Top News from Israel & Palestine: February 2, 2021

What We’re Reading


Palestinian permits blocked, thousands of Israeli housing units approved,

“Only 32 construction plans and permits were approved for Palestinians in Area C in 2019-2020, while over 18,000 plans and permits were approved for Israelis during the same period, according to data collected by left-wing NGO Peace Now and published on Sunday.”

Limitations and Possibilities of the Apartheid Framework with Lana Tatour,

Lana Tatour and host Yara Hawari discuss the limitations and possibilities of using the apartheid analysis in the context of Palestine whilst also stressing the importance of the settler-colonial framework and decolonization within the discussion on Palestinian liberation.

Five Palestinian minors say they were severely beaten, tortured by Israeli soldiers during detention,

“Five Palestinian minors said they were severely beaten and tortured by Israeli soldiers and interrogators during detention, today said the Palestinian Commission for Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs. It said it got affidavits from the five minors, who gave details of the beating and torture they were subjected to at the hands of Israeli soldiers and security agents during arrest and interrogation.”

Three homes, animal sheds in south of West Bank slated for demolition by Israel,

“Israeli occupation forces today gave notices of demolition against three houses and an animal shed in Um al-Amad community, west of Yatta town in the south of the occupied West Bank, according to a local source. Rateb Jabour, an activist, told WAFA that Israeli occupation forces gave a local resident four notices of demolition against three 130-square-meter houses and the animal shed.”

Israeli Police Fine Only Arab Passengers for Not Wearing Seat Belts on Public Bus,

“A policeman conducting a routine inspection of a public bus in central Israel fined only Arab passengers for not wearing seat belts while not checking Jewish ones, according to several passengers. Witnesses who were on the bus from Modi’in to Tel Aviv told Haaretz that it was a case of deliberate discrimination, while police denied racial profiling had taken place. The bus in question, operated by the Kavim bus company, stopped on Sunday morning at morning near a major interchange on Route 443 for what the police described as “enforcement of traffic laws and coronavirus regulations.” Most of the passengers were Palestinians from the West Bank with permits to work in Israel who had gotten on the bus at the Maccabim border checkpoint. The driver of the bus, Mahmoud Mujahid, said he estimated that six of the 29 passengers on the bus were Jewish.”

How Do You Say Ku Klux Klan in Hebrew?,

“It would behoove everyone to figure out whether the so-called strongest army in the Middle East isn’t capable of or isn’t really trying to stop this Hebrew Ku Klux Klan. At the end of the day, it’s clear that those subjected to the Israeli occupation have been abandoned to the occupiers’ cruelty, as a result of the weakness of the army and law enforcement authorities. The facts on the ground show that the security establishment does not provide effective protection, that Israeli TV stations barely report that, and that most Israelis – who do not participate in these attacks and probably even oppose them – are simply apathetic.”

The State Fills Israel's High Court With Lies About Palestinians in the West Bank,

“Mass, immediate expulsion, creeping banishment and displacement, bit by bit; the types of expulsion that Israel imposes on the Palestinians are not topics raised during our election campaigns. The campaigns don’t deal with the violence of the settlers, the Civil Administration and the army, which are planning to erase rural communities and force their residents into urban areas. Israeli judges, who are pressured by the army and the settlers to approve expulsions and semi-displacements, know that these earthquakes in the lives of Palestinians don’t upset the party candidates. The judges rule amid the fog of most Israelis’ indifference.”

U.S. Relations

In first public contact in years, senior Palestinian, US officials share call,

“In what appeared to be the first official contact between Washington and Ramallah under the newly inaugurated administration of President Joe Biden, two senior Palestinian and American officials spoke on the phone to discuss the relationship between the two parties on Monday. Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs Commission chairman Hussein al-Sheikh said in a statement that said he had spoken to US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr.”

Also See

Biden and Netanyahu's decades-long friendship faces new test after Israel's Prime Minister went all in for Trump,

“But Netanyahu is now in the midst of a fourth election campaign in two years, with no guarantee that the country can break the cycle of endless elections. Netanyahu benefited politically from attacking Obama, showing the Israeli public that he had the fortitude to stand up to an American leader. Now he must decide whether to do so under Biden. “Netanyahu is a supreme diplomat, but when it came to the US, he carries the burden of his almost explicit allegiance to the GOP,” said Dani Dayan, Israel’s former New York Consul-General and a candidate for the New Hope party, challenging Netanyahu’s Likud in the March 23rd election. “Israel’s next prime minister will have much to do to restore the bipartisan relationship.””

Report: Israel turned down US request to inspect Haifa port after deal with China,

“Israel’s government declined a request last year by the Trump administration to allow the US Coast Guard to inspect the port at Haifa for Chinese surveillance capabilities. The revelation by Haaretz on Monday marks the latest development in a three-year disagreement between Israel’s government and US officials over a Chinese majority state-owned company assuming management of the port this year. Shanghai International Port Group Co. (SIPG) signed a deal with Israel’s Transportation Ministry in 2015 to build up and run Haifa’s commercial port. The deal prompted objections from the US government in 2018, as ships from the US Navy’s 6th Fleet frequent an adjacent Israeli navy base. The base at Haifa reportedly houses Israeli nuclear weapons-capable submarines. The United States has cautioned that its Navy may no longer use the site if the Chinese state-owned company takes over management of the port. SIPG has committed more than $2 billion to expand and upgrade the port and is set to run it for 25 years under the agreement.”

Normalization & News from the Region

Israel’s Netanyahu to Visit UAE in First Trip Post-Normalization,

“Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to travel to the United Arab Emirates next week in the first public visit by an Israeli leader to the country, cementing the normalization of ties. “The prime minister is going to be visiting us very soon,” the UAE’s Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba said at an online panel Monday. “Unfortunately his trip had gotten cut a lot shorter because of the corona situation but he should be coming to see us next week.” An Israeli official, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said the plan is to have a visit by mid-February. Netanyahu had scheduled trips to the UAE before but they’ve been delayed by political turmoil and the coronavirus pandemic.”

UAE confident F-35 jets sale will go through, says ambassador,

“The United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to Washington said he was confident the sale of F-35 jets to his country would go through after a review by President Joe Biden’s administration of some pending arms sales to U.S. allies. The UAE had during Donald Trump’s last day in office signed agreements to buy up to 50 F-35 jets, 18 armed drones and other defence equipment in a deal worth $23 billion. “We did everything by the book and they will discover that once the review is complete and it will proceed,” Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba told a virtual Washington Institute forum on Monday, describing the review as “pro forma”.”

Israel, Kosovo establish diplomatic relations on Zoom,

“The decision on mutual recognition between Muslim-majority Kosovo and Israel was achieved last September, during a White House summit of Kosovo-Serbia leaders, and in the presence of then-President Donald Trump. Both countries have hesitated in recent years over mutual recognition and establishment of ties. Kosovo was hesitant because of its Muslim majority. Israel was reluctant to recognize Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of statehood, fearing such a recognition could create a precedent to be followed by the Palestinians.” Also See – “Kosovo formally establishes ties with Israel, to open embassy in Jerusalem” (Middle East Eye)

Israeli Cyber Firm Sold Spytech to South Sudan, Investigation Finds,

“The Israeli-American cyber firm Verint System has for years faced backlash over reports claiming its advanced online tools were being sold to repressive regimes. On Monday, its security division was spun off to form a new independent company called Cognyte, distancing Verint from the allegations – which included, among others, selling surveillance technology to Azerbaijan and Indonesia. Haaretz reported, for example, that in both countries the technology was used to target members of the LGBTQ community. A new investigation by Amnesty International published overnight Monday sheds more light on the activities the cyber firm would perhaps rather be forgotten.”

Bangladesh purchased Israel-made surveillance equipment, says report,

“Bangladesh has been accused of buying Israeli-made surveillance equipment to spy on hundreds of people’s mobile phones despite banning all trade with Israel. Documented obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigation Unit revealed that Bangladesh’s army acquired the P6 Intercept via a Bangkok-based middleman in 2018. The P6 Intercept is a so-called IMSI-catcher, a type of technology often used by authorities to track attendees during protests via their mobile phones. James Moloney, an Irish national who is CEO for Sovereign Systems, a Singapore based company, was the main contact for the Bangladeshi officials. Moloney told undercover journalists from Al Jazeera that Sovereign Systems was a front company for PicSix, an Israeli-based firm run by Israeli intelligence experts.”

Weapons for Peace? UAE Learns Israel May Not Give It the White House Access It Seeks,

“In other words, the UAE is presenting itself as a military arm of the U.S. administration and saying that it is looking after the well-being of countries in the region. “With the same equipment and training, U.S. and UAE forces are more effective together when and where it matters,” the ambassador said. The envoy drew on the best of his diplomatic skills to conceal the surprise and anger, characterizing the suspension as a routine step. The Emiratis had even anticipated this with understanding, it was claimed, and were not concerned that the sale would be cancelled after it had gone through all the authorizations. That, of course, includes approval by Israel. But the ruler of the UAE, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, also realizes that as opposed to Trump’s time in office, in calling the White House, he now might find himself put on hold, and that reliance on Israel to communicate with Biden might also turn out to be an unsteady prospect. Israel appears to now find itself in a new, paradoxical situation in which it will not only be asked to approve arms sales to an Arab country, but will also be required to expend major effort to get the deal through. And that’s not only due to its security aspects.”

UAE ambassador: ‘Abraham Accords were about preventing annexation’,

“The United Arab Emirates ambassador to the US said Monday that the normalization agreement his country signed with Israel in September was primarily “about preventing annexation.” Yousef al-Otaiba said that while many had sought to cast the agreement in different lights to suit their own narrative, for him it was mostly about stopping Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial plan to extend Israeli sovereignty to large parts of the West Bank.”


Israel provides COVID-19 vaccine doses for Palestinian health-care workers,

“Israel transferred today 2,000 coronavirus vaccine doses to the Palestinian Authority (PA). The Pfizer-made vaccine doses were delivered through the Betunia trade crossing point in the southwest of Ramallah in the West Bank. A second delivery of 3,000 doses is expected in the coming days, with both deliveries destined for Palestinian health-care workers. It was the first time Israel handed over to the Palestinians significant coronavirus vaccines from its own supply.”

PA says Israel’s ‘symbolic’ donation of 5,000 vaccines ‘will not help us’,

“An unnamed Palestinian official told AFP that the shipment was a “symbolic move” and that it “will not help us.” Israel has come out as a world leader for its distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, so far inoculating 3.2 million people (34.3 percent of the country’s population). But Israel has, as right groups have pointed out, failed to uphold its responsibility under international law to vaccinate the Palestinian population it occupies in Gaza and the West Bank. If the shipment of 5,000 vaccines does go through and the PA begins vaccinating healthcare workers, the lucky recipients of the vaccine will, according to public knowledge, be the first Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. “

Israel extends nationwide virus lockdown by five days,

“Israel has extended its lockdown by an additional five days, with the cabinet voting Sunday to keep schools and most businesses closed through at least Friday morning. The nationwide lockdown, now is in its fourth week, is Israel’s third since the start of the pandemic. A ban on international commercial air travel will also stay in place through Feb. 7 and the border crossings to Jordan and Egypt will remain shut, according to a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Health Ministry.”

Israel posts 8,261 new coronavirus cases, every 11th test positive,

“Israel on Tuesday posted 8,261 new daily coronavirus cases diagnosed a day earlier, which means every eleventh test came back positive.  The Health Ministry said they conducted 92,958 tests on Monday, placing the national contagion rate at 9.2%. In the Haredi sector the infection rate is much higher at 17.8%. “

In Worrying Trend, COVID Spread in Israel Rising Again Despite Lockdown, Vaccines,

“The COVID-19 infection rate known as the R number – the average number of people each coronavirus carrier infects – has climbed in recent days and is now reaching 1. This measure had fallen and stabilized last week at 0.9, but on Tuesday morning, it had risen back to 0.97. At the same time, the daily number of confirmed COVID cases remains high; on Monday 8,811 people tested positive for the virus. About nine percent of coronavirus tests returned positive. A report released by the Research Center for the Fight against the Coronavirus on Tuesday said that “Infection is continuing at very high rates, and a renewed increase [in infection] may be beginning.” It added, “The rate of positive tests continues to be very high, and in practice has not fallen during the entire lockdown period.””

President Abbas extends state of emergency for 30 more days over coronavirus,

“President Mahmoud Abbas tonight extended the state of emergency in Palestine to confront the spread of Covid-19 pandemic. President Abbas issued a decree extending the state of emergency in Palestine for 30 more days starting tomorrow amidst the coronavirus outbreak in the occupied territories. A total of 94 percent of the total corona cases recorded so far since the outbreak in Palestine in March have recovered, 4.9 percent are still active, and 1.1 percent have died.” Also See – “Government extends lockdown in Palestine by two weeks, recommends extension of state of emergency” (WAFA)

As virus surges, IDF suspends leave for combat troops,

“For the first time in months, the military ordered a suspension of all leaves for soldiers serving in combat units starting Tuesday, over a surge in coronavirus cases. IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi’s order came after nearly 2,600 active service personnel were confirmed to have been infected with COVID-19.”

Palestinian political activist and analyst Abdel Sattar Qassem dies of Covid-19,

“Prominent Palestinian academic and political activist Abdel Sattar Qassem died late on Monday aged 72 of Covid-19, his family said. Qassem, a professor of political science at Al-Najah University in Nablus, was well known for his activism against the Israeli military occupation in the West Bank, as well as his criticism of the Palestinian Authority’s security coordination and the Oslo Accords of 1993, signed between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO). He died at Al-Najah Hospital in the northern West Bank town of Nablus, where he was receiving treatment after contracting coronavirus two weeks ago. As of Tuesday, 2,023 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have died of Covid-19 since the pandemic started in March, according to figures released by the PA Ministry of Health.”

The Weaponization of Antisemitism to Quash Criticism of Israel

Facebook Draws Ire After Employee Says the Site Could Police the Term ‘Zionists’,

“A leaked email written by a Facebook employee hints that the social media giant may review its policy on allowing the term “Zionist,” and pro-Palestinian groups argue that such a move would endanger free speech on Israel issues. In the email dated Nov. 10, the unidentified employee wrote to an unidentified source: “We are looking at the question of how we should interpret attacks on ‘Zionists’ to determine whether the term is used as a proxy for attacking Jewish or Israeli people. The term brings with it much history and various meanings, and we are looking to increase our understanding of how it is used by people on our platform.” In a version of the email reported on Sunday by The Verge, the names of both the sender and recipient were redacted.”

Building the world we all want,

“It harms all of us — and undermines this sacred work — when we silence, attack, and punish leaders who speak up and criticize Israeli policies. We are building beyond reactive litmus tests and toward a new, more complex — and hopefully transformative — conversation about Israel based on our ability to engage in deep, honest and mutual relationships. The Jewish community is stronger when our allies and partners — those who fight by our side against the rise of ethno-nationalism, authoritarianism, and anti-Semitic attacks, who showed up for us after Pittsburgh, and who defend the right to freedom and dignity for Jewish people, no matter where we live — are also honest with us. Honest about how they see Israel and Palestine. When Congressman Bowman advocates for Palestinian rights, we should listen and really hear what he is trying to tell us, instead of offering an alarming shout of “anti-Semitism.” Listening also enables us to hear the diversity of voices inside our own community. We grow and learn and are better from this kind of honesty. It is the bedrock of partnership and building toward a future where everyone is free. Building this partnership feels even more essential as we work to move forward as a nation while undoing the damage of the last four years. We know the divisions in our society are not going away. In fact, they are getting stronger.”

Biden Should Defend the Right to Call for a Boycott,

“Over the last four years, the Trump administration upended the global politics of the Israel-Palestine issue. On November 19, 2020, a year after declaring that West Bank settlements did not violate international law, Mike Pompeo became the first US secretary of state to officially visit a settlement. The same day he vowed to list, and cut off funding to, nongovernmental organizations that support boycotts of Israel — support that, in the Trump administration’s view, makes them anti-Semitic. Pompeo never issued that list, for unexplained reasons. But Joe Biden’s inauguration as president is unlikely to end governmental efforts to malign the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign against Israel, including in ways that threaten free speech. The BDS campaign advocates a peaceful boycott of Israel until it stops occupying the West Bank and Gaza Strip, grants equal rights to Palestinian citizens, and allows Palestinian refugees to return. Pompeo did more than tar BDS as inherently anti-Semitic; he also lumped in groups that use international law as a basis to urge businesses to cut ties with West Bank settlements, which are illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Human Rights Watch is one such group. While it takes no position for or against boycotts of Israel, it urges businesses, consistent with their human rights responsibilities, to shun settlements in order to avoid complicity in the settlements’ inevitable human rights violations.”