FMEP’s weekly report on Israeli settlement activity and annexation policies in the West Bank
- Tender for Givat Hamatos Settlement Construction Delayed
- Israel Expected to Advance Plans for (At Least) 684 Settlement Units, Grant Retroactive Approval to Outposts
- Netanyahu Promises to Boost Funds for “Sovereignty Road”
- Settlers Escalate Campaign for Outposts Legalization
- Israel Sets Up New Hotline to Assist Settler Surveillance of Palestinian Construction in Area C
- Key Quotes from U.S. Amb. Friedman on His Way Out the Door
- Bonus Reads
In this episode of “Occupied Thoughts,” host Peter Beinart is joined by Palestinian human rights lawyer Jonathan Kuttab, who recently published the book “Beyond the Two State Solution” (available at no cost via the Nonviolence International website). Kuttab argues that a Palestinian state with no sovereignty or substance cannot deliver freedom or independence and it is time to look beyond the “false mirage of the Two State Solution.” He lays out in detail how a single, shared Palestinian and Jewish state would be structured – from roles in the military to language learning in schools – and how it answers the urgent needs for justice, equality, and security.
“Several Palestinian and international protesters sustained injuries today as Israeli occupation forces attacked weekly protests against Israeli colonial settlements in the West Bank districts of Hebron and Qalqilia, according to local sources and witnesses. In Hebron Governorate, south of the West Bank, Israeli occupation soldiers quelled with teargas a nonviolent march organized by hundreds of Palestinian protesters and international solidarity activists in Masafer Yatta locality, injuring at least one woman protester with a gas canister in her foot and detaining an elderly man. Other protesters were even beaten up by the soldiers, while sustained suffocation from gas inhalation. The protest was organized in support of the local Palestinian Bedouin communities against a recent surge in Israeli army and settler attacks, as well as in protest of Israeli threats to confiscate large tracts of Palestinian land in the area in favor of the nearby Israeli settlements.”
“Israeli occupation forces today sealed off At-Tuwani locality, south of the southern West Bank city of Hebron, according to a local activist. Coordinator of the Protection and Steadfastness Committees in Masafer Yatta Fouad al-‘Amour said that Israeli troops set up barriers at all roads leading to the locality, preventing access into the locality. The Israeli army imposed the closure in an attempt to deny Palestinians from the surrounding villages and international solidarity activists access into the locality to take part in a rally against frequent army and settler attacks against Palestinians and their property in the area.”
See also: Palestinian Activist Detained Hours After Protest, Charged With Assaulting Israeli Soldier (Haaretz) [Sami Huraini, the activist detained, lives in the South Hebron Hills village of A-Tuwani.]
“For roughly one week, everything in the new school was going well. Then a notice arrived at Mahdi’s office from the civil administration of the Israeli army – Al-Maleh Elementary was set to be demolished on the pretext that it had been built on an archaeological area. With that, it became one of 44 schools across the occupied West Bank currently at risk of demolition….After they received the notice, teachers erected a billboard outside the school and attached it to the fence, displaying the name of its funders. The EU, Belgium and Denmark are all on there. Hanan and the other two teachers hope this might dissuade the army from razing it.”
See also: FMEP’s 1/11 webinar, “Raided and Razed: West Bank Education Under Attack“
“The Israeli police prevented on Friday the non-residents of the Old City in Jerusalem from reaching the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque to perform Friday prayer under the pretext of lockdown imposed by the Israeli government.”
“Prominent Jewish Israeli activist Rabbi Arik Ascherman crashed his car in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday after two of the vehicle’s wheels had been unbolted, suspected to have been carried out by Israeli settlers. The incident comes at the height of an escalation of settler attacks on Palestinians and solidarity activists in the occupied territories in recent weeks….No one was injured….
Although it remains unclear who sabotaged his vehicle, some settlers are celebrating the incident. “The traitor Arik Ascherman tried to create a provocation and found that someone played with the car’s wheels,” wrote one user in “The Struggle,” a Telegram group used by far-right settler activists and so-called “hilltop youth,” known for their violent attacks on Palestinians and the activists who come to assist them. With the exception of the pro-settler news site Arutz Sheva, which described the incident as an “attempted murder,” not a single media outlet reported on the incident.”
- “I Could Have Died When My Car was Sabotaged, but I also Taught Torah: Va’Era,” by Rabbi Arik Ascherman (TOI)
- FMEP’s note in the January 14, 2021 edition of What We’re Reading: “Note: These [settler] attacks continue to get little if any media coverage, but are being extensively documented on Twitter. See: Yesh Din’s Lior Amihai (Hebrew); Btselem’s Sarit Michaeli (English), Kerem Navot’s Dror Etkes (Hebrew); video here. Tweet from FMEP’s Lara Friedman: “Settler terror campaign against Palestinians continues, with Israeli govt apparently unable to do anything to stop them…which, given Israeli forces’ record of speedily finding/arresting Palestinians accused of attacks can only mean: unwilling to intervene to punish/stop them.””
““The very essence of apartheid was the physical separation – apartness – of people based on a legislated racial hierarchy,” the Kohelet Policy Forum, a conservative Israeli research institute, wrote in a response to the Btselem report. “There [are] no racial or ethnic distinctions in Israeli law.”
Naftali Bennett, a leading right-wing Israeli politician, called the report “lies” and tweeted that “Some of Israel’s finest judges, diplomats, police officers, and soldiers are not Jewish,” listing several of their names.”
“The International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) expressed on Thursday its condemnation and rejection of the “aggressive” Israeli Judaisation of the occupied city of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque, Anadolu has reported. The scholars called for the city and mosque to be protected in the face of such a “heinous crime”. The IUMS made its comments in the wake of local reports about the occupation state’s new excavations near the Buraq (“Wailing”) Wall in occupied Jerusalem. Such work, the union insists, is part of Israel’s efforts to Judaise the square in front of the wall adjacent to the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa….
On Wednesday, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned against “Israeli plans to divide Al-Aqsa Mosque spatially and remove the exclusive management of the holy site from the Islamic Awqaf [religious endowment] departments.” This followed an incursion by Israeli surveyors, protected by police officers, to survey all parts of Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
“The story of Israeli factories in the legally ambiguous West Bank industrial zones is one of economics and politics, and the coronavirus crisis has thrown its dynamics into stark relief as Palestinian laborers fight for the same salaries as their Israeli counterparts….The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that Israeli law applies to Palestinian laborers employed in Israel and in West Bank settlements….However, it does not apply to the Nitzanei Shalom industrial park, built in the 1990s, soon after the signing of the Oslo Accords, near the Palestinian city of Tulkarm and along the separation fence. The Yamit plant, which manufactures water filters for agriculture and home use, is located in this industrial zone and therefore not subject to the ruling or Israeli law in general….Negotiations with the factory began last year, but they dragged on for months because of the coronavirus. Finally, the factory’s owner Ofer Talmi informed them that he could not meet their demands because of the economic crisis resulting from COVID-19. But the workers refused to concede. On Dec. 31, 2020, they declared a strike.”
“UN human rights experts* today called on Israel, the occupying power, to ensure swift and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for the Palestinian people under occupation….According to the World Health Organization, more than 160,000 Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory have tested positive for the coronavirus since March 2020, with more than 1,700 deaths related to COVID-19. Infections and deaths have been rising steadily in recent weeks. The experts said that as the occupying power, Israel is required under the Fourth Geneva Convention, “to the fullest extent of the means available to it”, to maintain health services in the occupied territory.”
“Attorney General Avichai Mendeblit said on Friday that vaccination against the coronavirus should immediately be provided to prisoners, after asserting that Public Security Minister Amir Ohana’s order not to vaccinate them in tandem with the general population had no standing….The High Court is set to hear petitions on Tuesday against Ohana’s decision filed by several human rights organizations, prisoners and the Israel Bar Association….
Meanwhile, prisoners have complained that in addition to a lack of vaccines, they aren’t receiving basic medical treatment and the wardens aren’t taking reasonable precautions. One prisoner said the infections most likely originated with the wardens, who come and go from outside. “The wardens circulate among us without masks, and that’s it,” he said. “Living conditions are terrible. It’s crowded. This is a death trap.””
“Israel’s health minister announced Thursday the country would vaccinate Palestinian prisoners against COVID-19, after Israel’s president said withholding vaccines was against Israel’s Jewish and democratic values. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said the prisoners would be vaccinated early next week, on Monday or Tuesday. The minister informed NPR of the decision before making a public announcement.”
“Israel will administer COVID-19 vaccinations to prisoners starting next week, the health minister confirmed on Thursday, following a wave of criticism from human rights groups and Israel’s own president that failure to do so would violate the detainees’ basic rights.
Israel’s public security minister, Amir Ohana, had ordered the Israeli Prison Service not to vaccinate detainees, including Palestinian security prisoners. Ohana had called for vaccinations to be given only to prison guards. In a letter to Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin raised concerns that the directive ran counter to Israel’s “sacred Jewish and Democratic values.” Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday urged his rival, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to intervene, writing in an emergency appeal that “beyond being illegal, this move is also impeding national efforts to battle the coronavirus.” A spokesperson for Edelstein confirmed on Thursday that prisoners would be administered the vaccine beginning next week. The news came the same day the Palestinian Prisoner Society announced that seven more prisoners in southern Israel’s Rimon Prison had contracted the virus, raising the current number of cases in the facility to 30.”
“In private, Israeli officials admit that Israel will help the Palestinians with Israel’s own surplus vaccines, as soon as they’ve finished vaccinating most Israelis. If things were different, they might even have considered passing them vaccines earlier — but there’s that election on 23 March. As Netanyahu knows, it’s quite possible that Israeli will be protected by then. Vaccinations for Palestinians, justified or not, won’t win any votes.”
Normalization / Broader Middle East
“Chief of Staff of the Israel Defence Forces has asked officers to draw up a new plan to attack Iran’s nuclear programme, Israel Hayom reported on Thursday…Earlier on Wednesday, Likud minister Tzachi Hanegbi, an ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, threatened that Israel would attack Iran’s nuclear programme if the United States rejoins the JCPA. US President-elect Joe Biden has indicated that he intends to do so when he takes office.”
“Extensive airstrikes in Syria this week targeted warehouses storing spare parts for missiles, including medium-range warheads, according to a report in a Kuwaiti newspaper on Friday. The warehouses also housed parts for drones that had yet to be assembled and fuel for missiles, according to the reports. The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida quoted a source in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force as saying that the warehouses were totally destroyed in the strikes, which were attributed to Israel by foreign media. The report said the spare parts had been brought to the warehouses a few days before the strikes.”
“Syria has called on the UN Security Council to assume its responsibilities and take “strict and immediate” action against Israel’s repeated air strikes on its neighbour. “The Israeli aggression on Syria coincided with the terrorist acts committed by Al-Qasd militia fighters [Syrian Democratic Forces] against the Syrian people in eastern Syria,” said the foreign ministry in Damascus in its letter to the UN. “They are supported by the American administration and the international coalition forces.””
“Three fake journalists who seeded dozens of anti-Israel and anti-American stories on social media may have been part of an Iranian disinformation plot, a report said. A Daily Beast investigation published Tuesday identified three purported journalists as posting stories on social media that seemingly came from reputable news outlets but were fake. Other fake stories were posted by accounts impersonating real people. Some of the fake stories eventually made it to legitimate news sites.
Among the fake stories were an account of the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency visiting with U.S. troops in Iraq; a phony threat of a Yemen-based terrorist group attacking an Israeli peace initiative launched in Bahrain; and a conspiracy by Israel and the United Arab Emirates to win President Donald Trump a second term.”
Before the Biden Administration Begins...
“The last few weeks have seen a sharp build-up of American combat power in the Gulf. Already home to the formidable 5th Fleet – based in Bahrain – the US Navy recently sent a powerful Ohio-class submarine, the USS Georgia, escorted by two guided-missile cruisers – the USS Port Royal and USS Philippine Sea – through the Strait of Hormuz into the Gulf….The US’s regional allies have also been building up their forces. Israel sent a Dolphin attack submarine openly through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea with Egypt’s approval. Able to stay submerged for weeks, it is super-quiet and carries torpedoes as well as land attack and anti-ship missiles. Fighter jets from Saudi Arabia escorted US B-52s part of the way from the US in a public show of support. All this sends a clear message to Iran’s leadership that any reaction to the assassinations of its chief nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh or General Qassem Soleimani would not be tolerated.”
“President Trump has ordered that the major U.S. military command for the Middle East be expanded to include Israel, in a last-minute reorganization of the American defense structure that pro-Israel groups have long advocated to encourage cooperation against Iran, U.S. officials said Thursday. The move means that the U.S. Central Command would oversee American military policy involving both Israel and Arab nations, a departure from decades of U.S. military command structure put in place because of acrimony between Israel and some of the Pentagon’s Arab allies. It is the latest in a series of Trump administration policy moves to shape the national security agenda President-elect Joe Biden will inherit. The change was recently ordered by Mr. Trump but hasn’t yet been made public. A Biden transition official declined to comment on the move.”
“According to the Israeli security sources, Tuesday’s attack occurred against the backdrop of Iranian entrenchment on the Syria-Iraq border, and rising tensions in the region ahead of Biden taking office. An Israeli intelligence estimate suggests Iran has had difficulties maintaining the deployment of its forces in the areas around Damascus, due to Israeli air strikes. In response, it has moved its troops and equipment, such as missiles and drones, to the Syria-Iraq border, areas which are under total Iranian control and relatively far away from Israel.”
“The last days of Pompeo have been played out in a blizzard of self-congratulatory tweets, at the rate of two dozen a day, as he seeks to write his own first draft of history. The former Kansas congressman, with evident ambitions for a presidential run in 2024, has accented his claims of success by frequent derogatory references to the previous administration, portrayed as hapless appeasers. The political point-scoring and aggrandizement have made the use of the megaphone provided by a government Twitter account, with 3 million followers.”
- “Secretary of State Pompeo Leaves No Bridges Unburned” (New York Times editorial)
- “The US Secretary of State has tweeted his support for Israel over *20* times today.” (Aaron Magid, Twitter)
- “Trump Admin/Pompeo think starting something false with confidence can turn it into a fact they also think people are stupid & don’t keep receipts.” (Lara Friedman, Twitter)
Israel is to urge the incoming Biden administration not to exert pressure on Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE over their serious record of human rights violations as well as regional issues such as the war in Yemen, Axios has reported. The site quoted senior Israeli security officials as saying that Israel fears that Biden will cool US relations with these countries. The occupation state regards its security and intelligence relationships with Riyadh, Cairo and Abu Dhabias “central to its strategy to counter Iran and an important pillar in regional security.”
Also see: Israel to push Biden to take it easy on Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt (Axios)
“A bill that would impose American sanctions on supporters of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) or their affiliates has been reintroduced in the US House of Representatives….If enacted, the bill would require the president to submit to Congress an annual report for the next three years identifying foreign persons, agencies or instrumentalities of a foreign state who knowingly and materially assist Hamas, the PIJ or an affiliate or successor of one of those organizations. It would also require the president to report to Congress on each government that provides support for acts of terrorism and provides material support to Hamas, PIJ or any affiliate or successor organization. Additionally, the president would need to prohibit that government’s transactions in foreign exchanges that are subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and prevent that government’s transfers of credits or payments between financial institutions subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.”
Netanyahu’s parting gift to Trump – a new embassy plot – is an empty gesture
“Separately, the Jerusalem commission approved the construction of a nearby 64,5834 square-foot structure on a site known as the Allenby Complex, which lies on one of the city’s busiest arteries….Leased by the United States on President Ronald Reagan’s last day in office, the Hebron Road tract lies on one of Jerusalem’s busiest avenues and does not conform to State Department safety standards established after al-Qaeda bombed the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998.
“With the new rules, that land is not big enough,” former ambassador Dan Shapiro told the Washington Post in 2017. “This is all Netanyahu-choreographed theater poking yet another finger in Biden’s eye,” said Jerusalem lawyer and activist Daniel Seidemann.”
“Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has signed an order to pay the full salaries to more than 900 prisoners and former prisoners, Head of the Prisoners and Ex-prisoners Affairs Authority Qadri Abu Bakr announced yesterday. On the PA’s recent proposal to establish a private bank for the families of prisoners and martyrs, Abu Bakr confirmed that the move was: “Unlikely to happen due to Israeli threats and restrictions with obtaining the bank licence. The PA is tirelessly looking for alternative options.””
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech on Wednesday in Nazareth was seen as an act of defiance in the Arab city before he even opened his mouth. His very presence in the capital of Israeli Arab society demonstrates how Netanyahu sees the community as no-man’s land in the electoral battle – and maybe even the group that will decide the election in his favor. In the past, such a scenario would have been considered to be fantasy. During the recent election campaigns, Likud and the other Zionist parties had almost no foothold in Arab towns – and the Joint List received 87 percent of the Arab votes.”
“Hundreds protested in Israel’s north on Friday against the spike in violence in the Arab community in recent months and called on the police to step up law enforcement. Hundreds of demonstrators blocked the Wadi Ara highway leading to the entrance of the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm. Among the protesters were local political activists, including a large turnout by the Islamic Movement. Sheikh Raed Fathi delivered a sermon outside of the Umm al-Fahm municipality, blaming both a lax police response to the recurring acts of violence and those who participate in perpetuating it, including gun owners who view themselves as heroes.
The ire of city residents has grown in recent weeks, after Umm al-Fahm’s former deputy mayor, Dr. Suleiman Agbaria of the Islamic Movement’s northern branch, was shot last Thursday by assailants who are still at large. Agbaria was seriously wounded, and remains hospitalized. Dozens also demonstrated against violence and police inaction near the Arab village of Tamra, where a string of shootings have taken place in recent weeks. Last week, the chairman of the Committee of Arab Mayors in Israel, Mudar Yunis, and the chairman of the Federation of Local Authorities, Haim Bibas, sent a letter to Netanyahu demanding that he act immediately to eradicate crime in these communities. They requested legislation targeting illegal weapon ownership, mass operational activity against organized crime, and budgeting funds to improve personal safety in Arab towns.”
“Along with the publication of B’Tselem’s full report on its website, the organization sent press releases to the media in Israel and abroad; the story was picked up by major outlets including The Guardian (which also hosted an op-ed by B’Tselem’s executive director Hagai El-Ad), Le Monde, El País, NPR, CNN, NBC, ABC, Bloomberg, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Independent, AP, RFI, and Politiken. Yet while B’Tselem’s statement received major coverage across the world, the Hebrew media in Israel was almost entirely silent.
Particularly strange was the decision by some Israeli media outlets with sites in both Hebrew and English to publish information about B’Tselem’s report on their English sites only. Readers of Haaretz’s English-language site — many of whom live outside Israel — were able to read a news item on the announcement. Meanwhile, Haaretz’s readers in Hebrew, most of whom live in Israel, were not given the same chance, neither in the paper’s print edition nor on its website.The same went for Ynet and Israel Hayom, which only published items on the report on their English-language sites. The Jerusalem Post and Times of Israel, two English-language news sites, published items on the report.”
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s top challenger in upcoming elections is promising a tough line toward Iran and the Palestinians, yet expressed confidence he has the tools to avoid what appears to be a collision course with the incoming Biden administration….Sa’ar, who defected from Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party last month, shares the prime minister’s hardline nationalistic ideology. He is a strong proponent of West Bank settlements, rejects the idea of a construction freeze and favors the eventual annexation of the settlements. He said he would never agree to an independent Palestinian state that includes the removal of settlements….He said he would seek a mutually respectful dialogue to ensure that Iran never develops a nuclear bomb.”
See also: “Gideon Saar Comes After Netanyahu,” interview with Christiane Amanpour (CNN)
“The coffin carrying the pro-Israel and GOP megadonor arrived in Israel Thursday evening. It was draped in US and Israeli flags and was on display at Ben Gurion Airport, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Adelson’s wife, Miriam, and other family members paid their respects. “He will be remembered as a great Jewish patriot, this is a great loss for the Jewish people,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying by the Israel Hayom free daily, which Adelson controlled and operated with his wife, the paper’s publisher.”
“Adelson bought off Israel, even in death. His family who arrived for the funeral in Jerusalem from the US are openly flouting the covid-19 quarantine and Netanyahu’s joining them”
“Israel Democracy Institute’s Democracy Index finds under 10 percent of respondents trust the justice system, and 82 percent believe segregation from Arabs is necessary to preserve a Jewish identity”
Fighting Lawfare/Weaponization of Accusations of Antisemitism
“We also must do more to combat domestic terrorism….A comprehensive response must address places at which young Americans are radicalized. This includes not only right-wing white supremacist organizations, but also left-wing university activities that promote violence. Consider, for example, that convicted hijacker Leila Khaled, a leader in the designated-terrorist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was just this year invited to speak at San Francisco State University, New York University and the University of Hawaii at Manoa (remotely)….What America needs, in the wake of the Capitol riot, is not for political dissidents — whether they come from the left or the right — to preach armed violence.”
“There is so much to say re: campus antisemitism, but for now, a few thoughts given the truly despicable yet unsurprising letter sent to Biden by jewish estab orgs demanding that censoring campus israel critics be #1 priority the week after LITERAL NAZIS stormed the US capital.”
“By calling Israel an apartheid state and a “regime of Jewish supremacy”, B’Tselem has given the lie to the Israel lobby’s claim – bolstered by a new definition promoted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – that it is antisemitic to suggest Israel is a “racist endeavour”. B’Tselem, a veteran Israeli Jewish organisation with deep expertise in human rights and international law, has now explicitly declared that Israel is a racist state. Israel’s apologists will now face the much harder task of showing that B’Tselem is antisemitic, along with the Palestinian solidarity activists who cite its work.”
Despite the attempts of Gaza’s inhabitants to survive and achieve stability in their daily lives, the consequences of occupation, political division, and the pandemic have eroded the foundations of perseverance amongst them. Indeed, Palestinians in Gaza have suffered from societal fragility, uncertainty, and turbulence that have forced them to live in imaginary communities that cling to fantasy in order to survive.
This commentary describes Gaza’s reality in light of the three major variables. It explores unfolding transformations within Gaza’s civil society to counter impending collapse, including social initiatives such as the Great March of Return, the “We Want to Live” movement, and other initiatives on social media. It concludes with reflections on the future of Gaza based on interviews with activists and young Palestinians who have lived this reality since their childhood.