Top News from Israel & Palestine: January 21, 2020

What We’re Reading

FMEP Resources

Occupied Thoughts: “The Joint List & the Worries of Palestinian Citizens of Israel”,

FMEP Non-Resident fellow Peter Beinart discuss a range of issues impacting Palestinian citizens of Israel with the highest ranking woman on the Joint List, MK Aida Touma Sliman.

Legislative Round-Up: January 17, 2020,

“(IT’S BAAAAAA-AAAACK – THE ISRAEL ANTI-BOYCOTT ACT) HR 5595: Introduced 1/13 by Zeldin (R-NY) and having 59 cosponsors (all GOP plus Suozzi, D-NY), the “Israel Anti-boycott Act.”  Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Zeldin press release announcing the bill is here.  What does the new IABA actually say/do? I’m glad you asked! See my handy-dandy new resource: The NEW Israel Anti-Boycott Act – what it actually says/does. Also see my earlier (and once again relevant) analysis: U.S. Politicians Are Backing a Free Speech Exception for Israel — & Creating a Template for Broader Assault on the First Amendment

Settlement Report: January 17, 2020,

“There are currently 76 Israeli-declared nature reserves in the West Bank, covering approximately 13% of the land.  Under the Israeli Civil Administration’s regulations for the occupied territory, any activity deemed to damage the land (like construction) is prohibited, and must go through a special process for approval by Israeli authorities. This process, in theory, allows activities like construction to take place if Israel recognizes that they were ongoing prior to the declaration of the area as a nature reserve. In practice, by declaring nature reserves Israel is barring Palestinians and Bedouin communities from future building, growing crops, and/or grazing their livestock on their own land. Unsurprisingly, when Israeli settlers violate these same regulations concerning nature reserves, the Civil Administration and IDF habitually look the other way and even assist the settlers, allowing settlers to build in the parks and even manage them.”

Occupation, Annexation, & Human Rights

Court rules to evict Palestinian Rajabi family in Silwan because of discriminatory property law,

“This is an attempt to displace a Palestinian community and to replace it with an Israeli one, in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem. The settlers could not have succeeded without the Israeli authorities’ close support and assistance. In addition to the hard blow to the prospects for a two-state solution by preventing a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, this is an injustice and an act of cruelty to throw out families who have lived lawfully in their homes for decades.”

Court Okays Eviction of Palestinian Family Because Land Was Once Owned by Jews,

“A Jewish settler organization won a lawsuit Sunday against a Palestinian family it has been trying to evict in East Jerusalem on grounds that the structure was built on land previously owned by Jews. The ruling could set a precedent for the eviction of additional 700 Palestinians living in the Baten al-Hawa enclave of Silwan.  The Baten al-Hawa enclave had once been owned by a Jewish property trust (hekdesh), housing Yemenite Jews who arrived in Jerusalem in the late 19th century. In 1938, British authorities ordered the residents out of the neighborhood because of the danger posed by the Arab revolt against the British mandate. Their homes were razed and years later, Palestinian families built Baten al-Hawa on the land.”

Israel Rejects Over 98 Percent of Palestinian Building Permit Requests in West Bank's Area C,

“The Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank approved only 21 of 1,485 applications from Palestinians for construction permits in Area C, the portion of the West Bank under full Israeli control, between 2016 and 2018. During the same period, 2,147 demolition orders were issued in Area C for violations by Palestinians of planning and construction regulations, Civil Administration data show. Ninety of the orders were carried out. The figures were given in response to a freedom of information request by human rights organization Bimkom. The Civil Administration said that 56 building permits were granted to Palestinians between 2019 and 2018. However, 35 of those were granted as part of a state plan to relocate Jahalin Bedouins from the area of Ma’ale Adumim settlement, and were not implemented.”

Bennett Orders to Bar Some Left-wing Activists From West Bank,

“Defense Minister Naftali Bennett ordered the Israeli army on Saturday to issue restraining orders that would bar Israeli left-wing activists from entering the West Bank. Bennett’s decision targets specifically some 30 activists operating with the ‘Anarchists Against the Wall’ organization, a direct action group whose members oppose the construction of the Israeli barrier along the Gaza Strip, and the Israeli West Bank separation barrier.”

Ban on Israeli activists from West Bank based on lies and misinformation,

“The idea behind the restraining order for Israeli activists is based on the “theory” that Palestinians are helpless and need Israelis to travel from Tel Aviv to their villages in order to teach and encourage them to protest the occupation — the same occupation under which they live every single day. This assumption, of course, is not only racist, it is entirely disconnected from reality. Palestinians regularly hold protest marches in cities and villages that are unaffiliated with the popular struggle without a single Israeli coming to “encourage” them. Despite what Bennett may think, the Israeli activists do not lead the protests — they come to the West Bank to stand in solidarity.”

Palestinian Cleared of Assault After Video Shows Israeli Soldier Lied,

“In 2018, Mohammed Khatib, of the West Bank village of Bil’in, was charged with assaulting an Israeli soldier and resisting arrest during a demonstration in February 2015. According to the indictment, Khatib shoved a soldier while taking part in an unauthorized protest. But the charges were withdrawn after documentation of the incident showed that Border Policemen who had testified against Khatib had lied. Khatib agreed not to sue for compensation. Human rights lawyer Gaby Lasky, who represented Khatib, introduced a video showing that the protest was nonviolent and that Khatib did not assault anyone nor resisted arrest.”

A Designer Villa With a Sprawling View of the Occupation,

“Deir Ballut, a large Palestinian village of 5,000 residents, is visible on the hill across the way. From every window in Deir Ballut, you have a view of the settler suburb that’s going up on what local folks say is their private property – and which Israel declared “state land” in 1981, as per its usual plundering method. Deir Ballut’s fields of wheat and vegetables lie in the fertile valley between the Palestinian village’s hill and the settler hill where Leshem, an extension of the nearby Alei Zahav settlement, is growing apace. On every high hill, and even on those that are of lower elevation, wherever you look in the West Bank, there’s a settler suburb for people who are seeking “quality of life” close to Metropolitan Tel Aviv. It’s very crowded here, in this part of the territories, not far from the Green Line. From here one can see Peduel and Bruchin, two more settlements where construction is booming; on the road nearby is the Palestinian-owned Peace Car Wash.”

Ottoman archives help Palestinians reclaim their land,

“Turkish officials had announced as early as 2015 that they were handing Ottoman documents to the Palestinians to help them claim ownership of properties taken over by Israel. Daily Sabah, a pro-government paper, quoted Kudret Bulbul, head of the Turks Abroad and Related Communities Directorate of the Prime Ministry between 2014-2016, as saying that the archives included “land registers, sultans’ decrees and historical documents proving the property ownership of Palestinians in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.” In 2018, a full electronic archive of 140,000 documents was available, spanning over 400 years of Ottoman rule in Palestinian lands.”

The "Deal of the Century"

Trump to decide in coming days on when to release Middle East peace plan,

“Kushner is expected to travel from Davos to Jerusalem on Wednesday to participate in the Fifth World Holocaust Forum, where he is likely to meet Netanyahu and his political opponent Benny Gantz — the leader of the Blue and White party — and discuss the peace plan…Netanyahu wants the White House to present the plan in order to shift the focus of his campaign away from his corruption cases. Gantz wants the White House to wait and has even argued that releasing the peace plan ahead of the elections would amount to electoral interference.”

Gantz Vows to Annex Jordan Valley, 'Hopes Trump Releases Peace Plan Soon',

When asked about the Trump administration’s plan for Middle East peace, Gantz said, ‘I hope that President Trump will hurry and release his plan. Several weeks have passed. Many dramatic things are happening in the Middle East, and I’m looking forward to the plan’s release. ‘In the past, Gantz opposed the publication of the plan during an election campaign, saying such a move would be a gift to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and ‘outright intervention’.”

We need a real conversation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,

“There is absolutely no reason to fear a debate on the issues or to attempt to avert such a discussion. By proactively putting Israeli-Palestinian relations front and center it may be possible to inject some content into what is emerging as the most personal, ugly and acrimonious elections in a string of especially rowdy campaigns. It may also open a much-needed discussion on Israel’s place in an increasingly volatile Middle East. At the same time, such a move would obviously blunt the electoral impact of any premature revelation of the deal of the century and, not coincidently, expose the desperation of its initiators.”

Palestinian Politics

Why Hamas insists on release of jailed Fatah leader,

“The source, who is also a member of Hamas’ politburo, added, ‘The main provision of the deal is for Israel to release all 50 Palestinians who were re-arrested after their release as per the [2011] Gilad Shalit deal and to include the names of detainees that it previously refused to release as per the deal. These include Marwan Barghouti, member of Fatah’s Central Committee and secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Ahmad Saadat.’ However, the source said Israel turned down Hamas’ conditions, namely the inclusion of Barghouti in the next exchange deal, which pushed Hamas to suspend talks about the case. According to the source, the mediating countries vowed to pressure Israel into accepting those demands.”

Reconciliation drive between Hamas, Saudis hits wall,

“Mediation designed to reboot the connection between Saudi Arabia and Hamas has failed, with the former issuing conditions the latter rejects, according to anonymous sources cited by Arabi21 news. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman set the condition that before his kingdom reconciles witih Hamas, the movement must resolve its differences with the United States, Arabi21 reported Jan. 9. This implies that Hamas would have to recognize Israel and its right to exist, which Hamas rejects.”

Israel to allow Qatari aid into Gaza despite explosive balloon attacks,

“Qatari deputy envoy, Khaled al-Hardan, will enter the Gaza Strip on Tuesday in order to deliver another installment of relief funds to impoverished families in the enclave, the Gulf state’s officials have confirmed. The announcement comes just hours after yet another explosive device attached to a cluster of balloons sent from Gaza, landed in southern Israel.”

Israeli Politics

Smotrich asks Netanyahu to hold vote on Jordan Valley annexation next week,

“Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a Yamina Knesset candidate, wrote Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, asking him to hold a vote on annexing the Jordan Valley when the Knesset convenes next Tuesday to vote on forming a House Committee that will reject immunity for Netanyahu. The vote would challenge Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, who supports keeping the Jordan Valley and will visit the strategic site on Tuesday. Smotrich’s proposal was also seen as a threat against Netanyahu that his vote in favor of immunity could be lost if Netanyahu does not initiate the vote on the Jordan Valley. ‘Yisrael Beytenu and Blue and White think a caretaker government can make key decisions on matters of principle, and I am in favor,’ Smotrich wrote Netanyahu. ‘Annexing the Jordan Valley is one of the most important Zionist steps that are on the agenda. If Blue and White is moving rightward, let us give them a chance to prove it’.”

Bucking pressure, far-right Otzma Yehudit says it’s staying in Knesset race,

“Otzma Yehudit party head Itamar Ben Gvir announced Monday that his far-right party will remain in the race ‘until the end,’ defying pressure from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other right wing officials who had called on his faction to drop out, rather than risk falling below the electoral threshold for the second straight election.”

Israeli Left-wing Alliance Split Over Disqualification of Arab-Israeli Parliamentarian,

“Likud submitted the request to bar 34-year-old Yazbak, saying she negates Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state and supports the armed struggle of a terror organization. ‘I’m not comfortable reading her words on Facebook, but disqualifying a law-abiding citizen from running is like rewarding those defaming Israeli democracy,’ tweeted Meretz MK Yair Golan. He called for focusing on disqualifying what he called violent and lawbreaking groups that confront soldiers and policemen all the time. ‘In a democracy you disqualify people for their actions, not for Facebook posts,’ he added.”

International Community

In interview with leading Christian television network, Israeli prime minister says ICC is launching 'full frontal attack' on democracies and the Jewish people's right to live in Israel,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview on a Christian television network that the International Criminal Court is in a ‘full frontal attack’ on democracy and the Jewish people’s right to live in Israel, and called for sanctions on the world court in light of its prosecutor’s intent to probe Israel’s alleged war crimes against Palestinians. In December, the Office of the Prosecutor at the ICC said that there is reasonable basis to investigate Israel for its actions in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. The court is currently debating whether it has jurisdiction to investigate war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza.”

The EU has a duty to recognise the state of Palestine,

Saeb Erekat writes, “Palestine’s right to self-determination is not up for negotiation. Restricting the recognition of Palestine to the resumption of the peace process means bending our right to be free to Israel’s will. In spite of some significant developments, including the prospects of an international criminal court investigation into crimes committed in Palestine, the main message Israel has received from most European governments is that they disagree on its policies but are not going to take any action. Meanwhile, we are still waiting for EU members to fulfil the European court of justice’s ruling on the labelling of settlement products. Yet the least we expect, and we continue to ask for, is for a full ban on trade with Israel’s illegal colonial settlements. Israel’s strategy of avoiding any role for the international community aims to prevent an independent state of Palestine on the 1967 border. European recognition of this state is not only a European responsibility but a concrete way to move towards a just and lasting peace.”

Anti-BDS/Anti-Free Speech Lawfare

Meet Donald Trump's Lawyer: A Messianic Jew Who Loves Jesus and Hates BDS,

“But years before he was all over television screens doing battle with network hosts Sekulow was a celebrity legal warrior for conservative Christian causes. A Messianic Jew who affiliates with Jews for Jesus and has served on its national board and as its general counsel, he argued a landmark case on behalf of the group before the Supreme Court…In addition to cases involving freedom of religious expression, he also is involved in a case in which he is defending a host of right-wing pro-Israel groups. He is representing the Gush Etzion Foundation, one of over a dozen defendants, in al-Tamimi vs. Adelson – a 2016 lawsuit brought by Palestinian activist Bassem al-Tamimi and others. The latter contend that the defendants, a group of U.S. nonprofits, philanthropists and corporations led by American casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, are guilty of war crimes against Palestinians, among other accusations.”