Top News from Israel & Palestine: March 15, 2021

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Settlements, & Human Rights

Israel's Security Service Warns B'Tselem Researcher Not to 'Make Trouble' for the Army,

“A field researcher for Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem was investigated and warned by the Shin Bet Security service last week. The security service coordinator, who identified himself as Captain Eid, told the researcher, Nasser Nawaj’ah, that he was “making trouble and threatening the army.” Captain Eid mentioned in this regard the incident involving Harun Abu Aram of the village al-Rakiz, who is lying paralyzed in hospital after a solider shot him in the neck because he tried to stop the army from seizing a neighbor’s generator. Nawaj’ah is a resident of Sussia, in the southern West Bank. His job is to document operations by official Israeli forces like the army, the Civil Administration and the police, as well as actions taken by settlers, against Palestinians. He photographed, for example, the arrest of five boys from the village of Umm Lasafa by soldiers last Wednesday.”

Netanyahu pledges to legalize West Bank settler outposts if re-elected,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday pledged to authorize illegal West Bank settler outposts should the results of the March 23 election allow him to create a right-wing government, as he made his first campaign swing in Judea and Samaria for this fourth election cycle. “I swear to you: If I create a strong right-wing government without a rotation, I will take care of the settlements and the authorization of the young settlements [outposts],” he said during a visit to the Givat Harel outpost in the West Bank’s Binyamin region.”

Netanyahu carries out provocative visit to Masafer Yatta in Hebron,

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu carried out a provocative visit today evening to the ancient village of Susiya in Masafer Yatta, south of Hebron in the southern occupied West Bank. Netanyahu, accompanied by a large number of settlers, stormed the ancient village of Susiya amid tight military measures, according to WAFA reporter. The Israeli army closed the area, declared it a closed military zone, and closed surrounding military checkpoints to prevent international and local solidarity activists and press crews from reaching the area. Prior to the visit, the occupation forces attacked a mass march held in Masafer Yatta area in protest of Netanyahu’s anticipated visit.”

Three Jerusalem Teenagers Indicted for Assaulting Arabs in Deadly Purim Riot,

“The indictments were filed in the Jerusalem District Court against Shimon Natan Shetrit, 19, Yitzhak Svaro, 18, and a 17-year-old boy. All are residents of Jerusalem. They are charged with rioting, throwing stones and vandalizing a car, in part from racist motives, and also of attempting to assault a policeman. According to the indictment, they went looking for Arab drivers with the goal of assaulting them and attacked any vehicles that they identified as driven by Arabs…The riots went on for hours, and at their peak [Ibrahim] Hamed was attacked when other rioters broke into his car and one tried to strangle him. In his attempt to escape, he ran over a pedestrian, Itamar Ben Abu. Hamed was arrested on suspicion of reckless homicide but released three days later. The police apparently don’t intend to press charges against him.”

Palestinians clash with Israeli soldiers while settlers tear down fences in Nablus-area villages,

“Clashes broke out today between Israeli occupation forces and Palestinians in the village of Beit Dajan, east of the northern West Bank city of Nablus, while Israeli settlers tore down fences in the village of Qaryout, south of Nablus, according to local sources. Sources said Israeli soldiers stormed the village of Beit Dajan and held a number of youths at the eastern part of the village provoking confrontations with the residents who rushed to help the youths.”

Palestinians forced to demolish their structures in Jerusalem,

“Israeli occupation authorities Sunday late night forced two Palestinians to demolish their structures in the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Jabal al-Mukabbir and Silwan, according to local sources. The Wadi Hilweh Information Center said that Ahmad Hijazi was forced to tear down his own house in Ein al-Lawzeh area of the Silwan neighborhood to avoid paying 100,000-150,000 shekels (approx. USD$30,000-45,000) in exorbitant demolition costs to the Israeli municipality if it carries out the demolition.”

Minister calls for urgent intervention to stop displacement of Palestinians from Jerusalem,

“Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Fadi al-Hidmi today called for urgent international intervention to stop the displacement of Palestinians from their homes in the occupied Jerusalem neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.  “The international community is required to intervene immediately and urgently to put pressure on the Israeli government to stop the displacement ]of Palestinians from their homes[ in the occupied city, in light of the Israeli governmental and judicial institutions’ insistence on flouting international legitimacy decisions,” he said. Al-Hidmi indicated that driving Palestinians out of their homes in the city is purely politically motivated, and is aimed at implementing colonial settlement plans. “What is taking place is a systematic programmed process of replacing the Palestinians expelled from their land and property with foreign settlers,” he added.”

Hamas claims Israeli drone, not Palestinian rocket, killed 3 fishermen,

“Three Palestinian fishermen died when they found an Israeli drone at sea rigged with explosives, Hamas said Thursday. Others have disputed the claim, however. The Palestinian political and military organization said the fishermen died when the drone exploded in the water off the coast of the Gaza Strip. However, the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights said the boat may have been hit by rockets being test-fired recently by Palestinian military groups in Gaza, Reuters reported Thursday. Hamas denied rocket fire killed the men, saying the Israeli drone was in their fishing nets and exploded when the nets were lifted, according to the outlet. The Israel Defense Forces has not commented on the incident. A Palestinian official said the drone may have been in the water following an Israeli attack on a Palestinian naval boat last month.”

For Gaza’s most vulnerable, home is no safe place for COVID-19 recovery,

“In Gaza, 53 percent of Palestinians live on less than $4.60 a day, and around 62 percent of households are moderately or severely food insecure, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territories. Families living under the poverty line often purchase food on credit, or rely on relatives and friends for help. The picture only gets worse when a poor family has to quarantine at home. Poverty has forced families to live the risks of COVID-19 with no protection and minimum access to healthcare. With the loss of family members’ daily wages, securing necessities such as medication, food, and hygienic materials becomes even more difficult. Many families can only rely on the aid they receive from nongovernmental organizations, which is barely sufficient during the home isolation period. Many living under harsh economic conditions are also forced to borrow money from relatives and friends, and struggle to pay back their debts even after coming out of quarantine.”

The Stubborn Ph.D. Student From the Gaza Strip,

“At a certain European university, they have been waiting for half a year for the arrival of S.O., a young doctoral student from the Gaza Strip. He was supposed to begin his research there on October 1, 2020. If he doesn’t arrive by April 1, he will lose his scholarship and it will be given to a student from another country. Wouldn’t that be a shame. The university, and the Foreign Ministry of the relevant country, are well aware that Israeli authorities have declared an all-out war against the young man, and have kept him from leaving Gaza several times for an interview at the country’s embassy in Tel Aviv in order to receive the requisite visa. But what can the university do except exhibit patience, which will run out on April 1? And what can the diplomats from that country do, except to share their frustration with diplomats from other countries?

In September 2020, I wrote about the case of S.O., and I’m writing again, because on Sunday, the Be’er Sheva District Court, sitting as an administrative tribunal, was scheduled once again to discuss S.O.’s fate, his future and his new petition, requesting that he be allowed to travel to the embassy in question. The state prosecution for Israel’s southern district already asked that the petition be dismissed out of hand – this time, using an excuse that it has not yet used in the case of S.O. (A spoiler: The court hearing was short.)”

The Settlers’ Servants,

“There’s no point in wondering how settlers’ parrots can become grounds for chasing Palestinian children and detaining them for more than five hours. It makes sense in a reality where the Israeli security forces deployed throughout the West Bank don’t stop settlers from committing daily attacks against Palestinians and their property. It makes sense in a reality where law enforcement consistently fails to locate Israelis who attack Palestinians, and don’t prosecute them even if they do.”

Normalization & Israel's International Relations

Netanyahu Shut Airspace to Jordan Flights Following UAE Visit Spat,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered Israel’s airspace closed to flights from Jordan last week after the kingdom stalled its approval of his planned flight through Jordanian airspace to the United Arab Emirates. According to Israeli journalist Ben Caspit, Transportation Ministry officials opposed the order and delayed its implementation, and it was ultimately canceled before it affected any scheduled flights from Jordan. According to Caspit’s report, Netanyahu asked Transportation Minister Miri Regev to relay the order to both the Israel Airports Authority and the Civil Aviation Authority without first consulting the Defense Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, the diplomatic-security cabinet, the Mossad or the Shin Bet security service. The order would have violated the Israeli-Jordanian peace agreement of 1994, which allows each country’s planes to fly through the other’s airspace.

Netanyahu was set to make his first official visit to the UAE on Thursday since the two countries agreed to normalize ties, but Jordan did not approve the flight path of Netanyahu’s plane. A day earlier, Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah canceled a planned visit to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound over a dispute regarding security arrangements at the site.”

Also See

  • “PM sought to bar Jordan from using Israeli airspace as payback for plane delay” (The Times of Israel)
  • “Netanyahu: Israel has ‘good relations’ with Jordan” (Al-Monitor)

Netanyahu said to have blocked Ashkenazi trip to open Israeli missions in UAE,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has intervened to prevent Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi from traveling to the United Arab Emirates on Monday to inaugurate Israel’s new missions in the Gulf country, Channel 12 reported Sunday. Sources in the Foreign Ministry said Netanyahu blocked the visit because “he didn’t want the foreign minister to travel there before he does.””

Kosovo follows U.S., Guatemala in opening embassy in Jerusalem,

“Kosovo opened its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem on Sunday, joining the United States and Guatemala as the only countries with embassies in a city whose status is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Muslim-majority Kosovo promised to locate its embassy in Jerusalem when it established diplomatic ties with Israel last year under U.S. sponsorship.”

Palestinians condemn opening of Czech Jerusalem office,

“Prague opened a Jerusalem branch of its Israel embassy, which is located in Tel Aviv, on Thursday. The inauguration was attended by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, two weeks after Israel sent 5,000 Moderna Covid-19 vaccine doses to the Czech Republic under a “vaccine diplomacy” programme that later came under legal scrutiny and was frozen. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry called Prague’s move “a blatant attack on the Palestinian people and their rights, a flagrant violation of international law,” and said it would harm peace prospects.”

Abraham Accords: Getting a win-win for Israelis and Palestinians,

“The Biden administration has set sober expectations for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Knowing that a final-status accord is likely out of reach for the time being, the administration is focused on bottom-up peace-building to improve the lives of Israelis and Palestinians while preserving the possibility of a negotiated two-state solution. As it goes about seeding the ground for progress, the administration has made clear that it wishes to build upon the Abraham Accords and help further Israel’s integration into the region.”

The Palestinian Scene

The Politicization of Public Sector Employment and Salaries in the West Bank and Gaza,

“This policy brief highlights the PA’s politicization of employment and salaries in the Palestinian public sector, and how both are exploited as a political tradeoff rather than a natural right of employees. The brief argues that the drastic gap in salary distribution represents a significant source of economic inequality in Palestinian society. Although it recognizes different Israeli strategies for manipulating the PA’s sources of funding, such as clearance revenues and financial leakage, as well as the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic which have dealt significant blows to the PA’s ability to meet the economic needs of the Palestinian people, the brief focuses on identifying the PA’s internal mechanisms for distributing financial resources in the form of jobs and salaries as a way to serve the dominant elite’s agenda. These mechanisms are carried out with an eye to reinforcing the PA’s power, thereby suppressing political opponents and those who call for reform. The brief concludes with recommendations for remedying the system. “

Presidential spokesman: No backtracking on decision to hold elections,

“Speaking to Voice of Palestine, Abu Rudeineh announced that the decision to hold the general elections would not be reversed because elections are a “democratic and a popular requirement” while affirming that they would be held based on clear and proper rules. He added that the Fatah movement is determined to run on one unified electoral list in the first full presidential and parliamentary elections in 15 years.”

PA: Jerusalem Arabs to participate in Palestinian elections,

“Arab residents of Jerusalem will participate in the upcoming Palestinian general elections by casting their ballots or presenting their candidacy in the neighborhoods where they live, a Palestinian Authority official said Sunday. Mutasem Tayem, director-general of the “Jerusalem Unit” in the PA President’s Office, said Arab residents who hold Israeli-issued ID cards will be able to vote and present their candidacy “despite all Israeli measures aiming to prevent them from participating in the parliamentary and presidential election.””

For the first time, Hamas places women at top political positions,

“For the first time, the Hamas Majlis al-Shura (Shura council) placed two women within top leadership positions at its General Consultative Council, Ynet reported on Sunday.  They are head of the Hamas women’s movement, Fatima Sharab, and Palestinian Legislative Council for Hamas member, Jameela al-Shanti. Both women have been active Hamas members for decades.”

Israeli Elections


  • “Eight Days to Election: Likud Stalls, Four Parties on Brink of Elimination” (Haaretz)
  • “Far-right Party Allied With Kahanists Gains a Seat at Netanyahu’s Expense” (Haaretz)
  • “Lapid Courts Their Voters, and Israeli Left-wing Parties Fear Election ‘Catastrophe'” (Haaretz)
  • “Liberman under fire for saying he’ll dump Netanyahu, Haredim ‘in a landfill’” (The Times of Israel)
  • “Mossad chief says no political ties to PM, who vowed to give him cabinet post” (The Times of Israel)
  • “Netanyahu condemns Likud violence against ‘irrelevant’ Sa’ar’s campaign event” (The Times of Israel)

Top Elections Analysis,

The U.S. Scene

FMEP Legislative Round-Up March 12, 2021,

(BIDEN ADMIN SHOULD SUPPORT RIGHTS & DIGNITY OF PALESTINIANS) Tlaib-Pocan et al letter to Blinken: On 3/12 Reps. Tlaib (D-MI) and Pocan (D-WI) led a letter, cosigned by 10 House Democrats, to SecState Blinken drawing attention to a list of letters sent by members of Congress to the Trump Administration — each letter raising concerns about some aspect of the situation or policies facing Palestinians (house demolition, humanitarian aid & COVID 19, and annexation) — and which the Trump Administration ignored. The letter asks for responses to all of those letters, noting “we look forward to establishing a new, mutually productive relationship with the State Department under your leadership that results in U.S. policy that supports the human rights and dignity of the Palestinian people.” Tlaib Twitter thread about the letter – here; Pocan tweets – here and here.

Cornel West Explains Why He's Convinced His Views on Israel Led Him Out of Harvard,

“He does not believe his public support for Sen. Bernie Sanders or Black Lives Matter was a deal breaker, noting that his stance on those topics is mainstream enough to not be viewed as alienating. “Then I thought of the Palestinian issue and the Israeli occupation – now that is a taboo,” West says. He says he then remembered other outspoken professors, such as Atalia Omer and Lorgia García Peña, who were previously denied tenure. “That’s where I begin to see a pattern and hear the different stories of folks being weary of any critique of Israeli occupation,” West says. “What’s happening now in this reactionary moment in both the United States and Israel – our gangster is gone, yours is still in place – [is that] the neoliberal hegemony in the universities is still very reluctant to have a robust, respectful, free dialogue on what’s going on, past and present, when it comes to Israeli and Palestinian issues,” he adds…He is careful not to lob accusations of blanket censorship, instead describing an attempt to suppress certain dissident voices. “I don’t think that’s censorship across the board; I see censorship tied to dictatorial rule. I wouldn’t make that claim about universities in the United States, but rather a certain kind of consensus and hegemony. There’s a much more robust dialogue in Israel than in the States,” he says.”

The Anti-Democratic Origins of the Jewish Establishment,

“But the ADL and AJC have never been part of Jewish resistance to power: on the contrary, they were founded to subvert Jewish grassroots organizing. When I began researching the ADL and AJC as a political historian, I was surprised by both the substance of this history and the fact that it was so little known on the present-day Jewish left. Alongside the Jewish Federations, the ADL and AJC were established by a wealthy German Jewish capitalist class intent on suppressing the political power of poor, often radicalized Eastern European immigrants. Over the next century, those leaders and their successors courted wealthy donors who reflected their own political leanings, and closed ranks around an insular directorate. In accordance with the conservatism of their leaderships, the institutions allied themselves only selectively with civil rights organizing, even as they labored to undermine more radical movements—such as Black Power and Third World anti-colonialism—and embraced an increasingly right-wing Zionist politics in Israel/Palestine. “

Ro Khanna keeps the dialogue going,

“”I don’t pay so much attention to the noise of politics, as long as you’re consistent in your convictions,” he said in a phone conversation. “I do think that it’s important to speak precisely, and if there are times where any facts or things have been imprecise, I always make the effort to correct the record, because it’s such a sensitive issue.”…Similarly, Khanna suggested in the interview with JI that he is unconcerned by those who question his positions on the Jewish state — noting that in spite of some of his more critical views, his legislative history speaks to a pro-Israel record. He emphasized that he voted in favor of the 10-year memorandum of understanding guaranteeing military assistance to Israel. But the aid, Khanna added, “should not be used for anything that violates human rights.” Khanna maintained that he has received “overwhelming support” from leaders of many Israel groups across the country, including staffers at J Street. “I think they appreciate the view I have, which is a strong sense of the cultural and economic relationship between the United States.””