Top News from Israel/Palestine: March 17, 2021

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Annexation, & Settlements

Jerusalem Seeks to Reactivate Demolition Orders in Palestinian Area, Backing Out of Agreement,

“The Jerusalem municipality has asked the courts to reactivate demolition orders relating to dozens of buildings housing 1,500 Palestinians in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, after years of conducting unusual back-door negotiations with these residents in an attempt to find a plan that would offer them alternative housing. The request was filed in a court for local affairs three weeks ago. If approved, more than 70 structures in the al-Bustan neighborhood are at immediate risk of demolition…In response to the municipality’s request, Kawar wrote that the city had not informed the court of the fact that there had been ongoing negotiations lasting many years and that progress had been made. He asked the court to postpone carrying out the demolitions by one year in order to give the plan a chance. “This is an extensive neighborhood-wide plan that can give an updated and appropriate solution to residents and their needs. The respondents should support this plan and the residents’ initiative instead of trying to quash it.””

Netanyahu ups focus on settlements, as housing starts hit 10-year low,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to visit the small settlement of Revava Sunday, just two days prior to the March 23 election, to bolster support on the Right as Jewish West Bank housing starts hit a ten-year low. “I will not uproot 100,000 Jews for a fictitious peace,” Netanyahu said Tuesday at a campaign stop. In the last week he has increasingly focused on his position on West Bank settlements, a topic that is important for right-wing voters. On Sunday he made his first campaign trip during this fourth election cycle to the settlements, visiting the Gush Etzion, Binyamin and South Hebron Hills regions. Netanyahu has pledged to increase settlement development and to stand strong against US President Joe Biden who is opposed to Jewish building in Judea and Samaria. His statements follow a four-year spike in the approval of plans for building projects in the settlements under the former Trump Administration. But those plans have yet to translate into an actual settler building surge on the ground.”

Palestine Supporters Mark 18th Anniversary of Rachel Corrie’s Murder by Israeli Forces,

“March 16th, 2021 marks 18 years since American peace activist Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli armored bulldozer in Rafah, in southern Gaza. Rachel Corrie was a 23-year-old American peace activist from Olympia, Washington, who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer on 16 March 2003, while undertaking nonviolent direct action to protect the home of a Palestinian family from demolition. Since her killing, an enormous amount of solidarity activities have been carried out in her name around the world. In an interview with the Real News Network several years ago, the late Rachel Corrie’s father Craig Corrie described the circumstances around his daughter’s death:”

Israel sentences 14-year-old Palestinian boy to two months in prison,

“An Israeli court on Tuesday sentenced a 14-year-old Palestinian boy from occupied East Jerusalem to two months in prison for allegedly throwing stones at Israeli police, his family has told Middle East Eye. Abdullah Obaid, from the town of Issawiya, bid farewell to his family before turning himself in to Israeli authorities at the Moscovia Detention Centre in West Jerusalem…“We are suffering from Israeli occupation. On a daily basis, Israeli forces raid and search houses, shoot rubber-coated bullets, stun grenades, spray skunk water, provoking women, children, youth and elderly residents, which leads them to react,” Abdullah’s mother told MEE. “My son was accused of throwing stones at a police vehicle and smashing its glass while it was raiding the neighbourhood.” She said that it was painful to bid farewell to her son before handing him to Israeli police on Tuesday.”

T-A-L-A: Trace, Authenticate, Locate, and Choose to Act! Investors’ Guidelines on Business and Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,

“The Investors’ Guidelines on Business and Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) aim to inform investors, as well as policymakers and civil society working in the field of business and human rights, on the contextualization of corporate responsibility and the application of enhanced human rights due diligence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory1 (OPT) as defined by the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and other complementary guidelines such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises…

The proposed TALA approach indicates crucial aspects that should be taken into consideration by investors when confronting Israel’s prolonged occupation of the Palestinian territory, which includes an ongoing process of de facto annexation caused by contemporary colonialism and maintained by an apartheid regime9 imposed on the Palestinian people. TALA approach can assist all stakeholders in implementing processes of enhanced human rights due diligence in conflict affected areas, to help ensure accountability, and to avoid complicity in aiding and abetting violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.”


First batch of COVAX-supplied vaccines arrives for Palestinians,

“The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday received its first batch of vaccines from the global COVAX sharing initiative, in a boost to inoculations in the occupied West Bank and Gaza lagging far behind Israel’s campaign…The vaccines shipped to Tel Aviv were the first sent by the WHO to the Palestinians under the COVAX drive it set up with the GAVI vaccine alliance to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccinations globally.”

Also Covered By:

Top Court Strikes Down COVID Restrictions on Citizens' Entry and Departure From Israel,

“Israel’s High Court ruled Wednesday that the 3,000 person quota for arrivals to Israel and limitations on leaving the country for those who have not yet been vaccinated for the coronavirus is unconstitutional. A panel of judges led by Supreme Court President Esther Hayut ruled that Israel cannot extend the limitations after they expire on Sunday – two days before Israel’s election.”

Also See

After pressure, Health Ministry agrees to vaccinate Palestinian student,

“Three weeks after she was denied a COVID-19 vaccination by Israel’s Health Ministry, a Palestinian student living in the occupied West Bank who studies at Tel Aviv University finally received the vaccine. As Local Call first reported three weeks ago, Tel Aviv University initiated a vaccination drive for faculty, staff, and students, including foreign students. Nadia Sabaana, a resident of the northern West Bank and a graduate student studying in the Tel Aviv Business Administration program, arrived on campus to get the vaccine, but was repeatedly turned away by the medical staff running the vaccine drive.”

With Nearly Half of Israelis Fully Vaccinated, Coronavirus Cases Plummet,

“Israel’s vaccination campaign was dramatically reflected in key coronavirus indicators on Wednesday, as daily COVID-19 cases, the rate of infection and the percentage of positive tests continued to plummet, according to data sets from the Health Ministry and the Israeli army. According to the data, the R-number – the average number of people each coronavirus carrier infects – dropped to 0.7, the lowest figure in months. “


UAE calls off Netanyahu trip, says won’t get involved in 'Israeli electioneering’,

“The United Arab Emirates rejected attempts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to squeeze in his first trip to the Gulf state before next week’s election. Netanyahu had been working on a visit to Abu Dhabi and a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Thursday, a week after his planned trip was postponed for the first time.

UAE: Our potential investments in Israel, like our investments in other parts of the world, are commercially and strategically driven and not politically motivated,

“Dr Al Jaber highlighted that “we are at a very early stage in studying the laws and policies in Israel” and stressed that “we are establishing what bilateral agreements need to be in place to support and protect our investments”.”

Israeli Elections & Domestic News

Israel’s president in Europe, campaigns against Iranian threat, ICC probe,

““At this time, the international community must stand firm and uncompromisingly against Iran’s nuclear intensification and its support for terrorist organizations that threaten Israel and the region. We trust our friends in Europe to stand by us in our fight against the misuse of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, against our soldiers and citizens,” said Rivlin. He further argued that while the balance of powers in the region is changing, following the Abraham Accords, Iran keeps threatening its neighbors.”

The Palestinian Scence

PA Prime Minister: Biden and Abbas to speak 'in the near future',

“Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Tuesday evening that US President Joe Biden will speak to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas via telephone “in the near future.” “Numerous contacts were made with the American administration, and many files were discussed, and it was emphasized that the Palestinian issue should be present on the American docket,” Shtayyeh told Palestinian news site Dunya al-Watan. Shtayyeh added that the phone call will happen “in the near future.””

Palestinian factions pledge ‘transparent’ election without violent intimidation,

“Fourteen different Palestinian factions on Tuesday signed an agreement to abide by an electoral “honor code” in the upcoming Palestinian elections, following negotiations in Cairo. “We are keen on conducting the electoral process in all its stages with transparency and integrity,” the Palestinian factions said in a statement. The Palestinian factions, which included the rival Fatah and Hamas movements, pledged not to incite “religious, sectarian, tribal, regional, familial or racial sentiments” and to refrain from violent intimidation.”

Why has Gulf aid to PA declined in recent years?,

“Speaking to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, an official from the Palestinian Ministry of Finance said, “The PA is going through a deep-seated financial crisis. We contacted a number of Arab countries, particularly the Gulf countries, in order for them to resume and increase their support, because our economic and financial situations have [worsened] and the PA could collapse in case the financial crisis continues. We heard various responses from the Arab countries, some of which expressed willingness to pay but asked us to be patient. Others said they can’t increase aid since they are facing their own difficult economic crises.” The source refused to name the countries the PA reached out to, probably to keep these contacts secret until they succeed.”

Why elections are key to re-energizing Palestinian politics,

“The process of reform requires leaders who will not act as obstructionists to it. As I point out in my recent article, there are essentially three ways to change who is in power: “through popular uprising or coup d’état; by establishing rival institutions capable of usurping the popular mandate; or through elections. Of these, only elections are straightforward, timely, and practicable.” While the limitations of PA elections should be acknowledged — especially the circumstances of repression and interference, as experts like El Kurd raise — it would be misguided to ignore the potential that these elections inherently hold to bring about some change, or to ignore the desire of the Palestinian electorate to participate in them. Indeed, around 93 percent of eligible Palestinian voters in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza have registered to cast their ballot. Of these, approximately half have not previously voted due to the 15-year gap since the last national election in 2006. That means most of these Palestinian voters are young — and younger voters are less tied to the old factions that have dominated politics, and are eager for something new. But it is not just younger voters who want change; as recent polling shows, Fatah and Hamas have become deeply unpopular among the entire Palestinian population. And in the context of the PA’s new electoral system of proportional representation — which replaces the old winner-takes-all system — smaller parties have a stronger chance of entering the political fray, and could even gain significant leverage in negotiations to form a governing coalition.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Must Resign – or Be Deposed,

“Abbas has transformed the PA into a dictatorship. He bypassed the Palestine Legislative Council, suspended shortly after Fatah’s defeat in Gaza in 2007, and began ruling by presidential decree. He refused to call for new elections from then until just two months ago. In that time, Abbas marginalized the PLO, the highest policymaking body for Palestinians worldwide, and weakened its political and military institutions. He drained its independent sources of finances to shore up the PA, the policymaking body for Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem that was born of the now defunct Oslo Accords…Along with so many fellow Palestinians, I am sick of being led and represented by a dictator. We are a smart people diminished in stature by self-appointed, ignorant, self-serving, unelected so-called leaders. And there are too many ambitious idiots hoping to succeed Abbas. The geriatric Abbas should not be allowed to run for president. Palestinians need young, energetic and creative leadership unmarred by the Abbas-era corruption allegations, lack of transparency, and destruction of Palestinian democratic values and institutions. Even worse, Abbas has acted as Israel’s security enforcer in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority and has utterly failed to advance the peace process or Palestinian independence by one iota. Palestinians of all political factions should not allow Abbas to run for Palestinian Authority president or anything else. His final act should be to resign voluntarily – and if he refuses to do so, Palestinians should depose him, even against his wishes and those of his surrogates.”

Weaponizing Anti-Semitism [And Pushback on that Effort]

Liberal Jewish Scholars Present Antisemitism Definition That Allows More Freedom for Israel Criticism,

“The Nexus Task Force, formed in 2019 to address what it describes as a “disturbing trend to politicize and exploit antisemitism and Israel is growing in conservative and right-wing political circles” describes circumstances under which applying a double standard to Israel is not antisemitic. “Paying disproportionate attention to Israel and treating Israel differently than other countries is not prima facie proof of antisemitism,” the Nexus definition says. “There are numerous reasons for devoting special attention to Israel and treating Israel differently, e.g., some people care about Israel more; others may pay more attention because Israel has a special relationship with the United States and receives $4 billion in American aid.” The Nexus definition describes ways in which anti-Israel bias can manifest as antisemitism. “It is antisemitic to treat Israel in a negative manner based off of a claim that Jews alone should be denied the right to define themselves as a people and to exercise any form of self-determination,” it says.”