Top News from Israel & Palestine: June 4, 2021

What We’re Reading

Human Rights/Occupation/Annexation/Apartheid

UPDATE: 113 Palestinians injured as occupation forces quell anti-settlement rally south of Nablus,

“About 113 Palestinian protesters today were injured as Israeli occupation forces quelled an anti-settlement-construction rally in the village of Beita, south of the West Bank city of Nablus, according to medical sources. Director of the Palestinian Red Crescent’s (PRC) Emergency Department in Nablus, Ahmad Jibril, said that PRC medics evacuated to hospitals 16 Palestinians who were injured by Israeli military live ammunition in confrontations at Jabal Sabih mount, located near the town, where Israeli settlers recently set up an illegal settlement outpost.”

Also from WAFA:

Israeli settlers reschedule anti-Palestinian march in East Jerusalem,

Israeli settler groups announced on Friday their plans to resume the anti-Palestinian “Flag March”, a month after it was cancelled amid heightened tensions in occupied East Jerusalem. Initially scheduled for 10 May, the route of the Flag March had been diverted away from the flashpoint Damascus Gate amid Palestinian protests against the planned forcible removal of Palestinian residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, and Israeli forces’ violent raids at al-Aqsa mosque. The march was called off that day, when sirens went off after Hamas fired four rockets from the besieged Gaza Strip onto the outskirts of Jerusalem, following the expiry that day of its ultimatum calling on Israeli forces to withdraw from al-Aqsa. The Flag March has now been rescheduled for Thursday 10 June, with Israeli settler groups planning to proceed through the Old City’s Damascus Gate, an important symbolic gathering space for Palestinian Jerusalemites, at 6:30pm and reach the Western Plaza, where prayers will be performed at 9pm.” Also see “Nationalist groups reschedule controversial Jerusalem march scuttled by rockets” (Times of Israel)

Israeli settler rams car into Palestinian man in Jerusalem: witnesses,

“A Jewish settler rammed her vehicle into Palestinians near the Bab al-Maghariba gate in occupied East Jerusalem on Thursday, according to witnesses. Witnesses said the Israeli woman accelerated into a Palestinian, who was rushed to hospital with wounds and bruises, the Palestinian WAFA news agency reported. The settler reportedly fled the scene.”

Action replay of 1948 events stares at Sheikh Jarrah families,

An action replay of events is happening with the Al-Kurd family, living in limbo in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah district. Nearly 73 years ago, the family faced eviction from their ancestral home in the northern port city of Haifa located on the slopes of Mount Mar Elias under similar circumstances.”


Palestinian support for Hamas surges after its confrontation with Israel,

For 11 days last month, Israel unleashed a punishing barrage on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, collapsing tunnels, exploding arsenals and killing fighters. But through it all, Hamas continued to arc more than 4,000 rockets into Israel, terrorizing residents of Tel Aviv and other cities. That performance has earned Hamas newfound admiration among Palestinians not only in Gaza, which it governs, but also crucially in the West Bank, where Israel, the United States and archrival Fatah have long sought to ban the militant Islamist group from operating. Despite the prohibition, Palestinians waved Hamas flags and chanted the group’s slogans during demonstrations across the occupied territory last month — scenes that had no precedent in recent years. The surge in Hamas’s popularity has been matched by the plummeting fortunes of the Palestinian Authority, whose president, Mahmoud Abbas, was widely panned — even among fellow Fatah members — for his limp response to Israeli attacks.”

Egypt sends 'reconstruction' convoy to bombed-out Gaza,

Egypt on Friday sent an aid convoy to neighbouring Gaza with diggers, trucks and cranes to “prepare the ground for reconstruction” of the bomb-battered Palestinian enclave, the government said. “Following the directives of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, engineers and technical teams crossed the Rafah border point,” read a statement from the government…Sisi has pledged $500 million to help reconstruction efforts in densely populated Gaza, home to some two million people, and which was pummelled by Israeli air strikes last month.”

Gaza school commemorates students killed by Israel's strikes,

Sammy Ouaidy, a child psychologist in Gaza, told MEE that children had been wetting themselves and showing several signs of trauma and anxiety. “We have a specific situation in Gaza, which I call the Gaza Syndrome, because we don’t have anything such as PTSD or symptoms after the trauma,” Ouaidy said. “We’re living in a continuous cycle of trauma, over a generation, from 1948 until now.””

Who are 4 Israelis held captive by Hamas?,

Hamas, which rules Gaza, keeps four Israelis captive, including two soldiers captured during the Israeli war on the territory in the summer of 2014. The other two are civilians who have entered Gaza under unclear circumstances…Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted on Sunday, demanding an immediate release of the Israeli soldiers and civilians in the Gaza Strip. For its part, Hamas repeatedly rejected linking the reconstruction aid to the release of the Israeli prisoners, saying it will only release the hostages in exchange for Palestinians in Israeli prisons.” See also “Red Cross offers to mediate prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas” (Al Araby)

Israeli politics

This Is What We Know So Far About the Bennett-Lapid Government Agreements,

The coalition agreements signed by all the parties in the emerging government will be made public only 24 to 72 hours before it is sworn in, but the main points are already clear…Given that this will be an ideologically diverse government comprised of eight parties, each one knows its own accomplishments will be modest. The agreements state that every bill submitted to the Knesset and every other significant decision will require the consent of all the parties, making many major changes impossible. Nevertheless, each party gets something from the deal.” Also see “‘Change bloc’ heads to meet Sunday; Yamina MK confident no more defections ahead” (Times of Israel)

Palestinian citizens of Israel divided over new government,

The success of Abbas and his party will be measured by whether it gives cover to further Israeli human rights violations or instead ushers in a new era in which Palestinian citizens of Israel are recognized and granted their due as citizens of the country…Although many see the inclusion of Arabs in the latest coalition agreement as historic, the true test will only be measured on the ground as the public assesses whether the decision will improve their lives and those of fellow Palestinians in the occupied territories.” See also “A Historic Moment for Israeli Arabs, but With a Question Mark” (NYT) and “Abbas: Talking with Netanyahu first legitimized Ra’am across political spectrum” (Times of Israel)

‘No difference’: Palestinians react to Israeli coalition deal,

Many Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza have dismissed a change in the Israeli government, saying the nationalist leader due to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would likely pursue the same right-wing agenda….Former member of the executive committee of the PLO Hanan Ashrawi said the Netanyahu years still had “built-in systems of racism, extremism, violence and lawlessness”. “His former cohorts will maintain his legacy,” she tweeted.” See also “Hamas slams Israel’s ‘change’ govt, says Mansour Abbas ‘only represents himself’” (i24)

Netanyahu hunts for defectors from change bloc,

“Netanyahu is focusing on Yamina, headed by the new prime minister-in-waiting, Naftali Bennett….Nir Orbach, 51, is a veteran of the religious Zionist establishment. He has served as Bennett’s right hand man and is a key representative of party’s faith-driven base. But now Orbach is struggling with the new coalition supported by the Islamic movement and the Israeli left. He is torn between his commitment to Bennett and his personal ideology, leaving the door cracked for Netanyahu to try to force his way in.For days, Netanyahu has been trying to get through to him. Dozens of calls from the prime minister’s office have gone unanswered. Netanyahu did manage to get through to Orbach’s religious mentor, Rabbi Yosef Shanah and recruited his help…Netanyahu urged Likud Knesset members to join the demonstration outside Orbach’s home and encouraged Bennett’s base, the settler movement, to take action against Yamina.” 

Also see:

A Day After New Government Announced, Instagram and Twitter Temporarily Ban Yair Netanyahu,

Facebook took down an Instagram post on Thursday by Yair Netanyahu, the son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, containing personal details of a Yamina lawmaker, and blocked him from posting or commenting to other users for 24 hours. Twitter also temporarily blocked Netanyahu’s account later on. In his Instagram post, Netanyahu shared a poster encouraging people to demonstrate in front of Yamina lawmaker Nir Orbach’s house on Thursday night to influence him not to join the government announced Wednesday night by Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid and right-wing chairman Naftali Bennett. The post included Orbach’s home address. Netanyahu lamented the ban on Telegram and Twitter, where he wrote alongside an image of North Korean flags: “Facebook, the Bolsheviks, blocked me for 24 hours because of this picture! The big tech, the deep state, and the pseudo-legal system – together with their puppets in the new government – are leading Israel into a very dark period. Let’s hope it won’t end with gulags.””

The era of Netanyahu is over — or is it?,

“Netanyahu’s preference was to form a government with genuine racist neofascists, whereas Bennett will be helming a government that includes Israel’s peace camp and an Israeli Arab party,” Michael Koplow of the Israel Policy Forum wrote in an emailed memo. “Any discussion of extremism that does not recognize that Netanyahu in June 2021 is far more of a dangerous extremist than Bennett has ever been is not looking at the full picture.” … “I am not viewing Netanyahu’s departure with a sigh of relief,” said Diana Buttu, a former legal adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organization, at a panel Thursday hosted by the Arab Center Washington D.C. Despite their political loathing of Netanyahu, she added, there’s little daylight between the coalition’s major leaders and the prime minister on Palestinian policy. “There is long-standing agreement on one thing — which is how much to crush Palestinians,” Buttu said. “The centrist parties are extremely right-wing.” The anti-Netanyahu government would preside over the same one-state reality that Netanyahu cultivated under his watch — which Israeli and international rights groups describe as tantamount to apartheid. “Even sustaining the ‘status quo’ vis-à-vis Palestinians still means perpetuating an oppressive apparatus that has been carefully constructed over decades,” wrote Haggai Matar in the left-leaning +972 Magazine. “With the right holding onto both the most powerful ministries and the ability to shoot down significant legislation, this could be a very dangerous government.””

The U.S.

US promises 'ironclad' support for whoever leads Israel,

“We’re not going to speak to government formation while it’s in process,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Thursday, after Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “Regardless of what happens, regardless of what government is in place, our stalwart support, our ironclad support for Israel will remain.””

Biden administration supports replenishing Iron Dome after Gaza conflict,

A Biden administration official said the U.S. government supports restocking Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system after it was depleted by last month’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza. Dozens of House members from both parties have said they would push Congress to appropriate funds to replenish the system should Israel make the request. Israel’s defense minister, Benny Gantz, was here on Thursday reportedly seeking $1 billion for Iron Dome. In addition to Iron Dome funding, the acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, Joey Hood, said Wednesday that the Biden administration also would seek “equality” for the Palestinians. President Joe Biden separately told Gantz on Thursday that the United States expects Israel to ease the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza.” See also “Iron Dome funds may hitch a ride on Capitol security supplemental” (Roll Call) and “Gantz Returns to Israel After Flash Meeting on Security Issues With Biden Officials in Washington” (Haaretz)

Egypt used Gaza ceasefire to ‘improve its standing in Washington’,

“As the first Israeli missile landed on the besieged Gaza Strip, marking the start of an 11-day military offensive, Egypt saw a “tremendous opportunity” to assert itself politically in the region and, as many analysts say, to prove itself to the new US administration. US President Joe Biden thanked Egypt for “its successful diplomacy” in brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the group that governs Gaza. “The Egyptian regime wishes to illustrate to the Biden administration that they can still handle the ‘Palestinian file’, and that they are willing to follow the US guidance in this regard,” Alaa Tartir, policy adviser at Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, told Al Jazeera.”

Is pro-Israel advocacy in crisis? How the Gaza conflict exposed political fault lines,

“The Democratic Party is no longer a redoubt of unquestioning support for Israel. Stalwart pro-Israel lawmakers who for decades would blame only the Arab side when conflicts broke out are saying Israel is at fault, too….The Jewish caucus in Congress, which once spoke with a single influential voice, has split into factions. Some members represent an increasingly vocal section of the Jewish community that is critical of Israeli policies, while others are still loyal to pro-Israel conventions.  While Republicans steadfastly supported the Israeli government throughout the recent crisis, greater skepticism of Israel among Democrats was on display throughout the fighting.” See also: “Susan Collins advocates for bipartisan consensus on Israel” (Jewish Insider)

Deutch links colleagues’ anti-Israel rhetoric to recent antisemitic violence,

“If your position is that there’s no place for a Jewish state, there are people in the United States who hear that the entire state of Israel is some unacceptable creation…and all this is the fault of the Jews, then the antisemites take to the streets in New York and [Los Angeles], and then Boca [Raton] and Bal Harbour,” Deutch continued….“When we have colleagues whose position is ‘Palestine from the river to the sea,’ which includes no place for a Jewish state, and when our colleagues…wrongly and falsely describe Israel as an apartheid state, there is a context for all of this,” Deutch said, referring to fellow House Democrats like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Cori Bush (D-MO), who have called Israel an “apartheid” state.”

Global Dynamics

Honduras to open Israel embassy in Jerusalem,

In a deepening of Honduras’ ties with Israel, the Central American country will open an embassy in Jerusalem later this month, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez announced on Thursday.”

Analysis: Investor magnet Israel tarnished by Palestinian conflict, but pull still strong,

“As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’s bloodiest chapter in years played out last month, the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund said it was dropping two Israeli companies from its investment portfolio on humanitarian grounds…The Norwegian fund dropped Shapir Engineering and Industry (SPEN.TA) for building homes in Israeli settlements on the West Bank, and Mivne Real Estate KD (MVNE.TA) for letting industrial buildings linked to those settlements. Both investments created “an unacceptable risk that the companies contribute to systematic violations of the rights of individuals in situations of war or conflict,” the board of Norway’s central bank – which makes decisions based on the fund’s ethics watchdog’s recommendations – said in its May 19 statement.”

Belfast City Council calls for Israeli ambassadors to be expelled from UK and Ireland,

The City Council of Belfast in Northern Ireland passed a motion calling on the governments of the United Kingdom and Ireland to expel Israel’s ambassadors to those countries…The motion calls on the municipality to urge Ireland and the U.K. “to expel from office Israeli ambassadors, with immediate effect.” It passed with votes from left-wing parties including Sinn Fein, the council’s largest party with 18 seats out of 60.”

Switzerland adopts IHRA definition of antisemitism,

“This definition can serve as an additional guide for identifying antisemitic incidents within the framework of the various measures to combat antisemitism in Switzerland,” the Federal Council, the country’s highest executive authority, said in a statement Friday.”

Big Tech/Social Media/Free Speech

India and Israel Inflame Facebook’s Fights With Its Own Employees,

Discontent at Facebook has surged over its recent handling of international affairs, according to interviews with more than half a dozen current and former employees. For weeks, they said, employees have complained about the company’s responses in India and Israel. The workers have grilled top executives at meetings about the situations and, in one case, formed a group to internally report Palestinian content that they believe Facebook had wrongly removed. This week, more than 200 employees also signed an open letter calling for a third-party audit of Facebook’s treatment of Arab and Muslim posts, according to a person who saw the letter.”

Facebook battles reputation crisis in the Middle East,

“Facebook is grappling with a reputation crisis in the Middle East, with plummeting approval rates and advertising sales in Arab countries, according to leaked documents obtained by NBC News. The shift corresponds with the widespread belief by pro-Palestinian and free speech activists that the social media company has been disproportionately silencing Palestinian voices on its apps – which include Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp – during this month’s Israel-Hamas conflict.”

U.S. tech giants’ vise over Israel tightens despite ceasefire,

The aftermath of this month’s violence in the Gaza Strip is deepening the pressure on Google, Amazon and Facebook to reexamine their close ties to Israel — an effort that comes amid a broader reckoning over the militarization of the U.S. tech industry. Tech employees who previously pressured the corporate behemoths into dropping projects with the Pentagon and China are strategizing with outside activists over the best way to agitate against cloud contracts with the Israeli government. They’re considering a range of options, including cajoling shareholders and circulating letters to the companies’ CEOs, something employees at Amazon and Google did in the past week.”

Commentary // Long Read

What the United States Needs to Do Now for Calm in Israel and Palestine,

“The United States and the international community should insist on the unity of Gaza and the West Bank under one rule and one law. To do that, a national unity government must be created with a strong representation of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the two organizations operating in Gaza that are most at odds with Israel and the United States. Only by giving these organizations a serious buy-in can we expect results in terms of unification of rule and a return to the civilian process of resolving the conflict. It is important to remind those who say that the use of rockets is not a proper way of resistance that Israel killed and maimed hundreds of unarmed Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border with Israel during the 2018-2019 March of Return. Moreover, Mahmoud Abbas’s nonviolent approach has been unsuccessful in ending Israel’s killings while the Israelis, and the rest of the world, moved quickly once rockets started flying from Gaza.”

A Fart Joke Is Not a Pogrom,

Part of the successful endeavor of the Zionist political project, from its earliest days of 19th-century mythmaking, was an explicit attempt to link the creation of a modern nation-state with the Biblical word of God; the extraordinary work of resurrecting Hebrew, a liturgical language used for a thousand years only in formal writing and scholarship, formed a central part of this progress, discarding a millennium of Jewish history as exilic, irrelevant. Keening toward Zion in prayer was conflated with the messy and bloody endeavor of settlement, and a robust network of propagandistic and philanthropic efforts has worked to keep Judaism and Zionism inseparable in the subsequent century, and obscure displacement and bloodshed as asides to a story of faith triumphant. But the notion of settlement as earthly salvation always had its detractors, and it retains a fundamental contradiction. Even if one reveres a land, where does reverence stop and reality begin?”

Israel Claimed Its 1967 Land Conquests Weren't Planned. Declassified Documents Reveal Otherwise,

“For years, most Israeli historiography maintained that the country’s decision makers were taken by surprise by the fruits of the victory that were harvested with lightning speed in June 1967. “The war,” Defense Minister Moshe Dayan said, three days after its conclusion, “developed and rolled into fronts that were not intended and were not preplanned by anyone, including by me.” On the basis of these and other statements, the view took root that the conquest of the territories in the war was the result of a rapid slide down a slippery slope, a new reality that no one wanted.

However, historical documentation stored in the Israel State Archives and the Israel Defense Forces and Defense Establishment Archives in recent years demands that we cast doubt on the credence of that view. The information cited here constitutes just a small part of a wide range of documentation being held in governmental archives relating to the conquest of the territories, and which remain classified. Long-term stubborn persistence was necessary to effect the declassification of some of the documents on which this article is based.

The documents describe detailed preparations that were made in the military in the years before 1967, with the intention of organizing in advance the control of territories that the defense establishment assessed – with high certainty – would be conquered in the next war. A perusal of the information indicates that the takeover and retention of these areas – the West Bank from Jordan, the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria – were not a by-product of the fighting, but the manifestation of a strategic approach and prior preparations.”