Occupation, Annexation, & Settlements
“On 23 June 2020, Ahmad Erekat, a 26-year-old Palestinian, was shot by Israeli occupation forces after his car crashed into a booth at the ‘Container’ checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. Working in collaboration with the Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq, Forensic Architecture’s Palestine Unit was asked by the Erekat family to examine the incident. Using 3D modeling, shadow analysis and open-source investigation, we established the circumstances of the crash of Ahmad’s car, the use of lethal force, the denial of medical aid that followed, and the degrading treatment of Ahmad’s body. Our analysis raises major questions about Ahmad’s killing that raise doubts in the Israeli army’s claims and call for further investigation.”
Forensic Architecture’s 18-minute video is available here.
“Israeli forces executed a 26-year-old Palestinian at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank last year, a report has alleged, challenging Israeli police claims that the man was a “terrorist” conducting an attack. Forensic Architecture, a British research body based at Goldsmiths, University of London, said it had conducted an analysis into the death of Ahmad Erekat, who was shot seconds after his car crashed into a booth and lightly wounded an Israeli border guard…However, Forensic Architecture said its investigation, which reconstructed the scene using available film, including security footage published by police, cast “significant doubt” on claims Erekat was involved in an attack, and suggested the crash may have been an accident. He was shot up to six times within seconds, it said, adding that Israeli forces offered no immediate medical aid, even while he was clearly alive. The killing amounted to an extrajudicial execution, it concluded.
Forensic Architecture is headed by Eyal Weizman, a British-Israeli professor at Goldsmiths. It has conducted several open-source investigations that use 3D modelling, including into the Beirut port explosion and US police brutality. This is the first investigation by the body’s Palestine Unit and was supported with documentation by the Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq.”
See also: “Ahmad Erekat: Killing of Palestinian by Israel was ‘extrajudicial execution‘” (Middle East Eye); “Killing of Palestinian man by Israel an ‘extrajudicial execution‘” (Al Jazeera)
“At the request of the Erekat family, Forensic Architecture, a research group that uses architectural techniques and technologies to investigate cases of state violence and human rights violations around the world, along with Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, tried to reconstruct Ahmad’s killing. Eight months after he was gunned down, they have published a thorough visual investigation of the incident. Narrated by renowned political activist and thinker Angela Davis, the investigation found that Erekat was shot despite not posing a threat to the security forces standing at the checkpoint. It also found that he did not receive medical treatment after he was shot — despite footage showing that he was still alive. The investigation further found that Erekat’s body, which was left on the ground for approximately an hour and a half, was stripped naked before being taken away. The body was never returned to the family, and remains under Israeli custody to this day.
The investigation cross-checked the security camera footage with videos recorded by Palestinian drivers who were at the checkpoint, as well as media outlets that arrived after the shooting. With the help of the footage and testimonies, the researchers built a 3D model of a checkpoint and used shadowing and open-source investigation to reconstruct a timetable of the events.”
“”Open-Fire Policy”…Armed officers in protective gear used live fire inside a crowded residential neighborhood, shooting bystanders and residents and injuring five people. Such shooting is also unjustifiable. In this case, as in hundreds of others, no one will be held accountable for the violence meted on the family or the wanton shooting — neither those who committed the acts nor the various officials up the chain of command or the legal advisors who sign off on such operations time and again.”
“A Palestinian shepherd and his sister were detained today by Israeli occupation forces and settlers while herding their sheep in open pastures in the south of the occupied West Bank, according to a local official. Ahmad Ghazal, deputy head of Kisan village council, told WAFA that settlers, backed by soldiers, detained the shepherd and his sister while attending to their sheep in open pastures east of Kisan village, east of Bethlehem.”
Also from WAFA:
“The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Palestinian Territories (OCHA) has reported that the Israeli occupation authorities demolished 89 Palestinian-owned structures in the past two weeks. The pretext was the lack of building permits. At least 146 people have been displaced by the demolitions, including 83 children. Around 330 others are affected by the destruction of the buildings.”
“An Israeli man said Wednesday that a Palestinian attempted to stab him near the Yizhar Junction in the West Bank, without injuring him. The Israeli military has launched an investigation into the incident and a search for the suspect is underway.”
“The sloth of the European Union has once again been revealed in all its shame. The EU is good at giving the Palestinians charity and preaching about the rule of law. It fails politically when it comes to stopping Israel’s plans to concentrate the Palestinians into reservations in the West Bank and clear most of the land for Jews….Israel’s reservations plan is known and is contrary to Europe’s official policy, and over the past decade it has been expedited openly and shamelessly. The European failure to stop it has nothing to do with the coronavirus crisis, some internal weakness or disagreements between Hungary and France. It testifies to the fundamental apathy of Europe, whose 19th-century colonialism is alive and kicking in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. After all, the Palestinians’ international position, unlike Israel’s, is very weak; they have no superpower or great economic force with teeth standing behind them.”
“Israeli navy Wednesday morning attacked Palestinian fishing boats sailing offshore the city of Gaza, WAFA correspondent reported. He said that the Israeli navy opened fire and water hoses at Palestinian fishing boats sailing within six nautical miles offshore Gaza city, causing damages to the boats. The fishermen had to leave the water and abruptly end their fishing mission, which is their sole source of livelihood.”
See also “IDF says neutralized ‘potential threat’ to Navy ships near Gaza” (i24)
“The Israeli occupation authorities today leveled a large area of land in the Palestinian town of Abu Dis, southeast of occupied Jerusalem, in an effort to expand an illegal settlement, according to Bassam Bahar, head of the Committee for the Defense of Abu Dis Lands. He told WAFA that the land, estimated at 1500 dunums (1.5 square kilometers), is located near the illegal Kedar settlement, built on land belonging to residents of Abu Dis. He said that the occupation authorities prevent the landowners from working in it or reclaiming it since it falls within the Israeli settlement plan known as E1.”
“Generations of Jews have dropped spare change into the iconic blue boxes of the Jewish National Fund, a 120-year-old Zionist organization that acquires land, plants trees and carries out development projects in the Holy Land. But the Israeli group, known by its Hebrew acronym KKL, is now considering formally expanding its activities into the occupied West Bank. That has sparked fierce opposition from left-leaning Jewish groups in the United States, deepening a rift with the increasingly right-wing Israeli government. 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….“This has happened before and so this isn’t a sea change,” Peace Now spokesman Brian Reeves said. “But this would be the first time that they are officially endorsing this in the open, the idea of purchasing land in the West Bank, and essentially saying ‘we don’t agree with international law, or that there’s occupation, or that the two-state solution matters.’””
“Members of the Progressive Israel Network join the broad chorus of American Jews dismayed by the recommendation of Israel’s JNF-KKL’s Executive Board to bring the organization into lock step with Israel’s expansionist settler right…The vast majority of American Jews who we represent want to be part of building and supporting an Israel that respects its neighbors, upholds democracy and seeks peace. Buying land to expand West Bank settlements is antithetical to Israel’s future as a democracy, entrenches occupation, and makes all who live there — Israelis and Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line — far less safe. We call on the full JNF-KKL board in Israel to reject this move unequivocally and commit to the values of democracy and equality.
The network members signed on to this statement are Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, Habonim Dror North America, Hashomer Hatzair USA, Jewish Labor Committee, J Street, The New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel, and T’ruah.”
See also “Palestinian dispossession has literally been the JNF’s policy since before the state of Israel was founded,” and this Twitter thread on “Nakba denialism,” by Jewish Currents Assistant Editor Joshua Leifer.
“Prosecutors filed an indictment o Tuesday against a 17-year-old Israeli settler who is accused of throwing stun grenades into Palestinian homes in the West Bank, as well as causing damage to their property….The unnamed defendant was indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit a crime for racist motives, aggravated battery, carrying a weapon, attempted destruction of property using explosives, deliberate damage to a vehicle as well as other crimes, the Israel Police said in a statement.”
“Three Palestinian minors were indicted on Monday for the manufacturing and throwing of pipe bombs with the intention to harm Jewish settlers in the West Bank town of Beit El, according to Israel Police. No one was harmed by their actions.”
“According to the indictment, the defendant and seven others arrived in the early morning hours at the Palestinian village of Sarta in the northern West Bank, all wearing face masks and armed with stun grenades, large stones, and a sharp instrument. The group threw the stun grenades into two homes as Palestinian families slept inside, hurled stones at four others and vandalized three vehicles – breaking their windshields and puncturing their tires.”
“On Tuesday, the governments of the Czech Republic and Honduras confirmed that Israel had promised them each 5,000 vaccine doses manufactured by Moderna. The Israeli news media reported that Hungary and Guatemala would be sent a similar number, but the Hungarian and Israeli governments declined to comment, while the Guatemalan government did not respond to a request for comment. The donations are the latest example of a new expression of soft power: vaccine diplomacy, in which countries rich in vaccines seek to reward or sway those that have little access to them.
The vaccines allocated on Tuesday were given without conditions, but they tacitly reward recent gestures from the receiving countries that implicitly accept Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, which both Israelis and Palestinians consider their capital. Guatemala has moved its embassy to Jerusalem, while Honduras has pledged to do so. Hungary has set up a trade mission in Jerusalem, while the Czech Republic has promised to open a diplomatic office there.”
“The number of countries Israel is planning to send surplus COVID-19 vaccinations in exchange for diplomatic support has risen to 19, according to Hebrew media sources on Wednesday. Nearly 100,000 doses in total are expected to be shipped outside of Israel, which were obtained earlier in the year by American biotechnology company Moderna, Israel’s public broadcaster Kan News reported.”
“Health Minister Mai Alkaila today urged the United Nations (UN) to help step up the provision of Covid-19 vaccines to the occupied Palestinian territories….She briefed Hastings on the Covid-19 vaccination plan and the government’s efforts to secure vaccine doses from various sources as she urged international organizations to help expedite the provision of the vaccine to Palestine.”
“The European Union (EU) has expressed readiness to provide Palestine with 20 million euros to purchase corona vaccines, today said EU spokesman in Jerusalem Shadi Othman. He told WAFA that the EU declared in the virtual meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee of donor countries held yesterday that it is willing to support Palestine with 20 million euros to buy the vaccines.
The first batch of 20,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines, a donation of the United Arab Emirates, has arrived in the Gaza Strip this week, barely enough to inoculate one percent of its population, while the West Bank is still awaiting its share of the vaccine, which will be either purchased by the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority government or donated through COVAX.”
“Hundreds of people were vaccinated against the coronavirus Monday at a vaccination center set up by Israeli Emergency Responders, or Magen David Adom, at the Qalandiyah checkpoint to enable East Jerusalem residents who cannot enter Israel to get the shot….The center’s opening is part of a broad vaccination campaign MDA is conducting in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem in an effort to curb the worrisome rate of infection there….On Monday, 31 percent of the coronavirus tests from the Arab neighborhoods were positive, while on Tuesday it was 27 percent….Moreover, the vaccination rate in East Jerusalem is significantly lower than in the western part of the city: Only 27 percent of East Jerusalem residents have gotten the first shot, as compared to 57 percent of the city generally, while only 12 percent have received the second dose, compared to 37 percent of the city generally.”
“Israel keeps sending mixed signals on vaccinating Palestinians. There have been positive signs as the country advances on vaccinating the 120,000 West Bank residents who work in Israel. It has also offered some vaccine doses to the Palestinian Authority to vaccinate health workers. However, there is still no comprehensive policy on the matter.”
“Seeing to the vaccination of the entire Palestinian population needs to be a top priority for Israel.”
“Senior Israeli scientists, doctors and academics have wrote letters urging the CEO of Pfizer, the manufacturer of the main coronavirus vaccine used in Israel, to postpone his visit to Israel due to fears that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will exploit his arrival for his campaign ahead of the country’s March 23 election. Albert Bourla is scheduled to arrive in Israel on March 8 at the invitation of Netanyahu.”
“Dozens of Palestinian refugees protested outside the headquarters of the United Nations agency for refugees in the southern Gaza governorate of Khan Younis on Sunday, to express their rejection of the ongoing cuts to the agency’s services and of its recent decision to implement a unified food basket system for all beneficiaries in the costal enclave.”
“Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh today valued Qatar’s pledge to provide $60 million to extend gas pipelines inside Israel to reach the Gaza Strip, and the European Union (EU) to provide €20 million for the extension of the pipelines inside the Gaza Strip….The Prime Minister stressed the importance of this project which aims to transport gas from Israel to the power generation station in the Gaza Strip in order to provide higher and uninterrupted electrical current in a move that would solve the electricity problem in Gaza.”
“The Palestine delegation and the Council of Arab Ambassadors to the United Nations are continuing in their meetings and contacts with the members of the International Quartet, the Security Council, and countries of influence, as was asked of them in the emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers, with the aim of re-activating the Quartet and opening horizons for a feasible political process based on the initiative of President Mahmoud Abbas to hold an international peace conference, today said Riyad Mansour, Palestine’s Permanent Representative to the international organization.”
“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….
Still, regardless of his reasons and their motives, the idea of a long-serving Palestinian political prisoner being elected president is a definite game-changer for Palestine and Israel. Symbolically, nothing represents the bitter Palestinian reality under occupation more than the thousands of political prisoners languishing in Israeli jails. And nothing personifies the struggle for liberty more than the likes of Barghouti, who spent much of his adult life in an Israeli jail or in exile, including the past 19 years.”
“Qudwa, who spent many years at the United Nations representing Palestine and had a run as a UN peace envoy to Syria, appears set to lead an alternative Palestinian nationalist list to the upcoming elections in direct defiance of and some say threats from Abbas not to run outside the official list. Speaking at a virtual conference organized by Bir Zeit University Feb. 19 on US President Joe Biden’s foreign policy, Qudwa said elections require much more preparation and deeper dialogue with other national forces, business leaders, civil society and other active forces in Palestinian society. He dismissed any cooperation with Mohammed Dahlan.
While Qudwa has linked his political future with the imprisoned Barghouti, he appears to have opposed his reluctance to participate in the legislative elections. “We are fully with Marwan, but he needs to take a position in this political dialogue (meaning the legislative elections), and he can’t escape responsibility by saying leave me for the presidential run.” Qudwa continued, “If he wants to run for president, we are with him. But he needs to be part of this process.””
“A Hamas-backed court in Gaza has backtracked on its decision requiring women to get permission from a male “guardian” to travel abroad after widespread criticism, yet rights advocates say the changes do not go far enough….According to the amended decision, a male guardian may submit a claim to the judicial authorities if he feels “grave harm” will be done should the woman under his tutelage travel outside the country. The decision to allow the woman to travel or not will be determined by the competent judge, according to the amendments.”
“Labor candidate Ibtisam Mara’ana, banned by a Knesset panel from running in the election over controversial remarks she had made in the past about Memorial Day, along with other comments some have called anti-Zionist, again apologized at a Supreme Court hearing on her candidacy on Wednesday. The court’s decision is expected at the start of next week. “Absolutely, unequivocally I apologize for anything that could have sounded racist and inciting or offensive,” Mara’ana said. “I was born to be a bridge between the peoples. I am married to a Jew and our daughter is 100 percent Jewish, and 100 percent Arab.”
“On Wednesday Israel’s High Court is hearing a petition to disqualify Ibtisam Mara’ana, number 7 on the Labor slate, for controversial comments she made on social media and in interviews. An extended nine-judge panel headed by Supreme Court President Esther Hayut is hearing the petition. The court is expected to present its ruling on Sunday. Last week, the Central Election Committee voted to disqualify Mara’ana following a petition filed by Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit, a right-wing party led by followers of racist Rabbi Meir Kahane.”
“The question: Is Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir, now running for Knesset as part of the Religious Zionism slate, a “full-blown Kahanist,” or something less extreme?…
Ben Gvir is third on the Religious Zionism slate. If the party enters the Knesset, as polls show it doing, he’ll be guaranteed a spot, and with it a platform to push his policy proposals, which include encouraging emigration of non-Jews from Israel, and expelling Palestinians and Arab Israelis who refuse to declare loyalty and to accept sub-equal status in an expanded Jewish state whose sovereignty extends throughout the West Bank — the biblical Judea and Samaria….
In Ben Gvir’s own words, in carefully prepared comments available online in video (link is to the video posted as a response to Liebskind), he insists passionately, repeatedly, and not so very long ago, that his Otzma Yehudit movement is emphatically the reincarnation of the Kahanist movement that so offends Liebskind and so embarrasses present-day Likud leaders. That’s not a cherry-picked example. Ben Gvir routinely — and recently — has praised Kahane and insisted he follows in his footsteps.”
“The ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties signed on to Netanyahu’s loyalty pledge on Tuesday, agreeing that they will not independently join a government led by any party other than Likud after the March 23 election. The document was supposed to be signed by Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism party, but the leader of the far-right faction announced that he had refused to do so, saying such pacts had not proven effective in producing right-wing governments.”
“Naftali Bennett, the leader of the right-wing Yamina party, said Wednesday that he will not join a government led by Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid….Bennett further said that “Netanyahu can only be replaced with someone from the right, since the majority of the country is right-wing. It doesn’t make sense for there to be a prime minister from the left. The choice at the ballot box in the end will be between Netanyahu or me.””
“In a landmark interview, the likely election kingmaker sets out hawkish policies but an inclusive Jewish philosophy; assures voters: Israel thrived before Bibi, will soar after him.”
“From the perspective of the Israeli security establishment, it would have been better if the scheduled Palestinian elections would not take place at all….“The elections pose for Israel more risks than opportunities,” says Colonel Michael Milshtein, who headed the Palestinian branch in the research department of Israeli Military Intelligence, known by its Hebrew acronym as Aman.”
“Over 20 former senior Israeli military and intelligence officials voiced their support for the US’ return to the Iran nuclear deal, local media reported yesterday. In a letter sent to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Defence Minister Benny Gantz, former deputy Chief of Staff of the Israeli army Matan Vilnai, former Mossad Chief Tamir Pardo, former Israeli Army General Nitzan Alon, former National Security Adviser Uzi Arad and many others said: “We welcome the American initiative to bring Iran into compliance… with the nuclear deal, provided that it also requires Iran to fully comply with its obligations under UN Security Council resolution 2231 on the development of missiles and the IAEA inspections agreements.” They called for a “new, long-term agreement that will address the loopholes and weaknesses discovered in the previous deal.” Meanwhile, the Times of Israel reported officials and security experts Omer Barlev and Yair Golan saying that the deal with Iran was good for Israel, even if everyone else refuses to say so. The Israeli daily described them as two of the top security experts in politics.”
The American Scene & the Biden Administration
“The United States plans to run for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday as he decried the 47-member body‘s bias against Israel and called for its Agenda Item 7 to be abolished….He lauded the UNHRC for its important work in highlighting global human rights abuses, but chastised it for its treatment of Israel. “We urge the Human Rights Council to look at how it conducts its business. That includes its disproportionate focus on Israel,” Blinken said. “We need to eliminate Agenda Item 7 and treat the human rights situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories the same way as this body handles any other country,” he said.”
See also “U.S. Aims to Return to Human Rights Council, Shield Israel from ‘Disproportionate Focus‘” (Haaretz)
“U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Israeli counterpart on Monday that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was best for the future of Israel, the U.S. State Department said. Blinken, in a call with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, “emphasized the Biden administration’s belief that the two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable and democratic Palestinian state,” the State Department said.”
“As American officials plan steps to restore direct ties with the Palestinian leadership, Biden’s national security team is taking steps to restore relations that had been severed while Trump pursued a Mideast policy focused largely around Israel, America’s closest partner in the region….The State Department said Tuesday that a U.S. delegation attended a meeting of a Norwegian-run committee that serves as a clearinghouse for assistance to the Palestinians. Although little-known outside foreign policy circles, the so-called Ad Hoc Liaison Committee has been influential in the peace process since Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords in 1993.”
“A coalition of influential Jewish American groups seeking peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians wants President Joe Biden to revoke a planned Trump administration policy that treats occupied territory crucial to a future Palestinian state as already part of Israel….Weeks before Trump left office, he directed the Department of Homeland Security to adopt new labels for products made in the section of the West Bank that is under full Israeli control. That segment, known as Area C, forms the majority of the disputed region and hosts Israeli settlements widely viewed as violating international law. The agency is currently set to enforce a March 23 deadline for companies to tag products from the area with language along the lines of “Made in Israel” ― including goods made by Palestinians….The groups that signed the letter were J Street, the New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel, Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.”
“In 2019, when Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit party was running for the Knesset as part of a coalition with other far-right parties, AIPAC tweeted that it viewed Otzma Yehudit as “racist and reprehensible,” and noted AIPAC’s longstanding policy of refusing to meet with the group. It associated itself with a similar statement by the American Jewish Committee. This time around, however, both groups have refrained from critical comments, as have most other American Jewish organizations and leaders.”
“For decades, Israel has faced no consequences for its human rights violations in Palestine. A new International Criminal Court ruling could change that.”