Top News from Israel & Palestine: February 19, 2021

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Annexation, Settlement, Apartheid

Tender for Paving Qalandia Underpass and Other Developments on Settlement Roads,

Peace Now: “The Israeli government is de facto annexing the West Bank by investing billions of shekels into roads designed to double the number of settlers to a million and even more. The Qalandiya Underpass will allow a quick trip into Israel without passing through the traffic jams of Jerusalem and will turn the settlements in the Ramallah area and the Jordan Valley into suburbs that will attract thousands of settlers to live there. The road to the Palestinians between Al-Azariya and a-Za’im will allow Israel to advance construction in E1, thus closing the door on a two-state solution.”

Amnesty submits new petition to overturn staff member’s punitive travel ban,

“Amnesty International today submitted a new petition to overturn a cruel travel ban imposed by the Israeli authorities on one of its staff members, Laith Abu Zeyad, a campaigner and Palestinian living in the occupied West Bank. Amnesty learnt on 1 February 2021 that the Jerusalem District Court had dismissed its November 2020 petition accepting the secret information by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), a unit of the Israeli Ministry of Defense. Laith Abu Zeyad has been barred from travelling abroad by the Israeli authorities since October 2019 for unspecified “security reasons”. “Israel has been barring Laith Abu Zeyad’s access to our office in occupied East Jerusalem and banning him from travelling internationally for work or for personal reasons for over a year now. The ban prevented him from being with his mother in hospital before she died. This is nothing short of a targeted attack and reveals the chilling extent of measures by Israel to silence human rights defenders and organizations critical of its treatment of Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank,” said Saleh Higazi, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.”

UN calls for international support in Palestinian battle to rebuild Humsa,

“The United Nations has called for international support after the IDF this week prevented Palestinians from erecting new tents at the site of the demolished illegal herding village of Khirbat Humsa in the Jordan Valley. “The support of the broader international community is critical, to ensure the Israeli authorities guarantee humanitarian access to provide assistance to people in need,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the Palestinian territories said Wednesday in an appeal it put out for the community of around 100 people.”

'Map of Hatred': Half of Israeli Religious Teens Would Strip Arab Right to Vote, Poll Finds,

“About half of religious Zionist teens support stripping Israel’s Arabs of the right to vote; Haredi hatred for Arabs is among the highest between Israeli social groups; half of Arab teens hold negative stereotypes of Haredim, and secular teens have little empathy for any other group. These are among the conclusions of a new study of Israel’s “map of hatred.” …The center surveyed 1,100 teens aged 16-18 who constitute a representative sample of Israel’s different “tribes” – secular, religious Zionist, Haredi and Arab. The questionnaires were filled out between May and July, 2020, before the second coronavirus lockdown. Had they been filled out during the third lockdown, which has intensified intergroup hatreds, the results would likely have been worse. The survey found that a significant portion of teens view other groups as unfriendly or as having low abilities. About 60% of Haredi teens and 40% of religious Zionists view Arabs that way. Similarly, around half of Arabs and 37% of secular teens view Haredim that way.”

Protection of Civilians Report | 2 - 15 February 2021,

Among the highlights: “Seventy-one Palestinians and four Israeli soldiers were injured in clashes across the West Bank. Thirty of the Palestinian injuries were treated for tear gas inhalation on 12 February, in a protest against demolitions and confiscations in Humsa – Al Bqai’a.”

These Siblings May Never See Their Father Again: They're in Israel and He's in Gaza,

“Hamad Abu Gezer hasn’t seen his father for four years and his sister Amana hasn’t seen him for more than two years. He’s 19, she’s 20, a brother and sister in a family torn apart by Israel, probably for all time. Their father, Fares, lives an hour’s drive from his daughter’s home in Segev Shalom, in the south, and two hours from his son’s home in Lod, in the central part of the country. But Israel has decreed that once you are over the age of 18, you are no longer entitled to meet with your parents if they live in the besieged Gaza Strip, close as it may be. Nuclear families are divided like they were between East and West Germany during the Cold War, and like they still are between North and South Korea. This brutal reality, to which hundreds of Israelis are condemned, exists well below the public radar. But for Amana and Hamad, the fact that they can no longer see their father, is turning their lives upside-down. Amana was married in Israel without Fares being present at the wedding – he has never even met her husband. Hamad is building his life here without a father. Dad remains only on the phone. The two speak to him often via video chat.”

Palestinian cancer patient on deathbed after release from Israeli prison,

“After spending close to two decades in the Israeli prison system, Hussein Masalmeh, 38, from the town of al-Khader in the Bethlehem area of the occupied West Bank, was finally released on Monday – just over a year before completing his 20-year sentence. Instead of celebrating his release with his family and hundreds of well-wishers in his hometown, however, Masalmeh is currently lying in a critical condition in an Israeli hospital. Doctors say he may have just days to live. Masalmeh is battling leukemia, as well as a severe lung infection and a number of other health issues, his brother Bilal told Middle East Eye. “His situation is really bad. It’s difficult for us to process this as a family.””

Jewish National Fund for Apartheid,

“If anyone still had any doubts about the nationalist and racist – yes, racist – character of Zionism, even in its modern dress, then along came the chairman of the JNF, Avraham Duvdevani, and removed the last of these doubts…The rot in the JNF can be smelled from far away. The fact that the Labor Party and Meretz are partners in this stinking nationalist enterprise testifies as much as 1,000 witnesses about the Zionist left. A “public benefit corporation,” most of whose land is land that was stolen from its owners in the Nakba and was never returned to them; which covered over the ruins of hundreds of villages in forests, just to erase their memory from the face of the earth and block the possibility of their owners returning. A body which, throughout all the years, in practice sold lands only to Jews, and since 2009 even legalized this practice in an official decision; a body for which there is no occupation and no Green Line – just one state between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea, in which you buy land only for members of one people; and which has now officially declared its partnership in the war crime called settlement too, after years of doing so via a front company. 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.”


Qatar eases salary crisis for Gaza’s civil servants,

“An official at Gaza’s Finance Ministry told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that the Gaza employees’ dues exceed $1.2 billion amassed over the years, and that the ministry is barely able to secure half of the employees’ monthly pays, in light of the financial and economic siege and declining state revenues due to the coronavirus crisis. The source said there are ongoing talks with Qatar so as to help resolve the ministry’s financial crisis, more precisely the employees’ dues, and that the talks have so far resulted in Qatar providing a monthly sum of $10 million as a contribution to solve the problem. He noted that Qatar’s contribution to the payment of the employees’ salaries will continue for a year, and expressed hope that the ongoing efforts result in the employees obtaining the money they are owed.”

Abbas rival Dahlan arranges 20,000 UAE-funded coronavirus vaccine doses for Gaza,

“A shipment of 20,000 Russian coronavirus vaccine doses donated by the United Arab Emirates is on its way to the Gaza Strip, according to an announcement Thursday by Mohammad Dahlan, an exiled Fatah official who lives in the Emirates. Dahlan, a key rival of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, is rumored to be a close adviser to Abu Dhabi’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed.”


The missing link to expose Israeli apartheid at The Hague? Torture,

“However, one question that has not been sufficiently discussed so far is why no suspicions are being directed at the Palestinian Authority itself. In the ICC’s current framing of its case, the PA is essentially cast in the role of the accuser, while the finger is pointed at Israel and Hamas. Yet, the actions of PA officials, too, have raised suspicions of crimes that fall under the Rome Statute. The most prominent of these is the PA’s use of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment during interrogations of Palestinians. If the ICC decides to investigate these crimes, it won’t only find that the PA is violating international prohibitions on these practices; it will expose the wider power structures that enable such violence in the first place, and thus shed an important light on the apartheid reality that exists in Palestine and Israel.”

Who Should Fear the ICC More: Israel or Hamas?,

“The truth is that the lowest hanging fruit for the new Prosecutor, the British barrister Karim Khan QC, who currently heads the UN Special Investigative Team on ISIS crimes in Iraq, and replaces Fatou Bensouda in June, would be to go after Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders. They are accused of war crimes for targeting Israeli citizens using rocket fire and for the use of human shields. “

ICC ruling means war crimes investigations go both ways,

“Ammar Hijazi, assistant to the foreign minister for multilateral affairs who is also in charge of the ICC file, stressed the need for Palestine to cooperate with the ICC prosecutor. He told Al-Monitor that cooperating with the ICC does not necessarily mean agreeing with its findings. “If we feel a case is not right, we will raise our voice. Our position does not necessarily have to be in line with the ICC prosecutor,” he said. “One should not fear accountability for something one did not commit. The Palestinian side has not committed war crimes during the conflict with Israel and we have evidence to submit if the ICC prosecutor decides to investigate such allegations.” On potential subpoenas Hijazi said, “We have to cooperate. We have nothing to fear or hide. It is best to cooperate with the ICC prosecutor.” The ICC could summon some Palestinian leaders in an attempt to appear fair, he said. “The pleas and evidence against Palestine on committing war crimes will appear weak compared to those we can invoke against Israel.”


Israel approves COVID vaccines for undocumented persons, but not for Palestinians,

“According to a statement published by the Health Ministry on Feb. 10, health clinics can provide COVID-19 vaccines to status-less individuals with documentation proving they have been in Israel for the past six months, as well as any undocumented person over the age of 50, regardless of how long they have been in the country. The statement simultaneously bars Palestinian workers or those illegally residing in Israel from receiving vaccinations. On Thursday, Feb. 18, following pressure from human rights groups, the Health Ministry issued a statement that Palestinians with work permits will be able to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, although it remains unclear who will be in charge of administering them or when the vaccinations will begin. “These vaccines are intended for the undocumented person whose center of life is in Israel and cannot be vaccinated at HMOs because they are uninsured,” said Zoe Gutzeit, the director of the Open Clinic at Physicians for Human Rights-Israel. “The refusal to vaccinate undocumented Palestinians stems solely from the fact that they are Palestinian. There is no other way to explain this. Hostility to Palestinians outweighs public health considerations.””


Algeria claims Israel, Morocco waging 'cyber war' against it,

“Israel and Morocco are waging a “cyber war” against Algeria, the latter’s Minister of Communication and government spokesman Ammar Belhimer declared recently. In an interview with the Al-Shorouk newspaper, Belhimer levied a bevy of charges against the two countries, including alleged efforts in electronic warfare. He also claimed that the conflict involved information warfare aimed to undercut the legitimacy of the Algerian government in the eyes of its subjects, as well as cyber-enabled espionage and sabotage efforts.”

Equatorial Guinea to Move Israel Embassy to Jerusalem, Netanyahu Says,

“Equatorial Guinea will move its Israel embassy to Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday, making it the second African country in recent months to announce such a move to the city. The country’s president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, announced he would make the move during a phone call on Friday with Netanyahu, the Israeli premier’s office said, without saying when it would happen.”

Israeli Elections

Disqualify Israel's Central Elections Committee,

“The Central Elections Committee’s decision Wednesday to disqualify the candidacy of Ibtisam Mara’ana, seventh on the Labor slate of candidates for the Knesset, could not have been more predictable. With the same degree of certainty, we can expect the Supreme Court to overturn the decision. This is how it works in the Middle East’s only democracy: In each election campaign, the Central Elections Committee is asked to disqualify Arab candidates and parties and the Supreme Court then overturns the decision. The disqualification of Mara’ana, or of any other candidate or slate for the Knesset, is an infringement of the most basic right in a democracy: the right to vote and to be elected.”

Barak Ravid predicts a fifth Israeli election,

“On this week’s episode of Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast,” hosts Jarrod Bernstein and Rich Goldberg are joined by Barak Ravid, an Israeli journalist with Walla! News and a contributor to Axios. Ravid discussed the upcoming Israeli election, the Iran deal and the shifting relationship between the Israeli government and the Biden administration.”