Top News from Israel & Palestine: July 20, 2021

What We’re Reading

Ben & Jerry's

Israel's New Government Hoped to Freeze the Palestinian Issue. Ben & Jerry's Had Other Plans,

“Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield did not sign the coalition agreements that established the new Israeli government last month. Nor did Unilever, the multinational consumer goods company. Yet Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, a subsidiary of Unilever, may have upended the impractical idea the government toys with, that it will defer and not deal with contentious or controversial issues. The basic rationale is not to disrupt the delicate harmony and sow discord in the fragile balance of a governing coalition composed of diametrically different parties. Ben & Jerry’s tends to disagree.”

Israel Fears More Companies Will Follow Ben & Jerry’s Boycott,

“Ben & Jerry’s announcement on Monday that it will stop selling its ice cream in the Israeli settlements in the West Bank has raised concerns that other multinational corporations could start shunning the settlements as well.”

Israeli PM vows to ‘act aggressively’ over Ben & Jerry’s ban,

“Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told the head of Unilever on Tuesday that Israel will ‘act aggressively’ against Ben & Jerry’s over the subsidiary’s decision to stop selling its ice cream in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and contested east Jerusalem. British consumer goods conglomerate Unilever acquired the Vermont-based ice cream company in 2000. Ben & Jerry’s said in a statement on Monday that it had informed its longstanding licensee — responsible for manufacturing and distributing the ice cream in Israel — that it will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of 2022. Bennett’s office said in a statement that he spoke with Unilever CEO Alan Jope about what he called Ben & Jerry’s ‘clearly anti-Israel step,’ adding that the move would have ‘serious consequences, legal and otherwise, and that it will act aggressively against all boycott actions directed against its citizens.’”


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Israeli foreign minister calls on US states to take legal action against Ben & Jerry's,

“Israel’s Foreign Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid slammed the decision of Ben & Jerry’s to stop selling its ice cream in the West Bank, calling on US states that have passed anti-BDS legislation to take legal action against the Vermont-based company. ‘Ben & Jerry’s decision represents shameful surrender to antisemitism, to BDS and to all that is wrong with the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish discourse. We will not be silent,’ Lapid said on Twitter. ‘Over 30 states in the United States have passed anti-BDS legislation in recent years. I plan on asking each of them to enforce these laws against Ben & Jerry’s. They will not treat the State of Israel like this without a response,’ Lapid continued. Israel’s Ambassador to the UN and US Gilad Erdan on Monday night addressed the governors of the 35 states that passed anti-BDS legislation, asking them to take legal action against Ben & Jerry’s. ‘While Arab countries lift the boycott of Israel, it is inconceivable that American companies with radical agendas will go against US policy and work against normalization and peace,’ Erdan said.” Also see: Israel Wants U.S. to Enforce anti-BDS Laws Against Ben & Jerry’s. Will It Work? (Haaretz)

Ben & Jerry's withdraws sales from Israeli settlements but clashes with parent company Unilever,

“The Ben & Jerry’s board had been pushing to withdraw ice cream sales from the occupied territories for years, said the board’s chair, Anuradha Mittal. However, it wanted to release a different statement, reviewed by NBC News, that made no reference to continued sales in Israel — a decision that Mittal said would require board approval — and highlighted the company’s commitment to social justice. Unilever released the statement against the wishes of the board and in violation of a legal agreement made when it bought Ben & Jerry’s in 2000, Mittal said.”


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NSO Group

Where Netanyahu Went, NSO Followed: How Israel Pushed Cyberweapon Sales,

“Earlier this week, Haaretz – together with newspapers across the world – published a string of articles that detailed the role played by the Israeli cyber firm NSO in surveilling journalists, as part of an international investigation led by Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International. It revealed some 180 cases round the world in which NSO’s clients intended to surveille journalists, and some of these plans were actually carried out, posing a threat to journalists and their sources. The countries in which journalists were targeted through NSO’s technology that were revealed in Project Pegasus include Saudi Arabia, Hungary, Azerbaijan, the United Arab Emirates, Rwanda, Morocco, India and Mexico. This list might ring a bell with anyone who follows the news in Israel, since it mirrors the list of countries with which Israel improved its diplomatic relations in recent years, under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.” Also see: Twitter thread from FMEP’s Lara Friedman highlighting this same point

How Washington power brokers gained from NSO’s spyware ambitions,

“The surveillance giant has failed to build a big business in the U.S. But an influential network of consultants, lawyers and lobbyists still made money representing the company.”

EXPLAINER: Target list of Israeli hack-for-hire firm widens,

“Human rights and press freedom activists are up in arms about a new report on NSO Group, the notorious Israeli hacker-for-hire company. The report, by a global media consortium, expands public knowledge of the target list used in NSO’s military-grade spyware. According to the report, that now not only includes journalists, rights activists and opposition political figures, but also people close to them. The groups decried on Monday the virtual absence of regulation of commercial surveillance tools. If the allegations of widespread targeting by NSO’s Pegasus spyware are even partly true, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement, a ‘red line has been crossed again and again with total impunity.’ Here’s what you need to know about this issue.”


Further reading:



NSO Spyware Revelations Place Israel on the Bad Guys' Side,

“The series of revelations about the alleged actions of NSO have forced Israelis – directly, for the first time – to face up to the collection of especially unpleasant claims. Methods from Israel were used for surveillance, penetration and the violation of the privacy of human rights activists, journalists and their sources, in a long list of countries that have dubious records in these fields. This is a shadowy business, which in the end can lead to abuse, imprisonment and even the death of opponents of the regimes – in countries where the last thing that bothers them is respecting legal restraints. The repeated argument against the Israeli companies operating in the offensive cybersecurity sector is this: They employ veterans of the defense establishment who use the knowledge they have gained within the system, develop similar tools and use them not to protect national security but to make a lot of money, while being willing to accept the commission of ethical and criminal violations. The defense establishment is presented, in general, in these descriptions as a passive, deceived partner. If only its oversight regulations were tightened, such horrible things could no longer occur. But this explanation misses the main point. In reality, the security community itself is frequently an active partner in these deals, and has a clear interest in carrying them out. Often it serves as the matchmaker, one that helps in making the initial contact between the parties.”


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King, US president hold summit meeting at White House,

“His Majesty King Abdullah and U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday held a summit meeting at the White House, and stressed the deep-rooted ties between Jordan and the United States, as well as their keenness to advance them across various areas. The summit covered expanding the strategic partnership between Jordan and the United States, and regional and international developments, foremost of which is the Palestinian cause….In expanded talks that followed the bilateral meeting, the two leaders agreed to continue coordination between Jordan and the United States, in service of their interests and international peace and security. Discussions also covered developments in the region, especially in Jerusalem, with His Majesty stressing the need to preserve the historical and legal status quo in the city, especially at Al Haram Al Sharif, stressing that Jordan will persist in undertaking its unwavering historical and religious role in safeguarding Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, in line with the Hashemite Custodianship. The King stressed the need to relaunch serious and effective talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis, in order to achieve just and comprehensive peace, on the basis of the two-state solution, noting the importance of ensuring the Palestinian people gain their legitimate rights and establish their independent, sovereign, and viable state, on the 4 June 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Biden praises Jordan king in White House meet expected to broach Abraham Accords,

“US President Joe Biden praised King Abdullah II of Jordan as a stalwart ally in a ‘tough neighborhood,’ as the two leaders huddled at the White House on Monday, a meeting that came at a pivotal moment for both leaders in the Middle East.” Also see: Biden hosts Jordan’s King Abdullah at White House (Al Anadolu)

Inside the Green Line

UN Rights Chief to Haaretz: 'I Am Concerned by Israel's Mass Arrests of Palestinians From the Arab Minority',

“Rampant racism, violations of international law in conflict zones, the dangers of big tech – Michelle Bachelet, groundbreaking ex-president of Chile and current UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, weighs in on the world’s crises in an interview with Haaretz.”


Lapid pressed, Bennett folded: The political drama around Temple Mount worship,

“While Lapid declared Monday that there was ‘no change to the status quo on the Temple Mount,’ Bennett did not change the text of his statement, which remained on the prime minister’s social media pages. But that did not help him with right-wing leaders who claimed he had again capitulated to Mansour Abbas and Raam, and to Lapid. Among some right-wing critics, the argument is that Bennett got this wrong every which way: He should have taken the credit for the Jewish prayer that has in any case been taking place on the Mount, and promised to ensure that everything would go ahead in an orderly fashion, without clashes. Instead, he folded to coalition pressure, the prayers will continue, and he is taking heat from the likes of Miki Zohar, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Moshe Feiglin. Jewish prayer will indeed continue on the mount, despite the crisis of the past few days, which almost prompted a major escalation. The police will impose greater oversight and will rein in the prayers, but nobody can completely stop them now. The new path is to contain them, as one minister explained, and not jump up to stop everyone who mumbles a few verses. It’s not a dramatic change of the status quo, but it is a cumulative change in the situation at the most dangerous place in the world.”

Israel turns Silwan into closed military site,

“The East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, where Palestinians have been protesting for weeks amid an ongoing Israeli campaign involving the demolition of houses, has been turn into a closed military zone. Israeli security forces restricted entry into and exit from the town, and set up checkpoints and deployed forces at its entrances.”

Israeli Government Takes ‘Caution’ in Jerusalem,

“The new Israeli government is trying to maintain calm in Jerusalem and other occupied territories through several measures aimed at appeasing settlers and averting tensions. Israel’s Channel 12 reported that the government requested a postponement of the Supreme Court’s decision to evacuate Khan al-Ahmar village, east of Jerusalem in the West Bank…The government also decided to issue about 150,000 entry permits to Palestinians of the ‘48 in the West Bank throughout the Eid al-Adha holiday that begins Tuesday and ends on Friday. The right-wing Channel 20 estimates the Israeli authorities will grant 20,000 permits for prayer in al-Aqsa Mosque during Eid, citing an official in the Israeli security services. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett recanted earlier statements in which he said Israel would preserve freedom of worship for Jews on the Temple Mount.” Also see: Over 100,000 Palestinians celebrate Eid al-Adha at Al-Aqsa (WAFA)

Occupation/De Facto Annexation

Interior Minister Top Official Lives in a West Bank Home Under Demolition Order,

Interior Ministry director-general Yair Hirsch lives in a home that has a demolition order issued against it in the illegal settlement outpost of Kida, a freedom of information request submitted by Israeli activists revealed on Monday.  This information contradicts a Civil Service Commission’s statement from last month insisting that no such demolition order was issued, only a stop-work order in 2008, which was no reason to block Hirsch’s appointment to his post. The commission now says that the information is being checked.”

No one told this young soldier to protect Palestinians from settlers,

“…It is hard to explain this to anyone who has not been there. You are deployed to the territories and are told that the goal is to ‘protect the settlers.’ These are your people; they speak your language and sometimes they bring you pizza or coffee and sometimes you just know them simply because you have been there for long enough. Then those same people or their children come out armed and masked. You cannot stop them, especially when no one has explained to you that it is within your authority to do so.”

Israel forces seal off Jenin-district town,

“Israeli forces Tuesday morning sealed off Ya‘bad town, west of Jenin city, according to local sources. They confirmed that Israeli military patrols set up barriers at the roads leading to the northern West Bank town as well as at the entrance of the neighboring Kufeirat village, preventing the residents from entering and leaving the town and forcing them to take winding dirt roads. The soldiers stopped vehicles with Palestinian registration plates at the barriers, inspecting them and checking the identity cards of the passengers.”

Israeli military infiltrates Gaza border, raze farmland,

“Israeli military today infiltrated Gaza’s border, to the east of Rafah city, and razed farmlands, according to WAFA correspondent. He said that a number of Israeli military tanks and bulldozers advanced several dozens of meters to the east of the city in the southern strip, and razed a large tract of farmland in the borderline area. Fourteen years following the Israeli ‘disengagement’ from Gaza, Israel has not actually disengaged from Gaza; it still maintains control of its land borders, access to the sea and airspace.”


Israel's Gantz calls Abbas to discuss 'trust-building' as PA faces popular anger,

“Israel’s Minister of Defence Benny Gantz called Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday evening, days after a senior US official warned Israel of the ‘collapse’ of the PA. The call was the first high-ranking contact between Israeli and Palestinian officials since the government of far-right Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was sworn in in June.  Gantz wrote on Twitter that he had sent good wishes to Abbas on the occasion of the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha, adding that they had discussed the need to build trust between the two governments. ‘We discussed the need to advance trust-building steps between Israel and the PA, which will benefit the economy and security of the entire region,’ Gantz wrote.”


Israel shells Lebanon after rockets fired over border,

“The Israeli military said its artillery shelled southern Lebanon early Tuesday after two rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israeli territory. Israel’s army said in a statement that aerial defenses intercepted one of the rockets, and the second fell in an open area. No injuries or damage were reported. The UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, said its radar detected rockets fired from southern Lebanon toward Israel just before 4 a.m. Subsequently, Israeli artillery fired toward Lebanon, the UN force said. Lebanon’s army said Israel fired 12 artillery shells at the Wadi Hammoul area, causing no damage or casualties. The army said its units there had found three launching pads for Grad rockets. The rocket fire from Lebanon was the first such cross-border incident since May, when Palestinian militants launched rockets at Israel during the 11-day war between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.”


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Syrian air defences ‘intercept’ Israeli attack over Aleppo,

“Syria’s air defences have intercepted an Israeli attack on al-Safirah area of southern Aleppo, Syrian state media reported, a location where Israel has repeatedly hit a growing Iranian presence. ‘At around 23:37 on Monday [20:37 GMT]  … the Israeli enemy carried out an aerial attack towards southeast Aleppo, targeting positions in the al-Safirah area,’ Syrian state news agency SANA cited a military source as saying.”

Iran: UAE responsible for regional instability over Israel ties,

“Iran warned on Monday that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will be responsible for destabilising the region due to the Israeli presence on its territory, Anadolu Agency reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters that Israel seeks to gain legitimacy in the region through the UAE’s opening of its embassy in Israel. ‘The United Arab Emirates must also be mindful that it will be held accountable for the unrest and the consequences of presence of Jerusalem-occupying regime [Israel] in this region,’ Khatibzadeh said.” Also see: Israel and UAE to collaborate on moon landing mission (Middle East Monitor)

Civil Society/Free Speech/Academia/Protests

Facebook Unblocks Account That Posted Letter by Jailed Palestinian Lawmaker,

“Facebook unblocked on Tuesday the account of a Palestinian user, whose account was suspended for sharing a letter by jailed Palestinian lawmaker and activist Khalida Jarrar…Omar Nazzal’s account was suspended last Thursday for sixty days, just hours after he uploaded the second letter Jarrar had written since she learned of her daughter’s death…Facebook did not answer Haaretz’s inquiry on Saturday as to why the account was suspended in the first place.”