Top News from Israel & Palestine: January 26, 2021

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Settlements, Annexation

Masafer Yatta: A Palestinian community under pressure,

“More than three weeks after he was shot in the neck by an Israeli soldier, Harun Abu Aram is still hanging between life and death. The 23-year-old Palestinian had attempted, barefoot, to prevent soldiers from confiscating his power generator, the family’s only source of electricity, on 1 January in the area of Masafer Yatta, near the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron. While Abu Aram’s case has sparked outrage as yet another violent incident under the Israeli occupation, Palestinian residents of the embattled area say the raid that day was part of a longstanding Israeli crackdown on Palestinians in Masafer Yatta, in an effort to displace them from the area. Home demolitions, confiscation of the most basic infrastructure and military training exercises are part of everyday reality in the area, forcing many to live in natural caves, as they vow to stay in Masafer Yatta no matter what the obstacles.”

Israeli Authorities Uproot Thousands of Olive Trees Despite Palestinians' Appeal,

“The Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank uprooted some 3,000 olive trees near the Palestinian village of Dir Balut in the northern West Bank this month, although the Palestinian residents had filed an appeal of the order evicting them from the land. The eviction was ordered in August based on the government’s stance that the trees were planted on state-owned land…Residents of the village said the uprooting of the large number of trees despite the filing of the appeal was unusual, as was the speed with which the trees were uprooted following the eviction citations. In the vast majority of such cases, they said, Israeli authorities take no action until a final ruling is made on any appeals. Village residents claim to own the land in question.”

Israeli forces dismantle, seize animal sheds in the northern Jordan Valley,

“Israeli occupation forces today dismantled and seized animal sheds in the northern Jordan Valley, according to a local official. Motaz Bisharat, an official in the Tubas governorate, told WAFA that occupation soldiers raided al-Burj community and dismantled the animal sheds owned by four Palestinian families before seizing them under the pretext of their presence in a nature reserve area. The Israeli military government often uses pretexts such as nature reserve or army training area to end the presence of Palestinian families in the Jordan Valley.”

Also see, from WAFA:

PA reiterates plan to sue firms trading with settlements,

“Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has condemned increasing escalation by Israeli Jewish settlers against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, reiterating his government’s decision to prosecute firms trading with settlers, Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported yesterday…The prime minister reiterated that the PA is following up on settler attacks with the UN, the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), reiterating that the PA is going ahead in its legal action against firms dealing with the settlements regardless. He stressed that dealing with Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is a violation of the international law, foremost UN Security Council resolution 2334.”

Israeli troops kill Palestinian attack suspect in West Bank,

“Israeli troops on Tuesday shot and killed a Palestinian male suspected of trying to attack soldiers at a West Bank intersection, the military said. The Israeli army said the alleged assailant attempted to stab troops near the Israeli settlement of Ariel in the occupied West Bank. It said one soldier blocked the suspect, while his commander shot him. It did not say how close he got to the soldiers, but it said no soldiers were wounded. No photos or video of the incident were immediately available. The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the alleged attacker as Atallah Mohammad Riyan, a 17-year-old resident of the nearby village of Qarawat Bani Hassan.” Reminder: Settlers Are Taking Their Anger Out on Palestinians – as Israeli Troops Watch (Haaretz); When police kill a settler, settlers rain terror on Palestinians (+972 Magazine)

Jordan demands Israel end Al-Aqsa ‘provocations’,

“Jordan urged Israel on Monday to stop blocking restoration work at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site. Jordanian foreign ministry spokesman Daifallah Alfayez said he had sent a ‘protest note’ demanding Israel ‘refrain from such violations and provocations, and respect the mandate of Jordan in administering Muslim holy sites.’”


Israeli Health Minister likens his obligation to vaccinate Palestinians to Palestinians’ responsibility to care for ‘dolphins in the Mediterranean’,

Andrew Marr of the BBC grilled Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein about why Israel is not extending its vaccination program to the Palestinian people in territories it occupies, and Edelstein said Israel has no more obligation to them than the Palestinian minister of health has to ‘take care of dolphins in the Mediterranean.’” Also see: Tweet response from Dr. Hanan Ashrawi – “Since we do not occupy the Mediterranean sea & our access to it is controlled by Israel, the UN &4th Geneva Convention didn’t task us with the responsibility of the dolphins’ health &well-being. However,should we be asked, we’ll do our best to take care of the dolphins willingly.”

US Scene

Biden Has to Clean Up Trump's Mess in the Middle East. There's Plenty of It,

“Kushner’s foreign policy legacy includes major, historic shifts in the Middle East. However, he traded away any claim the U.S. could be an impartial broker in Middle East peace. Biden and his team may certainly work to rebuild U.S. credibility but the Palestinians remain skeptical of Biden and remember the poor gains they made under Obama.  Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan has vowed to build on the ‘success of Israel’s normalization arrangements with UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco’: Whether Biden will embrace Kushner’s transactional tactics, including the liberal use of arms deals as sweeteners, is an open question.”

Biden’s top security advisor tells Israeli counterpart he aims to build on accords,

“The new U.S. national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, talked on the phone with his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat, on Saturday, according to the National Security Council. Sullivan ‘reaffirmed President [Joe] Biden’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s security and expressed appreciation for Ben Shabbat’s contributions to our bilateral partnership,’ according to NSC spokesperson Emily Horne. The two discussed opportunities ‘to enhance the partnership over the coming months, including by building on the success of Israel’s normalization arrangements [Abhraham [sic] Accords] with UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco,’ according to Horne.” Also see: Biden nominee called US recognition of Golan Heights ‘blatant political move’ (JNS)

Why Biden Must Not Boycott Hamas,

“The upcoming elections, if conducted according to democratic norms, will produce a legitimate representative Palestinian government, one that all parties, from its neighbor Israel to the EU and the U.S., should engage with constructively, for the sake of alleviating the suffering of a slowly dying population – regardless of what factions that government includes.”

Jerusalem’s new man in Washington,

“I’m disturbed by the fact no one seems to be ringing any alarm bells about Erdan’s new position in Washington. It’s clear that Joe Biden should reject Erdan’s credentials, and at least keep him professionally confined to his United Nations job. Why? Because Erdan’s previous ministry was involved in covert surveillance on American citizens, on American soil, while he was in charge.”


Ilhan Omar Spars With pro-Israel Democrats After Andrew Yang's BDS-Nazi Comparison,

“The Democratic Party’s internal war over Israel entered a new chapter over the past several days, with lawmakers, activists and lobbying groups sparring over trading accusations of racism over their respective definitions of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. The latest battle erupted when New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang denounced BDS in an opinion piece written in the Forward. ‘A Yang administration will push back against the BDS movement, which singles out Israel for unfair economic punishment. 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 wrote. Progressive Jewish organizations denounced Yang’s implicit comparison to boycotts of Jewish business in Nazi Germany, describing Yang’s ‘false equivalencies’ as dangerous and unneccesary…”

Palestinian Scene

Official: Fatah will run for legislative elections in one list,

“Fatah official and member of its Central Committee, Jibril Rjoub, said last night that Fatah movement is going to run for the upcoming legislative elections planned for May 22 as one list. He told Palestine TV that the list will be decided on based on certain dimensions agreed on in the Fatah Central Committee meeting held on Sunday which are the geographic, historical, religious, gender, academic, economic, unionist, and social dimensions, adding that Fatah may raise the women quota to 30 percent and that it will include a large number of young members.”

Fatah reject's Dahlan party's proposal to run on one list,

“The Fatah movement has turned down a proposal made by the Democratic Reform Current, led by dismissed Fatah leader Mohammad Dahlan, to run on a joint list in the upcoming elections, the New Khaleej reported yesterday. One day after the issuance of the election decree, Sufyan Abu-Zaydeh, a senior leader in the Democratic Reform Current, posted on Facebook that the party had planned to run on a united list with Fatah. He added that Fatah had rejected the proposal, so the party will now run alone. Speaking to Al-Monitor, Secretary of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, Majed Al-Fityani, stressed that the Democratic Reform Current does not have any links to Fatah. ‘Its members,’ he explained, ‘are the reason for all the internal crises inside the movement.’ The official added that everyone is able to run in the elections as long as they comply with the laws.”

Hamas calls for dismantling American field hospital for failing to provide needed services,

“Hamas refused to deal with the newly established American field hospital in the Gaza Strip and prohibited its citizens from visiting it, saying that the medical center is not providing services for difficult cases, such as cancer, as agreed upon in the truce understandings with Israel.”

Israeli Scene

F-35s seen flying over southern Lebanon, Beirut in apparent threat by Israel,

“F-35 stealth fighter jets were spotted over southern Lebanon and Beirut, where the Hezbollah terror group maintains a major presence, throughout the day on Monday, amid a recent uptick in reported Israeli strikes on Iranian and Iran-linked forces in nearby Syria. As the aircraft, which were widely claimed to be Israeli, are capable of flying undetected, the decision to fly them low enough in the sky to make them clearly visible from the ground appeared to be a deliberate message to Hezbollah of Israel’s air superiority.” Also see: ‘The sound of death’: How Israel terrorises Lebanon from the skies (Middle East Eye)

Israeli Arab Slate Joint List Likely to Break Up Ahead of Election, Sources Say,

“A day after the meeting between the heads of the four parties that make up the Joint List, the rift seems to be getting worse. Despite efforts at reconciliation, the four party leaders are not holding out much hope for bridging the gaps and running together.” Also see: Mansour Abbas to leave Joint List, form new party (Arutz Sheva)

Lawfare/Weaponization of Definition of “Antisemitism” 

How an Israeli smear campaign is ripping away funds from Palestinian farmers,

“The bigger backdrop to the funding freeze, however, is the years-long campaign by Israel advocacy groups to undermine UAWC’s work in Area C, the two-thirds of the occupied West Bank that falls under full Israeli civil and security control. UAWC is the largest Palestinian agricultural development institution operating in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. And it is one of the few Palestinian non-profits focused especially on supporting agricultural projects in vulnerable Palestinian communities in Area C, where Israeli settlements are heavily concentrated. ‘Investing in agriculture and planting trees is a way of resisting Israel’s occupation on the ground,’ UAWC’s Abu Saif explains. ‘It is for this reason that we are being attacked.’ Undermining the work of UAWC, then, accomplishes a key goal of the Israeli settler movement. ‘While the Israeli military clears the space for settlements by using bulldozers, UKLFI [and] NGO Monitor attempt to clear the European diplomatic space of blocks on settlements by using reputational attacks on Palestinian NGOs who raise the issues,’ said Ryvka Barnard, Senior Campaigns Officer for the UK group War on Want, which has also been targeted by UKLFI. ‘NGOs like UAWC create an obstacle for settlement building because they collect evidence for advocacy in the EU, calling out Israel’s illegal activity [like] structure demolitions and settlement building. So in the eyes of groups like UKLFI, they need to be discredited.’”

Thirty-nine words about antisemitism are splitting the Jewish community,

“There’s a storm brewing in the American Jewish community over a definition of antisemitism that appears, upon first glance, quite banal. ‘Antisemitism,” it reads in part, “is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.’ But the language, adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in 2016, comes packaged with a host of examples that describe various criticism of Israel as antisemitic. As much of the Jewish establishment makes federal adoption of the IHRA definition a top priority for the Biden  Administration, it has become a proxy for a wider rift in the Jewish community over the politicization of antisemitism. ‘The Jewish community is pushing this because they see it as a tool that they want to use to stop certain speech they don’t like,’ said Ken Stern, director of the Bard Center for the Study of Hate, who helped draft the language on which the IHRA definition is based.”

Also see:

Pompeo plan to declare rights groups ‘anti-Semitic’ over Israel stance shelved,

“An eleventh-hour initiative by the Trump administration to label as “anti-Semitic” international human rights groups deemed supportive of the BDS movement failed to materialize, a former US official confirmed on Monday. The policy was announced by then-secretary of state Mike Pompeo during a visit to Israel less than two weeks after then-president Donald Trump was defeated by Joe Biden. The top US diplomat said he had directed his office’s special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, Elan Carr, to identify organizations that engage in or otherwise support, the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement…But with just two months remaining in Trump’s presidency, Carr failed to submit the list directed by Pompeo in time. The special envoy, a Trump appointee, stepped down just before Biden took office. In addition to the time crunch, the policy faced pushback from career diplomats in the State Department, who expressed serious concerns that it would limit free speech, a former US official said, confirming a Haaretz report.”