israeli trade and travel; say, in response to yet another Gaza war. More importantly, there is a bigger realignment in play here. Pro-Israeli writers celebrated the collapse of Arab-Palestinian solidarity this past year as the beginning of the end of the “Arab-Israeli” conflict, musing that perhaps there wasn’t much of a conflict there to begin with. They’re right; but the flip side to this is an inevitable refocusing of minds on the conflict that very much does exist, the Palestinian-Israeli one. The useless shell of a “civilizational” Arab-Israeli conflict is beginning to be shed; the hard, incandescent core of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is beginning to emerge. The move is from a geopolitical chessboard to an intimate and visceral struggle, with a vastly different power balance and vastly more existential stakes.”

Israel's Benny Gantz gives interview to Saudi newspaper,

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz gave an interview to Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat on Thursday in which he said the whole city of Jerusalem would remain under Israeli control – but would leave room for a Palestinian capital….“The Palestinians want and deserve an entity in which they can live independently… A state or an empire, they can call it whatever they want. It is their right to feel independence and have a capital,” Gantz said….Gantz reiterated Israel’s claim to need to exert control over the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank.”

Campaign to boycott UAE bank over ties to Israel,

Activists on Wednesday launched an online campaign to boycott the Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) over its cooperation with Israel’s Leumi Bank which is involved in settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Popular Campaign to Boycott Zionist Enterprises said on Twitter that ADIB has concluded an agreement with Leumi Bank; which is on the United Nations list of companies involved in illegal Israeli settlements, and called for a boycott.”

Sudan said to revoke citizenship of top Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, others,

“Sudan has revoked the citizenship of top Hamas leader, Khaled Mashaal, as well as that of some 3,000 other foreign nationals, according to multiple Sudanese outlets and other Arabic media in recent days. The move comes after the US earlier this week removed Sudan from its state sponsors of terrorism blacklist and declared a “fundamental change” in relations, less than two months after the Arab nation pledged to normalize ties with Israel….According to the reports, Sudan’s decision to revoke Mashaal’s citizenship was part of the deal for it to be removed from the US terror list and aims to show that the country is now fighting terrorism rather than supporting it.”

The Middle East’s Dual ‘Occupations’,

Many expected the Trump administration to recognize Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank before Inauguration Day. Instead, last week it recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara as part of a U.S.-brokered peace deal between Jerusalem and Rabat. The new U.S. position on Morocco’s borders has a sound basis in international law and diplomatic practice, and it makes the case even stronger for doing the same with Israel and the West Bank.”

US treasury secretary to tour Middle East in final push for Abraham Accords,

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will head to Israel, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Sudan on his final official trip abroad in the waning days of the Donald Trump presidency. Mnuchin’s visit comes as the Trump administration seeks to cement gains in convincing Middle Eastern leaders to recognize Israel in a strategic initiative dubbed the Abraham Accords.”

The American Domestic Scene

Biden and the JCPOA: Lessons from Arab and Iranian public opinion,

“After the [JCPOA] deal was announced, I supported it, for three reasons. In the first place, a negotiated solution to any problem reached through multilateral diplomacy is always preferable to conflict. And then there was the hope, as expressed by British Foreign Secretary Catherine Ashton, that the framework created by the P5+1 could be extended in due course to negotiations dealing with Iran’s ballistic missile program and its involvement in regional conflicts. My third reason for supporting the JCPOA came after I reviewed our polling results from Iran and Arab countries in the years after the “deal” was in place and then after President Trump unilaterally pulled the US out of the agreement and instituted new sanctions on Iran….Once again, after the US pullout and the imposition of new sanctions, Iranian opinion shifted to support for their government and its policies. ​It appears that when their government is threatened​, Iranians turn to it and not against it. Given this survey of both Arab and Iranian opinion, it seems that the incoming Biden Administration may be on the right track. They seek engagement with Iran and not conflict. And they plan to reenter the nuclear agreement, but with the added component of firmly addressing Iran’s involvement in regional conflicts. Such an approach may be difficult to achieve for several reasons. Iranian opinion has hardened. The new sanctions imposed by the Trump Administration have taken a toll and with elections in Iran coming in June 2021, the country’s hardliners are on the ascent. Attitudes toward Iran have also hardened here in the US, especially among Republicans​, where any move to ease sanctions or reenter the JCPOA may be met with strong opposition in Congress. Opinion toward Iran among Arabs has also hardened in light of Iran’s continuing aggressive role in the region.”

Senate passes bill elevating anti-Semitism monitor to ambassador,

“The U.S. Senate passed a bill that would elevate the position of the anti-Semitism monitor to ambassador, adding punch to the envoy’s mission of pressing other governments to confront anti-Jewish bigotry. “Anti-Semitism continues to rise at an alarming rate across the globe,” Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., who led sponsorship of the bipartisan bill, said in a statement Wednesday after the vote, which passed unanimously. “To equip the State Department to better address rising anti-Semitism, it is critical that we elevate the role of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism to Ambassador-at-Large.” The U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar bill last year, meaning it is almost certain to become law before the year ends and the current Congress lapses.”

The Israeli Scene

Netanyahu Rival Sa'ar's Party Aims to Encourage West Bank Settlement, Defend 'Jewish Nation-state',

“Gideon Sa’ar, who broke away from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party last week, formally registered on Thursday his new political party, whose aims include “encouraging settlement” in the West Bank and “protecting [Israel’s] values as the nation-state of the Jewish people, which maintains human rights.” Recent election polls predict the new party, registered as “New Hope – Unity for Israel,” would be the Knesset’s second-largest after Likud should Israel hold an election. Lawmakers are expected to miss a Tuesday deadline to pass the 2020 state budget, automatically dissolving parliament and sending Israelis to the polls for the fourth time in two years.”

Meet the man Netanyahu has picked to lead Israel’s Mossad,

“The decision to appoint the deputy Mossad head was expected, and it’s a reasonable choice….D is 56 years old….Senior Mossad officials describe D as a reformer who is open to ideas for structural, organisational and professional change; a man who is not set in his ways and is not conservative….Mossad under D in the next five years will continue with its traditional role as Israel’s foreign espionage agency. He will likely aspire to increase the number of Arab and Muslim countries normalising relations with Israel – Oman, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia are leading the charge to follow the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco’s deals this year. D will support intelligence-gathering operations against Iran and Hezbollah and try to improve ties and joint operations with foreign services around the globe – already 150 liaise with Mossad.”

Israel's Bedouin Voters Consider What Was Once Unthinkable: Cooperating With Netanyahu,

Two ideas you hear a lot about in conversations with supporters of the United Arab List these days are the need for “pragmatism” among Israeli Arabs, along with their intention “not to be in anyone’s pocket.”Recognizing this can help you understand why MK Mansour Abbas, who heads the Islamic party that constitutes the second largest faction of the Joint List of Arab parties, has been speculating very publicly recently about the possibility of political cooperation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – even though that could mean extending the life of the latter’s right-wing governing coalition. According to Abbas, being in perpetual opposition has not benefited the country’s Arabs, and perhaps the time has come to work together with the parties in power, if that’s what it takes to address the community’s dire needs.”

The Palestinian Scene

Palestine's Abbas hails Indonesia's position on ties with Israel,

“Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, yesterday hailed Indonesia’s rejection of normalising ties with Israel until a comprehensive and just solution is reached for the Palestinian cause, the Wafa news agency reported. The agency said Abbas spoke on the phone with Indonesian President Joko Widodo and expressed his appreciation for Jakarta’s support for the Palestinian cause, its rejection of normalisation with Israel, as well as its commitment to achieving peace based on the two-state solution.”

Under auspices of Shtayyeh, Norway and UNICEF sign $6M partnership agreement,

“Under the auspices of Prime Minister  Mohammed Shtayyeh, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and UNICEF today agreed on a partnership to strengthen early childhood health care, protection, and development, and to support UNICEF’s COVID-19 response activities in the State of Palestine, said a press release issued by UNICEF.”

Fighting Lawfare/Weaponization of Accusations of Antisemitism

Zoom faces its content moderation moment,

When the pandemic turned Zoom into a much more prominent and frequent host of public-facing events and not just private video chats, it also confronted the company with knotty questions about moderating content similar to those faced by much larger companies, the company’s policy chief told Axios….What’s happening: Zoom is “investing a ton” in developing clearcut policies around content moderation and event hosting, Josh Kallmer, Zoom’s head of public policy, said during an interview with Axios for C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” “We are committed to a free exchange of thoughts and ideas, but we do it according to a set of rules that reflect our values,” Kallmer said when asked about an incident in September, when Zoom decided not to to host a San Francisco State University event featuring Palestinian activist Leila Khaled, who had taken part in two plane hijackings….Zoom looks to other tech companies’ policy wins and losses as it navigates Washington as an upstart: “We look at what our peers are doing, and we learn lessons in both directions,” said Kallmer. “We need to be honest that these are tough calls, and we’re going to do our best, and always tell people how we’re doing it.”

Is Zoom More Like the Phone or Facebook?,

Given the way it is used, Zoom might seem like a neutral piece of communications infrastructure, akin to your cellphone or cable service provider, rather than a social network or publishing platform like Facebook or Twitter. But in truth, it functions as a little bit of both, as professor Rabab Abdulhadi recently learned….The event was to be a conversation between Khaled and four other activists—Abdulhadi notes that two are Jewish—to discuss media narratives around the Palestinian movement. …In the end, the event was hosted for 23 minutes on YouTube before it was taken down for “violating YouTube’s Terms of Service.” The Facebook event page was also taken down, with the company citing its policy “prohibiting praise, support and representation for dangerous organizations and individual.” Following the event, faculty at a host of other universities, including NYU and the University of Hawaii, organized their own Zoom events with Khaled, which were all similarly shut down. Dima Khalidi, director of the advocacy group Palestine Legal, is concerned about the precedent. “If Zoom is listening to groups that disagree with a particular speaker, there’s no end in sight. If they’re putting themselves in the positions of being a censor especially of what happens on college campuses, that’s an untenable situation,” she says.”

CUNY passes resolution rebuking censorship of virtual event with terrorist,

“The City University of New York (CUNY) committee has passed a resolution that rebuked the censorship of a virtual event a few months ago that featured a documented Palestinian terrorist. The resolution that the CUNY Professional Staff Congress (PSC) International Committee passed last week that bemoaned the video-conferencing platform Zoom, Facebook and YouTube removing a Sept. 23 event being promoted and live-streamed, respectively, on their platform called “Whose Narratives? Gender, Justice, & Resistance: A conversation with Leila Khaled.”…The resolution stated that social-media censorship went against the principle of academic freedom. In addition to the aforementioned platforms, the measure also blamed what it called “a pressure campaign organized” by the Anti-Defamation League, the Lawfare Project, StandWithUs and other groups.”

The IHRA Definition Series Part 4: Antisemitism, Free Speech, Social Media, and Corporate Accountability ,

Webinar recorded 12/17/2020, featuring Alison Carmel, International Relations Manager at 7amleh; Marwa Fatafta, MENA Policy Manager at Access Now; Lara Friedman, President of FMEP; and Brian Hauss, staff attorney at the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project; in conversation with Peter Beinart, Non-Resident Fellow at FMEP. See Parts 1, 2, and 3 of this series. 

Commentary / Long read

The Conservative U.S. Group Trying to Transform Israel's Justice System,

“With inspiration and cooperation from the Federalist Society, the organization that’s behind the appointment of most of the U.S. Supreme Court justices, the Law and Liberty Forum has the money, connections and clout to spur a similar process in Israel.”