Top News from Israel & Palestine: February 23, 2021

What We’re Reading


Israel to Send 'Symbolic Amount' of COVID Vaccines to Palestinians, Other Countries,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Tuesday that Israel will be transfering a ‘symbolic amount’ of coronavirus vaccines to the Palestinian Authority and to other countries. The vaccines given to the Palestinian Authority will be used to inoculate medical staff, the statement said…Israel will also send a few thousand doses of the vaccines to the Czech Republic, Guatemala, Honduras and Hungary. Honduras has announced its intention to move their embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, while the Czech Republic has said it plans to open a ‘diplomatic office’ in Jerusalem.”

Also See

Hamas launches Gaza Strip’s coronavirus vaccination drive,

“The Gaza Strip began its coronavirus vaccination drive on Monday following the arrival of the first vaccines to the enclave ruled by the Hamas terror group. Former health ministers and several medical workers were inoculated with Russia’s Sputnik V jabs in front of dozens of cameras. More medical workers and patients with chronic diseases are to start receiving injections on Tuesday.”

Israel starts vaccinating its East Jerusalem residents beyond security barrier,

“Israel on Tuesday began vaccinating Palestinians in East Jerusalem who have Israeli residency cards but live beyond the security barrier that runs through the eastern half of the city. The vaccinations were carried out by Magen David Adom paramedics at the key Qalandiya crossing. Tens of thousands live beyond the barrier that snakes through the capital, which some health experts have suggested could make it more challenging for them to access the vaccine. MDA apparently chose to place the vaccination station by the crossing so as to increase accessibility to the vaccine to those who live beyond the barrier.”

Occupation, Annexation, & Settlements

A Youth-led Palestinian Protest Movement Is Rocking the Hills South of Jerusalem,

“Activist Sami Huraini, 23, is one of the coordinators of a West Bank youth group engaged in weekly demonstrations. His family history of nonviolent protest has yielded some unlikely victories”

In Attempt to Stem Violence, Israeli Army Brass Meet With Radical Settlers,

“In a move the military called “precedent-setting,” Israel’s Central Command chief Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai met on Monday with radical young settlers, also known as hilltop youth, from an illegal West Bank outpost. The settlers come from Maoz Esther, which was the home of Ahuvia Sandak, a teenager who died in December during a police chase. His death sparked weeks of protests in the West Bank and Jerusalem, which often turned into violent confrontations with security forces…An army source said the purpose of the meeting was to conduct a dialogue and to try to calm things down. “The general explained that the army is an agency that carries out the law of the State of Israel, and we’re trying to find common ground,” he said.”

Israel exiles Palestinian youth from his hometown in Jerusalem,

“Israeli occupation authorities banned a Palestinian youth from entering his hometown in at-Tur in occupied Jerusalem for a period of two weeks, according to local sources. Sources told WAFA Daniel Abu Nasra, 20, was summoned for interrogation by Israeli intelligence at al-Maskobiya detention center west of the city of Jerusalem and handed him a notice ordering his exile from his hometown in at-Tur for a period of 14 days. He was also placed under house arrest for two days.”

Palestinian farmers near the southern Gaza border leave their fields after Israeli occupation forces open fire at them,

“Israeli occupation forces today opened fire at Palestinian farmers to the east of the city of Khan Younis in the south of the besieged Gaza Strip forcing the farmers to leave their lands, reported WAFA correspondent. He said that the Israeli forces stationed at the border fence east of the city targeted farmers and their lands with bullets and sound bombs, forcing them to leave the area in fear of getting shot. Israeli soldiers deliberately target farmers on border areas to the north and east of the Gaza Strip and prevent them from accessing their lands.”

Palestinian farmers near the southern Gaza border leave their fields after Israeli occupation forces open fire at them,

“Israeli occupation forces today opened fire at Palestinian farmers to the east of the city of Khan Younis in the south of the besieged Gaza Strip forcing the farmers to leave their lands, reported WAFA correspondent. He said that the Israeli forces stationed at the border fence east of the city targeted farmers and their lands with bullets and sound bombs, forcing them to leave the area in fear of getting shot.”

Jewish minor charged for racist violent attack against Palestinians,

“A Jewish minor and resident of Samaria was indicted in the Central District Juvenile Court on Tuesday for anti-Palestinian violence and a range of other charges. According to the indictment, on January 4, the defendant-minor and seven other unidentified persons came to the Palestinian village of Surta armed with IDF-issued stun grenades, large rocks and sharp objects for use as weapons, as well as face masks to obscure their identities. The group used rocks and stun grenades to attack four Palestinian residents, as well as homes and nearby cars. A 61-year-old Palestinian man was injured by their attack which caused broken glass to hit him in the head. Two Palestinian women – one 17 years old and the other one pregnant – were also lightly hurt. The women and other members of the four families also went into emotional shock from the attack. The defendant was charged with causing physical harm in racist circumstances, with conspiracy to commit racist felonies, an attempt to destroy a residence using explosive materials, illegal weapons possession and intentional destruction of property. The defendant perpetrated these acts in violation of the house arrest to which he had been confined.”

Jews split over storied charity's support for settlements,

“The debate has drawn attention to the fact that the KKL, which owns more than a tenth of all the land in Israel, has been quietly operating in the West Bank for decades, building and expanding settlements that most of the international community considers a violation of international law…The controversy erupted earlier this month when the Axios news website reported that the KKL was considering a proposal to openly fund land purchases from Palestinians in the West Bank. The move could potentially channel hundreds of millions of dollars into the expansion of settlements, some of them deep inside the occupied territory.”

Further Reading: “Progressive Groups Dismayed by JNF-KKL Decision to Permit West Bank Land Purchases; Call on Board to Reject It.” The statement reads:

  • “By buying West Bank land for settlements, JNF-KKL in Israel turns Palestinian dispossession into its policy. Members of the Progressive Israel Network have highlighted how, in recent years, JNF dollars collected globally in Jewish synagogues, schools, and homes have been used to undermine the values on which the State of Israel was founded. There have been verified reports of JNF-KKL undertaking shady land deals through secretive shell companies. This latest decision, which brings those practices out of the shadows and makes facilitating permanent occupation of the West Bank official JNF-KKL policy, demands unequivocal condemnation.”

Palestinian Politics

Focus On: Palestinian Political Leadership,

“The Palestinian national movement is in an acute state of crisis, and the Palestinian political system and institutions are incapable of bringing the Palestinian people closer to realize their rights. The existing style of governance and models of leadership prove on a daily basis to be unfit for present and future Palestinian generations seeking equality, justice, and freedom above all. The Palestinian people urgently need a new political leadership that is representative, legitimate, responsible, responsive, and accountable.

In this selection of pieces, Al-Shabaka policy analysts reflect on the history of leadership in Palestine and explore what lessons can be learned from the past with an eye to the future. They discuss the shortcomings of the existing political leadership and argue for the utmost need for youth-led leadership to emerge and flourish, and for that, they propose a number of concrete steps and actions, envisaging what a new leadership model might look like.”

Palestinian political prisoner Marwan Barghouti for president?,

“Palestinian politician Marwan Barghouti, who is seen as the leader of the First and Second Intifada, is serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison. His intention to run for president in the upcoming Palestinian elections has shaken the Palestinian political scene. If he runs and wins, as recent polls have suggested he might, his victory could reshape the Palestinian cause with great implications for the Israeli occupation. Predictably, Barghouti is facing a stiff opposition from the octogenarian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is planning a rerun, and from his clique of loyalists in the Fatah party, who have been running the Palestinian Authority for over two decades.”

Is Israel trying to keep Hamas from running in Palestinian elections?,

“The West Bank has been witnessing over the past few weeks intensive arrest campaigns by the Israeli army against dozens of Hamas cadres and leaders, members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), political leaders, as well as students and union activists…In January alone, the number of detainees amounted to 461. The Israeli arrest campaign against Hamas in the West Bank aims to derail the movement’s plan to run in the upcoming legislative elections, by keeping Hamas leaders and cadres behind bars until after the elections are held in May. Meanwhile, Israel is also threatening other potential Hamas candidates with arrest if they end up deciding to run on the movement’s list.”

Gaza voters sceptical about upcoming polls,

“The besieged Gaza Strip bears few signs of its impending elections: there are no posters on the streets, and no debates between candidates. On 15 January, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas announced plans to hold legislative, presidential and National Council elections between May and August. For the first time in 15 years, Palestinians will have the opportunity to elect their leaders. But even after this long, some residents of Gaza are reluctant to return to the ballots. People are waiting, wary. This is the fifth time that Palestine-wide elections have been promised since the last successful ballot.”

Can a new generation change Palestinian politics?,

“Young Palestinians’ views on their future, the conflict with Israel, statehood, and society are as diverse as their backgrounds – from Jerusalem to Gaza City, and upper-middle-class urbanites to aid-dependent households in refugee camps. But all young Palestinians agree upon one major issue: the need to reform their institutions, leadership, and political groups. Many say the whole system needs an overhaul.”

Israeli Politics & Elections

Netanyahu corruption hearings postponed until after Israel's election,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got some good news on Monday: The testimony phase of his trial won’t begin until after Israel’s March 23 elections. Netanyahu faces charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud in connection with a series of corruption scandals. If witness testimony and the presentation of evidence began before the election, it could have dominated the news cycle and damaged his hopes of winning a majority.”

More on Netanyahu’s trial:

How a Netanyahu-linked NGO Is Importing Trump's 'Stolen Election' Campaign,

“It was only a matter of time until the right tried to import Donald Trump’s “stolen election” campaign – in spite of its ugly denouement on Capitol Hill. And in fact, the right-wing Im Tirtzu movement was the first to pick up the gauntlet – or in this case, the fur hat with the horns – with a campaign it started about three weeks ago against the chairman of the Central Elections Committee for the 24th Knesset – Justice Uzi Vogelman. At the time it was enough to attach to his name the name of the vilified Wexner Foundation in order to arouse demons whose only purpose was to imply that he is likely to slant the election.”

Sa’ar slams Netanyahu over reported Likud outreach to PLO ahead of election,

“The head of the right-wing New Hope party called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to dismiss a Likud lawmaker for reportedly reaching out to the Palestinians about encouraging Arab Israelis to back the premier in the March 23 elections. The outreach by Likud MK Fateen Mulla to the Palestinian Liberation Organization was reported by the Yedioth Ahronoth daily. Mulla, a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, confirmed to the newspaper that he held talks with the PLO’s Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society, but did not give any details on what was under discussion.”

In Israeli Election, a Chance for Arabs to Gain Influence, or Lose It,

“Accelerated by the election campaign, two trends are converging: On the one hand, Arab politicians and voters increasingly believe that to improve the lives of Arabs in Israel, they need to seek power within the system instead of exerting pressure from the outside. Separately, mainstream Israeli parties are realizing they need to attract Arab voters to win a very close election — and some are willing to work with Arab parties as potential coalition partners. Both trends are born more of political pragmatism than dogma. And while the moment has the potential to give Arab voters real power, it could backfire: Mr. Abbas’s actions will split the Arab vote, as will the overtures from Jewish-led parties, and both factors might lower the numbers of Arab lawmakers in the next Parliament.”

I’m Tired of American Jews Making Excuses for Netanyahu and His Proud Boy Allies,

“This is a fateful moment for the Jewish world. In 1975, when the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed that Zionism is racism, Jews everywhere came together to assert, in outraged protest, that no, it is not. Now, almost half a century later, Ben Gvir, a candidate for the 24th Knesset, spouts racist slogans and justifies them as the natural extension of Zionist and Jewish values. And thanks to the efforts of Benjamin Netanyahu, Ben Gvir and his colleagues in the “Religious Zionism” party — which is neither religious nor Zionist — seem assured of at least five seats in Israel’s parliament. It may be too late to prevent their election. But it is not too late for American Jews to join with the great majority of Jews in Israel in denying these quasi-criminals the legitimacy that Netanyahu has shamefully bestowed on them. They are distorters and corrupters of all that is sacred and holy in Jewish tradition, and they must be branded as such.”

The Biden Administration, U.S. Politics, & U.S. Aid to Israel

US pledges support for two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict,

“The Biden administration is committed to a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi when the two men spoke on Monday night….Separately in their call, Blinken assured Ashkenazi that the US opposed the biased treatment Israel receives in international forums. He “noted the United States’ continuing commitment to opposing unfair, one-sided actions against Israel in the multilateral arena,” the State Department said in a statement it put out after the call. “Foreign Minister Ashkenazi and Secretary Blinken acknowledged the steadfast partnership between the United States and Israel, and that the two countries would work closely together on challenges ahead,” it added. The call comes two days before Blinken is set to address the Human Rights Council, a UN body which has passed more resolutions condemning Israel than against any other state.”

Also See

Biden won’t let Netanyahu affect US policy toward Israel,

“Given the other priorities the Biden administration is juggling, they are clearly content to walk the tightrope of trying to revive a process geared toward a two-state solution that more and more observers deem impossible while not allowing the issue to occupy more space on the administration’s agenda, as it is prone to do. Biden’s lukewarm attitude toward Netanyahu should not be interpreted as anything more than irritation with the prime minister himself. It is clear that it has not changed Biden’s fundamentally pro-Israel orientation.”

Andrew Yang confronted in Brooklyn over his stance on BDS,

“Andrew Yang, one of the leading candidates in the New York City mayoral race, was confronted during a campaign stop in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn on Saturday about his opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. In an OpEd for the Forward last month, Yang described the BDS movement as “rooted in antisemitic thought and history, hearkening back to fascist boycotts of Jewish businesses.” As Yang toured Yemeni businesses in Bay Ridge, Malik Hassan, an advocate of Palestinian rights, approached the candidate and asked him to “clarify” his comments on BDS, according to a video published on Twitter by Politico reporter Joe Anuta. “Saying that it is akin to fascist boycotts of Jewish businesses, that completely disappoints many Palestinian activists, many Arabs and many Muslims,” said Hassan, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America who has defended the militant Hamas movement. Yang, who seemed surprised by the confrontation, responded that he had “never made comments to that effect.” Hassan referred specifically to Yang’s essay in the Forward, in which the candidate promised that, if elected mayor, his administration would “push back against the BDS movement, which singles out Israel for unfair economic punishment,” and said that “strong ties with Israel are essential for a global city such as ours.” During the brief exchange, another person yells out, “You compared Palestinians to Nazis,” and then, “You compared Palestinians to Nazis.”

Top Guns or Mavericks? Israel’s Fighter Pilots Have Taken Control of U.S. Military Aid Budget,

“The first stage of the Israel Air Force’s new procurement plans was approved last week by the ministerial committee on defense spending. The ministers signed off on the purchase of another 25 Lockheed F-35 stealth fighters and four Boeing KC-46 refueling tankers. It’s only part of a larger $9.4 billion shopping list presented by the IAF, but the political paralysis and personal rivalry between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz meant it took long months to authorize this stage, and no one knows when the next stages will be approved. The purchase is being made from the United States’ $3.8 billion annual military aid (or foreign military sales) to Israel, which is actually just another form of U.S. government subsidy to the big American manufacturers. Israel can choose what to buy, and this latest decision is yet more proof of how the small group of Israeli fighter pilots who command the Israel Defense Forces have monopolized the military aid – not always to the benefit of Israel’s wider defense needs or its local economy.”

Antisemitism & the Weaponization of Antisemitism to Silence Criticism of Israel

‘Facebook, We Have to Talk’: On Distinguishing Anti-Semitism from Anti-Zionism in Public Spaces,

“In January 2021, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) announced a global campaign “Facebook, we need to talk” about the social media giant’s inquiry into whether criticism of the movement Zionism “falls within the rubric of hate speech as per Facebook’s Community Standards.” In its current form, the controversy centers around forcing universities, social media platforms, and other public spaces to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) standard which defines current anti-Semitism to include “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” and “applying double standards” to Israel, overall a definition that would essentially shut down any criticism of the Zionist state. According to Lara Friedman, the goal of Zionist groups who are pushing for this action “isn’t to get Facebook to deplatform antisemitism, but to get Facebook to deplatform criticism of Israel.””

CPAC, Headlined by Trump, Cancels Speaker Over Antisemitic Comments,

“CPAC, the annual conservative political conference, has canceled the appearance of a speaker who has made several derogatory comments about Jews on social media. Young Pharaoh, an online commentator and promoter of conspiracy theories, was set to speak on a panel at CPAC, which is being held in Florida at the end of the month. The conference is traditionally a gathering of leading Republican and conservative officials and figures, and will be headlined this year by former President Donald Trump. But Young Pharaoh has been removed from the program following a report by Media Matters, a liberal media watchdog, calling attention to Young Pharaoh’s antisemitic tweets. He has called Judaism a “complete lie,” referred to “thieving Jews” and said Israeli Jews commit pedophilia online.”