Top News from Israel & Palestine: March 26, 2021

What We’re Reading

The Biden Era

Biden restores aid to Palestinians after Trump's cuts,

“The Biden administration today announced the restoration of humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, along with $15 million in additional aid for the coronavirus response in the West Bank and Gaza Strip…The $15 million will not be transferred directly to the Palestinian Authority, but through NGO’s which work in the West Bank and Gaza…’USAID is supporting Catholic Relief Services’ COVID-19 response efforts in health care facilities and affected communities throughout the West Bank and Gaza and supporting emergency food assistance programming in communities facing food insecurity,’ the State Department said in a statement.”

Reaction: “Prime Minister welcomes US financial aid to PA” (WAFA)

Also See

Weaponizing Antisemitism to Quash Criticism of Israel (& Pushback)

The Jerusalem Declaration On Antisemitism,

The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism is a tool to identify, confront and raise awareness about antisemitism as it manifests in countries around the world today. It includes a preambledefinition, and a set of 15 guidelines that provide detailed guidance for those seeking to recognize antisemitism in order to craft responses. It was developed by a group of scholars in the fields of Holocaust history, Jewish studies, and Middle East studies to meet what has become a growing challenge: providing clear guidance to identify and fight antisemitism while protecting free expression. It has over 200 signatories.

From the Preamble: “The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism responds to “the IHRA Definition,” the document that was adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2016. Because the IHRA Definition is unclear in key respects and widely open to different interpretations, it has caused confusion and generated controversy, hence weakening the fight against antisemitism. Noting that it calls itself “a working definition,” we have sought to improve on it by offering (a) a clearer core definition and (b) a coherent set of guidelines. We hope this will be helpful for monitoring and combating antisemitism, as well as for educational purposes. We propose our non-legally binding Declaration as an alternative to the IHRA Definition. Institutions that have already adopted the IHRA Definition can use our text as a tool for interpreting it.”

Reaction to the Jerusalem Declaration

Analysis of the Jerusalem Declaration

Is Facebook about to crack down on criticism of Zionism?,

“Facebook, one of the largest social media companies in the world, is considering a content moderation policy that Palestinian rights advocates worry would silence criticism of Israel by conflating anti-Zionism with antisemitism. A source with knowledge of Facebook’s discussion told +972 they believe Facebook will make a decision on this imminently. The discussions within Facebook about the potential move are the latest front in an escalating battle over the re-definition of antisemitism, and comes amidst a campaign by Israel’s government and its allies abroad to conflate antisemitism with critiques of Israel. According to sources knowledgeable about Facebook’s discussions on the matter, Jordana Cutler, a former advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the current head of policy for Israel and the Jewish diaspora, is a key figure involved in the company’s upcoming decision.”

Distorted Definition: Redefining Antisemitism to Silence Advocacy for Palestinian Rights,

“One of the primary tactics opponents of the movement for Palestinian freedom have used to silence political debate is the branding of all support for Palestinian rights as anti-Jewish. Roughly half of the incidents of suppression Palestine Legal responds to each year include false accusations of antisemitism, totaling 895 incidents from 2014 to 2020. In an effort to add legitimacy to this tactic, Israel lobby groups have employed a distorted definition of antisemitism that encompasses virtually all criticism of Israel and have attempted to entrench this definition through policy changes and legislation. This page tracks the evolution of the cynical ways Israel lobby groups have abused the definition and the definition’s impact on advocates for Palestinian rights.”

Life Under Occupation

High Court petition demands Israel supply West Bank, Gaza with virus vaccines,

“Six Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations filed a petition with the High Court of Justice on Thursday demanding that Israel act to ensure the vaccination of Palestinians \in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including by handing over surplus supplies of its own vaccine stocks. The government’s “current policy and failure to ensure that the entire population is vaccinated violates Palestinian inhabitants’ basic rights to life and bodily integrity, and represents an ongoing injustice,” the petitioners wrote, according to a statement from Physicians for Human Rights Israel. The petition was submitted by Physicians for Human Rights Israel, HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and Rabbis for Human Rights.”

The latest numbers: “Palestine records 1,511 new coronavirus cases, 16 deaths” (WAFA)

President: Israeli control of water resources greatest challenge to development,

“The Israeli control of water resources in the occupied territories is the greatest challenge to development and economic advancement, President Mahmoud Abbas stated on Monday. In a speech on World Water Day, President Abbas said that the existential threat posed by the Israeli occupation to Palestinians through controlling of land and natural resources, including water, remains the greatest challenge to development and the advancement of the national economy. He added that controlling, conserving and developing water resources are the most important symbol of sovereignty and statehood and are one of the indisputable final-status issues, which must be resolved in accordance with international law.”

Also See: “Israel’s discriminatory policies in Palestine constitute systemic attack on Palestinian people’s right to water and sanitation” (WAFA)

Palestinian detainee in Israel on hunger strike for 35 days,

“It said Imad Batran, 47, from the southern West Bank city of Hebron, went on hunger strike after his administrative detention was renewed for the fourth time in a row on January 21, and which is supposed to end on May 17, unless renewed once again. Batran spent a total of 10 years in Israeli prisons for his resistance of the occupation, most of them were in administrative detention without charge or trial and based on secret evidence seen only by the judge.”

How Palestine is a critical feminist issue,

“PFC member Loubna Qutami, an assistant professor in the Department of Asian American Studies at the University of California, responded: “Certainly, Palestine is many things for many people – at its core, it is about the dismantlement of Zionist settler-colonialism, key here is understanding how Zionist settler-colonialism is ALSO a project of gendered/sexual violence and oppression. “When Palestinian women are forced to give birth to still-born babies at a checkpoint because the ambulance wasn’t allowed to pass through – that is certainly a human rights [violation] but also a very clear targeting of gendered violence on Palestinian reproductive freedom. “When Israeli soldiers talk about Palestinian pregnant women being a target for kill (as they did during the 2009 war on Gaza) that is a clear mechanism of gendered violence to control the Palestinian demographic majority. “When Palestinians (men and women and gender non-conforming peoples) experience sexualized torture, rape, castration under interrogation – certainly that is a human rights violation; but it is also gendered and sexual assault. Thus Palestinian liberation must certainly be embraced by anyone who believes they are a feminist, otherwise feminism is hollow of any attention to material realities.””

Israeli Elections - Final Results

Israel’s Election Ends in a Stalemate, Final Results Show,

“Israel’s fourth election in two years has ended in another stalemate, with neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his opponents able to win a parliamentary majority, according to final results released Thursday by the Israeli election authority. The results set the stage for weeks or even months of protracted coalition negotiations that many analysts expect may fail, prompting yet another election in late summer.”

Also See

Israeli Coalition Machinations

Seeking extra seat, Likud team said hunting for forged Arab votes, discrepancies,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly formed a team that will search for potential mistakes and problems with votes for the Joint List, seeking to annul some 2,600 votes to win a seat for the Likud party at the Arab party’s expense and shift the Knesset balance slightly in his favor. Currently, the Joint List has a buffer of 2,521 votes, below which it loses its 6th seat. Under Israel’s complex seat distribution system, Likud, currently closest to an additional seat by number of votes, would gain from the Joint List’s loss. This would shift Netanyahu’s bloc of potential supporters from 59 to 60 of the Knesset’s 120 total. Not yet a majority, but at least not a minority. But to do so, Likud would need to discredit 2,521 votes cast by the Arab public, an unlikely scenario, and one that is sure to elicit intense criticism for the attempt to disenfranchise members of Israel’s Arab minority. According to a report in the Yisrael Hayom newspaper, the team will focus on finding discrepancies at polling stations with a high turnout for the Joint List in Arab towns such as Umm al-Fahm, Taybeh, Jaffa and Kfar Manda.”

Lapid, Liberman discuss replacing PM; Bennett talks to parties on right and left,

“Meanwhile, in a statement Friday, Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett said he’d spoken over the past two days with the heads of all non-Arab parties from the right and the left, wished them a happy Passover, and “stressed the need to take responsible, principled action in order to release Israel from chaos and allow it to return to functioning properly as soon as possible.” Bennett, who has not committed to supporting the pro- or anti-Netanyahu blocs, is seen as a linchpin of any future coalition in the wake of the deadlocked election. Liberman, whose party won seven seats, hinted ahead of the election that he plans to recommend that Lapid, whose party won 17 seats, be tasked with forming the next government. The leaders of Labor — seven seats — and Meretz — six seats — have also indicated they will back the Yesh Atid chairman, giving him 37 recommendations.”

New Hope No. 2 says Likud offered her Education Ministry to defect,

“The No. 2 lawmaker in the right-wing New Hope party, Yifat Shasha-Biton, said Thursday that several of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s associates have tried to convince her to leave her party and join the premier’s Likud faction…’It’s no secret that there is very intense pressure for us to join a government led by Likud, including for myself personally,’ Shasha-Biton told Channel 12. ‘I have received official communications, as have other members of New Hope, but it’s not going to happen’.”

Anti-Netanyahu parties divided on next move,

“Other party leaders, including Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman, believe that a new election is in the offing, are calling for promoting legislation banning someone currently charged with crimes from forming a government, therefore making it impossible for Netanyahu to run in another election.”

Palestinian Elections

Ze’evi assassin Ahmad Sa’adat to head PFLP list in PA election,

“Ahmad Sa’adat, secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), who was tried and convicted of masterminding the assassination of Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi in 2001, will run at the head of the group’s list in the upcoming parliamentary election. Sa’adat was sentenced in 2006 to 30 years in prison for heading an illegal terrorist organization and for his leading role in Ze’evi’s assassination…The PFLP does not recognize Israel and favors a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

News from the Region

Netanyahu Delays Approving Jordan's Request for Water Supply,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is tarrying in his response to a Jordanian request for water from Israel, a request made due to water shortages in the kingdom. Netanyahu has not responded positively even though professionals in water matters and defense establishment officials have recommended acceding to the request. Netanyahu’s approach reflects the depth of the crisis between Israel and Jordan, part of which seems to be related to personal friction between the prime minister and King Abdullah.”

Suez Canal could be blocked for weeks by 'beached whale' ship,

“The 400 metre Ever Given, almost as long as the Empire State Building is high, is blocking transit in both directions through one of the world’s busiest shipping channels for oil and refined fuels, grain and other trade linking Asia and Europe. Late on Thursday, dredgers were still working to remove thousands of tonnes of sand from around the ship’s bow. The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said earlier that nine tugs were working to move the vessel, which got stuck diagonally across the single-lane southern stretch of the canal on Tuesday morning amid high winds and a dust storm.”

Suez Blockage Sets Shipping Rates Racing, Oil and Gas Tankers Diverted Away,

“The suspension of traffic through the narrow channel linking Europe and Asia has deepened problems for shipping lines that were already facing disruption and delays in supplying retail goods to consumers. Analysts expect a larger upward impact on smaller tankers and oil products, like naphtha and fuel oil exports from Europe to Asia, if the canal remained shut for weeks.”

Bonus Reads

The Zionist James Bond? How a Mossad Agent Helped a Brutal Dictator Retain Power,

“Declassified Foreign Ministry documents shed light on the secret ties woven by an Israeli businessman and Mossad agent with the military dictatorship that ruled Panama for 20 years”