Top News from Israel & Palestine: July 9, 2021

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New from FMEP

[Webinar 7/13] Make ‘Em Laugh: Comedy and the Fight for Palestinian Rights,

From the Daily Show and Saturday Night Live, to Egypt’s Bassem Youssef, to Israel’s Eretz Nehederet, comedy has long played a powerful role in shaping how people think about politics and the world around them, and challenging them to question their own assumptions and the political status quo. Can comedy play this same role in the fight for Palestinian rights? What is the intersection of comedy and activism for Palestinian rights? Can humor be an effective vehicle to get people to understand hard truths about Palestinians’ past and present — defined by the Nakba, and generations of dispossession, apartheid, occupation, dehumanization by Israel — and mobilize them to support and demand change? To explore these and other questions, join FMEP for a very special webinar, featuring world-famous Palestinian-American actress, political commentator, disability rights advocate, and Palestinian rights activist Maysoon Zayid; and Israeli former-UN-staffer-turned-comedian Noam Shuster, subject of the recently-released short film by Al Jazeera, Reckoning with Laughter.


UN pans Israel’s ‘narrow’ definition of humanitarian assistance for Gaza,

“Israel needs to open or ease the restrictions for the regular entry and exit of goods,” the senior UN official told The Times of Israel, on the condition of anonymity, in an interview Wednesday…Israel and Egypt have blockaded the coastal enclave since 2007, imposing tight restrictions on the movement of people and goods. Both countries say the blockade aims to mitigate the security threat posed by Hamas and stop the import of arms and materials to build fortifications and tunnels. Since the war though, these restrictions have further intensified, and only a limited amount of materials have been allowed in through Israel’s Kerem Shalom goods crossing, such as food, medical supplies, fuel and animal fodder. But other items such as frames to rebuild greenhouses destroyed by IDF bombings are still being barred, the UN official said, lamenting that Israel has a “very narrow definition of what constitutes humanitarian assistance.” The official claimed that “the entire planting season is at risk unless more agricultural imports were allowed into Gaza in the coming weeks.””

Israel, Hamas on path to more violence, warns official familiar with Cairo talks,

“The official noted Israel’s toughened stance since the 11-day May war vis-a-vis the Kerem Shalom goods crossing, where only limited humanitarian essentials, such as food, medicine and fuel, have been allowed in and almost all exports have been barred. Defense Minister Benny Gantz has also led a policy conditioning the rehabilitation of the Strip on the return of a pair of Israeli civilians and the bodies of two fallen IDF soldiers being held by Hamas. The official familiar with the negotiations also pointed to Hamas’s “emboldened” position since the war, which its leader Yahya Sinwar has characterized as a victory over Israel, all while public support for the rival Fatah movement led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas continues to plummet.”

Israel says it is targeting Hamas’s cryptocurrency accounts,

“Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz ordered security forces on Thursday to seize the accounts after a joint operation, the ministry said, “uncovered a web of electronic wallets” used by Hamas to raise funds using Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. It added that Hamas has been waging an online campaign to raise donations for its military wing, efforts that accelerated after the 11-day war in Gaza in May this year. Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are favoured for illicit transactions because they are perceived as hard to trace.”

Gazan children wander cemeteries for pennies,

“A 12-year-old child sits under a tree in al-Faluja cemetery, southwest of Jabalia refugee camp in north Gaza, shading himself from the rays of the burning sun. He waits for grave visitors to arrive, to offer them a few services in exchange for money. Hassan is one of many children who turned to begging in cemeteries because of the rising poverty rates in the besieged enclave. Food insecurity in the Gaza Strip has reached 70%, while poverty and unemployment rates have reached around 75% in 2019, with 33.8% of the population falling under the extreme poverty line, according to the Ministry of Social Development in Gaza. Hassan also provides the mud used to fill the gaps during burials, in return for some money from the family of the deceased or the funeral director, Jaber. He says he receives 5 shekels ($1.53) for it.  Hassan tells Al-Monitor he is not afraid of the dead, at all, but rather of the living, some of whom terrorize him when the sun sets while he is still in the cemetery.”

West Bank, East Jerusalem, Settlements/Occupation/Apartheid

Palestinians Claiming Land at Illegal Outpost Take Israel's Deal With Settlers to Court,

“Palestinians from villages near the illegal outpost Evyatar have petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice to revoke the state’s compromise that gives the settlers a chance to return in the future. Under the deal, the outpost’s structures are to remain intact and the settlers may return if the land is deemed state-owned. The 12 petitioners are demanding that the structures be removed. They also want the military “seizure order” in the area to be lifted, and that an investigation be opened against the officials and entities that allegedly helped establish the outpost – the defense minister, Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank and the Shomron Regional Council. The petitioners say they hold the rights to the land on which the outpost’s buildings and infrastructure have been built. In the petition that was submitted Thursday, some of them attached property-tax documents as proof of their ownership of the land.”


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In the peak of summer, West Bank demolitions leave 70 Palestinians homeless,

“On Wednesday morning, in temperatures reaching past 104 degrees Fahrenheit, Israeli forces demolished the Palestinian village of Khirbet Humsa in the occupied West Bank for the sixth time in less than a year. Israeli military and Civil Administration forces arrived at the Jordan Valley village at around 7 a.m. and began dismantling residents’ tents, confiscating them and loading them — along with their contents — onto an army truck. The truck then deposited the equipment over seven miles away. The IDF brought civilian buses to the site where the residents’ homes and belongings had been unloaded; however, the residents did not board the vehicles for fear that they were going to be expelled even further away. Instead, they fled for the hills and stayed until the army had left, around 6 p.m.”

The Israeli Agent Made a Veiled Threat. Soon After, the Palestinian Activist Was Dead,

“Fadi Washaha was wanted by the Israeli security forces for about a year. He apparently wasn’t a major wanted person: He took precautions but occasionally visited his home and sometimes even slept there. He told the Shin Bet security agents who were after him that he would turn himself in after completing his university exams – because of his arrests and imprisonments, his studies stretched over many years. But the security forces had different plans and decided to put an end to the cat-and-mouse game with Washaha. On Nakba Day, May 15, while attending a demonstration in City Inn square at the northern entrance to El Bireh, adjacent to Ramallah, he was shot in the head, from a distance of about 100 meters, and killed.”

The draconian law used by Israel to steal Palestinian land,

“Israel uses the Absentee Property Law to claim the lands it forced the Palestinians to abandon in the 1948 and 1967 wars. It also deploys a range of tactics to declare all unregistered lands – left out by the Ottoman and British occupiers and believed to be two-thirds of the West Bank – as possible “state” land. Palestinian lands are also confiscated in the name of archaeological and tourism purposes, and if they are bought from Palestinians it is almost always through coercive measures, Peace Now noted.

Palestinian Leadership & Protests

Hamas leader Meshaal reaches out to Riyadh on Saudi TV,

“Meshaal’s appearance on Saudi television after more than a 10-year hiatus came as a surprise. Saudi-Hamas relations had worsened in recent years due to Hamas’ rapprochement with Iran and its bias with the Muslim Brotherhood that came out victorious in the post-Arab Spring elections in the region. Hamas’ moves had angered Riyadh, which in April 2019 arrested dozens of Hamas supporters who are still behind bars in Saudi Arabia.”

Head of radical Palestinian group laid to rest in Syria,

“Hundreds of people attended on Friday the funeral of Ahmed Jibril, the leader of a breakaway Palestinian faction whose group carried out attacks in the 1970s and 1980s against Israeli targets was laid to rest in the Syrian capital of Damascus…The son of a Palestinian father and a Syrian mother, Jibril was born in Jaffa in 1938, in what was then British-ruled Palestine. His family later moved to Syria, where he became an officer in the Syrian army and acquired Syrian nationality. “Commander Jibril was one of the founders of the contemporary Palestinian revolution and one of the leaders who made the contemporary Palestinian history,” said Samir Rifai, the Palestinian Authority’s ambassador to Damascus. Jibril founded the PFLP in the late 1950s but broke away over ideological disputes. In 1968, he founded the pro-Syrian breakaway PFLP-GC, which briefly joined the Palestine Liberation Organization, but left the umbrella group in 1974, amid sharp disagreements with PLO leader Yasser Arafat.”

Why Palestinians are uniting around watermelon emoji,

“Raising the red, green, white and black Palestinian flag is banned in Israel. So the watermelon — locally grown and similarly colored — has for decades served in Palestinian iconography as a subversive stand-in. In recent weeks, the watermelon has resurged on social media, as part of what some Palestinians say are efforts to preempt or circumvent online censorship and content moderation, in the face of heightened enforcement sparked by the Israel-Hamas conflict in May and the attendant wave of grass-roots Palestinian activism…Art “can sometimes be more political than politics itself,” said Khaled Hourani, a Palestinian artist based in Ramallah, in the West Bank, whose work has featured among watermelon images circulating online. The watermelon symbolism stretches back to Palestinian organizing tactics before the first intifada, the period before the 1993 Oslo accords created the Palestinian Authority and set in motion a now-defunct peace process. But it has found new resonance. Palestinian artists used the watermelon “as a metaphor for the Palestinian flag and to circumvent the ban,” said Hourani. Online, the tradition persists: Palestinians, distrustful of social media platforms and fearful of Israeli surveillance online, are trying to avoid the catch nets of what they say are unfavorable algorithms and content moderation methods.”

Palestinian Authority orders local businesses to remove Hebrew signs,

“The decision came after many Palestinian businesses in the West Bank, especially those close to settlements, started hanging signs in Hebrew to attract Jewish clients. Kmeil gave the businesses one week to comply with the decision, according to the Salfit Governorate Public Relations and Media Department. Kmeil said that the measure “comes in light of a decision that was taken previously and confirming that the occupation is exploiting the scene of the signs in Hebrew for purposes that serve its racist and fascist policy.””

The U.S. Scene

US now to ‘prioritize’ pushing Israel to stop demolishing terrorists’ homes,

“The State Department will prioritize pushing Israel to end its controversial policy of demolishing the homes of terrorists, a spokesperson said Thursday, with the US’s top diplomat already bringing the issue up with senior officials in Israel. The comments from State Department spokesman Ned Price came hours after the administration of US President Joe Biden leveled rare criticism at Israel for razing of the home of a Palestinian-American suspected in a deadly West Bank shooting attack, marking a likely point of friction amid efforts between Washington and Jerusalem to rehabilitate ties. “We attach a good deal of priority to this, knowing that the home of an entire family shouldn’t be demolished for the action of one individual,” Price said when asked about the matter at a daily press briefing, adding that the US would continue to raise its concerns “as long as this practice continues.” Price’s comment appeared to reflect a shift from previous administrations, which had not made as large an issue out of Israeli home demolitions. “There is a critical need to lower the temperature in the West Bank. Punitive demolitions exacerbate tensions at a time when everyone should be focused on principally ensuring calm,” Price said.”

A rally against antisemitism hopes to present a united front, but its message on Israel has driven away some left-wing groups,

“Elisha Wiesel, son of the late Holocaust diarist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, was instrumental in bringing together a wide array of groups for the rally Sunday, which will be held outside the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. The rally is called “No Fear: A Rally in Solidarity with the Jewish People.” Wiesel said it was critical to make attacks on Israel, and not just antisemitism, a focus of the rally. The antisemitic attacks in U.S. cities that occurred during and after Israel’s conflict with Gaza in May bound one into the other, he said…Hadar Susskind, American for Peace Now’s president, said the gulf was too wide between groups like his and sponsors on the right such as the Zionist Organization of America and StandWithUs. “It’s not just that we disagree with these groups on other issues, we disagree with these groups on this issue,” he said, referring to how one defines antisemitism. He cited as an example how those groups describe the movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel, known as BDS, as antisemitic. The principal organizer, Alliance for Israel, mentions “the destructive antisemitic lies of the BDS movement” on its “About Us” page. Susskind said his group does not back BDS, but objected to defining it as antisemitic. “This rally looks like it will conflate criticism of the occupation and criticism of Israeli actions with anti-Zionism, and will say anti-Zionism is antisemitic, and we want no part of that,” he said.”

Regional News

Israel and Jordan Sign Water and Trade Deals in Foreign Ministers' Meeting,

“Jordan will purchase an additional 50 million cubic meters of water from Israel and increase its exports to the West Bank from $160 million a year to around $700 million, the two countries announced Thursday. The agreements, concluded during a meeting between the countries’ foreign ministers at the King Hussein Bridge between Jordan and the West Bank, signaled improved relations between Jordan and Israel’s new government following years of strained ties under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”


Also See

Amid signs of fragility, Biden and Bennett move to shore up Jordan’s Abdullah,

“Both Israel and the United States made major gestures to Jordan and its ruler King Abdullah II this week, a sign that they share serious concerns over the kingdom’s stability. On Tuesday, the US administration announced< that Abdullah will travel to the US later this month and will be the first Middle East leader to visit the Biden White House. Two days later, Israel agreed to dramatically increase the amount of water it supplies to Jordan in an effort to battle a devastating shortage, as Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi. And on Thursday it was confirmed that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Abdullah met in secret last week at the crown palace in Amman, in the first summit between the countries’ leaders in over three years.”

Analysis | The Economic Crises on Israel's Borders Are Cause for Concern,

“Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt are just three of many poor Arab countries, but they are the most important to Israel’s strategic considerations. And Israel’s relationship with them can’t be limited to analyzing the military threat they may pose – counting how many weapons and soldiers can be fielded and assessing their quality. Regime stability and governability, two issues that didn’t particularly concern Israel until a decade ago, now require special attention, diplomatic and economic planning and international cooperation to ensure that its neighbors don’t collapse.”