Top News from Israel & Palestine: July 23, 2021

What We’re Reading

New from FMEP

[Webinar] Palestinian Liberation & Leadership: What’s Next?,

Join FMEP for a conversation with Palestinian analysts on the current state of Palestinian leadership and how Palestinians are contending with multiple layers of authoritarian rule (Israel, the PA, and Hamas). The discussion will address issues including: What are the challenges to Palestinian liberation? What roles – positive and negative – do the Palestinian Authority and Hamas play? What role does Palestinian civil society play in mobilizing against Israel and the PA? What can Palestinian resistance to Israel look like? What is behind Hamas’s rise in popularity since the most recent escalation with Israel? What is the status of the uprising against the PA and how is it part of a larger struggle against occupation, annexation, and apartheid? And how do Palestinians inside of Israel and in the Diaspora – from Lebanon to the U.S. – fit into the puzzle of Palestinian liberation?  Join FMEP to discuss these questions and more with Tareq Baconi (Crisis Group) and Inès Abdel Razek (PIPD), moderated by FMEP’s Lara Friedman. 

[Podcast] Can US Law & the Israeli Government Force Ben & Jerry’s to Support Occupation?,

In this episode of “Occupied Thoughts,” Peter Beinart interviews FMEP President Lara Friedman about the potential blowback Ben & Jerry’s faces for their decision to stop selling their products in Jewish settlements in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Lara is an expert in the efforts to exploit U.S. laws (state and federal) and courts to quash criticism and activism challenging Israeli policies, which she has been documenting for years. Her research & databases are available here.

FMEP Legislative Round-Up: July 23, 2021,

“(END US TAX-EXEMPT STATUS FOR SETTLEMENT SUPPORTING ORGS) Tlaib letter to Yellen: On 7/22, Rep. Tlaib (D-MI) sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Yellen expressing “extreme concern that U.S. charities are are funding and providing direct support to Israeli organizations that are working to expand and perpetuate Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise, including supporting the dispossession and forced displacement of Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem neighborhoods.” The letter goes on to express concern “that these policies violate U.S. obligations under international law, as well as federal tax law.” The letter asks Yellen to answer a series of questions about the issue (by August 22) and closes by noting, “We look forward to your response and working with you to enhance due diligence and compliance measures to ensure that U.S.-based entities supporting the illegal Israeli settlement enterprise are prohibited from obtaining 501(c)(3) status under U.S. tax law.” Also see: Tlaib tweet about the letter.”

The Diplomatic & International Front

UN rights body names panel to probe Israel, Palestinians,

“The U.N.’s former top human rights official will be part of a new permanent panel investigating abuses in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, the U.N. Human Rights Council said Thursday. The chairperson of the 47-member Human Rights Council appointed Navi Pillay, a former South African judge, to lead a commission of inquiry established following the 11-day conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas in May. Pillay, who served as U.N. high commissioner for human rights from 2008 to 2014, is currently a judge at the International Court of Justice tribunal examining allegations of genocide in Myanmar. The commission’s other members are Miloon Kothari, an architect and expert on housing rights from India, and Chris Sidoti of Australia, who has served on panels investigating abuses in Myanmar…It has been asked to submit a report to the council in June 2022, and every year after that.”

Gantz and US officials discuss helping PA,

“”Defense Minister Gantz met today (Friday) with US officials to discuss multiple aspects of Israel’s plans to help the Palestinian Authority. “This morning I met with US Charge D’Affaires Michael Ratney. We discussed the importance of economic & social initiatives to strengthen the PA, as well as trust-building measures to benefit the security of the region,” Gantz commented.”

Exclusive: Palestinian Authority’s Hussein Al-Sheikh Tells The Media Line PA Is Ready for Direct Talks With Israel,

“Civil Affairs Minister Hussein Al-Sheikh: ‘The new administration has a broad understanding of the nature of the Palestinians’ present situation and Mr. Hady Amr is playing a very positive role in his constant contact between himself and the Israeli government. We agreed in principle that we need first to change the atmosphere between us and Israel. We spoke about the bilateral dialogue with the new administration and the Palestinians. At the same time, we spoke about the trilateral dialogue between the USA, Israel and the Palestinians. We agreed to go in two parallel lines. I believe that this path is fruitful in terms of creating new facts and a new atmosphere, helping everyone to enter into a new phase. We agreed to start with what are called CBMs – confidence-building measures – between us and the new administration and between us and Israel. What is demanded from me as a Palestinian, I am ready to do. What is required of Israel to do? What is required from the USA is to help support that. I think the administration showed its readiness to do this. The second stage is to find the framework for the nature of conflict resolution between Israel and the Palestinians, which is or should be focused mainly on international legitimacy and legal decisions that refer to two states for two peoples living in peace and security in a stable, cooperative and prosperous environment between the two states. A Palestinian state and an Israeli state. This is the plan that we agreed on with the new administration and we are working on it right now.'”

Analysis | How Bennett Found Himself Trying to Save the Palestinian Economy,

“Somewhat surprising indirect contacts have been underway in recent weeks between Israel, the United States and the Palestinian Authority. The PA’s desperate economic situation is worrying the Americans and the Israelis. The PA’s revenues from taxes and foreign aid are declining, its deficit is increasing rapidly and even the Palestinian banks are leery about lending it more money. So Naftali Bennett, a right-wing prime minister and former head of the Yesha Council of settlements, finds himself in feverish discussions aimed at ensuring the PA’s economy, and thus the survival of the PA’s leadership.”

Unlike His Ministers, Bennett Has Not Spoken to President Abbas Since Taking Office,

“Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has not spoken with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas since taking office in June, and his office said he currently has no plans to do so. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also has not yet talked with Abbas. But some other ministers have done so, as has President Isaac Herzog…Dealing with the PA is a challenge for the current government due to its members’ fear of anything that could upset its fragile coalition between leftist and rightist parties. Israel has therefore informed the U.S. administration that it won’t advance any controversial moves before the budget is passed this autumn, since if the budget doesn’t pass, the government will automatically fall.”

Air warms between Israel, Palestinian Authority with rare phone calls,

“According to the same source, the Americans are waiting for the new Israeli government to stabilize by the end of 2021, when the Israeli budget is approved. “Only then will things really start moving. The educated guess is that the Biden administration will then begin to push for renewing the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid are expected to soon visit Washington. Meanwhile, we’ll see more and more efforts to strengthen the status of Abbas and the Authority.” Thus a new picture is emerging of thawing relations between Israel and the Authority, while the American administration provides the tailwind. Gone are the days when Netanyahu was Israel’s sole authority on security-political issues, and now dialogue with the Palestinian government in Ramallah is growing more possible.”

After two decades, Israel rejoins African Union,

“For the first time since 2002, Jerusalem regains observer status in the continental body; Foreign Minister Lapid lauds decision as ‘day of celebration’ for country’s ties with member states”

The Israelis challenging the German left’s anti-Palestinian politics,

“When Michael Sappir moved to Leipzig, Germany, in 2019, he knew he wanted to get involved in the local left-wing scene. But as a Jewish Israeli who spent years taking part in activism against the Israeli occupation back home, he was surprised to discover that being a leftist in Germany often meant giving fealty to the State of Israel and contributing to vicious attacks on supporters of the Palestinian cause. Those attacks in the city, he says, had mostly come from activists associated with or inspired by “Antideutsch,” a movement which has historically been part of Germany’s radical left yet which unconditionally sides with Israel. For Sappir, the dissonance between the German left’s purported values and their skewed stance on Palestinian rights needed to be addressed. That is why Sappir, a writer who is pursuing his degree in philosophy and has contributed to +972 Magazine, helped establish a new network of left-wing Israeli Jews in Germany called “Jewish Israeli Dissent in Leipzig – JID,” which provides a space for Jewish activists to show solidarity with Palestinians to challenge Germany’s unquestioning support for Israel.”

Occupation, Settlements, Apartheid

Shaked says she’d torpedo coalition if it agrees to settlement freeze,

“Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked has warned that she would leave the coalition government if it agreed to a request from the Biden administration to implement a building freeze in West Bank settlements. In an interview published Friday in the Makor Rishon newspaper, Shaked was asked what her “red lines” are, which would lead her to leave and destabilize Israel’s new government. “If the government does something that is ideologically serious in my view, we will not be a part of it. For example, if the US administration demands a freeze in Judea and Samaria — there will be no government,” the Yamina MK said, using the Biblical names for the West Bank.” Also See – “De facto building freeze in Judea and Samaria under Bennett?” (World Israel News)

Former Palestinian military prosecutor shot dead in West Bank home,

“A senior Palestinian Authority security official was shot and killed in his home on Friday by as-yet unidentified assailants. The victim, Ekrima Muhanna, formerly served as the PA’s chief military prosecutor. Before his death, Muhanna was working as the legal adviser to the security services’ finance office, which handles the many-pronged apparatus’s salaries and procurements. “Preliminary information indicates that unknown gunmen fired upon him inside his house in Deir Ghusun near Tulkarem, which led to his death, and they immediately fled the scene,” Maj. Gen. Talal Dweikat, a spokesperson for the PA security forces, said in a statement to the official WAFA news agency.”

Palestinian dies in Israeli police detention, sparking inquiry,

“An East Jerusalem Palestinian man died in unclear circumstances on Wednesday while being held by Israeli Police, with his family claiming he may have been beaten while in custody. Abdu Yousef al-Khatib al-Tamimi, 43, died after being detained by police for traffic violations. He was taken to the Russian Compound, a detention facility in central Jerusalem. According to the Israel Prisons Service (IPS), al-Tamimi was found unconsciousness in his cell three days after his arrest.”

Israel to Discuss Raising Number of Palestinian Workers in Israel,

“The Israeli government will discuss Sunday a proposal to let 15,000 additional Palestinian construction workers into Israel, which would bring the total number of working permits issued for Palestinian construction workers in Israel to 80,000. The resolution was submitted by Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Freige and Construction and Housing Minister Zeev Elkin.”

The Saddest Village in Israel,

“Plans to build more than 250 luxury homes on the ruins of the Palestinian village of Lifta are coming to fruition. A tour among the homes of the stunning village with one of its last living refugees”

West Bank demolitions and displacement | June 2021,

“In June, the Israeli authorities demolished, forced people to demolish, or seized 91 Palestinian-owned structures across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. This resulted in the displacement of 108 people, including 62 children, and otherwise affected the livelihoods, or access to services, of nearly 2,700 others. All the structures were located in Area C or East Jerusalem, and were targeted for lacking building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain. The number of structures demolished or seized in June is the highest this year, surpassed only by February (153), with a sevenfold increase, or 600 per cent, compared with May (13).”

‘When I Fight With My Husband, I Have Nowhere to Go’,

“All of the women say that the most painful experience is when their parents abroad fall ill or die, and they cannot be there next to them. “If you travel to them to Amman or Tunisia, Israel won’t let you return because you have overstayed for so long,” One woman explained. All share the same bitter experiences: “On holidays and happy occasions, you aren’t together. When your husband and children take a trip, you can’t join in. You just hear about how much fun they had. East Jerusalem is out of bounds, even if your husband or child is hospitalized in a Palestinian hospital there, or if you need treatment. We aren’t permitted to drive because we are not allowed a driver’s license. It’s impossible to open a bank account. It’s hard to find work.’…“Israel has put a stop to our lives. We practically do not live,” they say. “We are the walking dead,” is how one woman summed it up. But sometimes a sense of grievance against their husbands also surfaces in their tone. “I thought I was getting married. I didn’t know I would be entering a prison,” is a common refrain.”

NSO Group, Continued

Israeli panel to review potential misuse of NSO spyware around world,

“Israel has established a committee to review allegations that NSO Group’s controversial Pegasus phone surveillance software was misused, the head of Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee said Thursday. “The defense establishment appointed a review committee made up of a number of bodies,” lawmaker Ram Ben-Barak told Army Radio. “When they finish their review, we’ll demand to see the results and assess whether we need to make corrections,” the former deputy head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency added.”

Dubai princess' number on Pegasus spyware list,

“The phone number of Emirati Princess Latifa, the daughter of Dubai’s ruler who has accused her family of holding her against her will, appeared on a leaked list of more than 50,000 numbers that were reportedly selected as potential targets by clients of NSO Group. Some of the princess’ friends numbers were also on the list…The whereabouts and well-being of Latifa, the daughter of Emirati Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, remain a mystery. Earlier this year, the BBC’s “Panorama” program aired a series of videos during which Latifa claimed to be held “hostage” by her family without access to medical help or the ability to get fresh air.”

Was Israel Aware of NSO Clients’ Surveillance Targets?,

“Discovering the list of telephone numbers and the close link to NSO shows this is not just another case of regimes hacking their rivals’ phones inside the state, but an international network, internal and external, that provides information which is suspected to have led to murder, abduction, illegal imprisonment and influencing governments’ policies. All this activity is in the hands of a private company, and it’s not clear whether the information or how much of it has been passed on to Israel’s government. Was Israel’s government aware of NSO’s client list? Did it approve, or was it supposed to approve, selling the software to each of NSO’s clients? Did it initiate the tapping of targets by means of NSO and its clients? These are but a few of the issues that security and intelligence officials, and inquiry committees in all the relevant states, will now investigate.”

NSO’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week Is Just the Start,

“Even if we assume that some of last week’s reports are mistaken, it looks like there will be no choice but for NSO to shut down some of its contracts and accounts due to “misuse” of its systems. This is vital for the company even if only for the sake of responding to the furor caused by Project Pegasus. It will help demonstrate that it is committed to human rights and to transparency. But this is not so simple, giving up an account such as the one the company has in India, for example, given the drop in revenues that the company is experiencing anyway. The countries exposed in the investigation are a major part of the company’s client base.”

Ben & Jerry's, Continued

States look at options for enforcing anti-BDS laws in wake of Ben & Jerry’s pullout,

“Officials in New York, Florida, Illinois and Texas are looking into whether Monday’s announcement forbids them from including the companies in their pension portfolios…The assessments come as American Jewish organizations mount a united effort to push states to implement the anti-BDS laws that have been adopted by 33 states since 2015…Unilever may be able to override the decision by the Ben & Jerry’s board, according to a proxy statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission at the time of the corporation’s acquisition of the ice cream company in 2000. Citing the license agreement, the statement said that “Unilever has agreed to undertake activities related to the ‘social mission’ of the Company in connection with the Unilever Affiliates’ activities under the Ben & Jerry’s trademark” and lists a number of activities, including commitments to purchasing fair-trade products and using unbleached paper products, that could fall under that agreement. If Unilever is in breach of the agreement, according to the filing it must pay an 8% royalty to Ben & Jerry’s, a 3% increase from the percentage agreed upon by both parties. That clause, Daroff said, provides an out for the parent company. “This seems to me to be a way for Unilever to pull off the Band-aid, and do away with this obviously, radically extreme Ben & Jerry’s board,” he said. A number of anti-BDS laws have faced court challenges, with some found to be constitutional, but to date no piece of legislation focused on pensions has been successfully challenged.”

Why Israel is more concerned about Ben & Jerry’s than the Pegasus revelations,

“The ensuing ice cream fever offers a penetrating view into Israel’s public priorities…Why was NSO drowned out by B&J? It must be said that Israel will survive even if all 440,000-odd Israeli settlers in the West Bank must drive across the pre-1967 green line if no other ice cream will do. (Presumably, Israeli or Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem can just walk to a West Jerusalem neighbourhood in a pinch). In fact, no attempted boycott, divestment or sanction has remotely touched Israel’s overall robust economy. In that sense, Israel is truly not South Africa, and has suffered nothing like the same economic and cultural isolation that helped bring down that country’s oppressive regime. Rather, the ice cream injury is pure, overpowering symbolism. Israelis believe Ben & Jerry’s is attacking the victim: Israel and Jews. According to this national narrative, the company has been manipulated and brainwashed by a cabal of insatiable haters. A settlement boycott targets all of Israel and ends in its destruction.”

What the Ben & Jerry’s Decision Reveals About Israel,

“That an ice-cream maker could cause such an uproar at the highest levels of Israeli politics says a lot about how sensitive Israel is to the very notion of boycotts against it—even those that, like Ben & Jerry’s, are limited in scope. More fundamentally, the dustup reveals a growing divergence between how the world sees Israel and how the country sees itself. While the international community, including the United States, continues to distinguish between Israel and the territories it occupies, the reaction to the Ben & Jerry’s decision has shown that, as far as many Israeli politicians are concerned, that distinction no longer exists.”

[Interview w/ FMEP's Lara Friedman] Ben & Jerry’s Tests Anti-BDS Laws,

“MC: A lot of people who are complaining about Ben & Jerry’s are theoretically two-staters who don’t necessarily support settlements or the occupation, but it turns out boycotting settlements is still a red line for them.


LF: That was the case with Airbnb too, and it didn’t matter then either. Airbnb was accused of boycotting Israel, because they didn’t want to work in settlements anymore. This is an argument that we’ve been having within the Jewish community for more than a decade. What exactly is allowed? You say that boycotting Israel is wrong. You say that boycotting settlements is wrong. You say UN resolutions condemning Israel are wrong, and that the Obama administration was wrong not to veto one. How are we allowed to protest Israeli policy in the West Bank? Critics have argued that boycotting settlements will have zero impact—that it’s pointless, vindictive, and stupid. But it clearly is not pointless. It’s the thing Israel is most worried about, because they have spent years erasing the Green Line on the ground and in the hearts and minds of supporters of Israel. And the Ben & Jerry’s boycott is about reestablishing the Green Line.”

The Ben & Jerry’s boycott is not an attack on Israel. It is protesting a specific policy.,

“There’s another precedent here, albeit with another food group. From its inception, the McDonald’s franchise has been held in Israel by Omri Padan, an Israeli who was an original member of Peace Now. (I serve on the board of its sister organization, Americans for Peace Now.) For ideological reasons, Padan will not open a McDonald’s in any of the settlements outside of Israel’s internationally recognized border. Yet there are kosher McDonald’s all over Israel and outside of army bases catering to the very same audience decrying the Ben & Jerry’s decision.”

Opinion | Israel's Ministry of Strategic Failure,

“How symbolic it is that the government’s decision to close the unnecessary Ministry of Strategic Affairs – a ministry that was supposed to fight the anti-Israel boycott movement but in practice became a perk for politicians – was made shortly before Ben & Jerry’s announced that it would stop selling its ice cream in “the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” If anyone needed proof that this ministry had failed, there it was. And in fact, Israel never really contended with the BDS movement. We got an abundance of populist responses by politicians to an interview in which singer Noga Erez praised the BDS movement. But strategy? There was none.”

Analysis | Israel’s Drone Diplomacy Tries to Offset Heavy Loses in Ice Cream War,

“At the end of a week in which Ben & Jerry’s sent Israeli politicians into meltdown, a joint exercise with five Western air forces, has injected some perspective on the multiple levels of Israel’s standing in the world”

Inside 48 Israel

Bennett, Lapid Order Reevaluation of Israel's Oil Transport Deal With Gulf States,

“This week, Energy Minister Karine Elharrar admitted in a closed conversation that ministry staffers think the agreement, signed by the Europe Asia Pipeline Company, provides no benefits to Israelis. “Our position at the Energy Ministry is that we don’t see any energy benefits to the Israeli economy in this agreement,” she was quoted as saying at a meeting with environmental organizations. “If it’s canceled, we don’t see any harm to this field.””

Meet the former Jerusalem mayor who wants to succeed Netanyahu — and lead Israel,

“So without a role in Israel’s governing coalition, Barkat is spending this week on a self-funded solo trip to the United States to lobby elected officials here. His goal is to convince the United States not to reopen a diplomatic consulate to the Palestinians in western Jerusalem that President Donald Trump closed in 2019…Barkat says he is speaking for the Israeli consensus, but he isn’t traveling with the approval of Israel’s government, which he says won’t even speak with him. (The Prime Minister’s Office would not comment on that claim.) Nor is Barkat meeting with any officials in the Biden administration. He has met with senators and Congress members, including Republicans such as Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader and Sen. Lindsey Graham, as well as Democrats such as Reps. Ted Deutch and Jake Auchincloss.”

Weekend Read

A Rap Song Lays Bare Israel’s Jewish-Arab Fracture — and Goes Viral,

“Facing each other in a garage over a small plastic table, the two hurl ethnic insults and clichés at each other, tearing away the veneer of civility overlaying the seething resentments between the Jewish state and its Palestinian minority in a rap video that has gone viral in Israel. The video, “Let’s Talk Straight,” which has garnered more than four million views on social media since May, couldn’t have landed at a more apt time, after the eruption two months ago of Jewish-Arab violence that turned many mixed Israeli cities like Lod and Ramla into Jewish-Arab battlegrounds.”