Top News from Israel & Palestine: July 31, 2020

What We’re Reading

Occupation, De Facto Annexation, Human Rights

European states denounce ‘illegal’ Israeli building plans in Jerusalem area 15 countries and EU again submit protest letter to Fore,

“The European Union and 15 European countries on Thursday renewed their opposition to Israeli plans to advance construction plans in areas of Jerusalem beyond the Green Line. The countries and the EU expressed their “grave concerns regarding the advancement of settlement construction in Givat Hamatos and potentially in the E1 area” in a so-called démarche filed with the Foreign Ministry. It was their second protest letter on the matter since May.”

Waste Away: Living next to a dumpsite,

“This has resulted in the accumulation of tons of uncollected trash in some areas. Residents of these areas report that the smell intensifies as temperatures rise, with the air becoming toxic, compounded by outbreaks of flash fires and smoke. The accumulated trash also attracts stray dogs and cats, as well as rodents – all possible vectors of diseases, which has become an increasing safety concern, especially for children. Currently, there are two official landfills operational in Gaza – Al Foukhari and Johar Ad Dik – both located at approximately 500 meters from the perimeter fence with Israel (see map). An additional landfill east of Deir Al Balah was closed in July 2019. Given the access restrictions imposed by the Israeli army in areas along the fence, and the use of live ammunition to enforce restrictions, municipalities customarily notify the army in advance of the entry of trucks to these landfills, via the Palestinian Authority (PA). This practice has been discontinued since end-May, following the PA’s suspension of coordination with the Israeli authorities. As a result, municipal staff have reduced the frequency of their visits to the landfills for fear of being shot at; so far, no casualty has been recorded in this context.”

They live on West Bank’s only all-girl hilltop, but don’t call them feminists,

“Maoz Esther is not the only outpost beyond the Green line occupied exclusively by religious, ultra-nationalist teenagers, but it is the only one to feature an all-female home. The residents — six girls between the ages of 14 and 17 — have effectively thrown a wrench into the image of the yarmulke-wearing boys with long, matted sidelocks that often comes to mind upon mention of the term ‘hilltop youth.’ The long-skirted female denizens of the outpost don’t deny that their living situation is unique. But to them, gender is not the issue at hand; rather the obligation of all Israelis — men and women — to expand and entrench Jewish presence throughout the entirety of the biblical Land of Israel…The young women were adamant that they not be presented as a ‘bunch of crazies”’ and described themselves as a modern-day extension of the early Zionists, who on occasion operated outside the law in order to establish the State of Israel.”

Palestinian hands tied as crime rises in East Jerusalem,

“Risheq says that the chaotic security situation is the result of the Israeli occupiers caring only about their own security and safety and failing to fight crime and take the steps needed to prevent it. ‘The Israelis allow weapons to [trade] freely in the city of Jerusalem while they ban the Palestinian security forces from [doing their jobs]’.”

Israeli worshipers storm police barricades at Western Wall,

“Hundreds of Jews arrived last night to the Western Wall Plaza for the Tisha B’Av prayer and the reading of the book of Eicha. Last week, the Ministry of Health announced that 10,000 could come to the plaza for the prayer, but with the coronavirus cases increasing, that number was reduced to 1,000, in keeping with social distancing rules. A large crowd arrived — more than the 1,000 authorized — and hundreds of worshipers stormed through the security barriers placed by police to limit their number. Several right-wing politicians arrived for the prayer, including Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and pro-settler Yamina leader Naftali Bennett.”

Marking another holiday in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic,

“At first glance, it might seem like the coronavirus pandemic spared the Gaza Strip. With just 76 verified cases, one death, and no documented community spread, the Gaza Strip indeed might be considered lucky. It might even seem like the closure, enforced by Israel and Egypt, which normally strangles the population, has for once been advantageous. Schools stayed shuttered after closing in March like much of the rest of the world, but the beaches and restaurants are now open, and families and others can gather for the holiday. But in Gaza, like in Israel, and around the world, the economic repercussions of the pandemic are making a deep mark.”

Ahmad Erekat’s family is still trying to get his body returned,

“As Palestinians across the occupied West Bank took to shops and markets to prepare for this weekend’s Eid al-Adha festivities, the Erekat family of Abu Dis took to the streets to demand the return of their son Ahmed’s body from Israeli custody. Wednesday marked 37 days since 27-year-old Ahmed Erekat was killed by Israeli forces and his body was subsequently detained.”

Israeli Domestic Scene

Anti-Netanyahu protest movement to go global over weekend,

“The protest movement against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will expand internationally on Friday, when a demonstration will be held on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The demonstrators in San Francisco will carry black and Israeli flags and warn about danger to Israeli democracy…A protest is also planned for Washington Square in New York, in London and in Berlin on Sunday. The Bay Area activists are also in touch with people who want to protest in Boston and Seattle and activists who have demonstrated against Netanyahu in Sydney.”

Far-right activists held after alleged attacks on journalists, Arabs in capital,

“Police said 16 people were detained for “disturbing public order, attacking demonstrators and attacking a police officer.” An official statement did not list how many of the 16 were from the far-right rally, but media reports indicated all or almost all were detained from their ranks.”

‘No longer outcasts’: Anti-occupation activists find their place in Israeli protests,

“Some say this is because the protests are decentralized; others say it is because the radical leftists are there in solidarity with the protests, and are not trying to overshadow them. Still others claim that government incitement has turned everyone in the demonstrations into “leftists,” thereby legitimizing the word. What is more, the anti-occupation bloc has gradually become more integrated into the main demonstration. While at the start they stood separately, at Thursday’s and Saturday’s protests, different anti-occupation groups were dispersed throughout the crowd.”

U.S. Politics

Congressman calls for PA official to be blacklisted as sponsor of terror,

“A US congressman has called on President Donald Trump to blacklist a leading Palestinian Authority official as a sponsor of terror, Algemeiner has reported. Writing to the President on Thursday, Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn called for the PA’s Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs and its director, Qadri Abu Bakr, to be designated as sponsors of terror due to the Commission’s role in paying salaries to terrorists and their families.”

The Settlers’ Man in Florida,

“DeSantis ‘is truly one of the great friends of the state of Israel,’ said Marc Zell, an Israeli American lawyer and West Bank settler who heads Republicans Overseas Israel. ‘He put into action a lot of the rhetoric that the Republican Party has adopted over the past four years’…Key to understanding DeSantis’s support for the Israeli settler right specifically, and the GOP’s pro-settlement turn more generally, is the increasingly important role that right-wing, pro-Israel donors have come to play in Florida as well as nationally, explained Kenneth Wald, author of The Foundations of American Jewish Liberalism and a distinguished political science professor at the University of Florida. Although white Christians are the largest pro-Israel voting bloc nationally, they are less influential in Florida than in other states, Wald told me. And while most Florida Jews, who make up around 3% of the state’s population, vote Democrat, Republican Jewish donors constitute an important funding base for the Florida GOP. ‘The Republican Party here realizes Jewish voters aren’t moving to the Republican Party,’ said Wald. ‘But they look to Jews as an important donor group’.”

Why is the Democratic Party so timid on Palestinian rights?,

“I’ve been engaged in Democratic Party platform debates for over three decades and am amazed at how the party consistently gets the section on the Mideast wrong. Wrong because the positions expressed are out of touch with political realities on the ground. And wrong because it is out of sync with the opinions of Democratic voters. Unfortunately, despite some marginal progress in this year’s platform, which was approved on Monday, it’s still 20 years behind the times and out of touch with the views and wishes of voters.”

Palestinian students in California protest Israeli annexation in caravan,

“A caravan of cars led by Palestinian university students drove around Irvine, California, in a protest of Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank, local Orange County news outlet Voice of OC reported. The protests were organized by UC Irvine, Cal State Fullerton and Santiago Canyon College…The protesters spoke to the news outlet without giving their last names, so as not to put them at risk. ‘It’s hard to advocate and do things online especially because being in person is a huge aspect of being able to bring people together. The movement has definitely been harder to continue with the pandemic which is why we wanted to try and do a caravan,’ one of the organizers, Rana, told Voice of OC.”

Palestinian Democrats decry 'bias and censorship' in party platform,

“In a statement sent to Middle East Eye on Thursday, the seven delegates to the Democratic National Convention said the party had dismissed the input of Palestinian Americans, making them ‘merely observers on matters that directly impact our lives and the lives of our families’.”

Annexation Watch

Annexation and the US — making and unmaking states in the Middle East,

“The Trump administration claims to support Israel’s annexation of West Bank territory as a fulfillment of the long-sought effort to establish secure and recognized boundaries for the Jewish state. Israel welcomes the long-sought U.S. recognition of Israel’s policy of creating ‘facts on the ground.’ But not all facts are created equal. Palestine, now sequestered in Gaza, is to suffer the consequences of the new border west of the Jordan River endorsed by Washington. As such Washington’s actions offer a seductive opportunity to powers — great and small — that hope to profit from the free for all it has helped to unleash throughout the region.”

Yamina MK: Is Netanyahu helping Trump make a Palestinian state in Area C?,

“Kahane speculated that Netanyahu had allowed for the illegal Palestinian construction to continue by way of helping bring the Trump plan to fruition with regard to Palestinian statehood. ‘I ask myself, does our government have a directive with regard to Area C?’ Kahane said. ‘Is it possible that what is happening now in Area C, is the result of a prime ministerial directive to enable the creation of a Palestinian state through the Trump plan?'”