Top News from Israel & Palestine: February 11, 2021

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Settlements, Annexation

Israeli medics vaccinate some Palestinians with permits to work in Israel,

“Around 400 Palestinians, residents of East Jerusalem as well as Palestinians who work in Israel, were vaccinated against coronavirus on Wednesday afternoon at a Magen David Adom station near the Qalandiya checkpoint, a Magen David Adom spokesperson said. ‘East Jerusalem Palestinians can come and be vaccinated, as well as those who have Palestinian Authority identity cards and work permits,’ the spokesperson said.     Wednesday’s immunizations were a first step to provide vaccinations to the 122,000 West Bank Palestinians who work in Israel. Some Palestinians who work in the health care sector have already been vaccinated, but those are a small minority; the overwhelming majority of workers are employed in construction or agriculture.”

EU tells Israel to halt demolition of Palestinian village,

“The European Union has called upon Israel to stop the demolition of Palestinian residential structures in the occupied Jordan Valley. The call came after Israeli forces destroyed the Palestinian Bedouin community in the occupied West Bank village of Khirbet Humsah last week for the second time in three months, leaving several families homeless. ‘This large-scale demolition is another example of the deplorable trend of confiscation and destruction,’ said Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff, representative of the EU in the Palestinian territories. EU spokesperson Peter Steno also criticised the illegal demolition and called on Israel to halt the practice. ‘Confiscation, demolition of structures in Hamsa al-Foqa & dislocation of around 60 people confirm regrettable trend despite #COVID19 & obligations of [Israel] as occupying power under [international] humanitarian law,’ he wrote on Twitter.”

Israel's arrest campaign aims to destroy a new Palestinian movement,


“Since late 2019, Israeli forces have been waging a campaign of mass arrests, targeting hundreds of young women and men in Palestine. They have been brutally arrested, their homes stormed at dawn, their belongings searched and confiscated. Detainees have been interrogated for weeks on end and prevented from meeting with lawyers, with their files and charges concealed…As for those who have gone to trial, most were charged with ridiculous offences. Birzeit University student Layan Kayed, 22, was accused of ‘terrorist activity’ after making and selling falafel sandwiches as part of an activity for a student movement affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Meanwhile, student Mays Abu Ghosh was arrested over her membership in the university’s student union and her journalistic activities. Others have been imprisoned over selling books or coffee as part of student activities. This campaign of arrests carries an extreme sociopolitical risk. Israel is attempting to eliminate a left-wing social and political youth network under military pretexts. It is waging a war against a group whose social, cultural and academic work is tied to anti-Zionist values and struggles.”

Israel detains 31 Palestinians in West Bank raids,

“The Israeli army rounded up 31 Palestinians in overnight raids across the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, according to a Palestinian NGO. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society said in a press release that most of those detained were minors. The Israeli army usually carries out incursions into West Bank cities and towns, claiming to arrest wanted Palestinians. Israel is holding about 4,500 Palestinian prisoners, including 37 women, 140 minors, and about 450 administrative detainees, according to official Palestinian statements.”

Palestinian dies when Israeli settler drives car on man,

“A Palestinian worker was killed on Wednesday evening after an Israeli settler rammed his car on him in the occupied West Bank, a local official confirmed. The incident took place near the village of Kefl-Hares, adjacent to Ariel settlement in the northern Salfit city. Salfit Governor Abd Allah Kmail confirmed the incident, saying it was intentional. Kmail held the Israeli occupation accountable for the accident and considered Azzam as ‘a martyr of Palestine.’ The Israeli police said that an investigation is opened into the circumstances of the incident.”

Concern rises over takeover of hundreds of dunums of West Bank village land as Israelis survey the area,

“Concern was high today in the southern West Bank village of Kisan, east of Bethlehem, when Israelis started surveying lands east of the village, according to the head of the village council Ahmad Ghazal. He told WAFA that a crew of Israeli surveyors inspected the land estimated at 500 dunums and located near the illegal settlement of Abie Hanahal in order to take it over and build a new settlement outpost on it. He said the targeted area is considered the only pastures used by the shepherds and livestock farmers in Kisan and therefore taking it over will hurt them drastically. Israelis from the antiquities authority came to the same land three days ago and carried out excavation, which raised serious concern that the takeover of the land is imminent.”

Also see from WAFA:

UNRWA appeals for $1.5 billion ‘to support’ Palestinian refugees,

“The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) announced on Thursday that it needs $1.5 billion to fund its essential services, emergency appeals and priority projects for Palestinian refugees in 2021. The announcement came as the new administration of US President Joe Biden is set to renew financial aid to the Palestinians, including UNRWA.”


UN expert urges international community to support ICC’s Palestine-Israel ruling,

“An Independent UN expert praised on Tuesday the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) of justice ruling that it had jurisdiction over war crimes committed in Palestinian Territories, and urged the international community to support the process. Michael Lynk, who is the Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, called for ‘international cooperation’ to ensure ‘the enforcement of international justice.’ ‘Ending impunity and pursuing justice can only bring us closer to peace in the Middle East,’ Lynk said.”

Politics, not law, will decide whether Israel faces war crimes charges,

“…last week’s ruling offers Palestinians a few slivers of hope. It confirms that Israel’s battle to deny the Palestinian fight for statehood is not entirely going its way. And it suggests that the post-Trump political climate may turn out to be more stormy for Israel than expected. Its leaders may have to be slightly more cautious about the scale and visibility of the war crimes they approve. The court may settle to leave the sword of a possible investigation hanging over Israel, hoping that alone will be enough to curb Israel’s worst excesses, such as plans to annex swaths of the West Bank.  Or the ICC may trust that its jurisdiction ruling will serve as a wake-up call to the Israeli Supreme Court, whose failures to enforce international law in the occupied territories paved the way to The Hague. But settling for any of these outcomes will be more evasion by the court, more playing politics. The test of whether the ICC is a judicial body rather than a political one is not, as Netanyahu demands, that it refuse to investigate Israel. The real test is whether it can rise above the name-calling and gaslighting to apply international law in a way that truly protects Palestinians.”

Dore Gold: Israel Must Fight Back Against the ICC and Not Be Intimidated by Its Charges,

“Israel must resist these efforts to turn the ICC into a political weapon against it. An ICC indictment might have the aura of international law. But Israel must not allow these moves at the ICC – which are essentially political – to undercut its own self-assurance about the fundamental justice underpinning its cause.” Also see: Richard Kemp/Gatestone Institute: The International Criminal Court Threatens Middle East Peace

Israel & the World

This database is exposing decades of Israel’s shady arms deals,

“Israel has been exporting arms to the world’s most repressive governments. A new project aims to hold it accountable by tracking these confidential sales.”

Shin Bet: Israelis illegally assembled, sold cruise missiles to unnamed foreign state,

“Nearly two dozen Israeli citizens are suspected of illegally manufacturing and selling armed cruise missiles to an unnamed country located in Asia, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said on Thursday. According to Israeli media reports, at least 20 suspects were being investigated, with their identities being held from publication via a gag order from the court. The Shin Bet did reveal, however, that the suspects involved in the case were former defense industry employees who are charged with law-breaking related to endangering Israel’s national security, money-laundering, and other financial crimes. It was also learned that the suspects received instructions from elements associated with the same foreign country in exchange for payment of “considerable funds as well as other benefits,” the agency said in a statement.”

Biden Policy

Blinken ‘non-committal’ on East Jerusalem as Palestinian capital,

“US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has refused to commit to the idea of occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state, saying the parties need ‘to get together directly and negotiate these so-called final status issues’. In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer earlier this week, Blinken however, reiterated the Biden administration’s plans to keep the US embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, after it was relocated during former president Trump’s administration.”

Here's my number: Netanyahu still waiting for Biden phone call,

“We’ve all had friends who don’t call. Sometimes they are busy. Sometimes they are avoiding us. And when it comes to world leaders, sometimes not calling could be a geopolitical statement. On Wednesday, Israeli ambassador to the UN Danny Danon took the perceived slight to social media, tweeting what he said was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office phone number at Joe Biden. He noted that his boss had not been on the growing list of world leaders that the US president had contacted since taking office on 20 January. The tweet carries more than the weight of an “it’s been forever” talk between friends. After four years of the unconditional, precedent-breaking US support Netanyahu enjoyed under Trump, there is a new US administration in town and an election looming in Israel.”

Also see:

Biden must prevent Israel’s march toward annexation,

“Although former President Donald Trump no longer has the capacity to influence the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Israeli government continues to ride the wave of Trump’s ‘peace’ plan and President Biden must take action to stop them. Indeed, the Netanyahu government is still working to implement the plan’s vision, steadily paving the way to annexing vast swathes of the West Bank. In real and significant ways, this is progressing despite Netanyahu’s purported ‘postponement’ of annexation as part of a series of normalization agreements. Until the Biden administration articulates a new plan or map — or at least reveals consequences for Israel’s annexation projects — the Israeli government will continue to advance policies that entrench the occupation, expand settlements and lay the groundwork for unilateral, de jure annexation.”

Palestinian Scene

Trying to woo US with election, Palestinians drop a hot potato in Biden’s lap,

“Less than a week before the inauguration of US President Joe Biden, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a decree ordering parliamentary and presidential elections to be held later this year. It was widely interpreted as a gesture to the new US administration, which would likely have an easier time engaging with a Palestinian leadership that has more legitimacy at home after a decade and a half without an election.  But the White House has reacted to the initiative coolly, and with near-utter silence — differing drastically from the lead-up to the last time national elections were held in 2005-2006, when the Bush administration had been one of the initiative’s loudest cheerleaders.”

Egypt back as ringmaster as Palestine talks progress,

“After politically turbulent years, Egypt appears to be regaining its footing as a Middle East leader on the Palestinian-Israeli issue. The change of guard in Washington and the recent reconciliations in the Gulf, accelerated after former US President Donald Trump’s departure, appears to have allowed Egypt, with its standing, geography, history and political alliances, to emerge as a potential kingmaker in the chaotic Palestinian affairs.”

Senior PA Official Visits Jailed Palestinian Leader Barghouti With Elections Planned,

“Hussein al-Sheikh, the Palestinian minister who acts as a liasion with Israel, has met with Palestinian prisoner Marwan Barghouti Thursday, sources told Haaretz. According to the sources, the Israeli Prison Services approved al-Sheikh’s visit. A visit of this sort is exceptional, since Israeli Prison Services does not allow security prisoners to receive outside visitors since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet the Israeli Prison Services declined to comment on the visit, saying that they do not respond to foreign reports.”

Palestinian groups agree to establish elections court,

“Palestinian factions agreed Tuesday in Cairo to establish an elections court based on a national consensus among judges from Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. ‘The court shall be exclusively responsible, not any other judicial body, to follow what is related to the electoral process, its results and the stuck cases,’ said the final joint statement of the Palestinian National Dialogue. The Palestinian groups agreed that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would issue a presidential decree to form the court.”

Palestinian group declines to take part in elections,

“The Islamic Jihad movement announced Tuesday that it will not participate in upcoming Palestinian elections as the polls were being held in accordance with the Oslo Agreement signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel in 1993. In a statement after the main Palestinian factions began a national dialogue Monday in the Egyptian capital Cairo to prepare for the elections, the group said the Oslo Agreement despises the rights of the Palestinian people.” Also see: Islamic Jihad will not take part in Palestine election (Middle East Monitor)

Gazans hope for vote after years of Hamas rule, isolation,

“Palestinian poll workers fanned out across the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, where they found voters eager to register ahead of elections that could serve as the first referendum on Hamas’ rule since the militant group seized power more than a decade ago. The outreach came a day after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party and Hamas reaffirmed their commitment to holding parliamentary and presidential elections later this year, the first since Hamas won a surprising landslide victory in 2006. That led to bitter infighting, culminating in Hamas’ violent seizure of the Gaza Strip a year later and leaving Abbas’ administration limited to enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Several attempts at reconciliation have failed, and the elections could still be cancelled or postponed.”

Israeli Scene

Can Merav Michaeli right the Israeli left?,

“Merav Michaeli refused to let the Labor Party die without a fight. Michaeli, who was elected head of one of the oldest and once-iconic political parties in Israel last month, battled it out just to be able to hold the primary race that led her to victory. Now, she is fighting to bring Labor back from the brink of irrelevance and turn it once again into the home of the Israeli left. Can she succeed against the odds? ‘The party was already considered to be dead and over and done with,’ Michaeli told Jewish Insider in an interview this week. ‘The fact that it’s alive again is something that helps bring people together.’”

Naftali Bennett is the kingmaker – can he be king? - analysis,

“The other reason for hope in Yamina, as far as voter retention is concerned, is that Bennett is singularly focused on coronavirus and his alternatives to the way the government is handling the pandemic and related economic issues. Because of Bennett consistently positioning himself as a critic of Netanyahu, it will be harder for Netanyahu to convince people who don’t like the government’s COVID-19 response to leave Bennett for him. If Bennett wants to keep his kingmaker position, coronavirus will have to continue to dominate the agenda. Luckily for Yamina, nearly every party is talking about pandemic economics. If the conversation shifts in a serious way to Iran or the Palestinians, Bennett might experience a familiar sinking sensation in his polling numbers.”

In Israel's largest Arab city, a Nazarene defends Netanyahu,

“Few Arab politicians in Israel’s history have openly flirted with the country’s right wing, let alone endorsed its main candidate for prime minister. But Ali Salam, the mayor of Nazareth, says that he sees ‘no better choice’ for Israel’s 21% Arab minority than veteran conservative Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu.”

Kahane Won: Netanyahu Would Rather Team Up With Racists Than Risk One Seat,

“The surplus-vote agreement between Likud and Religious Zionism closes a circle: The man who in 1995 ranted from a balcony and marched at the head of a procession with a coffin joins hands with the man who displayed the hood ornament ripped from the prime minister’s car and warned: ‘Just like we got to this emblem, we can get to Rabin, too.’”

Israel Elections: Gideon Sa'ar blasts Netanyahu for Ben-Gvir deal,

“Prime ministerial candidate Gideon Sa’ar criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday for signing a vote sharing agreement with the Religious Zionist Party of MK Bezalel Smotrich and Otzma Yehudit head Itamar Ben-Gvir in an interview with KAN Radio. Sa’ar said signing the deal shows that Netanyahu ‘lost his shame and his limitations and would do anything to remain in power.’”

Lawfare & Weaponization of Definition of “Antisemitism” 

Facebook might censor criticism of Zionists. That’s dangerous,

“It’s imperative that we dismantle antisemitism in all its manifestations, but conflating Zionism with the Jewish people only entrenches it. Facebook should not allow governments to blur the lines between hate speech and political speech, and it must prioritize revisiting existing policies that disproportionately censor Palestinians and other marginalized voices posting about their experiences of racism and state violence. We must all be able to talk about our lives and the issues that are most important to us, while never losing sight of the fact that Palestinians and Jews deserve safety wherever we are.”

Guardian columnist fired after controversial tweet about Israel,

Guardian columnist Nathan J. Robinson was fired after criticizing US policy on Israel, or spreading antisemitic fake news on Twitter – it depends on who you ask. The tweet originally published by Robinson in late December last year read: ‘Did you know that the US Congress is not actually permitted to authorize any new spending unless a portion of it is directed toward buying weapons for Israel? It’s the law.’ That tweet was followed by another: ‘or if not actually the written law then so ingrained in political custom as to functionally be indistinguishable from law.’ But it seems like Robinson’s clarification did not impress Guardian US editor John Mulholland.”

Israel's government urges social media giants to take on hate speech,

“The Strategic Affairs and Diaspora Affairs Ministries released a report Wednesday in an attempt to orchestrate a first-of-its-kind national response to combat hate speech online. The framework was presented in a special Knesset (Israel Parliament) hearing of the Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs Committee and held on the occasion of international Safer Internet Day…Strategic Affairs Minister Michael Biton says: ‘The Jewish people and the State of Israel are constantly being attacked through incitement, the spreading of misinformation, and outright lies. We have a special interest in taking the initiative on this issue and are holding social media companies accountable to start taking responsibility and act to implement clearer, more effective and transparent policies.’”


Also see:

  • Official press release & text of report (Ministry of Strategic Affairs)
  • Knesset presses social media companies to combat online anti-Semitism (Jewish News Syndicate)
  • Israel urges social media giants to label anti-Semitic content (Times of Israel)
  • Lara Friedman on Twitter (thread): “Hey look! The govt of Israel has a new report on fighting antisemitism on social media…using – SURPRISE! – the IHRA definition & its examples as the standard on which speech should be judged/condemned!…P 19 – report suggests that in an effort to balance free speech concerns, social media companies slap an ‘antisemitism’ label on content that violates the IHRA but does not violate their hate speech rules. P 31 – this is awesome – ‘An important element in proper enforcement of hate speech policy online is comprehensive training for moderators in hate speech, and, specifically, antisemitism… assisted by independent civil society organizations & experts who understand the nuances and subtleties of antisemitic discourse. For its part, the Israeli government can assist in assembling and making available to all social media companies an international team of experts and civil society organization for ongoing training of content moderators.’ The mind boggles.”

Christians…Beware of BDS       ,

“Unfortunately, many Christians who rightly put a high value on the biblical imperative to defend the powerless and oppressed (Psalm 82:3), have wrongly bought the lie that Palestinians are the helpless victims of Israeli aggression, when in fact they are far greater actors of their own fate then people give them credit for.”