Top News from Israel & Palestine: February 18, 2021

What We’re Reading

FMEP Programs in the News

Spotlight on Occupied Thoughts podcast - Peter Beinart interview with Ben Rhodes,

The February 10th edition of FMEP’s Occupied Thoughts podcast featured Peter Beinart interviewing former Obama official Ben Rhodes. You can watch/listen to it here; you can subscribe to the Occupied Thoughts podcast here. Since then, that interview has drawn the attention – and ire – of various right-wing outlets and commentators on Twitter and in the media. For example:

Spotlight on FMEP webinar - The IHRA Definition & the Fight Against Antisemitism: Opportunities and Struggles for Progressive Jews,

On February 11th FMEP held a webinar, “The IHRA Definition & the Fight Against Antisemitism Part 5: Opportunities and Struggles for Progressive Jews,” featuring FMEP’s Lara Friedman in conversation with Corey Balsam (IJV), Rebecca Pierce (writer and filmmaker), and Professor Barry Trachtenberg (Wake Forest University). You can watch the webinar here. That webinar has drawn the ire of at least one right-wing outlet, which published a 3-part attack (here, here, and here) that rather brilliantly illustrates many of the points discussed in the webinar.

Occupation, Settlements, Annexation

Israel installs cameras around springs in West Bank,

“Security personnel of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc began installing surveillance cameras in the vicinity of water springs south of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, Arab48 reported yesterday. The cameras are designed to provide 24/7 surveillance of the isolated area allegedly for security reasons…”

Rights group sends urgent appeal to UN Special Procedures on intensified Yitzhar settler violence,

“The Ramallah-based Palestinian human rights organization, Al-Haq, today submitted an urgent appeal to the United Nations (UN) Special Procedures on intensified violence by Israeli settlers from the illegal Yitzhar settlement in the north of the West Bank against Palestinians and their properties.”

Jewish National Fund for Apartheid,

“Meet the Zionism of 2021: ‘Redeeming’ land by the Jewish National Fund in the West Bank, ‘redeeming land’ in the Galilee too, otherwise the holy lands might fall into the hands of impure Israelis, those who are not Jews…Anyone who still has their doubts, yes apartheid or no apartheid, needs to get to know the JNF. With members of the right and left in its top posts and positions for Meretz too – here you have the Jewish national fund for apartheid, the Israeli consensus.”

Israel's confiscation of tents, bad weather, pandemic compounded vulnerability of Humsa al-Bqaia community - UN,

“Yesterday, the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA), an arm of the military government, confiscated five donor-funded livelihood tents assembled to provide shelter to the Bedouin community of Humsa al-Bqaia, in the northern Jordan Valley, and their livestock. This, along with bad weather and the corona pandemic, has compounded the Palestinian community’s vulnerability, said the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory.”

Amnesty launches new petition to overturn 'cruel' Israeli travel ban on staff member,

“Laith Abu Zeyad, an Amnesty campaigner, has been prevented by Israel from travelling since October 2019 in what the human rights group calls a ‘flagrant violation of his rights’.”

Attacking the ICC, UNRWA, & UNICEF

Israel prepares law to prohibit cooperation with ICC,

“Israeli authorities are preparing a law that would prohibit any cooperation with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, and would propose five years in prison for any violations of this law, RT reported yesterday.”

UNRWA continued teaching hate after claiming it dropped content -report,

“The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has continued to include hateful rhetoric in its curriculum despite claiming to have dropped such material, according to an IMPACT-se report Wednesday.” [Covered widely in Israeli media, Jewish media, and international media]

NGO accuses EU of funding campaign seeking to place IDF on UN's 'blacklist',

“Palestinian and international NGOs – funded by European governments and working in tandem with UNICEF’s West Bank and Gaza branch, have launched a campaign seeking to accuse the Israeli military of abusing Palestinian children in the effort to trigger UN sanctions against the Jewish state, a recent report by NGO Monitor alleged Thursday. The watchdog group, the mission of which is to promote greater transparency among foreign-funded nongovernmental organizations operating in Israel, issued a new report saying that the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund has ‘built an extensive campaign, using false charges of abuse of Palestinian children in the effort to trigger sanctions against Israel. A core goal is to have the IDF included on a list of child rights abusers, published annually by the UN Secretary General as an annex to the report on Children and Armed Conflict.’ Such claims can be used to lobby the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israelis, the report warned. Similarly, NGOs pressure governments to enact sanctions against Israel.”

Gaza Strip

UAE to Supply 20,000 Doses of Russian COVID Vaccine to Gaza,

“A shipment of 20,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine are expected to arrive in the coming days to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and without Israeli involvement, the Palestinian Authority announced Thursday. The Russian-made Sputnik V vaccines will be transfered to Gaza through Egypt by the UAE.”

PM Shtayyeh discusses ways to solve Gaza’s electricity problems with EU representative,

“Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh today discussed Gaza’s chronic electricity crisis with the European Union Representative to Palestine, Sven Kuehn von Burgsdorff, and ways to solve it. At a meeting in his office in Ramallah, Shtayyeh discussed the issue of feeding Gaza’s power plant with the natural gas needed to operate it, as well as the European Union and Qatar’s contribution to delivering the gas to the station in a way that ensures the regular supply of electricity in the besieged Gaza Strip.”

Hamas to review edict requiring women to get guardian’s approval for travel,

“The Islamist terror group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, said Wednesday judicial authorities would review a controversial edict giving parents and guardians power to block adult children or defendants from traveling. The ruling, circulated Sunday from the Supreme Sharia (Islamic law) Council in Gaza, allows ‘males over the age of 18 to be banned from traveling by court order, based on the wishes of the father or grandfather.’ It also bans ‘virgin, widowed or divorced women from traveling without permission from a guardian.’ On Wednesday, Hamas said it was ‘happy’ the Sharia council had decided to rephrase the edict ‘to avoid confusion.’” Also see: Hamas says controversial Gaza travel rules will be ‘reviewed’ following outrage (The New Arab)

Israeli military breaches Gaza border, razes lands, and floods farmland with rainwater,

“The Israeli military today breached Gaza’s borders east of Deir al-Balah city in the central Gaza Strip, and razed farmlands. At the same time, Israel flooded farmlands east of Gaza City after it emptied basins collecting rainwater, reported WAFA correspondent.”

Israel-Hezbollah Dueling Threats

Hezbollah to Israel: Any attack will be reciprocated,

“Lebanon’s Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Tuesday warned Israel against intimidation, alluding to Israeli combat drills that took place earlier this month, warning any attack would be reciprocated, Reuters reported. ‘We are not looking for a confrontation but we don’t leave the blood of our martyrs. If a confrontation happens we will respond to it … if you attack our cities we will attack yours,’ Nasrallah said in a televised speech. The Israeli army held large scale exercises along the northern border with Lebanon on 9-10 February.”

Gantz: Hezbollah will be ‘fatally wounded’ if Israel drawn into a war in Lebanon,

“Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Thursday that Hezbollah will be “fatally wounded” if Israel needs to go to war in Lebanon, after the terror group’s head, Hassan Nasrallah, threatened Israel following an Israel Defense Forces exercise simulating war with the terror group. ‘If we have to go to battle, Lebanon will tremble and Hezbollah will be fatally wounded,’ Gantz said at a ceremony to honor soldiers who fell in battle and whose burial places are unknown.


After 4 week wait, Biden calls Netanyahu, promises stronger US-Israel alliance,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone with US President Joe Biden Tuesday for the first time since the president took office four weeks ago. Netanyahu was the first Middle Eastern leader to receive a call from Biden, but the 12th world leader overall. The long weeks of silence since Biden took office had led many to wonder whether the White House was snubbing its longtime ally, given Netanyahu’s frosty relationship with former Democratic president Barack Obama and his overwhelmingly warm ties with the more recent Donald Trump. The conversation was ‘very friendly and warm and lasted about an hour,’ the Prime Minister’s Office said.”

Also see:

In signal to Iran, Israel, US begin developing Arrow-4 missile defense system,

“In face of Iran’s continued development of long-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, the Defense Ministry announced on Thursday that it has started developing, alongside the US Missile Defense Agency, a new generation of the advanced Arrow missile defense system. The new system – known as the Arrow-4 – will become a major part of Israel’s multilayered missile defense architecture. The Arrow-3 currently serves as the upper layer of Israel’s multi-tier missile defense array and is designed to protect Israel from long-range missiles, particularly those produced in Iran.”

Biden's point man on Israel-Palestine isn't aiming for a Nobel Prize,

“The man holding the Israel-Palestine file at the State Department, Hady Amr, isn’t working on a sweeping plan for peace, but on incremental steps to improve the situation on the ground, several Israeli, Palestinian and U.S sources tell me.”

Palestinian Elections

Top stories,

Israeli Elections

Weaponization of Definition of “Antisemitism” 

Mayors across the world join forces to combat antisemitism, hate,

“Mayors across the world are set to come together next month for the first global mayors summit against antisemitism…Panel sessions are expected to cover various issues, including education and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism…”