Top News from Israel & Palestine: February 22, 2021

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Settlements, Annexation

Four Palestinian families displaced in occupied East Jerusalem following Israeli demolition of their homes,

“The Israeli occupation authorities today demolished a two-story, four-apartment residential building in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiyya displacing, as a result, four families, including 12 children, according to local sources. A reinforced Israeli force was deployed in the vicinity of the building, owned by the Ilayyan family, before a bulldozer tore it down, reducing it to rubble, purportedly for being constructed without a license.”

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Work on key Samaria [northern West Bank] bypass road [i.e., settler-only] begins,

“Three years after the hunger strike and the bypass road agreement in Judea and Samaria which was led by Samaria Regional Council Chief Yossi Dagan, along with then-heads Avi Naim and Malachi Levinger and several bereaved families, work was begun today (Sunday) on a road to bypass the town of Hawara. This is one of the most expensive and strategic projects in Judea and Samaria and its cost is estimated at ILS 260 million. The road is intended to connect the center of the country to the localities of Gav HaHar, Yitzhar, Itamar, Elon Moreh and Har Bracha, and will provide a safe trip for residents and passengers to these areas.” Also see: IDF look to new technology to safeguard Judea and Samaria roads (Israel Hayom)

Settlers take on West Bank archaeology as ancient ‘Joshua’ wall tumbles down,

“Destruction of barrier at Iron Age Israelite cultic site deep in PA-controlled Area B creates media maelstrom, as right-wing campaign claims Palestinians destroying heritage sites…’We are demanding from the government of Israel to take overarching responsibility for all of the sites that are suffering — in Judea and Samaria, and in Areas A, B, and C. Not to wait until there is destruction and attempt to repair it, but rather avoid it to begin with’…”

'They destroyed our dreams': Israel’s bulldozers target Palestinian women farmers,

“The Palestinian women workforce faces a ‘direct threat’, as Israeli forces raze their agricultural lands.”

Israel destroys Irish aid to Palestinian village community,

“…this week, undeterred by statements of condemnation from the EU and Ireland, Israel destroyed shelters funded by the EU to rebuild the community in front of a group of European diplomats who were visiting the spot, according to aid workers who were present. The Israeli government has designated the area a military firing range, and insists its soldiers are repeatedly breaking up and seizing the donated tents and animal shelters because the village is illegal and the Palestinians need to move on for their own safety. But European officials and humanitarian groups view the demolitions as a transparent attempt at a land grab that contravenes international law in an area in which Israeli settlements have been expanding in a way that erodes prospects for a viable Palestinian state.”

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For this Palestinian family, living next to Al-Aqsa Mosque comes with a heavy price,

“For years, the Bashiti family has lived in a never-ending cycle of Israeli harassment for refusing to abandon their strategically located home.”

Equatorial Guinea to move embassy to Jerusalem,

“Move, seen as the latest sign of improving ties between Israel and African nations, will make Equatorial Guinea the third country to move its embassy to the contested city, after the United States and Guatemala.”

Israel is keeping Palestinian prisoners medically ignored: Commission,

“The Palestinian Authority’s Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs Commission said today that Israeli occupation authorities have maintained the unfair policy of medical negligence of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli detention. The Commission said in a statement that the occupation authorities are deliberately neglecting the medical conditions of many sick prisoners, who are only allowed to get painkillers rather than a genuine medical treatment.” Also see: Israel returns body of Palestine inmate (al Anadolu)

UN: Half Palestinian population need humanitarian help,

“The UN said in a report that Palestinian socioeconomic development has suffered one of its worst years since 1994. The report published Thursday by the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO), said that almost half of the Palestinian population requires humanitarian aid, with the protracted humanitarian crisis exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.”

The Politics of COVID Vaccinations

SNL under fire after actor jokes that Israel only vaccinating Jews,

“Israeli officials and several major US Jewish groups on Sunday accused Saturday Night Live of spreading anti-Semitic tropes after one of its actors joked in a news segment that Israel has only been vaccinating its Jewish citizens. ‘Israel is reporting that they’ve vaccinated half of their population, and I’m gonna guess it’s the Jewish half,’ cracked Weekend Update co-host Michael Che to a chuckling audience.” Also see: No, ‘Saturday Night Live’ Isn’t Inciting the Mass Murder of Jews (Haaretz); Israel ambassador demands apology from SNL over controversial vaccination joke (The New Arab)

Also see, via Twitter:

  • Salem Barahmeh (PIPD): Some people are angrier at a joke than 5 million people not getting the vaccine.
  • Tania Hary (Gisha): You know what else isn’t funny? Millions of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank not having access to vaccines
  • Jacob Magid (Times of Israel): Could Michael Che have been more accurate? I guess. But the predictable freakout from organized US Jewry only leads to more questions regarding why Israel isn’t doing more to vaccinate the Palestinians. Own goal
  • Russel Neiss: A reminder that Israel maintains military control over 3.7-million non-citizens preventing freedom of movement and the imports and exports of things like vaccines.It’s not antisemitic to point that out, and pretending it is makes folks take actual antisemitism less seriously.
  • Noga Tarnopolsky (journolist, translating video clip from Israeli news): “So you say Israel shouldn’t bring vaccines and the  Gazans can just die of corona?” ex justice min @Ayelet__Shaked was asked tonight. “That’s right. As long as they hold our soldiers’ bodies they can deal on their own… not even humanitarian aid.”

Israel Secretly Agreed to Purchase Hundreds of Thousands of COVID Vaccines for Syria in Deal to Free Israeli,

“Israel has agreed to purchase hundreds of thousands of Russian-made COVID vaccines that will be given to Syria, according to foreign reports. The pledge to buy the vaccines appeared in a secret clause of a deal with the Assad regime to release an Israeli woman who crossed the border into Syria…Joint List lawmaker Ahmad Tibi seemed to allude to reports about the deal on Twitter Friday , calling for vaccines to be sent to the Gaza Strip as well. ‘Must we wait for a Jew to cross the border into Gaza for us to get vaccinated?’ he wrote on Twitter. ‘There is another way. It’s international law and it’s humane. This is the same, continuous epidemiological region.’”

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Israel planning to 'use Covid-19 vaccines to buy normalisation',

“Israel may donate precious Covid-19 vaccine doses to an undisclosed Arab country in return for normalisation, the country’s Army Radio reported on Sunday. The vaccines would be given to Arab states after its own inoculation efforts have concluded, a government official told the Army Radio, despite providing no assistance to Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. One of those countries is a state with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations, the official said, rumoured to be Mauritania. Israel would offer that country Covid-19 vaccines in exchange for the normalisation of ties, the official explained without naming the nation.”

Palestinian COVID Vaccine Plan Faces Large Funding Gap, World Bank Says,

“The Palestinians’ COVID-19 vaccination plan faces a $30 million funding shortfall, even after factoring in support from a global vaccine scheme for poorer economies, the World Bank said in a report on Monday.”

Israel agrees to vaccinate Palestinian workers, Palestinian officials say,

“Israel, which has faced criticism from human rights groups for not extending its world-leading vaccination program to Palestinian territories under its control, agreed Friday to inoculate 100,000 Palestinians who regularly cross into Israel to work, according to the Palestinian minister of health.”

Gaza launches drive to roll out covid vaccine,

“The Palestinian Ministry of Health today launched a national vaccination campaign against corona virus. Patients deemed most at risk were inoculated in the first phase of the rollout of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccination, with former Palestinian Authority Minister of Health, Dr. Riyad Al-Zanoun, amongst the first to receive the injection…Medical staff will be among the first to receive the 2,000 doses of the vaccine which were allowed into Gaza late last week, days after it was due to arrive as a result of Israeli occupation forces blocking the transfer of the potentially life-saving medication. The vaccines were donated by Russia.” Also see: UAE Transfers 20,000 Doses of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID Vaccine to Gaza (Haaretz)


ICC ruling means war crimes investigations go both ways,

“The International Criminal Court’s ruling that it has jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories has pleased many residents but alarmed others that Palestinian leaders could face investigations they fear will be political.” Also see: Who Should Fear More the Long Arm of International Justice: Israel or Hamas? (Haaretz)

Biden administration urged to repeal ICC sanctions ,

“A coalition of more than 70 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), faith-based groups and academic institutions called Wednesday on the Biden administration to repeal sanctions against key members of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The coalition’s members include the American Civil Liberties Union, the International Commission of Jurists, the World Organization Against Torture and Parliamentarians for Global Action.”

Former world leaders take stand opposing ICC investigation of Israel,

“No fewer than 16 former heads of state, high-ranking ministers, and security experts have reached out to the newly-appointed chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at The Hague, Karim Khan, and warned him that an investigation against Israel would be part of international efforts to delegitimize Israel and would make the ICC into a political entity, hurting its own standing.”

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Gaza Strip

Gaza’s Abject Poor Most Affected by UNRWA Amendments to its Food Basket Program,

“The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) announced on Saturday, 20 February 2021, cancelling the ‘yellow voucher – double portions food basket’ for the abject poor, and replacing it with a unified food basket system for all beneficiary refugees in the Gaza Strip…The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights believes that the unified food basket system will harm thousands of refugees; both those who received the “yellow voucher” and those who were removed from the beneficiaries list (those with a guaranteed and stable income). PCHR asserts that this new system may carry grave consequences on poor refugees who live under harsh circumstances in refugee camps with high poverty and unemployment rates, which grew further under the coronavirus pandemic as many refugees became unable to meet their basic needs.” Also see: Gaza Strip: refugees protest against UNRWA decision to downsize food coupons (Middle East Monitor)

Gaza suffers $1.5m losses after Israel causes floods,

“Palestinian agricultural areas suffered $1.5 million in damages as a result of Israel’s decision to open rainwater floodgates, Anadolu reported. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture in the Gaza Strip Israel has so far flooded nearly 700 dunums of agricultural land including 600 dunums (148 acres) east of Gaza City, and 100 dunams (24.7 acres) east of the town of Beit Hanoun. The ministry added that Israel has opened floodgates twice this month, and called on human rights organisations to immediately intervene and stop the Israeli violations against the agricultural sector in Gaza.”

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Israel Asks for Egypt's Help in Securing Prisoner Swap With Hamas, Report Says,

“Al Arabiya reports Israel has approached Cairo, but details of the negotiations, which come amid reports of a vaccines-for-prisoner deal between Israel and Syria, remain unclear.”

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Israel & the Region/World

Rare visit to Israel by Egypt’s oil minister sends signals to Biden, Erdogan,

“The trip, following similar delegations of Greek and Cypriot leaders, is intended to show that the regional allies are united and coordinated, when dealing with friends and foes.” Also see: Israel to build new natural gas pipeline from its offshore rig direct to Egypt (Times of Israel)

Biden & Israel-Palestine

As Biden puts Mideast on backburner, US point-man on conflict seeks small gains,

“Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hady Amr starts job gunning for improvements to Palestinian economy and renewing bilateral ties, but is not giving up on two-state solution.”

In letter to Biden, PA and Hamas commit to two-state solution on 1967 lines,

“The Palestinian Authority (PA) sent an official letter to the White House claiming that all factions, including Hamas, were committed to the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The letter was delivered by Hussein Al-Sheikh, the PA’s Head of the General Authority of Civil Affairs, to U.S. President Joe Biden’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr.” Also see: Is Hamas reconsidering its position regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process? (Israel Hayom)

How Biden Can Undo Trump's Dirty Deal With Morocco and Israel Over Western Sahara,

“Trump bartered the Sahrawi people as a kickback to Morocco to normalize its relations with Israel. But Biden can challenge Rabat’s occupation – and help liberate the last colony in Africa.”

Palestinian Scene - Elections News/Analysis

Israeli Scene

Poll shows large swaths of Israeli youth hate Arabs, back revoking citizenship,

“In a poll published this week, nearly half of ultra-Orthodox and national religious Israeli youth expressed hatred toward Arabs and noted support for stripping them of their citizenship, a sentiment shared by 23 percent of secular youth. The Thursday poll from the Hebrew University’s aChord Center was conducted among 1,100 respondents between the ages of 16 and 18. Of those polled, 66% of Haredim, 42% of religious nationalists and 24% of secular Israelis expressed feelings of fear and hatred toward Arabs, which make up some 20% of the population. Forty-nine percent of all religious Israelis and 23% of secular Israelis indicated support for stripping Arab Israelis of their citizenship, the poll showed.”

Arguing in favor of Iran deal, 2 ex-officers refuse to fall in behind Netanyahu,

“Breaking ranks with most MKs, Omer Barlev and Yair Golan, two of the top security experts in politics, say the JCPOA was good for Israel, even if everyone else refuses to say so.”

Free Speech, Lawfare & Weaponization of Definition of “Antisemitism” 

U.S. Jewish Groups Want to Fight Antisemitism, but Struggle to Agree What It Is,

“As Jewish organizations fight to stem the rising number of antisemitic incidents in the United States, the Jewish community itself is engaged in a struggle about the very definition of antisemitism and whether criticism of Israel should be regarded as an antisemitic act.”