Top News from Israel & Palestine: December 21, 2020

What We’re Reading


Boycotting Israeli settlements is antisemitic, says US envoy,

“Boycotting Israel’s illegal West Bank settlements is antisemitic, the US special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism said on Friday, claiming that anti-Zionism is a form of antisemitism. In a virtual interview with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington-based think-tank, envoy Elan Carr reiterated the US State Department stance that boycotting businesses in Palestinian territories controlled by Israel is a form of bigotry against the Jewish people. He was specifically addressing the issues of settlements in response to a question sent by Middle East Eye. The US diplomat suggested that the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is bigoted because it targets Israel while ignoring other countries that abuse human rights – an argument often dismissed by Palestinian rights advocates as a form of ‘whataboutism’.”

In east Jerusalem, a battle over 'every inch' of land,

“…Like all of east Jerusalem, it is considered occupied Palestinian territory by much of the international community. Israel’s annexation of east Jerusalem has not been recognised by most nations. In the 1980s, settlers began moving into Silwan, which sits on land where — according to Jewish tradition — King David established his capital some 3,000 years ago, making the area hallowed ground in Jewish history. There are now several hundred settlers in Silwan, living among some 50,000 Palestinians. The area’s Jewish homes are recognisable by Israeli flags flying on their roofs and modern facilities like a fully-enclosed basketball court that poorer Palestinian residents would struggle to afford. Although not all cases are documented, anti-occupation group Peace Now says that 700 Palestinians in east Jerusalem are threatened with eviction. Settler expansion in the area does not appear to be simply the result of individual families seeking to live in what Jews call the City of David. Critics of Silwan’s settler movement allege that it is backed by a spectacularly well-funded campaign aimed at transferring Palestinian-owned land to Jews.”

Israeli settlement hits Palestinian dreams and memories of Jerusalem airport,

“Headers on official papers issued by the Qalandiya local council still bear the icon of an aeroplane, a reminder of the Palestinian dream of one day having their own airport. But Israel is inching closer to building an illegal settlement on the site of what was once known as the Jerusalem International Airport, burying with it Palestinian hopes of claiming it as their own.”

Israel demolishes two Palestinian-owned houses in south of West Bank, displacing 20 people,

“Israeli military bulldozers today demolished two Palestinian-owned houses to the northwest of al-Samou town, south of southern West Bank city of Hebron, displacing 20 people, according to a local activist. Coordinator of the Popular anti-wall and anti-settlements committees, Ratib al-Jabour, told WAFA that an Israeli military force stormed al-Simiya hamlet, northwest of al-Samou, where they tore down a 200-square-meter house and a 90-square-meter house displacing their families comprising of 20 members. They also demolished a water well and a 500-square-meter livestock shed belonging to the same family.” Also see: Israeli settlers attack farmers, deny them access to land near Yatta (WAFA), In a bid to prevent Palestinian movement, Israeli occupation set up metal gates on a Jordan Valley road (WAFA)


Punishing Palestinian farmers by uprooting olive trees,

“Jewish settlers uproot 8,400 olive trees in 2020, affecting source of living of thousands of Palestinian farmers.” Also see: Over 100,000 olive trees uprooted by Israel since 2010 (Anadolu), Settlers uproot olive saplings near Salfit (WAFA), Under the false pretext of state-owned, the Israeli army prevents Palestinians from planting their lands (WAFA)

Gush Etzion’s ‘Lone Oak Tree’ plaza rededicated in festive ceremony,

“After two years of renovations, Gush Etzion’s ‘Lone Oak Tree’ plaza was rededicated on Monday at a festive ceremony attended by Israeli Agriculture Minister Alon Schuster, Tourism Ministry Director General Amir Halevi, Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shlomo Ne’eman and Gush Etzion Tourism Division Director Moshe Bruce. The Lone Oak, dating back 600-700 years, is the symbol of Gush Etzion. The renovations were carried out by the Gush Etzion Regional Council and the Gush Tourism Division, in partnership with the agriculture and rural development and tourism ministries.”

Shtayyeh says settlements are a ‘war crime’,

“A bill seeking to legalize 65 outposts in the West Bank that passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset last week is a ‘war crime,’ Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Monday. The bill was presented by the Land of Israel Lobby, chaired by MK Bezalel Smotrich (Yamina). ‘We consider this measure a war crime that will be added to the file of the International Criminal Court,’ Shtayyeh said in opening remarks during the weekly meeting of the PA cabinet in Ramallah. ‘We want the international community to do everything possible to confront, condemn and stop the entire settlement enterprise and boycott its products.’”

Israel fined Palestinian minors $102,000 in 2020,

“Israeli occupation courts imposed fines worth 350,000 shekels ($102,000) on Palestinian minors during 2020, Director of the Palestine Centre for Prisoners Studies Riyadh Al-Ashqar said yesterday. According to Safa news agency, most of the Palestinian minors arrested appeared in Ofer military court and were ordered to pay high fines, Al-Ashqar said, adding to the financial burdens experienced by families. Al-Ashqar said that the Israeli courts impose fines on Palestinian children for all alleged aggressions including stone throwing or being spotted near an Israeli settlement or military checkpoint.”


WATCH: Settler opens fire at protest against West Bank outpost,

“An Israeli settler opened fire at a group of Palestinian and Israeli protesters on Friday during a demonstration against an unauthorized outpost near Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank. The soldiers that arrived at the scene did not detain the settler, but rather demanded the protesters leave the area. No one was injured. The incident took place early on Dec. 18, when 30 protesters arrived on a hill near the outpost, where they have protested every Friday for the past several weeks. As the protesters reached the hill, several Israeli settlers drove up in a car, got out and walked toward them, at which point one of the settlers fired a number of direct shots from his pistol just meters from the protest. Soldiers who arrived at the scene about a minute after the shooting did not detain the shooter; they instead hurried the Palestinians away from the scene, threatening them with arrests should they refuse the soldiers’ orders. A video of the incident shows protesters and journalists fleeing the scene for fear of their lives.”

Also see: Israeli settler opens fire on Palestinians (Middle East Monitor); Settlers’ attacks undermine efforts to revive peace process, insists PA (Middle East Monitor); Armed settlers attack homes of Palestinians in Hebron’s Tel Rumeida (WAFA)

Armed Settlers Assault Palestinians After Breaking Into Their Homes in West Bank ,

“The settlers were looking for sheep that had been stolen; the police did not respond to Palestinian villagers’ calls, the villagers claimed, but on Saturday police arrested three settlers on suspicion of assaulting a policeman.”

Hilltop Youth killed in accident while fleeing police,

“A 19-year-old from the Hilltop Youth movement was killed after his vehicle flipped over while he was fleeing from police near Kokhav HaShahar in the West Bank, Israel Police reported on Monday. Police arrived at the scene after receiving reports that passengers in an Israeli vehicle were throwing rocks at a Palestinian vehicle.”

Also see: Suspect dies in police chase of settlers who threw rocks at Palestinians (Times of Israel); Israeli settlers attack with stones Palestinian vehicles on a northern West Bank road (WAFA); Two Palestinian men injured in attacks by settlers in West Bank (WAFA)

Teen killed in police chase identified,

“…Honenu CEO Shmuel Medad responded to the accident, ‘The blood is on the hands of the commanders of the Judea and Samaria area, who allow the spilling of the blood of our best children. This horror should make the Israel Police and the Ministry of Internal Security tremble. And so too for all the echelons that guide such murderous behavior and allocate huge budgets for it. The land should not cover their blood!’”

Also see: Police officer violently shoves National Union Chairman MK Betzalel Smotrich (Arutz Sheva – “Policeman prevent MK Smotrich from reaching scene of serious accident in Binyamin in which youth was killed: ‘I fear whitewash at scene.’”]

Mother-of-six murdered in West Bank, in what police believe was terror attack,

“An Israeli woman in her 50s was found dead in a northern West Bank forest in the early hours of Monday after she went for a run on her own a day earlier, with authorities investigating the case as a suspected terror attack. Police said in a statement that there were signs of violence to her body and that the woman’s death was considered a suspected murder. The Shin Bet security service was also taking part in the investigation.”

Also see: Husband of woman slain in apparent terror attack urges West Bank construction (Times of Israel); West Bank: Police launch manhunt after woman killed in suspected terrorist attack (i24 News); Authorities increasingly certain West Bank murder was terror, expect imminent arrests (YNet)

Nour Stepped Out of the Car, Hands Raised. The Order 'Don't Shoot' Was Heard. But It Was Too Late ,

“Stopped at a West Bank checkpoint and found to have no driving license, an East Jerusalem man was shot and killed by Israeli officers. Police forced the grieving family to hold his funeral in the dead of night.”

Palestinian hurls Molotov cocktail toward Israeli soldier, who doesn’t respond,

“A Palestinian man hurled a Molotov cocktail at a soldier at a checkpoint in the northern West Bank Saturday evening, targeting him from close range but missing him. A video of the incident shows the man emerge from a car at the checkpoint, located near the settlement of Kedumim. He approaches the soldier and speaks with him for several moments before pulling out the firebomb, lighting it and hurling it at the soldier, who dodges.  The man then runs away as the soldier watches, without responding to the attack…Hard-right lawmakers fumed after the video went public. ‘This story is just insane,’ Yamina MK Bezalel Smotrich tweeted. ‘But it’s not the soldier’s fault. The judicial system in the State of Israel that behaves like in Sodom is to blame.’ He appeared to be referencing claims on the right that soldiers’ hands are often tied in responding to attacks as they fear possible indictment for their actions.”

Also see: IDF arrests Palestinian suspect in firebombing of IDF soldier who didn’t respond (Times of Israel); IDF relieves soldier from combat duty after freezing in terror attack (Jerusalem Post)

COVID Under Occupation

Palestinians left waiting as Israel rolls out Covid-19 vaccine jab,

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received a Covid-19 vaccine jab on Saturday, kicking off a national rollout over the coming days. The massive vaccination campaign, said to be the biggest in Israel’s history and titled ‘Give a Shoulder,’ will not include millions of Palestinians living under Israeli control despite a recent spike in cases and deaths stemming from the virus. Meanwhile, Jewish settlers living in the occupied West Bank are eligible for the jab. The PA hopes to get vaccines through a World Health Organisation-led partnership with humanitarian organisations known as COVAX, which has so far fallen short of the 2 billion doses it hopes to buy over the next year for those in poor countries. Complicating matters is the fact that the Palestinians have only one refrigeration unit capable of storing the Pfizer vaccine.” Also see: Israel is starting to vaccinate, but Palestinians may have to wait months (Washington Post)

Euro MPs petition to allow medical supplies into Gaza,

“A group of 24 members of the European Parliament signed a petition launched Monday by the Geneva-based Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, which called on the Israeli government to lift its siege of Gaza and allow in COVID-19 medical supplies. The lawmakers include Manu Pineda, the chair of the Delegation for Relations with Palestine. The petition calls for allowing coronavirus medical supplies ‘in light of the recent spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the coastal enclave.’”

Palestinian Domestic Scene

In West Bank refugee camps, Palestinians arm up for post-Abbas power struggle,

“In Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank, some residents are preparing weapons for a potential power struggle when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas finally leaves the stage. Abbas, 85, leader of the dominant Fatah movement and of the Palestinian Authority, has promised legislative and presidential elections in 2021, for the first time in more than 16 years. Rivals are already seeking to build up a power base.”

Hamas slams PA for 'politically-motivated' arrests,

“Efforts to end the Fatah-Hamas rift suffered yet another blow as Hamas said on Monday that the Palestinian Authority was continuing its crackdown on supporters of the Islamist movement in the West Bank.Hamas accused the PA security forces of launching ‘politically-motivated’ arrests and pointed out that the move coincided with the Palestinian leadership’s decision to resume security and civil coordination with Israel.”

Report: Palestinian GDP declines 12% in 2020,

“Palestinian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declined by 12 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In a joint statement, the Palestinian Monetary Authority and the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics said that most economic activities shrunk this year, which led to a significant decrease in the per capita income. The Palestinian economy witnessed a decline of around four per cent in 2020 compared to 2019. According to the statement, this decline deepened with the impacts of the pandemic, which made the Palestinian government take a number of emergency measures, including partial and total lockdowns. Israel’s withholding of Palestinian tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA) for about six months also had a negative impact on the economy, the statement said, with those revenues constituting 70 per cent of the total Palestinian income and being the main source of income to cover the government’s expenditure.”

European Bank, Bank of Palestine boost small businesses in West Bank and Gaza,

“The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is supporting Palestinian micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and women entrepreneurs by providing a financing package of US$ 15 million to Bank of Palestine, the largest bank in the West Bank and Gaza, said EBRD in a statement.”


Al-Jazeera reporters’ phones hacked by spyware from Israeli NSO Group — report,

“Dozens of journalists at Al-Jazeera, the Qatari state-owned media company, have been targeted by advanced spyware, in an attack likely linked to the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a cybersecurity watchdog reported on Sunday. Citizen Lab said it traced malware that infected the personal phones of 36 journalists, producers, anchors, and executives at Al-Jazeera back to the Israel-based NSO Group, which has been widely condemned for selling spyware to repressive governments.”

Also see: Dozens of Al-Jazeera journalists allegedly hacked using Israeli firm’s spyware (Middle East Eye); UAE, Saudi used Israel spyware to hack Al Jazeera journalists’ phones, report reveals (Middle East Monitor); ‘The new Khashoggi’: Death threats prompted probe of Al Jazeera hack (Middle East Eye); Report accuses Saudi Arabia, UAE of probably hacking phones of over three dozen journalists in London, Qatar (Washington Post)

Israeli official: Military cooperation between Israel, Gulf states future possibility,

“Israel is open to the idea of ​​engaging in future military cooperation with its newest Gulf Arab allies to counter Iran’s growing influence in the region and help stabilize the Middle East, an Israeli defense official told online publication Media Line on Friday. ‘Of course, there are a lot of benefits’ regarding the exchange of missile technology between Israel and its new allies in the Gulf, said Moshe Patel, who heads the country’s Missile Defense Organization. He stressed, however, that the subject should be discussed and approved by Jerusalem and Washington, and that no tangible progress should be expected in the near future.”

Pushing Billions in Arms Sales Is Not an ‘Accomplishment’ ,

“…pushing weapons worth tens of billions of dollars out the door and overseas is by no means an accomplishment. It matters who the arms are sold to, and how they are being used. By this measure, U.S. arms sales have been a dismal failure. A case in point is a $23 billion arms package for the United Arab Emirates that narrowly escaped a vote of disapproval in the Senate on Dec. 9. The deal includes 50 F-35 combat aircraft, 18 armed MQ-9 drones, and more than 15,000 bombs.  The UAE should not be receiving U.S. weapons at this time. A primary reason for stopping arms flows to the regime is its central role in the war in Yemen, a conflict that has spawned what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe.”

Amid normalization push, Egypt, Jordan, PA say only 2 states will solve conflict,

“The foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority met in Cairo Saturday, reaffirming that the resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict must be based on the two-state solution. ‘The overriding goal that we seek is to reach a just solution to the Palestinian issue in accordance with international decisions,’ Egyptian FM Sameh Shoukri said in a statement at the meeting with Jordan’s Ayman al-Safadi and the Palestinian Authority’s Riyad al-Malki. Discussing developments in the region, the three agreed to seek cooperation with the incoming US administration in finding regional solutions. They said they hoped US President-elect Joe Biden would change course from the policies of outgoing President Donald Trump, under whose watch American-Palestinian relations reached a nadir.” Also see: PA foreign minister urges Israel to resume peace talks (i24 News)

Palestinians intensify efforts, action to counter UAE trade deals with Israeli settlements,

“Palestinians seek to launch international campaigns to boycott Emirati companies that deal with products from settlements built on occupied land in the West Bank, accusing them of violating international resolutions that criminalize settlements.”

Hamas slams UAE over pro-Israel statements,

“Palestinian group Hamas on Sunday accused the United Arab Emirates (UAE) of supporting Israeli occupation in violation of Palestinians’ rights. ‘Statements made during visits by some Emirati officials to the [Israeli] occupation went over the line and reflect unlimited UAE support to the settlement and occupation,’ Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said on Twitter. Such statements also confirm ‘UAE involvement with the occupation against Palestinian rights and the interests of the peoples of the region,’ he said. During recent visits to Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, a number of Emirati and Bahraini officials made statements showing support for Israeli policies.”

Top Israeli rabbi prays for safety of UAE ruling family,

“Israel’s top Jewish rabbi inaugurated a Jewish nursery school in Dubai on Sunday and made a special Jewish ritual for the safety of the ruling family in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to Israeli media. The Sephardi Cheif Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef arrived in the Gulf state on Thursday, marking his first visit to an Arab country.”

Israeli Domestic Scene

Gantz: I sent Netanyahu my final offer, believe he’ll refuse,

“Blue and White leader Benny Gantz tells his party members he thinks elections will be called tomorrow, according to the Walla news site. ‘I gave Netanyahu my final offer and he’s supposed to get back to me,’ Gantz is quoted saying. ‘I think he’ll say no and the Knesset will be dissolved tomorrow.’ ‘If I hear tonight that something can be done on this matter, I will update you. If not, the Knesset will turn into a pumpkin tomorrow night,’ he says, referring to the midnight deadline for the state budget that will see the parliament automatically dissolved if no action is taken to postpone it.”

Likud says Gantz walked back on agreements, elections to be called,

“Blue and White is walking back all the agreements it reached with Likud, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party says, signaling elections will imminently be called. ‘Due to an internal fight in Blue and White, Gantz has retracted all the agreements reached in negotiations between Blue and White and Likud,’ the party says. ‘It’s unfortunate that Gantz has decided to drag the country to unnecessary elections at the height of the coronavirus crisis,’ the party says. Channel 12 reports that Israel is heading to elections, saying Gantz has walked back on his compromise deal with Netanyahu.”

Eyeing 2-week reprieve, coalition fiddles with budget as precedents burn,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister (better known simply as defense minister) Benny Gantz reached a compromise of sorts on Sunday night, that could potentially stave off early elections. But the Likud and Blue and White party leaders remain far from any agreement on the substantial matters at the heart of their dispute. Even worse, the interim agreement shines a harsh light on how the government has made politicking hostage to policy.”

Poll shows Gideon Sa’ar on 19 seats, Blue and White barely returning to Knesset,

“A television poll aired Sunday pointed to growing support for former Likud lawmaker Gideon Sa’ar’s new party, eating into the electoral strength of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc. The Channel 13 news poll also had Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party sliding to just above the minimum threshold needed to enter the Knesset, as it holds last-ditch talks with Netanyahu’s Likud to avert early elections ahead of this week’s budget deadline.”

Deal or No Deal, Gantz’s Surrender to Netanyahu Guarantees His Political Demise,

“Kahol Lavan members have felt that their leader is starting to deteriorate, and on Sunday they understood the dimensions of the humiliation and disgrace that Gantz has wrought upon them.”

Bonus Reads

The Palestinian Cause at a Moment of Transition,

“Jewish Currents reached out to a group of leading Palestinian intellectuals, analysts, and activists to discuss the future of the movement for Palestinian liberation during the current moment of political transition. All in their 30s, Dana El-Kurd, Inès Abdel Razek, Salem Barahmeh, and Fadi Quran represent a new generation of Palestinian thinkers. They are among the sharpest critics of the political impasse the Palestinian cause faces, both within historical Palestine and in the diaspora, and they are consistently unafraid to raise big, fundamental questions—for instance, about the limits of the nation-state. That boldness and incisiveness is on display in this roundtable discussion, conducted in early December.”

Israel is using the IHRA to silence its critics,

“A network of government-funded NGOs are pushing the definition in an effort to redefine antisemitism and quash Palestinian dissent.”

Issa Amro, my peace activist friend facing military incarceration & how you can help him…,

“…It is perhaps no surprise then that as Israel seeks to suppress Palestinian resistance no matter what form it takes, not just in Palestine, but across the world, Issa has found himself singled out, harassed and targeted by his oppressors for his human rights work. This culminated in Issa facing 18 fabricated legal charges, which he has been attending military court hearings for at Ofer over the last few years.”

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.”

Brothers raised in the West Bank share a view, but not a point of view,

“They shared a childhood in a West Bank Jewish settlement, but as adults Yaakov and Yonatan Berg have developed radically different views. The brothers were raised in the settlement of Psagot, which like all Jewish communities in the West Bank is widely regarded as illegal under international law though Israel disputes this characterization and the US no longer accepts it. Yaakov, 44, has become a prominent public defender of the rights of Israelis to live in the territory — the biblical Judea and Samaria — that Israel has retained since capturing it from Jordan in the Six-Day War of 1967. Yonatan, 39, is an activist and writer who publicly denounces Israel’s position on the matter of the West Bank and campaigns for peace with the Palestinians.”

With the Nation-State Law, Israel’s religious right is deciding who is a Jew,

“Israel’s Nation-State Law does not see Judaism as a diverse religion, but as an identity that guarantees supremacy over other people — including other Jews.”

How Conservative Thinker Yoram Hazony Manipulates Herzl's Vision to Back a Nationalist Worldview,

“Hazony’s take on the ‘prophet of the Jewish state’ sticks to myths and recycles arguments. His new book is an example of appropriating the past to suit today’s political and ideological purposes.”