Top News from Israel & Palestine: January 9, 2020

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Annexation, Human Rights

Mounting Pressure to Construct in Givat Hamatos while New Settler Enclave Approved for Beit Hanina,

“Over the last few years there has been an alarming escalation of new facts on the ground, including state-sponsored settlement expansion, settler-initiated evictions of Palestinians and touristic settlement projects across East Jerusalem, which enable Israel to deepen its control of the area and thereby undermine an agreed resolution on the city. Givat Hamatos and Har Homa West, however, remain some of the few areas within Jerusalem where construction has yet to advance. While it is impossible to ascertain the exact outcomes of the pressures on Netanyahu, the publication of housing tenders on Givat Hamatos would require the prior announcement of tenders for the construction of infrastructure. Along with the area of E1, Givat Hamatos has remained a major red line in East Jerusalem as it would constitute the last link in a chain of developments that would cumulatively seal off East Jerusalem’s southern perimeter from the West Bank and render the two-state solution unviable.”

Defense Chief Bennett Announces Task Force to Strengthen Israeli Settlement Activity,

“Defense Minister Naftali Bennett announced Wednesday that he had established a task force to develop plans for the future of Area C of the West Bank and then advocate on behalf of the plans. Legal sources familiar with Bennett’s plan said it may present some legal difficulties, as some of the proposed moves are effectively equivalent to annexing parts of the West Bank. Bennett is a leader of the Hayamin Hehadash party, which has supported expanded settlement activity. ‘We are launching a campaign for the future of Area C; it started a month ago and I’m announcing it here today,’ Bennett told a conference of the Kohelet Forum, a nationalist and economically conservative lobby. ‘The State of Israel’s policy is that the land in Area C belongs to [Israel]’.”

In Israeli Left-wing Activist's Arrest, Court Dances to the Tune of Settler Incitement,

Michael Sfard writes, “The left-wing activist Jonathan Pollak was arrested Monday. Undercover officers came to his workplace, informed him that he was under arrest, handcuffed him and put him in a police car. They were acting on the instruction of Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Dov Pollock. Pollock had Pollak arrested for failing to appear in court to answer a private criminal complaint filed against Pollak and two fellow activists by the Ad Kan espionage and infiltration organization. In signing the injurious and superfluous warrant, the judge gave Ad Kan a rare win and once again made the judiciary an important collaborator of the anti-democratic right in its persecution of the ideological left, which is steadfast in its refusal to accept the crime of the occupation.”

Arrest of Israeli activist shows extreme-right group working with the state,

“In practice, Ad Kan’s modus operandi works something like this: the organization dispatches its people to tail individual citizens, sues them in private suits, demands their arrest, assists police officers in carrying out that arrest, and then tries to set conditions of release on the court’s behalf. Each of these steps by Ad Kan will have required coordination with the courts, the police and the attorney general, who has yet to respond to Lasky’s request — made six months ago — that he put a stop to the process. Former Attorney General Michael Ben Yair even called the prosecution of Pollak an ‘outrage’ and ‘an utter abuse of criminal processes.’ Even if the case against Pollak is shortly thrown out, it nevertheless signals a new level of right-wing persecution of anti-occupation activists. Should Ad Kan’s private prosecution be brought to a halt, Pollak will be released without having to plead bail or make a further court appearance. Until then, he appears unlikely to back down from his refusal to recognize the court’s authority, and is expected to spend an extended period of time behind bars.”

'Arrested at any time': Palestinian students in Israel's crosshairs,

“In the last months of 2019, the Israeli occupation has launched one of its most aggressive arrest campaigns against Palestinian students in recent years. Statistics by Palestinian prisoners’ rights organisation Addameer indicate that some 250 Palestinian university students are currently imprisoned by Israel. According to the Right to Education Campaign at Birzeit University, Israeli forces detained 30 students from the leading Palestinian institution alone over a period of four months.”

Bennett Appoints ‘Bulldozer’ to Protect Area C,

“Kobi Eliraz, a long-time activist and resident of the Shomron town of Eli, has been appointed by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett to lead a special division of the Defense Ministry that will battle illegal Arab building in Area C. Eliraz formerly served as a special advisor to former Defense Ministers Moshe Yaalon, Avigdor Liberman and Binyamin Netanyahu on settlement issues. Eliraz’s job will be to coordinate resources in the Defense Ministry against illegal Arab building in Area C. Of the appointment, Bennett said that ‘the future of the territory of the State of Israel is at stake. Unfortunately, Palestinians are taking over our areas without interference. Israel has simply not engaged in battle over this. We are now changing direction and entering the battle. Israel must win. The defense establishment will fight for our land, and for this battle, Kobi Eliraz is the right person at the right time. He is an expert in these matters and a ‘bulldozer’ who will get things done.'”

Five East Jerusalem Residents Detained for Violating Curfew They Claim Is Unlawful,

“Five Palestinian residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiyah arrested on Sunday after violating the terms of a rare nighttime curfew imposed by the Israeli military are still in detention. The five were arrested after openly violated the curfew, which they contest. The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ordered their release on bail  on Tuesday, but they refused to pay it, arguing the curfew order is unlawful and stressing they were not presented with any evidence to support the military’s decision.”

Israel Police Filmed Kicking Palestinian in the Head During Arrest on Temple Mount,

“Israeli policemen were caught on camera kicking a Palestinian in the head while arresting him on Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The clip shows the officers pinning the man to the ground while trying to handcuff him. After he resisted, they kicked him in the body, while in the background, one of them is heard shouting ‘leave him alone.’ Six worshipers were arrested on the grounds of shouting nationalist rhetoric at the police.”

The "Deal of the Century"

Israeli officials believe U.S. may release peace plan before election,

“The plan’s release would be a potential bombshell that could influence the results of the elections…The release of the peace plan was postponed twice in the lead-up to Israeli elections, with the White House saying it did not want to interfere with Israel’s political process. While the White House has not made its final decision, Trump envoy Avi Berkowitz’s visit to Israel this week was part of the preparations for a possible launch of the peace plan, the Israeli officials say. Berkowitz met on Monday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and today with the leader of the opposition Blue and White party, Benny Gantz. He discussed the peace plan with both leaders. The plan has had to be updated as a result of nearly one year of postponements, though it’s not clear what those updates consist of.”

Gantz: Releasing peace plan now would be an intervention in elections,

“Blue and White leader MK Benny Gantz said on Wednesday that the publication of the long-awaited Trump peace-plan before the upcoming Israeli elections would be a ‘gross intervention’ in those elections. Speaking at a Blue and White faction meeting, Gantz was referring to heightened speculation that the peace plan that has been drawn up by Jared Kushner, former Special Representative Jason Greenblatt and others may be released ahead of the elections.”

Pompeo says U.S. support for Israeli settlements advances peace with Palestinians,

“Speaking by video link at a Jerusalem policy forum dubbed ‘The Pompeo Doctrine’, Pompeo, in a pre-recorded statement, said the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump returned to a ‘balanced and sober’ approach to Middle East peace by changing its position. ‘It’s important that we speak the truth when the facts lead us to it. And we are recognizing that these settlements don’t inherently violate international law,’ Pompeo said.”

Anti-BDS/Anti-Free Speech Lawfare

The scholar who wrote the definition of anti-Semitism says it’s been subverted,

“Stern, who now directs the Bard Center for the Study of Hate, said that right-leaning Jewish leaders had been pushing for the adoption of the definition in educational settings for a decade. ‘Since 2010, people on the Jewish right have been trying to take the definition, marry it with the powers under Title VI and use it as a way to try and suppress pro-Palestinian speech on campus,’ he said. ‘As much as I might agree with some of the criticisms of that speech, there’s a way you deal with that on a campus: You think critically about it and push back’.”

What do Americans think of the BDS movement, aimed at Israel?,

“A majority of respondents, including a large majority of Republicans, said they opposed the movement. But the story was different among Democrats, who said they had heard at least ‘a little’ about the movement: A plurality, 48%, said they supported the movement, while only 15% said they opposed it. Given that those who said they had heard ‘a little’ about BDS are likely less informed about the movement than those who said they had heard ‘a good amount’ or ‘a great deal,’ we probed the better-informed respondents further. I found that a majority of the 16% of Democrats who said they had heard ‘a good amount’ or ‘a great deal’ about BDS supported it (66%), compared with 37% among those who said they heard just ‘a little’.”