Top News from Israel & Palestine: February 25, 2021

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Settlements, Annexation

East Jerusalem Home Demolished After Shin Bet Agent Threatens Resident,

“The Jerusalem municipality demolished on Monday a house in the Palestinian neighborhood of Isawiyah, six months after an official at the Shin Bet security service threatened a local man who works for the Islamic trust that manages Muslim sites in the city, also known as the Waqf. The Shin Bet coordinator told the Waqf employee that he was making trouble, and that ‘there’s a 90 percent chance that your house will be demolished.’”

New report by Israeli NGOs evaluates impact of military invasions of Palestinian homes on families’ mental health,

“It happens nearly every night. Without warning, without a search warrant, without a court order. While you are sleeping peacefully, a Palestinian family is woken up abruptly. ‘Their children are gathered in a room, afraid, trying to understand why they were suddenly yanked out of bed by masked soldiers who are now standing in the middle of their living room, photographing them, opening their drawers, speaking to them in broken Arabic. When the soldiers leave the house, they leave behind much more than a mess in the living room. The Palestinian family is left with trauma: with fear of what the next night will bring, children who wet their beds, and a feeling of being unsafe in their own home, of a loss of control. Every such invasion shatters the most basic premise of being a parent – the knowledge that they can protect their children.’ With these words, three Israeli NGOs start the narration of their new report: A Life Exposed: Military invasions of Palestinian homes in the West Bank. This report is the product of a joint project launched by Yesh Din, Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI) and Breaking the Silence in 2018. It presents the practice of raiding Palestinian homes in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) and its impacts.”

Murky West Bank ‘terror attack’ leaves Palestinian family grasping for answers,

“Based on settler testimony, Israel deemed a deadly altercation at an illegal outpost terror. But what led Khaled Nofal, unarmed, up a West Bank hilltop in the pre-dawn darkness?”

Israeli Charged in Attack on Palestinian Town During Protests Over Settler's Death,

“An Israeli settler was indicted Tuesday for his alleged involvement in an attack on a West Bank Palestinian village last month in which homes and cars were hit with stones and stun grenades, injuring one village resident.”

Israel Is Recreating the Nakba, Without Putting People on Trucks,

“They’re closing in from all sides: the Jewish settlements on the Arab towns. Ariel, Revava, Kiryat Netafim, Barkan, Bruchin, Alei Zahav, Leshem, Yakir, Peduel, and Beit Arieh are spreading, approaching, and suffocating with fences and roads sown with roadblocks the city of Salfit and the towns of Kifl Haris, Haris, Brukin, Kfar al-Dik, Deir Balut and Deir Istiya. The vast municipal areas of the Jewish settlements , which were intended for their expansion, touch the Arab towns’ orchards and reach their houses. Some let their sewage flow into the villages, some have taken over springs and residents’ reservoirs and turned them into wading pools. Some sic their teenagers on farmers, to cut down and uproot their trees, to threaten, intimidate and destroy. Israeli soldiers are aggressively doing the same. Bulldozers escorted by soldiers recently uprooted thousands of olive trees in Deir Balut and hundreds in Haris, and eviction orders are pending. …This is how the Nakba is being recreated in the West Bank, and not just there. From the southern Hebron Hills, Jordan Valley, Hebron, Bethlehem, Tul Karm through to Jenin; From Susya, Mevo’ot Yeriho, Efrat and Betar Ilit, Ariel and to Karnei Shomron, Hinanit and Shaked: Freedom, development and rule for the Jews only. This is the duplicitous way of the present Nakba: there is no need to put people on trucks or expel refugees in convoys. Aerial photographs of the authority called “the Civil Administration” already shows its presence well. The lands expropriated from non-Jewish presence are clearly marked on it; and on the ground, it advances in large steps toward ripping apart of the fabric of the life of millions of the Palestinian Arabs living here for generations.”

Humanitarian Coordinator calls on Israel to halt all demolitions of Palestinian homes and possessions,

“The Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Lynn Hastings, today called on Israel to halt all demolitions of Palestinian homes and possessions and to allow the humanitarian community to provide shelter, food and water to the vulnerable Palestinian communities living in Area C of the occupied West Bank, which is under Israeli military control. Hastings’ statement came a day after visiting the community of Humsa al-Baqaia, in the northern Jordan Valley, where the homes and belongings of the families living there were either demolished or seized by Israel five times in the last month in an effort to drive them out of their homes and lands. Tents, food, water tanks and fodder for the community’s livestock have all been confiscated despite repeated calls by the international community for these actions to stop in accordance with international law, said Hastings.”


West Bank enters 3rd wave with surging infections, no mass vaccination in sight,

“West Bank Palestinians are seeing a dramatic rise in coronavirus infections that amounts to a third coronavirus wave in the area, Palestinian Authority health officials said on Wednesday… After weeks of relative stability, coronavirus cases are surging in the West Bank. Nearly 2,000 infections were recorded on Monday, with 1,307 infected by Wednesday at noon.”

Bernie Sanders slams Israel for not sending COVID vaccines to Palestinians,

“US Sen. Bernie Sanders criticized the Israeli government for sending COVID-19 vaccines to foreign allies before sending them to Palestinians. Sanders was responding to a New York Times tweet stating that ‘Israel’s vaccine donations to faraway countries have angered Palestinians who say Israel is responsible for the well-being of Palestinians in the occupied territories, where vaccines are scarce.’”

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For Israel’s allies, road to vaccines runs through Jerusalem,

“When it comes to obtaining hard-to-get coronavirus vaccines, Israel’s friends are discovering the road appears to run through Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday acknowledged sharing coronavirus vaccines with a number of friendly countries that have given favors to Israel in the past. Although he did not identify the countries, a list obtained by an Israeli TV station suggested that a number of them have supported Israel’s claim to the contested city of Jerusalem as its capital. The comments came at a time when Israel faces international criticism for not doing more to share its vast stockpile of vaccines with the Palestinians. They also illustrated how at a time of global shortages, the vaccine has become an asset that can be used for diplomatic gain.”

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US Politics/Policies

Scoop: Netanyahu asked Biden to keep Trump's sanctions on International Criminal Court,

“Netanyahu asked Biden in their first phone call last week to keep sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on the International Criminal Court (ICC) in place, Israeli officials tell me…The state of play: Israeli diplomats have made the case to their U.S. counterparts that even if the administration disagrees with the sanctions, it should keep them in place as leverage to persuade Bensouda and her successor not to pursue the investigations into Afghanistan or the West Bank and Gaza.”

Netanyahu hails Congress as 'bastion' of Israel support after phone call with Pelosi,

“Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed on Thursday the US Congress as ‘a bastion of support for the unbreakable alliance between the United States and Israel.’ The remarks came after a phone call with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, where the two discussed ‘common challenges and opportunities,’ Netanyahu said. Pelosi, for her part, said she reaffirmed ‘the unbreakable bond between our nations and Congress’s unwavering support for a safe and secure Israel’ in the phone call with Netanyahu. She also reiterated the US support for a ‘just, stable and enduring two-state solution” between Israel and Palestinians and said the two discussed COVID-19 coronavirus.’

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Top US lawmaker links Palestinians to antisemitism and hate crimes,

“Congressman Gregory Meeks, a key Democrat, linked Palestinians to the rise of global bigotry, and said he would address the rise of racism and hate crimes when he talks to Palestinian leaders. Meeks, who serves as the chair of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, lavished praise on Israel at a Brookings Institution virtual conference on Wednesday, and vowed to bolster America’s “social, economic and political ties” with its Middle Eastern ally. ‘I know how important Israel is to us as a partner, and I am committed to that partnership,’ Meeks said. When addressing a question about resuming humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, Meeks spoke vaguely about providing assistance to those who need it and instead highlighted his strong support for Israel and the need to combat antisemitism. ‘I also need to state that I want to make sure that when I talk to Palestinians – when I get a chance to it, I believe that we will – that I’m going to serve as a strong voice against antisemitism, which has been rising along with racism around the world and hate crimes,’ Meeks added.” Also see: Top Democratic Lawmaker: I’m Against Annexation, but U.S. Aid to Israel Is Nonnegotiable (Haaretz)

US renews funding pledge to Palestinians, as PA economy shrinks by 11.5%,

“The US has pledged to renew financial assistance to the Palestinians at an international donor meeting that grappled with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the fragile Palestinian economy…Hady Amr, deputy assistant secretary for Israeli and Palestinian affairs in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs within the US State Department, renewed that pledge at the meeting, with State Department spokesman Ned Price issuing a statement to that effect after the gathering…’The United States underscored the commitment to supporting economic and humanitarian assistance and the need to see progress on outstanding projects that will improve the lives of the Palestinian people, while urging all parties to avoid unilateral steps that make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve,’ Price said. But he did not pledge any money, nor did he set a date for when US financial assistance to the PA would be resumed.”

Liberal US Jewish groups urge Biden to reverse Trump settlement label policy,

“A group of six prominent progressive Jewish groups in the US called on the Biden administration to revoke a last-minute directive from the previous White House that requires all US exports from West Bank settlements to be labeled as ‘made in Israel.’ ‘We believe the [policy] is inconsistent with current US policy on the status of the occupied territories, requires inaccurate and misleading labeling on the origin of products, and is harmful to essential interests of Israelis and Palestinians alike,’ the groups said in a letter Tuesday to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, whose office is charged with implementing the policy. The groups that signed on to the letter were Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, J Street, New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.”

US says to seek place on UN Human Rights Council,

“The US will seek a place on the 47-strong UN Human Rights Council next year, the country’s secretary of state said Wednesday as he urged the council to examine how it conducts its business, including a ‘disproportionate focus on Israel.’ Antony Blinken said in a virtual address to the 46th session of the council that the US is placing democracy and human rights at the center of its foreign policy because they are essential for peace and stability.”

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Gaza Strip

Gaza: Hamas releases 45 Fatah prisoners,

“The Hamas-run Interior Ministry in Gaza released 45 prisoners affiliated with rival Palestinian faction Fatah on Thursday. In a statement, it said the released prisoners were arrested over security issues that harmed resistance groups in Gaza, adding their arrests were not politically motivated. The ministry added the move was part of efforts to improve the atmosphere ahead of the upcoming Palestinian general elections. Earlier this week, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh asked the Hamas group to release more than 80 “political prisoners” held in Gaza prisons.”

Qatar pledges $60 million, European Union €20 million for Gaza’s gas pipelines,

“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.”

Israeli Scene

Reports: Israel, Saudi officials discuss Biden's plans to rejoin Iran nuclear deal,

“Senior officials from Israel and Saudi Arabia have recently held a series of calls to discuss US President Joe Biden’s administration’s plans to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, Israeli media outlets reported. Israeli Broadcasting Corporation Kan reported on Tuesday that the Saudis expressed their concerns about the new American administration’s stance on human rights issues in the kingdom.” Also see: Bahrain: crown prince calls Israel PM on Iran nuclear talks (Associated Press)

Secretive Israeli nuclear facility undergoes major project,

“A secretive Israeli nuclear facility at the center of the nation’s undeclared atomic weapons program is undergoing what appears to be its biggest construction project in decades, satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press show…The construction comes as Israel — under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — maintains its scathing criticism of Iran’s nuclear program, which remains under the watch of United Nations inspectors unlike its own. That has renewed calls among experts for Israel to publicly declare details of its program.” Also see: Soccer field-sized and stories deep: Israel expands Dimona nuclear facility (Times of Israel)

Joining Bennett, Sa’ar says Lapid won’t be prime minister,

“New Hope party leader Gideon Sa’ar said Wednesday there would not be a government led by centrist Yesh Atid party head Yair Lapid, hours after Yamina party chief Naftali Bennett said he’d never serve under Lapid. ‘The camp on the left is a small camp in the public and in the Knesset. Most people are right of center, so it’s not possible to have a government headed by Lapid. It’s just not possible politically. Everyone who understands the political system knows this,’ Sa’ar said during a tour of communities in the south.” Also see: Bennett: I won’t join gov’t led by Lapid; Netanyahu: He’s in Purim costume (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli watchdog calls out Netanyahu’s bid to gain Palestinian support in elections,

“An Israeli watchdog on Wednesday called for a criminal investigation into contacts made by a Likud member with Palestinian Authority (PA) figures to ‘quietly’ endorse Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the upcoming March elections. The Hebrew newspaper Yediot Ahronot revealed that Fateen Mulla, a deputy minister in the prime minister’s office, had spoken with officials in the PA to drum up support for Netanyantu among Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up 20 percent of the country’s population. On Wednesday, the Movement for Quality Government in Israel watchdog wrote to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai urging them to investigate Mulla, an Israeli Druze politician, ‘on suspicion of using public property to coordinate foreign interference in the Knesset elections’.”

Disillusioned Voters Might Skip the Polls, and Arab Parties Face Uncertain Future After Israel's Election,

“Experts and pollsters are finding it hard to project the rate of Arab voter participation in Israel’s March 23 election. Polls have thus far indicate that the Israeli Arab voter turnout may fall below 60 percent and possibly as low as 52 percent, down from nearly 65 percent in the last election and 59 percent in the previous one.”

Palestinian Scene

Hamas criticises PA's 'monopoly' of Palestine decisions,

“Hamas yesterday criticised the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s ‘monopoly’ over Palestinian decisions, spokesman Hazem Qassem said. Taking to Twitter, Qassem wrote: ‘It is a shame that the PA and Fatah officials in Ramallah are selling the delusion to the Palestinian people that they are running a state. ’Adding that the PA has failed to achieve any of the national aspiration of the Palestinian people ‘Rather, it entrenched political and geographical division and is seeking a compromise with the Israeli occupation,’ Qassem continued.”

Palestinian Christians to get at least 7 seats in legislative elections,

“President Mahmoud Abbas issues a decree to allocate at least seven seats in the next Palestinian Legislative Council to Christian citizens in a move that recognizes the importance of Palestine’s dwindling Christian community.”

Elections can’t fix the Palestinian Authority ,

“The PA has spent years demobilizing Palestinian society and entrenching its repressive rule. The damage it caused will not be overcome at the ballot box.”

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

Criticism of Zionism is not anti-semitic, Facebook should make the distinction,

“…The effort underway today to collapse criticism of Israel, or even passionate opposition to Zionism, with anti-semitism is an attempt to portray support for Palestinian rights as an attack on Jews, and to paint it with the same brush as we do far-right anti-semitism…”

Cornel West: Palestine is a 'taboo issue among certain circles in high places',

“US activist and philosopher Cornel West said he is confident that it is his criticism of Israel cost him tenure at Harvard. The Harvard Divinity School professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy, who announced late last week that he might leave the university after being denied academic tenure, claimed he was being punished for his views on Israel’s occupation of Palestine. ‘This is my hypothesis, because given the possibilities of why they would not be even interested in initiating a tenure process, what else it could be? And I asked them. And I didn’t receive a reply,’ 67-year-old West, who holds a joint appointment in the Department of African and African-American Studies, said in an interview on the TightRope podcast aired on Tuesday. ‘The problem is that [talking about the Israeli occupation of Palestine] is a taboo issue among certain circles in high places. It is hard to have a robust, respectful conversation about the Israeli occupation because you are immediately viewed as an anti-Jewish hater or [having] anti-Jewish prejudices. We’ve got a whole wave of Jewish comrades, Jewish brothers and sisters, who are critical of the Israeli-occupation, but not in high places,’ West said.”