Top News from Israel & Palestine: February 12, 2021

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Annexation, Settlements, Apartheid

Scoop: Jewish National Fund plans to pour millions into expanding West Bank settlements,

“The board of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) is set to approve a new policy on Sunday that will allow the organization to officially purchase land in the West Bank for the potential expansion of Israeli settlements there, according to a draft resolution I obtained…this major policy shift could funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into the expansion of West Bank settlements, which are considered illegal under international law…Due to its political and diplomatic sensitivity, JNF leaders tried to keep this move under the radar. A hard copy of the draft resolution was delivered by hand to board members, who were asked to keep it discreet, sources familiar with the issue tell me.”

Also See:

Sa’ar says West Bank Annexation still a goal, even if not implemented now,

“New Hope rejects Palestinian statehood, has a goal of annexing West Bank settlements, but would uphold Israel’s pledge to suspend such sovereignty, party leader Gideon Sa’ar told the Washington Institute. “I would say I support the maximum autonomy for the Palestinians to rule their lives, with the minimum ability to harm the state of Israel,” Sa’ar said. “That would be the formula” He explained this right-wing position in English to the institute’s CEO, Robert Satloff, during a video interview published late Wednesday. The dismissal of Palestinian statehood, he said, was in part the consequence of failed peace attempts at Camp David, the Obama administration’s initiatives, and the 2005 Gaza withdrawal. It is not clear that such a Palestinian state is even viable, Sa’ar said, particularly given the division between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in Judea and Samaria. Sa’ar alluded vaguely to a regional component on a solution of autonomy for the Palestinians that included Jordan and Egypt, but did not clarify what he meant. Such a conversation should also take place with the US, he said, adding that while the Biden administration supports the two-state solution, it is also much more realistic as to what it can achieve on the ground in the short term. Sa’ar emphasized his support for the application of sovereignty over West Bank settlements, stating that this “is something that continues to be an Israeli objective.” He clarified that only Israeli areas should be annexed, and that areas populated by Palestinians in the West Bank would not be part of sovereign Israel.”

Scoop: "Munich Group” makes new Israel-Palestine proposals,

“A group of Arab and European countries nicknamed “The Munich Group” is lobbying Israeli and Palestinian leaders to commit to a package of confidence-building measures, Israeli and European diplomats tell me. The initiative from France, Germany, Egypt and Jordan is the only active effort to create some movement in the frozen Israeli-Palestinian peace process…The initiative began last February when the four countries’ foreign ministers met on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in an attempt to start a dialogue with the Palestinians after the Trump peace plan was presented.”

For this Hebron activist, every protest could end in a trial,

“Amro, a veteran activist, has been recognized as a UN human rights defender. He is the founder of the Youth Against Settlements, a community center in the Hebron neighborhood of Tel Rumeida, adjacent to Shuhada Street, which works to fight the expulsion of Palestinians from the area, and serves as a space for teens and adults. There, Amro has led workshops on documenting violence and hosted thousands of Israelis and international activists to tour the city.

Eight years after that arrest, in January 2020, an Israeli military court convicted Amro over his participation in a number of nonviolent demonstrations in Hebron against the occupation, including the MLK protest. Amro was convicted on one count of assault; two counts of taking part in an illegal procession; two counts of obstructing a soldier in the line of duty; and one count of participating in an illegal demonstration. In several instances at these demonstrations, Amro was subjected to violence from soldiers and police officers as he was arrested.

Despite the court’s conviction, Amro was acquitted on 12 other charges, after the military prosecution was unable to provide evidence to support their claims — including that Amro had attacked a public servant and a soldier, damaged property, and violated a closed military zone order.

The prosecution is demanding that Amro be given a suspended sentence and a fine. The judge is expected to make a decision within a few weeks whether to publish the sentence directly or to hold a sentence hearing.The 99-page verdict offers a fascinating look into the way Israel criminalizes Palestinian political activists.”

World Vision case controversy continues after 4.5 years,

“After four-and-half-years since World Vision operations manager Mohammad el-Halabi was indicted in Beersheba District Court for smuggling $7.2 million a year to Hamas to buy weapons and build attack tunnels, it is still unclear when there will be a verdict on whether he was a humanitarian or working with Hamas – or both. Updates from Halabi’s lawyer, Maher Hana, and the Justice Ministry on Wednesday indicate that closing arguments are scheduled for March 3.”

PA, Israel partners in ensuring stability - new Civil Administration head,

“New Civil Administration head Brig.-Gen. Fares Atila called on the Palestinian Authority to work together with him to ensure security, when he spoke during his swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday…“You have a responsibility to preserve stability and public order,” he said. A relationship with both the Palestinians and the settlers is critical for the Civil Administration head, given that his office oversees Israel and Palestinian civilian life in Area C of the West Bank. Atila replaces Maj.-Gen. Ghassan Alian, who held the post for close to two years, and during which time the PA temporarily halted security coordination with Israel and the COVID-19 pandemic broke out.”

The Palestinian Rosa Parks,

“Like many other families seeking alternative forms of open-air entertainment these days in the shadow of the coronavirus crisis, Lubna Abdul Hadi and her family wished to enjoy a family picnic in nature last Saturday. But a routine picnic, attended by grandparents, parents and two infants, held in a public space near the West Bank village of Jibiya, near an illegal settlement called “Zvi’s Farm,” was interrupted by armed settlers. The settlers argued that the location belonged to them “because the Bible says it does.” The assailants did not make do just with verbal threats – they started moving items belonging to the babies, pouring drinks and throwing food into the fire the family had built. They explained to their assailants in Hebrew that they were Israeli citizens just like them, and that they had a right to picnic quietly in open public spaces. The assailants, who did not anticipate this complexity, responded with a shameful show of racism: “You’re not Israeli, you’re Arabs; we did you a favor by letting you remain (in Israel); go back to Nazareth.” But the most shameful thing was the settlers calling in the army to evacuate the family. Instead of protecting the ones who were attacked, the soldiers, who are used to doing the settlers’ bidding, drove the family away, declaring that the public space was now closed. The IDF said in response that the event and the conduct of the soldiers would be investigated, but assailants in this lawless land are never investigated….

Even though the family was ultimately forced to leave, their insistence on their rights, despite their fear and concern for their children, was an act of courage worthy of deep appreciation. Hopefully, this act will at least partially open the eyes of Israeli citizens so they can see what is done in their name on a daily basis in the occupied territories.”

An Unarmed Palestinian Is Shot Dead at a Settler Outpost. The Israeli Army's Conclusion? He Was a Terrorist,

“We will never know what happened at the entrance to Eitan Zeev’s house in the illegal outpost of Sde Ephraim in the early morning hours of last Friday, February 5. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit rushed to issue its own account of the incident as conveyed to the army by the shooter and people who work with him on his farm…After that, of course, there’s no longer any need to investigate anything: Those who did the killing gave their account. But the questions continue to linger uneasily: What was a young accountant, who works for the Palestinian Finance Ministry, a married man who is a father and was about to move with his family into a new apartment, doing at the outpost in the dead of night? What was he intending to do there? And was it necessary to kill him even though he was not armed and in fact did not endanger anyone? Those questions will forever remain unanswered.”

Congress & the Biden Administration

Forget the Politicians: This U.S. Lawmaker Thinks High-tech Can Bring Israelis and Palestinians Together,

“Rep. Ro Khanna, who made waves last week for saying the Biden administration would “radically reset” U.S.-Israel ties, is calling for improved relations between the United States, Israel and the Palestinians through innovation and economic development. “I believe in the strategic and cultural importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship,” the Democrat from California told Haaretz on Wednesday. “I still believe in the possibility of a two-state solution – I understand the aspiration of a Jewish state, but that can be guided on principles of liberal, pluralistic democracy,” he says. “There should be a Palestinian state, and it seems to me that focus on innovation, entrepreneurship and cultural exchange are ways to get there.”

Department Press Briefing – February 11, 2021,

QUESTION: Thank you, Ned. Changing topics, okay, the Palestinian-Israeli issue. Ned, the Israeli press is saying that Israel is aiming to pressure you guys to tie whatever restoration or resumption of talks with the Palestinians over relations or aid or anything to them committing themselves to refraining from going to the ICC. Is that what’s going on?…
MR PRICE: Look, we have spoken here before about our intend – about our intent to provide assistance to the benefit of all Palestinians, including to Palestinian refugees. We are in the process of determining how to move forward with the resumption of that assistance consistent with U.S. law, consistent with our interests.
QUESTION: Right. But you’re not going to make that contingent on them refraining publicly from going to the International —
MR PRICE: We are going to make it contingent on our values and our interests.
QUESTION: Just a couple more, if you would indulge me. The Secretary of State has said Monday when he – on his interview with CNN that he asked, actually, he appealed to both sides not to take any unilateral measures that may hinder whatever process may go on. Today the Israeli press is also reporting that the Jewish National Fund is set to approve a new policy on Sunday that will allow the organization to officially purchase land in the West Bank for potential expansion. Now, this did not happen in the past, and the U.S. has looked not too kindly on such an effort. What would be your reaction if this happened?
MR PRICE: Well, I think there is a broad point at play here, and that point is this: We believe it is critical to refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and that undercut efforts to advance a negotiated, two-state solution. And unilateral steps might include annexation of territory, settlement activity, demolitions, incitement to violence, the provision of compensation for individuals imprisoned for acts of terrorism. We have continued to emphasize that it is critical to refrain from all those activities.
QUESTION: Last one, really quick. Now, also the Secretary of State did not respond to a question on East Jerusalem. Now, if you’re calling for a two-state solution, there seems to be an international consensus that if the Palestinians are to have their state and to have a capital for that state, it will be in East Jerusalem. So why would the Secretary sort of fray and say this is – we must leave this to final status issues and so on?
MR PRICE: Well, this has been the longstanding policy of the United States, and I think this is what the Secretary was referring to. The ultimate status of Jerusalem is, in fact, a final status issue which will need to be resolved by the parties in the context of direct negotiations. That is not a change to longstanding policy….
QUESTION: …The previous secretary of state issued guidance saying that he does not think that Israeli settlements in the West Bank or other Palestinian land are illegal under international law. Is that still the policy of this administration? Do you still abide by that guidance? Has that guidance been revised or is it being reviewed?
MR PRICE: We abide by the principle that I just invoked in response to Said’s question. We believe it’s critical for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution.
QUESTION: So there has been no change in the secretary’s revocation of the Hansell memorandum?…I want to know whether there’s been a change in that, because it was a big deal when he basically said that that is no longer the policy of the United States.
MR PRICE: What we have said – and this is the principle that is at play – is that we encourage Israel and the Palestinians to avoid unilateral steps that put the prospects of a two-state solution further out of reach.
QUESTION: But also does that mean, then, that there has been no change in the previous administration’s decision on passport – on using Jerusalem, comma, Israel?
MR PRICE: We have no changes to announce to the current guidance on passports.

Biden to speak with Netanyahu 'soon,' White House says,

“U.S. President Joe Biden plans to speak with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu soon, the White House said on Thursday without providing a date. Biden’s failure to include Netanyahu so far in his calls with foreign leaders has raised eyebrows in Israel and among Middle East experts. Former presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump both spoke to him within days of taking office. “The president looks forward to speaking with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He’s obviously somebody that he has a long-standing relationship with,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a news briefing.”

Former US envoy to Israel says timing of Biden phone call ‘utterly irrelevant’,

“The US ambassador to Israel under president Barack Obama is not at all concerned by the fact that the leaders of the US and Israel have not spoken three weeks into Joe Biden’s term. “How he has spent his time, and the leaders he has spoken to, is a very clear reflection of the priorities and the emergencies that he inherits as president,” Dan Shapiro told the Times of Israel Thursday. “I don’t think there’s any other explanation.””

ICYMI - Podcast: "Occupied Thoughts: Former Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes with Peter Beinart",

“Peter Beinart speaks to Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor from 2009-2017, about working on Israel, Palestine, and Iran in the Obama Administration. Rhodes draws insights from interactions with different lobby groups, presidential travel to Israel and a memorable meeting with young Palestinians in Ramallah, and talks about navigating the assumption by Israel advocates that Blackness translates into sympathy for Palestinians living under oppression. Beinart and Rhodes end the conversation with a discussion of the Biden administration and Democratic foreign policy advisors’ approaches to the IHRA definition of antisemitism and Democrats’ longstanding commitment to the concept of the two state solution. Ben Rhodes’s new book, After the Fall: Being American in the World We’ve Made, will be out in June 2021.”

The Weaponization of Antisemitism - - & the Fight to Stop It

[Video]The IHRA Definition & the Fight Against Antisemitism Part 5: Opportunities and Struggles for Progressive Jews,

On February 11th, FMEP hosted this webinar featuring progressive Jews exploring the challenges and opportunities embodied in the ongoing debate over how to define antisemitism. Join us as we host Corey BalsamNational Coordinator for Canada’s Independent Jewish Voices, writer and filmmaker Rebecca Pierce, and Dr. Barry Trachtenberg, professor and scholar of modern European and American Jewry — all in discussion with FMEP President Lara Friedman.

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

“The Israeli government and its rightwing allies are using this moment to double down on their campaign to equate all forms of anti-Zionism – the moral, political or religiously based opposition to an ethnic Jewish nation-state in historic Palestine – with antisemitism. This is not a sincere attempt to end anti-Jewish bigotry and violence. It is a breathtakingly cynical gambit to limit our ability to hold Israel accountable for its ongoing human rights abuses against Palestinians. And Facebook might take the bait. In response to pressure from the Israeli government and its supporters, Facebook is currently reaching out to stakeholders to ask if criticizing Zionists falls within the rubric of hate speech per Facebook’s community standards. In particular, Facebook is weighing whether “Zionist” should be considered a proxy for “Jew” or “Israeli”.”

UCL’s Academic Board finds the IHRA definition of antisemitism not fit for purpose,

“The ground-breaking Report found that the IHRA definition “is not fit for purpose within a university setting and has no legal basis for enforcement.” In considering alternative possibilities, given the inadequacy of the definition, the Academic Board decided that it should recommend to Council that the IHRA definition should be replaced through a process designed to identify a replacement definition. Furthermore, the Report also found that the IHRA definition is unhelpful in identifying actual cases of antisemitic harassment and is therefore a weak tool for effective university action. It observes that the definition “obfuscates rather than clarifies the meaning of antisemitism, and may in fact make it harder to identify and understand how antisemitism works.” The Report finds that the IHRA definition risks conflating legitimate criticism of the State of Israel, or of Zionism, with antisemitism, thus threatening freedom of expression on campus. “By blurring these boundaries”, it states, “the IHRA working definition risks undermining academic freedom.””

The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism derails our fight against it on campus,

“As a Jewish student at Florida State University, I’ve witnessed serious, threatening acts of anti-Semitism that make me feel unsafe on campus. There was the vendor who sold Nazi flags and paraphernalia on campus just last year; and that time far-right, evangelical Christian Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, who pushes anti-Semitic dual-loyalty tropes and said that one of the most ironic things he does every year is “go to colleges and tell Jews why they should love Israel,” spoke at an event on my campus entitled “Culture War.” To be Jewish in America these past four years is to viscerally feel the threat of far-right violence — from Pittsburgh to Poway — as part of the increasing trend of extremist anti-Semitism fueled by the far right….

For Jewish students across the USA, the campaign to codify the IHRA and use it to suppress speech on campus comes at a particularly unhelpful moment. In our work to fight anti-Semitism and injustice on campus, our focus is on trying to build bridges with communities across the spectrum of campus life, underscoring our common cause in fighting against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and systemic racial injustice. If the IHRA definition is codified nationally, we fear that right-wing advocacy groups will do as they have done on our campuses — distract from real anti-Semitism by turning it into a political football, and working to silence all manner of progressive Jewish and Palestinian rights groups to further their political agenda. The Biden administration should listen to students who experienced first-hand the practical implications of this definition on our campuses and refrain from codifying it into US law. Instead, we encourage the administration to work across racial and religious differences in solidarity and actively engage with the ways in which anti-Semitism is ingrained in white supremacy. Only through a united front against white supremacy and all forms of hate, will we have a chance to eradicate anti-Semitism.

Guardian Columnist Says He Was Fired Because of ‘Joke’ About U.S. Aid to Israel,

“The Guardian editor, John Mulholland, wrote him to complain about the tweet being misleading and inappropriate for a Guardian columnist “given the reckless talk over the last year — and beyond — of how mythical ‘Jewish groups/alliances’ yield power over all forms of US public life.” Mulholland told Robinson to delete the tweet and apologize, which Robinson did in an email to Mulholland so as not to jeopardize his income of approximately $15,000 a year from the Guardian, Robinson wrote in his Current Affairs account of the discussion, which he titled “How the Media Cracks Down on Critics of Israel.””


As Israel decries ICC investigation, Hamas readies its defence,

“As for Hamas and other Palestinian factions such as Islamic Jihad, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda submitted a report to the court last year identifying violations over the use of indiscriminate rockets in targeting Israeli civilian gatherings, the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields, and the killing of people accused of spying for Israel. Hamas, which welcomed the ICC’s jurisdiction decision “without reservation”, said it was not afraid to be investigated. “Palestinian resistance to the occupation is legitimate and in line with international law,” it said. Raafat Morra, head of the Hamas media department, told Middle East Eye: “The Palestinian approach to the International Criminal Court comes within the steps of the legitimate Palestinian struggle by all means, to defend rights and confront the occupation in all fields.” Morra said Hamas is confident that it is protected from prosecution as Israel is the aggressor and occupying power.”

The Palestinian Elections

Can Hamas run — and win — on its record in Gaza?,

“Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told Al-Monitor, “Hamas’ political program (for the elections) will take into account the Palestinian situation in light of the attempts to liquidate the Palestinian cause. The movement seeks to formulate a joint program with all actors in the Palestinian arena. It will include its (Hamas’) plan to build a new political system similar to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in a way that ensures the participation of all Palestinians to be able to confront the Israeli blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip (and restrictions) in the West Bank and Jerusalem.” He added, “Hamas believes that the electoral program should include both the political and service aspects and deal with the Israeli blockade by strengthening solidarity among the Palestinian components, as well as taking into account the utmost levels of social justice.”

Despite the importance of including political issues in its program, Hamas is aware that other priorities are on the mind of Palestinians, who are suffering under deteriorating living and economic conditions. This requires Hamas to focus its program on the people’s demands for basic living services that have severely worsened in the past years.”


Beitar Jerusalem sale frozen amid disclosure of UAE sheikh’s iffy finances,

“One of Israel’s most famous soccer teams, Beitar Jerusalem, has canceled its highly publicized 50 percent sale to a member of the Emirati royal family, an Israeli Football Association committee said Thursday. Beitar confirmed that it had officially asked to withdraw its request to approve the deal, but said the sale has just been postponed, not canceled altogether.” Also See – “Beitar Jerusalem FC withdraws sale to UAE Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa” (Jerusalem Post)

Morocco-Israel: First steps towards promising joint projects,

“As stipulated in the Joint Declaration that formalized – on December 22 – the resumption of relations between Morocco and Israel, the two countries are committed to promoting dynamic and innovative bilateral economic cooperation. Hence, various sectors, including trade, finance, investment, innovation and technology, civil aviation, and tourism, have been specifically mentioned to fulfill the dynamic unleashed by this initiative. Other areas, namely agriculture, water, and food security, in addition to energy and telecommunications, are just as essential. A little over a month after this major announcement, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, and Moroccans Abroad spoke over the phone with Israel’s National Security Advisor. For Nasser Bourita and Meir Ben Shabbat, the focus has been on establishing working groups so that sectoral agreements could be concluded in a timely fashion.”