Top News from Israel & Palestine: March 19, 2021

What We’re Reading

Settlements, Occupation, Annexation, Human Rights

Palestinian Protester Killed by Israeli Army Fire, PA Health Ministry Says,

“The man, identified as 45-year-old Atef Hanaisheh, was shot in the head with live fire, according to the ministry’s statement and to witnesses at the protest site in the village of Beit Dajan, during a weekly protest against the establishment of an unauthorized settler outpost nearby. Witnesses said soldiers short him at close range, while the Israeli army claimed it a statement it had no information on what caused the protester’s death.”

See also

  • “Israeli forces kill Palestinians in West Bank protest” (Middle East Eye)
  • “Palestinian killed from Israeli military gunfire near Nablus” (WAFA)
  • “Palestinian killed by IDF during stone-throwing clashes” (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli settler attacks surge against Palestinians,

“According to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, 94 violent attacks took place against Palestinian civilians between December 21, 2020, to March 13, 2021 – an unprecedented figure….Munir Kadus, a researcher with the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din, described the recent attacks as an “unprecedented escalation of violence against Palestinians across all of the West Bank”.”

Palestinian Cars Torched, Graffiti Sprayed Referencing Israeli Settler's Death,

“Two cars were set on fire and graffiti was sprayed in the Palestinian town of Beit Iksa, near Jerusalem, on Friday night, with the spray-painted slogan referencing the death of an Israeli settler. “Greetings from Ahuvia,” read the graffiti, referring to Ahuvia Sandak, a 16-year-old killed in a car crash during a chase with police, who suspected him of throwing stones at Palestinians.  Sandak’s death in December sparked a wave of violence, with security officials saying dozens – or more – attacks on Palestinians have occurred since. The graffiti also included a Star of David.”

Diplomacy & the Region

UAE suspends Abu Dhabi-Israel summit as frustration with Netanyahu grows,

“The United Arab Emirates has suspended preparations for an unprecedented summit with Israel, as frustration grows with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s abuse of the normalisation deal between the countries to boost his election campaign, Yedioth Ahronoth has revealed….Emirati officials are particularly angry at Netanyahu’s trumpeting in interviews and election conferences of an agreement between UAE and Israel to establish an investment fund of $10bn aimed at strategic sectors in Israel.”

ICC gives Israel a month to seek deferral of war crimes probe,

“The International Criminal Court confirmed on Thursday it has sent formal notices to Israel and the Palestinian Authority about its impending investigation into possible war crimes, giving them a month to seek deferral by proving they are carrying out their own investigations.”

American Scene

A year later, Senate letter against ICC drops to 57 signatures,

“Fifty-seven senators have signed onto a letter written by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) criticizing the International Criminal Court’s decision to launch a formal investigation of Israel. A larger group of 69 senators signed onto a similar letter in May 2020 — a supermajority of the Senate, Portman boasted at the time. The final version of the letter, which was sent to Secretary of State Tony Blinken on March 11 after the ICC announced it would officially investigate Israel for war crimes, praised the secretary for denouncing the decision and expressed concern over the ICC’s actions.”

See also Lara Friedman’s FMEP Legislative Round-Up from March 12, 2021, “not as great a number as Cardin/Portman and/or AIPAC might have hoped…”

Biden administration planning to 'reset' relations with Palestinians: Report,

“The Biden administration is looking to “reset” relations with the Palestinians following a turbulent four years under former President Donald Trump, according to a State Department memo obtained by The National and the Reuters news agency. The internal draft memo, first reported by the UAE-based newspaper and later by Reuters, said the plan was still in an early “working stage”, but included an initiative set to provide $15m in Covid-19 aid that could reach the Palestinian Authority (PA) by the end of March.” See also “‘The National’ obtains US official document for Palestinian ‘reset'” (The National)

Israeli President reportedly invited to address joint session of US Congress,

“Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin has reportedly been invited to address a joint session of Congress in the United States, according to Hebrew media reports. Rivlin is reportedly still weighing the decision and a date for his arrival remains unclear.”

Former AIPAC Senior Operative Launches Group to Cultivate Democratic Support for Israel,

“In a sign of Israel advocates’ growing anxiety over progressive opposition to Israeli policies, AIPAC’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, Jonathan Kessler, is leaving his job at the flagship Israeli-government-aligned lobby to start a new advocacy group that he hopes will appeal to Democratic Party activists.”

Former US, Israeli officials voice support for Biden's Pentagon policy pick,

“Dozens of US foreign policy veterans and three top Israeli generals are voicing support for President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Pentagon’s policy office, Colin Kahl, as opposition to his confirmation mounts from Republican-aligned groups….Those signing include leaders of Jewish organizations, members of Congress, national security officials and three former US ambassadors to Israel, Politico and The Times of Israel reported.”

Israeli Scene // Elections

Two Dead, Two Wounded After Shooting in Israeli Arab City, Marking 26 Victims This Year,

“This comes amid a surge of shootings within Israel’s Arab community who accuse police of failing to tackle the violence. At least 26 Arab citizens of Israel have been shot dead this year, mostly by unknown assailants from within their towns and villages. The shootings, most often crime and gang related, have become a defining issue for the 21 percent minority ahead of a March 23 national election.”

See also

  • “Palestinians protest in Umm al-Fahm and Qalansawe against police tolerance of criminality” (WAFA)
  • “1,000 protesters rally in Umm al-Fahm, Qalansawe after deadly double shooting” (ToI)

Israel election: Why Netanyahu's makeover made him an improbable 'Arab lover',

“Netanyahu’s allies argue that the charm offensive is working, and that his Likud party could pick up a seat or two from Palestinian voters, making them potentially the key to his winning the election….Analysts who spoke to Middle East Eye agreed that Netanyahu is engaged in yet more cynical political posturing. And paradoxically, they point out, the current flirtation with the Palestinian public is evidence that the Palestinian parties are weaker and more divided than they have been in years.”

Opinion | Benjamin Netanyahu, Godfather of Israel's Rising Jewish Fundamentalism,

“When Benjamin Netanyahu engineered the “Religious Zionism” alliance between three parties, Betzalel Smotrich’s ultra-nationalist National Union, Itamar Ben Gvir’s neo-Kahanist Jewish Power and the “family values” nutters of Noam, most of the attention was naturally focused on the fact that the prime minister was personally boosting the racism and homophobia of the new list. But whether or not putting all these deplorables in the same basket will ensure they cross the threshold (they almost certainly will) and help Netanyahu win the election (quite possibly) isn’t the main implication of their unification. Most Israelis who consider themselves religious Zionists of course won’t be voting for “Religious Zionism,” but enough Israelis will to establish this as the third party of Jewish fundamentalism. And it boast that it’s the first Jewish fundamentalist party that is not officially Haredi….The emergence of “Religious Zionism” – the party, not the community – is the first clear sign that fundamentalism is winning converts in formerly mainstream sectors of Israeli society as well.”


See also FMEP’s webinar from yesterday, “Mainstreaming the Extreme: How Meir Kahane’s Vision of Jewish Supremacy Conquered Israeli Politics.” Watch the video or listen to the podcast.

Israel’s upcoming election: Where did the occupation go?,

“Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, its alleged human rights and international law violations, and questions about the legitimacy of its democracy are not at the forefront of any political party’s agenda, because these are not major concerns for an overwhelming majority of Israeli voters.”

Palestinian Scene

Foreign Minister meets ICC chief prosecutor in The Hague,

“Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Riyad al-Maliki met today with the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda in The Hague, as part of ongoing collaboration with the Court concerning the opening of a probe into the Situation in Palestine….”The Palestinian people and its leadership are eagerly looking forward to the efforts of the International Criminal Court to fulfill the duties entrusted to it under the Rome Statute, to protect the interests of the victims and prevent impunity,” said the Foreign Minister.”

Jerusalem Governorate urges immediate action against forcible eviction of Sheikh Jarrah,

“The Palestinian Authority’s Jerusalem Governorate called today upon the international community to assume its responsibility and prevent Israel from forcibly evicting and demolishing houses of Palestinian families in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem…”The Israeli policy of forcible displacement, home evictions and house demolition is a tool being used to push Palestinians outside their capital,” said the Jerusalem Governorate in a statement. “Such policies against an occupied population are nothing short of War Crimes under international law, and so the international community must recognize and acknowledge this tragedy.””

President Abbas dismisses Nasser al-Qudwa as head of the Yasser Arafat Foundation,

“President Mahmoud Abbas today dismissed Nasser al-Qudwa from his post as Chairperson of the Yasser Arafat Foundation and a member of its board of trustees….Last week, the Central Committee of ruling Fatah Movement dismissed al-Qudwa as its member. Fatah said its decision to oust al-Qudwa, a veteran diplomat, was made after the latter decided to break away from the Movement and contest the upcoming elections in a separate list.”

Lawfare/Attacks on Civil Society & Free Speech (and Pushback)

VIDEO: Four of five Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidates defend right to boycott Israel,

“At a Virginia gubernatorial debate on Tuesday night, four of the five Democratic candidates running for Virginia’s top office said they would oppose efforts to “discourage or criminalize” the BDS movement if elected….All four candidates who participated in the debate said they would not take any government action against the BDS movement, which many members of the Jewish community believe unfairly singles out Israel and seeks its destruction as a Jewish state. None of them mentioned Israel.”

Candidate for Virginia Governor endorses BDS,

“In response to a question whether he would agree to issuing a gubernatorial directive against the movement, [Lee] Carter said: “No, I will never do that. I’m a supporter of the BDS movement. I believe that the human rights abuses that are being inflicted upon the Palestinian people are among the worst currently ongoing in the world.” He also voiced his opposition to the Virginia Israel Advisory Board (VIAB), which introduces itself as “a government agency established in 1986 to help Israeli companies build and grow their U.S. operations in / through Virginia.” He described VIAB as “an agency dedicated to increasing its trade deficit with a foreign country . . . that has a military occupation over a captive population like the Israeli government does with the Palestinian people.”

Long Read

A Day in the Life of Abed Salama,

“One man’s quest to find his son lays bare the reality of Palestinian life under Israeli rule.”