Top News from Israel & Palestine: January 25, 2021

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Annexation, Settlements

Palestinian worker said to die from heart attack after being tear gassed by ID,

“According to the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry, Fouad Sibti Joudeh, a 48-year-old resident of Araq al-Tayeh — a West Bank Palestinian town close to Nablus — died on Monday morning after choking on tear gas. The Health Ministry stated that his exposure to the asphyxiant led to a sudden heart attack. Joudeh’s brother Jabr told Palestinian media outlets that his brother’s work permit in Israel had expired a few days before, and he was attempting to cross into Israel for work.”

New report: Gaza is almost unlivable after 15 years of blockade,

“In its annual report on the repercussions of the Gaza blockade, entitled “suffocation and isolation”, Euro-Med Monitor examined the Israeli blockade effects on the lives of Gazans. The report compares Gazans’ living conditions before the blockade on one hand, and the current situation (15 years after) on the other. The report confirms that during the past decade, the per capita economic losses in Gaza has reached about $9,000 due to the long-term closure and the military operations to which the Gaza Strip is subjected too. A United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report issued on November 25, 2020, concluded that the economic cost of the Israeli occupation on the Gaza Strip during the past decade is estimated at %16.7 billion. Noura Erakat, Euro-Med Monitor’s member of Board of Trustees, said that “We are now entering 2021, the fifteenth year of Israel’s naval blockade and land siege, and the global community seems unfazed by the unlivable conditions in the tiny coastal enclave or the fact that an entire generation has grown up isolated from the world – save for its contact with advanced weapons technologies raining down on them from Gaza’s skies. “These conditions are unconscionable and have no moral, legal, or policy justification. The siege must end without preconditions and condemned to the history of atrocities never to be repeated again”.”

HaMoked to the HCJ: Palestinians over 50 must be allowed to freely access West Bank lands trapped behind the Separation Barrier,

“On January 21, 2021, HaMoked filed a principled petition to the High Court of Justice (HCJ) to demand that Palestinians in their sixth decade – women aged 50 and up and men aged 55 and up – be allowed to enter the Seam Zone without special permits. The petition was filed after the military failed to provide a substantive response to HaMoked’s letter on this issue, sent May 2020. HaMoked argued in the petition that the resultant harm to this group was unreasonable and disproportionate, and concerned not only their rights to freedom of movement, dignity, property and freedom of occupation, but also the right to equality – given that Israelis, tourists and others were exempt from the ban on entry to the Seam Zone and may enter these areas freely. “

Israeli settlers threaten Palestinian archaeology in historic town of Sebastia,

“The historical town of Sebastia is located on a 440-meter high (one-quarter of a mile) hilltop north of Nablus city and is known as the Palestinian capital of the Romans. The city, famous for its dozens of Roman archaeological pieces and sites, continuously faces attacks by Israeli settlers and the Israeli army, who have their eyes set on its archaeological sites. In November 2020, Israeli authorities threatened to forcibly remove the 17-meter (56-feet) long Palestinian flagpole erected near the antiquities plaza in the town of Sebastia. The plaza itself is located in Area B of the West Bank, which is under Palestinian civil control and Israeli military control. Israel claims the flagpole provokes the settlers.”

When police kill a settler, settlers rain terror on Palestinians,

“Despite the fact that the Israeli army is the sovereign in the occupied territories, the responsibility to investigate criminal acts by Jewish Israelis — even when they are committed in the West Bank — falls on the police. This, too, is part of Israel’s apartheid regime, which maintains two separate legal systems for two populations based on their nationality. In practice, however, neither the army nor the police do much to prevent the violent pogroms carried out by settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank. Sometimes, in fact, they even collaborate.”

I want to share some thoughts on Bt'selem’s (apartheid) paper,

“I want to share some thoughts on Bt’selem’s paper released earlier this month which concluded that Israel is an apartheid regime from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Whilst it has been welcomed in many progressive international circles &dubbed as ground breaking…many Palestinians have been more critical pointing to both its political & intellectual deficiencies. By comparison the ESCWA report by Falk & TiIley, although not perfect, set the bar for a nuanced & de-territorial understanding of apartheid.”

For UN Mideast envoy, ‘peace’ meant placating apartheid,

“In a widely-shared interview with New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief David Halbfinger earlier this month, Mladenov — a former Bulgarian foreign minister and UN representative to Iraq — reflected on his five-year tenure as the UN’s top diplomat in the region. According to the Times, Mladenov “earned the respect of just about everyone he dealt with;” he had “worked quietly behind the scenes to help keep the Gaza Strip from boiling over, preserve the possibility of a two-state solution and build support for Israeli-Arab normalization as a vastly preferable alternative to the Israeli annexation of West Bank land.” This reverent narrative glossed over some significant omissions in the envoy’s diplomatic philosophy. Throughout the interview, Mladenov made no reference to the idea of using international law as the building blocks toward different power relations in Israel-Palestine. Rather, his primary concern — and in his view, his primary achievement — was to preserve “calm,” balance the perspectives of “both sides” to achieve compromise, and cater to each parties’ political “interests,” even if that “interest” is the supremacy of one people over another. The Times interview is emblematic of the widespread praise Mladenov is currently enjoying, especially among Western liberal circles — an admiration that ought to be counter-balanced.”

United States Policy on Palestine: 2021 and Beyond,

The change in administration provides an opportunity for the US to reevaluate its past blanket support of Israel, and implement policies in line with its obligations under international law. This policy paper highlights select issues related to Israel’s prolonged belligerent occupation of Palestinian territory, Israel’s unlawful administration of the territory, and associated violations of the rights of Palestinians, and calls on the US to take action in line with its duties under international law. As President Trump has instituted policies in flagrant disregard of the international legal order, US officials must move beyond mere condemnations to taking measures that uphold Palestinian rights and end the decades long environment of impunity that it has enabled for Israel to entrench its settler colonization and apartheid in the Palestinian territory.”


'Vaccination apartheid': Gaza struggling with Covid-19 infections while Israel rolls out jab,

“While the Gazan health ministry struggles to get the vaccine with the help of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other international bodies, human rights groups believe that it is Israel’s responsibility to provide the vaccine for the blockaded enclave. “While Israel has already vaccinated more than 20 percent of its citizens, including Jewish settlers in the West Bank, it has not committed to vaccinating Palestinians living in the same occupied territory under its military rule,” Human Rights Watch said. The watchdog argued that it is Israel’s obligation under international humanitarian law, as an occupying power, to ensure medical supplies, including to combat the spread of pandemics in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.”

Israel closes its borders, including for citizens and immigrants, in effort to curb COVID-19,

“Even as Israel has emerged as the world’s fastest-vaccinating country, its pace of new COVID-19 cases has set records as well. Now, in a desperate effort to bring the outbreak under control, the country is taking the unprecedented step of completely locking down its borders. Ben Gurion Airport has been closed to virtually all traffic in both directions. Since March, citizens have been able to travel freely as long as they follow quarantine rules upon entry, but now even they cannot enter or leave the country. (Non-citizens have largely been excluded, though a patchwork of exemptions has allowed some in.) Even new immigrants, who have continued to arrive during the pandemic despite limits on non-citizen entry, will have to wait until the shutdown ends to travel to the country.” Also See – “Israel bans all international flights to curb Covid-19 spread” (Middle East Eye)

Israel Plans 2,000 Additional Hospital Beds for Jerusalem, None for Palestinian Neighborhoods,

“The Health Ministry plans to add over 2,000 hospital beds in the Jerusalem region over the next few decades, but very few are planned for East Jerusalem, where a third of the region’s residents live. The new hospital beds are part of a long-term initiative dubbed the National Master Plan 49, which is for all future health institutions throughout the country. The Health Ministry and the Planning Administration recently finished preparing an initial version of the plan, in which it sets goals for the health system for the next few decades and identifies land where it is possible to expand existing hospitals and build new ones.”

Ultra-Orthodox Protesters Clash With Police Over COVID Rules, Attack Bus Driver,

“Hundreds of members of the radical ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem faction protested in Bnei Brak on Sunday against police enforcement of coronavirus restrictions. A 41-year-old bus driver was hurt after being attacked with pepper spray by protesters, who proceeded to set the bus on fire. According to witnesses, the attackers shouted “he’s an Arab.” The blaze prompted authorities to evacuate residents living on the same street, and police dispersed protesters by using stun grenades. Several residents said police and firefighters only arrived about an hour after the incident was reported, despite a police station being only minuites away. ” Also See – “Covid-19: Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Israelis protest over lockdown rules” (Middle East Eye)

The Palestinian Scene

Palestinians ask Europe to send monitors for elections,

“Palestinian election officials on Sunday invited the European Union to send observers to monitor upcoming elections planned for the Palestinian legislature and presidency…The Central Elections Commission said its chairman, Hanna Nasir, extended the invitation for both the European Union and the European Parliament to send monitors. It said the invitation was given to the local EU representative, Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorf, and Nasir “stressed the importance of international observation to the electoral process, particularly by the EU.” The Palestinians are looking to the EU to ensure that the vote is transparent, and also in hopes of rallying pressure on Israel to allow Palestinians in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem to vote.”

Agreement between Fatah and Hamas paves way for Palestine coalition,

“Fatah and Hamas leaders appear to be moving closer to setting up a unified list that will be the basis of a Palestinian coalition government, a draft agreement between the rival factions reveals. The agreement, seen by Arab News, was a key factor in the decision to hold elections — Palestine’s first in 15 years — on May 22. Details of the accord were discussed at meetings in Istanbul and Cairo, and became the basis of an exchange of letters between Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.”

Dahlan complicates Abbas' plans for Palestinian elections,

“Dahlan, who has been in exile in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) since 2011, was investigated by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and charged for several offenses, including alleged corruption. In 2016, he was convicted in absentia for embezzling $16 million and sentenced to three years in prison. Fatah believes it can block the way for Dahlan and some of his current’s leaders by preventing them from running in either the presidential or legislative elections, based on the Palestinian Elections Law of 2007, and the amendments thereto in accordance with the decree law issued by Abbas on Jan. 11. Article 39 (5) of the law was amended to stipulate that a candidate for the presidency must attach to the candidacy application a non-conviction certificate from the court. Thus Dahlan, who faces charges, cannot run in the elections.”

Lawfare & the Weaponization of Antisemitism to Silence Criticism of Israel

Trump Plan to Label pro-BDS Groups Antisemitic Is Off the Table,

“In response to a query from Haaretz regarding whether the Biden administration planned to move forward with the initiative, a State Department spokeswoman sufficed by pointing to remarks delivered by Antony Blinken, the designated secretary of state, during his confirmation hearings in the Senate last week. When asked if he supported BDS, Blinken said that both he and the president “resolutely opposed” the movement, among other reasons because it singled out Israel “unfairly and inappropriately.” At the same, he noted that “of course we fully respect and will always respect the First Amendment rights of Americans to say what they believe and think.””

[Thread] "ICYMI, Janet Yellen’s response to Senate Finance Committee for the record re: BDS...",

“ICYMI, Janet Yellen’s response to Senate Finance Committee for the record re: BDS (page 40) does not sound like support for First Amendment rights of Americans or of free speech as a value around the world”

NYC mayoral candidate Andrew Yang blasted for comparing BDS to 'fascist boycotts',

“Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang sparked controversy by comparing the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to “fascist” anti-Jewish campaigns. Writing for Forward, a Jewish American webzine, Yang, who is a New York City mayoral candidate, compared BDS “to fascist boycotts of Jewish businesses” in the past, seemingly a nod at Nazi policies of the 1930s and 40s. “A Yang administration will push back against the BDS movement, which singles out Israel for unfair economic punishment,” Yang wrote. “Not only is BDS rooted in antisemitic thought and history, hearkening back to fascist boycotts of Jewish businesses, it’s also a direct shot at New York City’s economy,” he said. Inspired by the South African movement credited for ending the country’s apartheid in the 1990s, the 15-year-old BDS movement encourages individuals, nations and organisations to boycott Israel over its consistent violations of international law and human rights standards. It does not target Jewish owned companies, or any company, in the United States or elsewhere that does not have links to Israel, despite Yang’s insinuation that BDS negatively affects New York’s “small businesses”.”

Also See

  • “Andrew Yang smears BDS as rooted in Nazi thought (and sadly, he knows what he’s doing)” (Mondoweiss)
  • Harry Reis via Twitter: “Agree/disagree w/ BDS as an instrument of achieving justice in Israel-Palestine, but the comparison with the Nazi boycott of Jewish goods is both wholly unnecessary and historically obscene. Let’s not, @AndrewYang.”

What Zoom Does to Campus Conflicts Over Israel and Free Speech,

“As schools around the country have shifted to virtual learning, the battles over Israel and the Palestinian territories — with opponents accusing one another of anti-Semitism or suppressing free speech — have migrated with the technology, evolving from campus demonstrations and fliers to social media and Zoom. One side contends that some criticism of Israel has crossed into anti-Semitism; the other side says that charges of anti-Semitism are being used to silence legitimate criticism. Lines can get fuzzy: Mr. Ross is the son of a Holocaust survivor, and some of the activism labeled as anti-Semitic comes from the group Jewish Voice for Peace. This past fall, even with most students away from campus, disputes flared at colleges in and around New York City.”

Notable response/Twitter thread by @peoplesbubbie: “@nytimes this article is a shonde. Students bravely standing up for Palestinian freedom are not antisemitic. How irresponsible of you to suggest that they are…How dare you quote six Israelis and American Jews, but only three Palestinians, in an article about an issue that impacts Palestinian students the most. Palestinian students and their allies, not pro-Israel students, are facing repression, silencing, and harassment on college campuses. To equate the two is not only offensive, but bad journalism. You also mention @jvplive out of context, but don’t quote anyone connected to the organization. Why? Smearing courageous and justice-seeking Palestinian activists as antisemitic during a moment when *literal* neo-nazis are storming the capitol building could not possibly be more insulting. Do better.”

How the Israeli flag became a symbol for white nationalists,

“This is hardly the first time the Israeli flag has appeared at a right-wing rally in the United States that has seemingly little to do with Middle East politics. The flag has flown alongside the Confederate flag at an Arkansas neo-Confederate rally, and outside apartment units from Manhattan to Jerusalem; it has been spotted at a “Straight Pride” parade in Boston, and a pro-Trump car caravan…For the ascendant forces of right-wing populism in the United States and around the world, however, support for Israel takes on a special intensity. Israel is celebrated as a front-line defender of Western civilization in its crusade against radical Islam. It is viewed as a nation that embodies the strong arm of xenophobic nationalism and militarized masculinity, unapologetically pushing back invading ethno-religious Others, expanding its territory, and protecting its heritage in bold defiance of a chorus of liberal outcry. The Israeli and U.S. right share “a desire,” as Palestinian writer Nada Elia put it, “to establish and maintain a homogeneous society that posits itself as superior, more advanced, more civilized than the ‘others’ who are, unfortunately, within its midst, a ‘demographic threat’ to be contained through border walls and stricter immigration law.””

The U.S. Scene

Mossad chief to meet Biden, set out terms for overhaul of Iran nuclear deal,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to dispatch Mossad chief Yossi Cohen to Washington in the coming weeks to lay out Israel’s demands of the Biden administration for any new version of the Iran nuclear deal, Channel 12 news reported Saturday night. The network said Cohen, one of Netanyahu’s most trusted colleagues, is to travel to the US within the next month and will be the first senior Israeli official to meet US President Joe Biden. He is also expected to meet with the head of the CIA.”

Several US Democrat lawmakers call out Israel for not vaccinating Palestinians,

” A growing number of Democrats have been speaking out against Israel for not vaccinating Palestinians in the West Bank. On Sunday, newly elected New York Congressman Jamaal Bowman joined senior House Rep. Joaquin Castro, freshman Rep. Marie Newman, former vice presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib in voicing his concern over the matter. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “must ensure that both Israelis and Palestinians have access to the Covid vaccine,” tweeted Bowman, who has joined the “squad” group of progressive lawmakers, while also identifying as pro-Israel and anti-BDS. “This cruelty is another reminder of why the occupation must end,” he added.” Also See – “Democratic Lawmakers Slam Israel for Not Vaccinating Palestinians in Occupied West Bank” (Haaretz)

Trump Administration Quietly Eased Sanctions on Israeli Billionaire,

“The Trump administration quietly moved in its final days to ease sanctions imposed in late 2017 on an Israeli billionaire who had been punished by the Treasury Department for corrupt and abusive mining practices in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The reversal by the Treasury came after an appeal by lobbyists with close ties to former President Donald J. Trump who were hired by Dan Gertler, the Israeli billionaire, including the lawyer Alan M. Dershowitz, who helped represent Mr. Trump during his first impeachment, and Louis J. Freeh, a former F.B.I. director.” Also See – “Trump Admin Secretly Eased Sanctions on Israeli Mining Tycoon Dan Gertler

New Israeli envoy arrives in Washington, turning page on Trump era,

“Israel’s new ambassador to the U.S., Gilad Erdan, began his tenure in Washington, D.C., on Thursday with his appointment coinciding with the inauguration of President Biden. He replaced Ambassador Ron Dermer, who held the position for seven-and-a-half years and who helped shape the Trump administration’s dramatic shift on U.S. policy toward Israel and the Middle East. Erdan, who will hold dual roles of Israeli ambassador to the U.S. and United Nations, said he is committed to working with the Biden administration on tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.”

Also See: “With a conflict over Iran looming, Israel sends a new envoy for the post-Trump era” (Washington Post)

  • Lara Friedman on the Washington Post profile of Erdan: “Surreal that Gilad Erdan profile fails to mention his last post as Min of Strategic Affairs, where he led efforts to get world (incl US states & federal) to adopt laws/policies treating settlements as part of Israel & delegitimizing/seeking to quash free speech/protest of Israel.”
  • Worth recalling: “Washington Post reporter moves from covering Israel to working for it” (Electronic Intifada)

The Israeli Scene

Election Poll: Anti-Netanyahu Bloc Holds Majority, Labor Enters the Fray,

“A Channel 13 opinion poll released Sunday evening shows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party pushing forward with 32 projected Knesset seats, two more than they were awarded in the previous poll earlier this week. Yesh Atid is projected to take the second most seats, with 18. Behind them is Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party, which is projected to win 14. The poll also shows the Labor Party passing the electoral threshold for the first time since the March 23 election was announced, hours after party veteran Merav Michaeli secured the chairmanship in the Labor primary.” Also See – “Israel Elections: Poll finds Yair Lapid, Gideon Sa’ar tied for second” (Jerusalem Post)

Israel’s struggling Labor party chooses new leader,

“Israel’s Labor Party on Sunday chose Merav Michaeli, a veteran lawmaker and former journalist, as its new leader ahead of March elections. Michaeli, 54, faces a difficult task as she tries to revive the fortunes of the iconic party. Labor guided Israel to independence in 1948 and led the country for its first three decades. But it has struggled to remain relevant over the past two decades as peacemaking with the Palestinians ground to a halt and the electorate appears to have embraced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line ideology. Opinion polls have forecast Labor will not receive the minimum number of votes needed to enter the next parliament.” Also See – “Welcome to the Worst Job in Israeli Politics, Merav Michaeli” (Haaretz)

New Year, New Netanyahu: PM Aims for the Political Center in Latest Rebranding,

“Even the best meteorologist failed to predict the torrent of parties dousing Israel’s voters in this year’s election. But an even odder phenomenon was missed by the radar: the birth of a new centrist party. Well, actually, it already exists: Likud. A year ago, woozy in the high altitudes of the West Bank’s hills and the plains of Washington, members of the Yesha Council of settlers and a bunch of Bibi-ists burst into happy dances under D.C.’s skies. The feeling was that the notion of annexing West Bank land, which had been rendered kosher in the second election and got an upgrade in the third, was about to become a reality. In just a few moments, the land of our fathers would be united under Israeli law. Every loony windswept outpost would be granted a title deed from the government. A year has gone by, a new year has arrived and the leader of the right is marketing regional peace and amity with the Arab-Israeli community. He’s also discovering the kind of decency and decorum he did everything he could to drop during the past six years.”

Meretz's new Israeli-Arab candidate vows to fight for Jews, Arabs alike,

“Peace activist Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, 48, will be fourth on Meretz’s list for the March 23 election, immediately after current MKs Nitzan Horowitz, Tamar Zandberg and Yair Golan. She will be the new face of the party that has promised to run independently after bad experiences in recent races running with unpopular politicians Orly Levy-Abecassis, Amir Peretz and Ehud Barak. Together with Esawi Frej, who will be fifth on the list, Rinawie Zoabi will ensure that the party’s top five is 40% Arab, which she called courageous. The ninth candidate will be Druze educator Ali Salalha.”

Religious Zionist Party: We won't enter gov't unless outposts legalized,

“Religious Zionist Party promised to make legalization of the West Bank outposts a condition of their entry into the next government after the campaign to authorize some 49 of the fledgling communities folded on Thursday. “The current struggle… has unfortunately failed,” said the Young Settlements Forum, which represents the outposts. The Forum, along with the Knesset Land of Israel Caucus and the Yesha Council, called for the government to issue a legalization declaration in advance of US President Joe Biden’s inauguration on the understanding that Biden’s opposition to the outposts would make such a move impossible after he was in the White House. “This is a sad day for the state of Israel when its leaders turn their backs on the settlements in Judea and Samaria,” it exclaimed…Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel Smotrich promised to place legalization of the outposts into the text of any coalition agreement his party would sign should it enter the government.”


Cabinet authorizes normalization with Morocco,

“The cabinet approved Israel’s normalization agreement with Morocco in a unanimous vote on Sunday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the agreement “a historic moment after four peace agreements with four Muslim and Arab states in four months” and praised King Mohammed VI.”

UAE gov't approves establishment of embassy in Tel Aviv,

“The United Arab Emirates (UAE) ratified Sunday the establishment of an embassy in Tel Aviv, the government announced on its Twitter account. “The Council of Ministers approves the restructuring of the Board of Directors of the Securities and Commodities Authority headed by His Excellency Abdullah bin Touq Al-Marri, Minister of Economy, and approves the establishment of the UAE embassy in Tel Aviv in the State of Israel,” the tweet read.”

Israel Officially Opens Embassy in UAE,

“Israel officially opened its embassy in the United Arab Emirates, the Foreign Ministry announced Sunday. The embassy, located in Abu Dhabi, opened with the arrival of the Israeli official appointed to head the mission, Eitan Na’eh, who previously served as the ambassador to Turkey. The embassy will be operating out of the temporary offices until a suitable building can be found, the ministry said. “Opening the embassy will allow for the expansion of the bilateral ties between Israel and the UAE to quickly and maximally implement the hidden potential in these relations,” Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said.”

UAE-Israel-Bahrain launch joint trade forum,

“As Israel’s recent wave of normalization deals in the Middle East continues to bear fruit, some of the world’s leading business leaders, solution providers, investors, innovators and industry giants appeared at a virtual launch event for the UAE-Israel-Bahrain Trade Forum on Tuesday. The event participants explored investment opportunities and shared technical know-how through streamed sessions, interactive panel discussions and live networking opportunities. Following the opening event, the Forum will begin hosting monthly webinars and panel discussions, all leading up to the live conference and exhibition, which is scheduled to take place in Abu Dhabi on May 24-25, 2021.”