Top News from Israel & Palestine: January 5-12, 2024

What We’re Reading

New from FMEP

Israel’s War on Gaza: Implications & Possibilities for Regional Escalation,

FMEP President Lara Friedman speaks with Middle East foreign policy/national security expert Jasmine El-Gamal about Israel’s ongoing war on Gaza, US policy and national security, implications for international law and peace/security mor broadly, and prospects for regional escalation.

“The story of Attiya Nabaheen reveals the system that devalues Palestinian life”: On Gaza, Israeli law, and the Lack of Recourse,

FMEP Fellow Rabea Eghbariah speaks with Sarah Anne Minkin, FMEP’s Director of Programs & Partnerships, about his former client Attiya Nabaheen, a Palestinian teenager from Gaza who sued the Israeli Ministry of Defense for compensation for injuries caused by Israeli soldiers while he was walking, unarmed, on his family’s land in late 2014, during a time of ceasefire, or “status quo.” Deciding against Attiya, the Israeli Supreme Court “set a chilling precedent such that no one in Gaza can seek compensation for any damages caused by Israel,” as Rabea Eghbariah wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed. This conversation discusses the case and its implications for Gazans and Palestinians more broadly. After surviving four wars in Gaza, Attiya Nabaheen was killed, along with his family, in an Israeli airstrike on October 8th, 2023.


International Court of Justice

Israel shows ‘chilling’ intent to commit genocide in Gaza, South Africa tells UN court,

“Israel has shown “chilling” and “incontrovertible” intent to commit genocide in Gaza, with full knowledge of how many civilians it is killing, the UN international court of justice in The Hague has heard, at the opening of a case Israel has described as baseless. South Africa, which has brought the case, alleged “grave violence and genocidal acts” by Israel, on the first morning of the two-day hearing amid a febrile atmosphere outside the court in The Hague. It called on the judges to order an immediate ceasefire…Israel, which has denied the allegations, will give its response on Friday.” See also:

Israel accuses South Africa of ‘profound distortion’ at ICJ genocide hearing,

“Israel has accused South Africa of presenting a “profoundly distorted” view of hostilities, “barely distinguishable” from that of Hamas, as it presented its defence at the international court of justice in The Hague against accusations of genocide…It claimed that blame for many Palestinian civilian deaths – more than 23,000 people, about 1% of Gaza’s population, have been killed since 7 October – and the destruction of tens of thousands of buildings, cited by South Africa in support of its application, lay with Hamas either directly or indirectly.” See also:

Germany says will intervene at The Hague on Israel’s behalf, blasts genocide charge,

“The German government sharply rejected on Friday allegations before the UN’s top court that Israel is committing “genocide” in Gaza and warned against “political instrumentalization” of the charge, as it announced it would intervene as a third party before the International Court of Justice. Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said in a statement that Israel was “defending itself” after the “inhuman” onslaught by Hamas on October 7.”

The Guardian view on Israel and allegations of genocide: a case that needs to be heard,

“The urgency of this case is obvious. But its broader importance is to reinforce that the genocide convention is a matter for everyone. States have a responsibility not just to refrain from genocide, but to prevent it…Israel’s decision to contest this case, rather than boycott the court as in the past, shows that it is worried. Even an interim decision in South Africa’s favour would strike a symbolic blow. And while the ICJ has little means of implementing its judgment, individual countries or blocs might impose sanctions. But whatever the judges decide, the civilian death toll and human suffering in Gaza and the words of Israeli ministers are unconscionable. That, and not this legal process, is ultimately what is destroying the standing of Israel and its western allies.” See also from the Guardian:

At The Hague, Aharon Barak will play Dr. Jekyll to Israel’s Mr. Hyde,

“The announcement that Israel has chosen Aharon Barak, the renowned former Supreme Court President, to join the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as it judges a landmark case charging Israel with genocide has sent the country into a tizzy…On the face of it, Barak is a puzzling choice from a far-right government that has spent the past year trying to dismantle much of what he stood for…Yet it’s hard to think of a person better suited for the role. Not because of Barak’s legal prowess, nor the international reputation he has built for himself, nor even the fact he is a Holocaust survivor — which did not go unnoticed by those who sent him to The Hague. Rather, Barak’s new role actually continues the mission to which he has devoted his entire professional life: legitimizing the majority of Israel’s crimes, while simultaneously defending the façade of “Israeli democracy.” Barak, after all, is one of the most significant authors of the legal doctrine that Israel can claim to be a democracy while maintaining an endless military occupation and systematically depriving the Palestinians of their rights, dignity, land, and property.” See also from +972: Will the ICJ find Israel guilty of genocide? “Attorney Michael Sfard outlines what could play out as the world’s top court decides if and how to intervene in Israel’s war on Gaza.” (by Meron Rapoport)


‘It’s like living in a mortuary, waiting for someone to bury you’,

“The struggle for survival has morphed into a haunting and totalizing reality for Palestinian residents here in Gaza City, as it has for Palestinians across the entire Strip. Against the backdrop of intensified Israeli military attacks, the deprivation of food and water under a tightened siege, and the pervasive threat of epidemics with no medical aid, the city’s remaining inhabitants — even as they fight to stay alive — feel as if they have been left with no choice but to wait for their death.”

Exposing the Truth of Israel’s ‘Less Intense’ Genocidal Campaign in Gaza,

“In a recent report, The New York Times described the Israeli military’s operations in Gaza as entering a “less intense phase.” This description dangerously understates the reality on the ground. Contrary to this portrayal, Israel’s actions in Gaza remain relentlessly brutal. Al Jazeera’s latest coverage reveals a grim picture since Israel claimed its “less intense” phase: over 30 massacres in two days, resulting in the killing of 376 Palestinians and the injury of hundreds more. This is not a de-escalation; it’s a continued onslaught under a misleading label. The Israeli military’s current focus on the central and southern governorates of Gaza is particularly alarming. The areas of Al-Nusairat, Al-Maghazi, Al-Buraij in the middle area, and Khan Yunis in the south, are suffering under relentless bombardment and incursions. Far from being a reduction in intensity, this shift represents a strategic realignment of Israel’s genocidal tactics, targeting regions now overflowing with displaced Palestinians from northern areas and Gaza City. The situation is deteriorating rapidly, and the international community cannot afford to be swayed by euphemisms that mask the ongoing atrocities.” See also In Gaza ‘safe zone,’ Palestinians are living out their nightmares (Ruwaida Kamal Amer//+972); Visual Evidence Shows Israel Dropped 2,000-Pound Bombs Where It Ordered Gaza’s Civilians to Move for Safety (NYT); There Are No Safe Places in Gaza (New Yorker);

Looming Starvation in Gaza Shows Resurgence of Civilian Sieges in Warfare,

“The number of people facing possible starvation in the Gaza Strip in the coming weeks is the largest share of a population at risk of famine identified anywhere since a United Nations-affiliated panel created the current global food-insecurity assessment 20 years ago…Scholars of famine say it has been generations since the world has seen this degree of food deprivation in warfare.” See also: Israel is starving Gaza (B’Tselem); Gazans are starving. Airdrops of aid could help change that (Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib//The Forward); UN Humanitarian Chief Says ‘Famine Around the Corner’ in ‘Uninhabitable’ Gaza (Haaretz); Gaza is Starving (New Yorker: “The chief economist of the World Food Program explains how the scarcity of food may tip the territory into famine.”); What Happens When There Is No Food: Experts Say Severe Malnutrition Could Set in Swiftly in Gaza (NYT)

Israel’s military campaign in Gaza seen as among the most destructive in recent history, experts say,

“In just over two months, the offensive has wreaked more destruction than the razing of Syria’s Aleppo between 2012 and 2016, Ukraine’s Mariupol or, proportionally, the Allied bombing of Germany in World War II. It has killed more civilians than the U.S.-led coalition did in its three-year campaign against the Islamic State group. The Israeli military has said little about what kinds of bombs and artillery it is using in Gaza. But from blast fragments found on-site and analyses of strike footage, experts are confident that the vast majority of bombs dropped on the besieged enclave are U.S.-made. They say the weapons include 2,000-pound (900-kilogram) “bunker-busters” that have killed hundreds in densely populated areas.” See also Destruction of the Palestinian cultural heritage of Gaza – in pictures (The Guardian); Opinion: Israel’s Gaza strategy: Create facts on the ground that can’t be undone (Tariq Kenney-Shawa//LA Times)

The Epidemiological War on Gaza,

“Israel’s ongoing war on Gaza has already killed nearly 23,000 people, with 7,000 others buried under rubble and 55,000 more injured…Since October 7th, Israel has severely reduced the entry of food, water, and fuel into Gaza, successfully creating what global health expert Yara Asi described as “a dire human-made humanitarian catastrophe” characterized by mass hunger, thirst, homelessness, and lack of medical services. As months pass without any meaningful relief, these conditions have produced “the perfect storm for disease,” in the words of United Nations Children’s Fund spokesperson James Elder. On January 2nd, the WHO announced that there are currently 424,639 cases of infectious diseases in Gaza. Since such official counts only represent those who were able to make it to a clinic or hospital, experts assume that the true rates are much higher. A half million infectious disease cases would still have overwhelmed Gaza’s healthcare system before October 7th, though many would have been treatable with food, water, and medical care. But today, amid an ongoing assault that has destroyed 27 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals, as well as the very foundations of the enclave’s public health—in the form of food, water, and shelter—epidemics are likely to mean mass death.” See also WHO axes medical aid delivery to north Gaza in absence of security guarantees (Reuters); For Gaza’s Pregnant Women and Newborns, the War Will Never Be Over (Alice Rothschild//NYT)

Israel in talks with Congo and other countries on Gaza ‘voluntary migration’ plan,

“The “voluntary” resettlement of Palestinians from Gaza is slowly becoming a key official policy of the government, with a senior official saying that Israel has held talks with several countries for their potential absorption. Zman Israel, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew sister site, has learned that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition is conducting secret contacts for accepting thousands of immigrants from Gaza with Congo, in addition to other nations.” See also Smotrich doubles down on resettlement of Gazans, rejecting US criticism (Times of Israel); Israeli Lawmakers Say It Out Loud: Mass Migration From Gaza and Jewish Resettlement (Haaretz); What Will Happen to Gaza’s People? (Peter Beinart//NYT: “…a growing number of Israeli officials are saying it out loud: They don’t want to force just Hamas out of Gaza. They want many of Gaza’s people to leave, too.”). See also Peter Beinart in The Hard Truth of Israel’s Endgame in Gaza (NYT)

Inside Israel’s torture camp for Gaza detainees,

“In early December, images circulated worldwide showing dozens of Palestinian men in the city of Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip, who were stripped to their underwear, kneeling or sitting hunched over, then blindfolded and put into the back of Israeli military trucks like cattle. The vast majority of these detainees were civilians with no affiliation to Hamas, Israeli security officials later confirmed, and the men were taken away by the army without notifying their families of the detainees’ whereabouts. Some of them never returned. +972 Magazine and Local Call spoke with four Palestinian civilians who appeared in these photos, or were arrested near the scene and taken to Israeli military detention centers, where they were held for several days or even weeks before being released back to Gaza. Their testimonies — along with 49 video testimonies published by various Arabic media outlets of Palestinians arrested in similar circumstances in recent weeks in the northern districts of Zeitoun, Jabalia, and Shuja’iya — indicate systematic abuse and torture by Israeli soldiers against all of the detainees, civilians and combatants alike.” See also Gazan prisoners describe abuse at secretive Israeli detention sites (WaPo)

Israel’s Gaza war leads to a massacre of journalists,

“According to a tally maintained by the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 79 journalists and media workers have been killed since the start of the war on Oct. 7. Local Palestinian authorities put that number above 100. In either case, it’s the single biggest death toll for journalists in a conflict zone for years — surpassing the toll exacted on the press operating in Ukraine over the past two years in just a matter of months. By one estimate, 1 out of every 10 journalists in the Gaza Strip has already been killed.” See also An Al Jazeera journalist is the fifth member of his family killed by Israeli strikes on Gaza (AP)

The Long War on Gaza,

“Over fifty-six years, Israel has transformed Gaza from a functional economy to a dysfunctional one, from a productive society to an impoverished one.”

Here are the hostages released by Hamas and those remaining in Gaza,

“More than 100 hostages held in the Gaza Strip have been released since they were taken in the cross-border Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. Estimates for the total number of hostages seized in the attack that left at least 1,200 people dead in Israel have shifted over the course of the war. As of Wednesday, an estimated 107 living hostages remain in captivity in Gaza, according to numbers provided by Israel, but the country has not given the full basis for its estimates.” See also Netanyahu Says Medicine Will Be Transferred to Israeli Hostages in Gaza ‘In the Next Few Days’ (Haaretz: “The Qatari-brokered deal will allow for prescription medicine to be given to Israeli hostages, while Israel would allow more medicine to enter Gaza”); ‘The hostages weren’t our top priority’: How Israel’s bombing frenzy endangered captives in Gaza (Yuval Abraham//+972); ‘We can’t leave any more behind’: Families of Israeli hostages cling to waning hope (Alice Austin//+972)


U.S.-led coalition strikes Iran-aligned Houthi militants in Yemen,

“A U.S.-led military coalition struck Iran-aligned Houthi militants in Yemen on Thursday, a dramatic escalation after the group ignored repeated warnings from the Biden administration and other governments to stop attacking commercial vessels in the Red Sea. The operation follows weeks of hostility as the Houthis, protesting Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, have disrupted global trade by making the vital passage a dangerous place for ships to transit. The group, which functions as the de facto government in parts of Yemen, has carried out at least 27 attacks since November, officials have said, leading to repeated altercations as the United States and partner nations have surged warships into the region to protect against the incoming fire.” See also ‘Unacceptable’: Biden denounced for bypassing Congress over Yemen strikes (Guardian); Who are the Houthis? A simple guide to the Yemeni group (Al Jazeera)

Israeli strike kills a Hezbollah commander in Lebanon,

“Israel killed a top Hezbollah commander in a strike in south Lebanon on Monday, sources familiar with the group’s operations said, inflicting a heavy blow after three months of hostilities at the Lebanese-Israeli frontier. Wissam Tawil was a commander of Hezbollah’s elite Radwan forces and the most senior Hezbollah officer killed so far in the conflict, a senior source in Lebanon said, adding he played a leading role in directing its operations in the south.”

Israeli drone strike kills senior Hamas official in Beirut, sources say,

“Saleh al-Arouri, the deputy chairman of Hamas’ political bureau and the commander of the group’s military wing in the occupied West Bank, was killed in a drone attack in a Beirut suburb on Tuesday, Hamas has confirmed.”

Saudi envoy says kingdom ‘absolutely’ still open to normalization deal with Israel,

“Saudi Arabia is still interested in pursuing a normalization deal with Israel after its war against Hamas in Gaza ends, an envoy from the Gulf nation said Tuesday. Prince Khalid bin Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the UK, told the BBC in a radio interview that Riyadh is still open to establishing ties with the Jewish state as long as it is part of an overall two-state solution.” See also King Abdullah of Jordan warns of catastrophic ramifications if war in Gaza continues (Independent)

West Bank & East Jerusalem

Settlers killed a Palestinian teen. Israeli forces didn’t stop it.,

“A review of the deadliest settler attack in the West Bank since the war began shows how increasingly violent tactics have gone unpunished”

Unmatched Surge in Settlement Activity in the West Bank Since the Onset of the Gaza War,

“In the aftermath of three months of war in Gaza, we are witnessing an unprecedented surge in settlement activities, including the construction of outposts, roads, fences, and roadblocks initiated by settlers. Settlers persist in seizing control of Area C in the West Bank, further marginalizing the Palestinian presence. Alongside the ongoing settler violence, reports in November highlighted the establishment of outposts and the paving of roads, contributing to a widespread phenomenon of roadblocks. These obstacles prevent Palestinians from accessing main roads in the West Bank, and barriers are erected along these roads to impede Palestinian movement and presence in various buffer zones.”

The Land Battle Rocking an Ancient Community in Jerusalem's Old City,

“The controversy has everything: luxury real estate, foreign interests, Israeli far-rightists and allegations of corruption. Armenians in Jerusalem say they won’t make the mistake the Greek Orthodox community made, but it may be too late”

Stay Inside: Hebron Residents Face Restrictions Like Never Before, Unable to Leave Their Homes or Neighborhood,

“Restrictions imposed by Israel since the start of the war have prevented Hebron residents living in the Israeli-controlled part of the West Bank city from getting to their workplaces and even buying food. The army claims there is no curfew in Hebron, but the reality tells a different story.”

Palestinian Scene

Fed up with absent leadership, Palestinians yearn for political unity,

“According to the [recent poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) in the West Bank and Gaza] poll’s findings, support for Hamas has surged to 44 percent among Palestinians in the West Bank, compared to just 12 percent in September. Support for Abbas, his Fatah party, and the PA have dropped significantly: more than 90 percent demand the president’s resignation, while support for the dissolution of the PA — nearly 60 percent across the West Bank and Gaza — is the highest it’s ever been in a PCPSR poll. Mounting public discontent over the PA’s deafening silence in the face of Israel’s brazen bombardment of Gaza, intensifying raids into West Bank cities, and assassination of top Palestinian leaders is adding to years of frustration over persistent accusations of corruption, the PA’s failure to pay its employees, and the sense that it is increasingly disconnected from the lives of its constituents. More than ever before, there is a stark perception that the PA is completely irrelevant. As such, for many Palestinians, the current leadership is unable to represent the aspirations and concerns of the people, hindering meaningful steps toward ending the current war on Gaza and advancing their struggle as a whole. Many insist that it is imperative for a new leadership to realign its actions with the pressing needs of the public, and to assert Palestinian agency amid the cacophony of discussions for the “day after.” The PA and its leaders, though, are doing all they can to remain at the center of these designs.”

Seeking cash, Hamas turns to allies experienced in ‘financial jihad’,

“Efforts by the United States to disrupt Hamas’ cash flow following the group’s bloody assault on southern Israel reveal networks spanning Africa and the Mideast – and highlight differences between it and global Islamist actors.”

What’s Required to Revive the PLO?,

“As the Israeli regime continues its genocidal campaign against Palestinians in Gaza, many have begun to weigh in on the future of Hamas and of Palestinian leadership more broadly once the bombardment ends. One of the dominant proposals circulating amongst analysts, Palestinian and otherwise, is the revival of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), with Hamas as a member party…But revival of the PLO requires more than bringing Hamas, and possibly Islamic Jihad, into the fold. For the past 20 years, the Fatah-controlled PA has effectively whittled down the PLO to a barren institution, serving primarily its own interests rather than those of the Palestinian people as a whole, as was originally intended. What then, beyond inclusion, is needed in order to resuscitate the viability of the PLO? What resources exist to carry out this effort, and who may champion such a project to ensure a self-determined result?…In an effort to strengthen the generative thinking around these questions, Al-Shabaka revisits a collection of its past works that sought to confront this very topic. Together, these pieces lay bare the reality that the questions many are grappling with today are not new, but rather the continuation of a years-old discussion among the Palestinian community.”

Israel Found the Hamas Money Machine Years Ago. Nobody Turned It Off.,

“Israeli security officials scored a major intelligence coup in 2018: secret documents that laid out, in intricate detail, what amounted to a private equity fund that Hamas used to finance its operations…The documents, which The New York Times reviewed, were a potential road map for choking off Hamas’s money and thwarting its plans. The agents who obtained the records shared them inside their own government and in Washington. Nothing happened. For years, none of the companies named in the ledgers faced sanctions from the United States or Israel. Nobody publicly called out the companies or pressured Turkey, the hub of the financial network, to shut it down…A Times investigation found that both senior Israeli and American officials failed to prioritize financial intelligence — which they had in hand — showing that tens of millions of dollars flowed from the companies to Hamas at the exact moment that it was buying new weapons and preparing an attack. That money, American and Israeli officials now say, helped Hamas build up its military infrastructure and helped lay the groundwork for the Oct. 7 attacks.” See also ‘Buying Quiet’: Inside the Israeli Plan That Propped Up Hamas (NYT)

More Perspectives on Gaza

A Palestinian Poet’s Perilous Journey Out of Gaza,

“I hope that when the war ends I can go back to Gaza, to help rebuild my family home and fill it with books. That one day all Israelis can see us as their equals—as people who need to live on our own land, in safety and prosperity, and build a future. That my dream of seeing Gaza from a plane can become a reality, and that my home can grow many more dreams. It’s true that there are many things to criticize Palestinians for. We are divided. We suffer from corruption. Many of our leaders do not represent us. Some people are violent. But, in the end, we Palestinians share at least one thing with Israelis. We must have our own country—or live together in one country, in which Palestinians have full and equal rights. We should have our own airport and seaport and economy—what any other country has.” See also this short film from Mosab Abu Toha: ‘You Carry Your Home With You’: A Palestinian Poet’s Journey Out of Gaza (NYT: After months of war and fleeing from one place to the next with family, Palestinian Poet Mosab Abu Toha crossed into Egypt. He describes his harrowing experience, including being stripped, beaten and detained by Israeli soldiers.)

"Comparison is the way we know the world",

“One important objection I have heard to comparing Gaza to the ghetto: but there are no death marches out of Gaza and no death camps waiting for its inhabitants. And this is why we compare. To prevent what we know can happen from happening. To make “Never Again” a political project rather than a magic spell. And if we compare compellingly and bravely, then, in the best case scenario, the comparison is proven wrong.” See also Award ceremony suspended after writer compares Gaza to Nazi-era Jewish ghettos (The Guardian); Masha Gessen Kicks the Hornet’s Nest on Israel and the Holocaust (Politico)

The case of al-Shifa: Investigating the assault on Gaza’s largest hospital,

“But the evidence presented by the Israeli government falls short of showing that Hamas had been using the hospital as a command and control center, according to a Washington Post analysis of open-source visuals, satellite imagery and all of the publicly released IDF materials. That raises critical questions, legal and humanitarian experts say, about whether the civilian harm caused by Israel’s military operations against the hospital — encircling, besieging and ultimately raiding the facility and the tunnel beneath it — were proportionate to the assessed threat…The targeting by a U.S. ally of a compound housing hundreds of sick and dying patients and thousands of displaced people has no precedent in recent decades. The march on al-Shifa caused the hospital’s operations to collapse…In the weeks since, other hospitals in Gaza have come under attack in ways that mirror what happened at al-Shifa — making the assault not just a watershed moment in the conflict, but a vital case study in Israel’s adherence to the laws of war.”

Why is Gaza so central to the Palestinian struggle?,

“The history of Gaza illuminates how the tiny enclave has long encapsulated Palestinian identity — and why it is now the focal point of a regional crisis.”

US Scene

‘Extraordinary’: Biden administration staffers’ growing dissent against Gaza policy,

“Dissent inside the Biden administration over the president’s Gaza policy is growing, with a public resignation this week of a Department of Education official, and a letter signed by more than a dozen Biden campaign staffers calling for a ceasefire and the conditioning of aid to Israel…Habash, who is Palestinian American, is the first political appointee from the Biden administration to bring his resignation to the media and publish an open letter. “I cannot stay silent as this administration turns a blind eye to the atrocities committed against innocent Palestinian lives,” he wrote in announcing his resignation from his position as adviser to its policy planning office.” See also America Must Face Up to Israel’s Extremism (Michelle Goldberg//NYT: “By acting as if Ben-Gvir and Smotrich can be hived off from the government in which they serve, U.S. policymakers are fostering denial about the character of Netanyahu’s rule.”) 

“Not a Day Goes by Where I Don’t Think About Leaving” ,

“Two weeks into Israel’s assault on Gaza, some State Department employees had already signed on to memos criticizing the White House’s unconditional support of the bombings. These memos, sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken through the agency’s official “dissent channel”—a sanctioned way for employees to show opposition to government policy without fear of retaliation—were the first signs of opposition to Israel’s bombardment from within the United States government. In the following months, as the administration’s unwavering support for Israel has continued, dissatisfaction within the administration has grown to an unprecedented pitch, with thousands of Biden administration officials coming out against the White House’s Israel policy. On November 10th, over 1,000 employees at the US Agency for International Development—a government body that administers humanitarian aid around the world—anonymously signed an open letter calling on President Joe Biden to demand an immediate ceasefire. Four days later, over 500 Biden administration officials from 40 government agencies also sent the president an anonymous letter calling for a ceasefire and more humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza. (The number of signatories has since risen to over 850.) The next month, over three dozen staffers held a vigil outside the White House demanding that the president come out for a ceasefire. And just last week, Biden campaign staff joined in by issuing a ceasefire call addressed to the president.” See also Tariq Habash’s resignation letter (posted on X).

Senate progressives gripe about Biden bypassing congressional review for Israel arms sale,

“A handful of Senate progressives criticized the Biden administration over the holidays for bypassing the congressional review period to transfer around $150 million worth of ammunition to Israel. This was the second time in recent weeks that the administration exercised emergency authorities to bypass the congressional review period for weapons transfers to Israel — during which lawmakers could attempt to force a vote on blocking the arms transfer. Some progressive Democrats who have expressed concerns about Israel’s military operations in Gaza and are pushing for a vote on conditioning aid in the still-pending supplemental aid bill for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, blasted the administration.” See also Biden administration works around Congress in another Israel emergency weapons sale (Axios); Senate progressives seek to block administration from circumventing Congress on Israel arms transfers (JI); Van Hollen emerging as leader of progressive Senate bloc critical of Israeli policy (Jewish Insider); Sanders calls on Congress to block additional aid to Israel (NY1)

Poll Finds Wide Disapproval of Biden on Gaza, and Little Room to Shift Gears,

“Voters broadly disapprove of the way President Biden is handling the bloody strife between Israelis and Palestinians, a New York Times/Siena College poll has found, with younger Americans far more critical than older voters of both Israel’s conduct and of the administration’s response to the war in Gaza. Voters are also sending decidedly mixed signals about the direction U.S. policy-making should take as the war in Gaza grinds into its third month, with Israelis still reeling from the Oct. 7 terrorist attack, thousands of Palestinian deaths in Gaza and the Biden administration trying to pressure Israel to scale back its military campaign. Nearly as many Americans want Israel to continue its military campaign as want it to stop now to avoid further civilian casualties.…Most young voters, however, responded to question after question with answers showing that they see the worst in Israel. Few of them believe Israelis are serious about peace with the Palestinians. Nearly half say Israel is intentionally killing civilians. Nearly three-fourths say Israel is not taking enough precautions to avoid civilian casualties. And a majority oppose additional economic and military aid to Israel. The broader electorate, by contrast, takes a much more pro-Israel view, suggesting that Israel’s image problems with American voters are more acute on the political horizon than at present. Still, fully 48 percent of all voters surveyed said they believed Israel was not taking enough precautions to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza.” See also American Unions Long Backed Israel. Now, Some Are Protesting It. (NYT)

Israeli Scene

Israeli public figures accuse judiciary of ignoring incitement to genocide in Gaza,

“A group of prominent Israelis has accused the country’s judicial authorities of ignoring “extensive and blatant” incitement to genocide and ethnic cleansing in Gaza by influential public figures. In a letter to the attorney general and state prosecutors, they demand action to stop the normalisation of language that breaks both Israeli and international law. “For the first time that we can remember, the explicit calls to commit atrocious crimes, as stated, against millions of civilians have turned into a legitimate and regular part of Israeli discourse,” they write. “Today, calls of these types are an everyday matter in Israel.””

Israel is using a notorious military tool to arrest its own Palestinian citizens,

“In the shadow of the Hamas-led October 7 attack and Israel’s ongoing bombardment of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian citizens of Israel have been facing a wave of persecution. Hundreds have been arrested or interrogated, usually on the basis of social media activity; dozens more have been suspended or dismissed from Israeli academic institutions; and a recent amendment to Israel’s Counterterrorism Law is enabling unprecedented levels of surveillance. At the same time, a more subtle but equally dangerous move to further cast the community as “internal enemies” has gone largely under the radar: since October 7, Israel has placed seven Palestinian citizens in administrative detention.”

Private Gun Ownership in Israel Spikes After Hamas Attacks,

“But in the aftermath of Oct. 7, Israelis have submitted at least 256,000 applications for gun licenses, including many who had never before considered owning a weapon. Israel’s current far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, has long pushed for an expansion of gun ownership, and in mid-October, lawmakers signed off on eased gun ownership regulations promulgated by his office…The approach has prompted fierce criticism inside Israel from policy experts and some lawmakers, who fear loosened regulations and proliferating weapons will drive an increase in homicides, suicides, domestic violence and even private gangs operating as militias.” See also Head of Israel’s Gun Licensing Authority Says Ben-Gvir’s Policy Leading to ‘Loss of Control’ (Haaretz)

Activism & Repression

Palestine Solidarity Crackdown: Challenges in the US & Europe,

“Israel’s 2023 genocide of Palestinians in Gaza has horrified many around the world and drawn widespread public outcry, with unprecedented levels of solidarity organizing taking place across the globe. Millions have gathered in the streets, issued public statements, and mobilized to block corporate and state-led support not only for the Israeli regime’s recent onslaught but for its decades-long colonial occupation of Palestine. But as this unparalleled solidarity has emerged, so too has extraordinary repression at every level.  Al-Shabaka spoke with Layla Kattermann of the European Legal Support Center (ELSC) and Diala Shamas of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) for further insight on this suppression of mobilization. Together, they detail some of the intimidation tactics and punitive actions taken by governments across North America and Europe and offer concrete advice for how to resist such efforts to stifle Palestine solidarity.”

‘The Eye of the Beholder’,

“Administrators at Columbia and other US universities have been cracking down on student protest against the war in Gaza—even as right-wing politicians demand they go further.”

We have a tool to stop Israel’s war crimes: BDS,

“Groups of organized consumers have the power to boycott companies that invest in illegal settlements, or power Israeli weapons. Trade unions can push their pension funds to divest from those firms. Municipal governments can select contractors based on ethical criteria that forbid these relationships. As Omar Barghouti, one of the founders and leaders of the BDS movement, reminds us: “The most profound ethical obligation in these times is to act to end complicity. Only thus can we truly hope to end oppression and violence.” In these ways, BDS deserves to be seen as a people’s foreign policy, or diplomacy from below – and if it gets strong enough, it will eventually force governments to impose sanctions from above, as South Africa is attempting to do. Which is clearly the only force that can get Israel off its current path.”

Indiana University Cancels Major Exhibition of Palestinian Artist,

“The first American retrospective of Samia Halaby, regarded as one of the most important living Palestinian artists, was abruptly canceled by officials at Indiana University in recent weeks. Dozens of her vibrant and abstract paintings were already at the school when Halaby, 87, said she received a call from the director of the university’s Eskenazi Museum of Art. The director informed her that employees had shared concern about her social media posts on the Israel-Gaza war, where she had expressed support for Palestinian causes and outrage at the violence in the Middle East, comparing the Israeli bombardment to a genocide.”