Top News from Israel & Palestine: July 30, 2020

What We’re Reading

Lawfare/Targeting Free Speech/Weaponization of claims of Antisemitism

Israel Set Up a Front Company to Boost Image and Fight BDS,

“…The Strategic Affairs Ministry set up this external body, in the form of a public benefit company, in 2017 to cooperate with people and groups around the world who were interested in using a third party to conceal the funding they received from Israel to promote projects aimed at improving the country’s image. Two and a half years ago, the cabinet approved allocating 128 million shekels ($37 million) over three years to fund the initiative, on the condition that it raised an equal amount in matching funds from private donors. The cabinet decision stated that the organization would raise these contributions from philanthropic groups or pro-Israel organizations. The goal of establishing the company, according to the ministry, was to carry out ‘mass awareness activities’ to ‘implement part of the ministry’s activities concerning the fight against the phenomenon of delegitimization and boycotts against the State of Israel.’ As for the millions that the government and the donors did utilize, the steering committee minutes show Concert’s representatives reporting that 26 contracts had been signed since its establishment. They focused on research and information; awareness campaigns (‘defensive and offensive’); the digital battlefield; public relations delegations of ‘influencers’ to Israel,and ‘strengthening pro-Israeli network.’ In terms of research, a project was mentioned on the issue of ‘corporate responsibility’ at a cost of 1.09 million shekels, as well as a project dealing with the ‘link between BDS organizations and terrorist organizations’ at a cost of 2.4 million shekels… Among the organizations mentioned as those who cooperated with Concert were delegations of influencers on the part of a U.S. organization called Our Soldiers Speak; delegations of evangelical clergy of Christians United for Israel; and an organization named Eagles’ Wings… Another 2.5 million shekels funded a project by the organization Israel-is, whose goal, according to the documents, was ‘preparing Israelis for their big trip’…Other funds went to the Zionist Federation in South Africa; an organization named The Israel Allies Foundation, which describes itself as promoting political support for Israel on the basis of Judeo-Christian values; and the Reservists on Duty’s Gideon Group project, which trains Israeli students to counter the BDS movement on campuses overseas, as well as other projects.”

Also see: Hebrew-language report in Seventh Eye, documenting how the Ministry used the “Genesis Prize” to direct funding in a way that skirted public scrutiny, including to: StandWithUs, ISRAELis, Reut Group, Honest Reporting; ELNET (a European group that flies politicians and influencers to Israel), the Jewish Agency, the American Jewish Committee (AJC),,  and NGO Monitor

What a College Trip to Israel Taught Me About Racism and Anti-Semitism,

“It was billed to me as ‘the trip of a lifetime.’ In the summer of 2012, I received an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel hosted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and funded by the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation. I was a sophomore in college at the University of Pennsylvania and was offered the opportunity due to my role in campus student government and politics. The trip, which included an extensive weeklong itinerary across Israel, was intended to expose non-Jewish college leaders to the history of the country and why it was important for us to be invested in its safety. This would be one of my first trips abroad, and such an experience seemed hard to turn down. I was told by facilitators of the trip that it would help me understand how to be a better role model in the fight against anti-Semitism. I was reminded often how important it was for young Black leaders like myself to tell others within my community to have respect and empathy for the Jewish community.”

Annexation (de facto & de jure) Watch

Ex-IDF officials to US Congress: Trump plan critical to Israel's security,

“In letter to both chambers, some 1,000 security heavyweights wholeheartedly endorse Trump’s’ ‘Vision for Peace’ and call for applying Israeli sovereignty to key areas in Judea and Samaria, citing the move’s great contribution to both Israel and the US.”

Ashkenazi: No one is talking about annexation anymore,

“Neither Jerusalem nor Washington is discussing extending Israel’s sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said on Wednesday.Asked on Army Radio if ‘annexation is off the agenda,’ Ashkenazi responded: ‘No one is talking about it, justifiably… Not the Americans, either at the moment.’”

‘I want Battir to go to hell’: Settlers move in on Palestinian World Heritage site,

“Khaled Muammar explains that the area is strategically important for the settlement enterprise in the West Bank. ‘They want to take over this area for three reasons: first of all, because of its elevation; it overlooks the region. Secondly, it separates [Battir from] al-Walajeh; settling there creates a wedge between two Palestinian villages. And thirdly, because it creates geographical continuity between [the Israeli settlement] Har Homa and Jerusalem.’ Dror Etkes, one of Israel’s foremost experts on the settlements and the head of Kerem Navot, an organization that monitors and researches Israeli land policy in the West Bank, believes the settlers’ arrival in Battir at the end of June is not a coincidence. ‘Why? Because of the Trump plan,’ he explains. ‘This area, according to the plan, is supposed to be Palestinian territory. They want to take over the area now, before the government signals that it is going to accept the plan. To create facts on the ground.’”

Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Convenes for Hearing on “The Battle for Area C”,

“The Wednesday, July 29 hearing of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee was convened at the request of MK Dr. Shlomo Karai (Likud) after he participated in an in-depth, fact-finding field tour to learn about the scope and implications of the phenomenon. ‘The Palestinian takeover of Area C is so widespread and serious that the defense establishment must devote the necessary resources and formulate a comprehensive and effective response that will put a stop to it,’ said Karai. ‘I have requested this hearing in order to receive a full, detailed survey by our defense forces of Israel’s response to the Palestinian onslaught.’ At the hearing, which was postponed several times due to the corona crisis, Regavim will present its most recent findings on the extent of land-seizures in the past year, and particularly since the announcement of President Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ which ignited a Palestinian ‘construction race’ aimed at creating facts on the ground in areas slated for Israeli sovereignty.”

'PM Sharon planned disengagement move in West Bank',

“New revelations show that prior to suffering a stroke and falling into a coma, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and then-Justice Minister Tzipi Livni tasked a special panel with outlining the security, economic, and legal framework of another disengagement, this time in Judea and Samaria.”

European MPs Describe Israel’s Annexation Plan as 'Illegal',

“In a statement released on Wednesday, the lawmakers from the UK, France, Ireland, Belgium and Sweden vowed to challenge the Tel Aviv regime’s annexation bid in an attempt to ‘deter this criminal act.’ ‘We, the undersigned, share our deep concern at the threat of illegal Israeli annexation of part of the occupied Palestinian West Bank. Unilateral annexation of any part of the West Bank would be a grave breach of international law, and a further obstacle to achieving equal rights and self-determination for Palestinians. Annexation must not pass unchallenged,’ the statement read.”

How Israel's Annexation Plan Would Make Life Even Harder for Palestinians,

“Right now, most of the West Bank is under military occupation, including the Jordan Valley. ‘This is important,’ says Suhad Bishara, director of the land and planning unit at the Palestinian legal NGO Adalah, ‘because it means people live under martial law, not civil.’…According to Bishara, the first thing that would change after annexation, from a legal standpoint, is that, from Israel’s perspective, the framework would shift from international to national law. ‘As we’ve seen in East Jerusalem after the annexation,’ she says, ‘massive amounts of land were confiscated permanently and with no limitations for alleged public purposes.’ In an interview with the Israel Hayron Daily [sic], Netanyahu stated Palestinian residents would not be granted citizenship, but live in enclaves remotely administered by the PA. ‘It will be much easier to displace people,’ Bishara continues. ‘It will give Israel more tools to restrict Palestinian use of land and to strengthen and build new settlements.’”

Palestinian Scene/Occupation

Israeli forces detain BDS movement leader in West Bank raid,

“Israeli forces detained a prominent Palestinian activist for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in the early hours of Thursday morning, relatives told Middle East Eye. General coordinator of the Palestinian National BDS Committee (BNC) Mahmoud Nawajaa, 33, was arrested in his home in the occupied West Bank village of Abu Qash near Ramallah at around 3am, his wife Ruba Alayan said. ‘Around 50 soldiers were there,’ she said. ‘They broke the doors and the locks, and they covered Mahmoud’s eyes, handcuffed him, and also took his computer and some personal effects.’ Alayan added that the couple’s three young children witnessed the arrest. ‘They woke up and they were terrified. We were all surprised by what happened, there was no reason for it and none of us expected it,’ she said. The raid came just a day before the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. Israeli forces reportedly detained at least 17 other Palestinians on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.”

Palestinian expats call for reform of PLO,

“The Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad has called for the Palestine Liberation Organisation to be reformed, Quds Press has reported. The group also hailed the proposed national conference to be held in Gaza to reunite the Palestinian factions. The comments were made after a meeting in Istanbul. The call for PLO reform includes the choosing of a new executive committee which would be able to agree on a national programme based on pulling out of the Oslo Agreement.”

OCHA Report - Protection of Civilians Report | 14 - 27 July 2020 ,

Thirty Palestinian-owned structures were demolished or seized in Area C and East Jerusalem for the lack of Israeli-issued building permits, displacing 25 people and otherwise affecting around 140 others. In one incident on 21 July, the Israeli authorities demolished a structure on the outskirts of Hebron city, which, according to the Hebron Municipality, was planned to be used as a COVID-19 testing centre; this claim is contested by the Israeli authorities. This and three other structures were demolished using Military Order 1797, which allows the removal of unauthorized buildings within 96 hours from the delivery of a notice. Humanitarian and human rights organizations have repeatedly raised concern about this procedure, which largely prevents affected people from being heard before a judicial body.”

Israel blocks Palestinians from selling lambs in Jordan Valley,

“In the run-up to the Islamic festival of Eidul Adha, when Muslims traditionally sacrificial animals to commemorate Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his then only son Ismail, Israel is blocking Palestinians from selling lambs in the occupied Jordan Valley.”

Cramped Palestinian refugee camps fear virus surge,

“A second wave of coronavirus infections sweeping the West Bank is fueling fears of a surge in overcrowded Palestinian refugee camps where social distancing is next to impossible.”

COVID-19 in the West Bank and Gaza: A second wave under military occupation and siege,

“As of July 29, more than 16.5 million cases of COVID-19 have been recorded worldwide, along with approximately 655,000 deaths. After many months of lockdown, countries are being forced to open up despite fears that a second wave is on the horizon and in many places is already underway. In the Palestinian West Bank, a brutal second wave began over a month ago with a more than 20-fold increase in infections, putting an immense strain on the health care system. This strain, however, needs to be understood in the context of the ongoing violence of the Israeli settler colonial regime. Palestinians have been consistently deprived of the most basic fundamentals of life, including health care. Israel, therefore, must been seen as a regime of comorbidity — in other words it does not simply exacerbate conditions, but rather is directly responsible for the increase in infections and the inability of the health care system to adequately treat patients.”

After arrests, PA anti-corruption activists released on bail,

“West Bank court frees 12 activists jailed for organizing anti-corruption rally in Ramallah, amid outcry from civil society organizations and rights groups.”

Focus on Jerusalem

Almost 1,000 Jews visit Temple Mount for Tisha B’Av; some pray, wave Israel flag,

“Nearly 1,000 Jews visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Thursday morning to mark the fast day of Tisha B’Av, which mourns the destruction of the two Jewish Temples that stood at the holy site.About 10 of them were detained by police and taken out of the compound after praying in defiance of the rules at the site.”

'People are awakening to the Temple Mount' (with video),

“Hundreds of Jews ascended the Temple Mount this morning on the occasion of the Tisha B’Av fast, when the people of Israel mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temples. Assaf Fried, a spokesman for the Temple organization headquarters, said in a conversation with Arutz Sheva: ‘We climbed the Temple Mount this morning, in difficult and not-easy days for the people of Israel, days of coronavirus, days of social tension – masses, more than a thousand people, ascended the Mount.’ Yair Kehati of the ‘Returning to the Mount’ movement said, ‘From the early hours of the morning, from five in the morning, minyanim began here; hundreds of Jews lined up at the entrance.’…Kehati clarified on the other hand, ‘We want to build the Temple already. For two thousand years we’ve been waiting and crying and now we can do it. We can’t just cry. If enough Jews go up to the Temple Mount we can build the Temple and resume the sacrificial work. It depends only on us.’” Also see: Arutz Sheva – Jews detained on Temple Mount for prostrating himself, shouting ‘Shema Yisrael’ (with video)

Focus on Gaza

Palestinians see no ICC justice for Israel's Gaza 'crimes',

“Palestinians have ‘little hope’ UN court will hold Israel accountable for thousands of deaths in 2014 Gaza attack.”

Shin Bet: Hamas operative flees to Israel, brings in troves of intelligence on group,

“A Hamas operative who fled to Israel after facing persecution from the group and “family issues” brought in a trove of valuable intelligence on the Gaza terrorist faction, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) revealed Thursday. It identified the fugitive as Izz al-Din Hussein, a 24-year-old member of the Hamas air defense units, reaching Israel by sea and immediately arrested by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). At the time, initial reports in Israeli media identified the fugitive as an officer with Hamas naval commandos. The group confirmed his escape but claimed he did not have access to any major information.”

Marking another holiday in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic,

“Gaza has been spared the worst of the health crisis, but not the economic one. Families in Gaza can celebrate the upcoming Eid al Adha together, but they have little else to celebrate.”

Israel donates 3rd water generator to Gaza Strip,

“Israeli-Palestinian cooperation, including with the Watergen Company, the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, and Palestinian partners, delivered its first generator, which produces clean drinking water from the atmosphere, to the Municipality of Abasan Al-Kabira in Gaza in December 2019. It was inaugurated in February of this year. The second generator was installed at the Rantisi Medical Center in Gaza City two months ago. The third generator was delivered on Sunday.”

Israel Scene

Israel Defense Ministry hosts US-Israeli Defense Policy Advisory group,

“With tensions high along Israel’s northern border, the Defense Ministry hosted the annual  US- Israeli Defense Policy Advisory Group (DPAG) and discussed strategic and regional security challenges. Held over the past two days via secure video-conference due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it was co-chaired by Head of the Defense Ministry Policy & Political-Military Bureau, Zohar Palti and US Acting Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy, Dr. James Anderson, the defense ministry said in a statement, adding that they were joined by senior military officials from both countries.”

Outgoing Israeli Consul in N.Y.C.: ‘Nothing Is Bipartisan in America Anymore, Nothing’,

“Ex-settler leader Dani Dayan was seen as a controversial choice when he was named Israel’s consul general to New York. As he prepares to fly home, he reflects on a time that included the Tree of Life massacre and the rise of a new type of Democrat.”

Seth Rogen slammed on social media after questioning need for Israel,

“Jewish actor Seth Rogen created an online firestorm after questioning the rationale behind having a national home for the Jews during his appearance on the podcast WTF on Monday. During the podcast on Monday Rogan said he had been ‘fed a huge amount of lies about Israel my entire life!’”

Controversy Over Seth Rogen's Israel Comments Exposes Widening Rift With U.S. Jews,

“‘What Seth is talking about, this thing, not being told there were people here, that it was empty – a land with no people for a people with no land – that’s the essential lie that my generation and those younger than us have had to deal with.’”

US pro-Israel group raises $400,000 to boost Ilhan Omar’s primary challenger,

“Pro-Israel America, which was created by former AIPAC staffers, pumps big money into unseating Minnesota congresswoman.”