Top News from Israel & Palestine: March 4, 2021

What We’re Reading


Israel still weighing cooperation with ICC investigation,

“Israel has yet to decide whether it will cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s investigation into alleged crimes in the Palestinian territories, a senior Justice Ministry official said Thursday. The decision by the court’s outgoing prosecutor to probe Israeli military actions and settlement construction on lands captured in the 1967 Mideast war was announced Wednesday and condemned by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as ‘the essence of anti-Semitism and hypocrisy.’ Roy Schondorf, deputy attorney general for international law, told Army Radio that the court’s decision was driven by ‘political agendas’ and that opening an investigation was unjustified, but that Israel has not rejected any participation outright.”

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Western envoys warn ICC its future is at risk over probe of Israel, Palestinians,

“Unnamed Western diplomats reportedly warned Thursday that the International Criminal Court’s decision to open an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israel and the Palestinians could endanger the future of the Hague-based legal body. The anonymous officials told Israel’s Kan public broadcaster that there have been growing concerns within the diplomatic community of the alleged increasing politicization of the court and its investigations, and that officials in The Hague have been told of the worries.”

Blinken: US stands with Israel, ICC lacks jurisdiction to hold investigation,

“US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed the US’s opposition to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to open a full war crimes probe against Israel and the Hamas terrorist group in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday night. ‘The United States firmly opposes and is deeply disappointed by this decision. The ICC has no jurisdiction over this matter,’ Blinken said in a statement issued early Thursday morning. ‘Israel is not a party to the ICC and has not consented to the Court’s jurisdiction, and we have serious concerns about the ICC’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel.’ Blinken also stressed that the Palestinians don’t qualify as a sovereign state and therefore cannot participate in the ICC. The secretary of state stressed that the US remains ‘deeply committed to ensuring justice and accountability for international atrocity crimes’ and recognizes ‘the role that international tribunals such as the ICC can play—within their respective mandates—in the pursuit of those important objectives. Moreover, the United States believes a peaceful, secure and more prosperous future for the people of the Middle East depends on building bridges and creating new avenues for dialogue and exchange, not unilateral judicial actions that exacerbate tensions and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution,’ added Blinken. ‘We will continue to uphold our strong commitment to Israel and its security, including by opposing actions that seek to target Israel unfairly.’”

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Occupation, Settlements, Annexation

Judge, Jury, and Occupier,

‘Judge, Jury, and Occupier: Israel’s military court system in the occupied West Bank’ exposes how Israel’s military court system upholds its illegal occupation in the West Bank by enforcing repressive laws imposed on the Palestinian population to suppress dissent, quash resistance to occupation, and to deepen its military rule. The report calls on the UK government to increase support for Palestinian human rights defenders and impose a two-way arms embargo on Israel. Israel’s use of military laws and courts over the occupied civilian Palestinian population breaks international law, including the prohibition of torture and the forcible transfer of prisoners from an occupied territory into the occupying state.”

Israeli court rejects petition against settler project at Ibrahimi Mosque,

“Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a petition on Thursday filed by the Hebron Municipality against the installation of an elevator for Jewish settlers adjacent to the Ibrahimi Mosque in the occupied city. According to the 0404 news site the court has thus given the green light to the Israeli Civil Administration’s Higher Planning Council to move forward with installing the elevator which will, it is claimed, serve settlers with disabilities. Last May, Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett issued an expropriation order for a portion of the Ibrahimi Mosque as part of a project to build an elevator to facilitate settlers’ access to the Muslim house of worship. The municipality has been demanding that the project should be stopped because the construction will be on land it owns together with the Palestinian Waqf (Religious Endowment) Islamic Trust.” [background on objections to this project, from the Israeli NGO Emek Shaveh, is here]

Israel extends detention of ex-Palestinian Jerusalem minister,

“An Israeli court in occupied Jerusalem yesterday extended the administrative detention of Khaled Abu Arafa, the former Palestinian minister of Jerusalem affairs, for another four months. The Israeli intelligence service, Shin Bet, detained Abu Arafa on 11 November after summoning him for interrogation at the Ofer Detention Centre near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. On 17 November, an Israeli court in Jerusalem extended his detention for several days before issuing an administrative detention order for four months against him. Khaled Abu Arafa, 59, had been detained in Israeli jails several times before. He was banned from Jerusalem upon his release in 2014.”

Seven Palestinian-owned homes in the south of West Bank receive Israeli demolition orders,

“The Israeli military authorities today informed seven Palestinian families in the south of the West Bank that their homes will be demolished for construction without a permit, according to a local activist. Rateb Jabour, an activist with the anti-settlement committees, said the military informed seven residents of the village of Maeen, east of Yatta, of its decision to demolish their homes, which each range in area between 130 and 160 square meters. Dozens of other village homes have already been demolished under the same pretext of construction without a permit. Maeen is located in what is classified as Area C of the occupied West Bank, which is under full Israeli military control preserved for its settlement activities and where its Palestinian residents are not allowed to build or develop.”

Palestinians appeal to Jordan, PA to prevent Israel from evicting them,

“Four Palestinian families living in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of occupied Jerusalem have appealed to Jordan and the Palestinian Authority to immediately intervene and prevent Israel from expelling them from their homes. Last month, the Israeli District Court in Jerusalem rejected an appeal by the four Palestinian families against their eviction from their homes to make way for Jewish settlers and upheld the eviction order. The court ruled that the land where the houses are located was owned by Jews prior to the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and the subsequent establishment of the occupation state of Israel. The District Court refused to allow discussion of ownership of the land despite attempts by the lawyers to prove that the settlers do not own the land on which the housing project was built in 1956 by the Jordanian government and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) for Palestinians displaced following the Israeli occupation in 1948. The court gave the four families until 2 May to vacate the properties.” Also see: Israeli State Expropriates Palestinian-owned Land south of Hebron (IMEMC)

Extremist Israeli settlers attack Palestinian homes and vehicles,

“Extremist Israeli settlers threw stones at homes and vehicles in two Palestinian villages south of Nablus yesterday, Wafa news agency has reported. According to the human rights group Yesh Din, a group of settlers entered Huwara and stoned vehicles, shattering the windows in two of them. The same extremists also threw stones at a Palestinian home, damaging windows while family members slept inside. A red paint bomb was also thrown at the building.” Also see: Settlers vandalize a barn for a Palestinian farmer near Salfit (WAFA)

14 arrested over attack on driver who then fatally rammed man at Jerusalem riot,

“Police said Thursday that 14 people, five of them minors, were arrested over an attack on a driver who hit and killed a man while trying to flee, as well as other violence at a Jerusalem protest earlier in the week. Ibrahim Hamed said he was assaulted by a group of protesters in an anti-Arab attack and was attempting to escape when he plowed his vehicle on Sunday night into Itamar Ben Abu, 47 in the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim. Police said they carried out raids on Thursday morning in connection with the investigation into the ramming that killed Ben Abu and the violence that proceeded [sic] it.” Also see: Police arrest 12 suspects involved in riots, assaults in Mea She’arim (Jerusalem Post)

Mayor of Ariel: 'Palestinians won't be allowed into the city without a vaccine',

“Israel’s Health Ministry on Wednesday approved the provision of coronavirus vaccines to Palestinian Authority Arabs who work in the Samaria city of Ariel, Ariel’s Mayor Eliyahu Shaviro said…’Next week, the vaccination booth will be set up,’ he [mayor of Ariel] promised, adding that ‘Palestinian workers will not be allowed into the city without a vaccine – please pay attention and be sure to inform the Palestinian workers who work alongside you.’”

Gaza Strip

Hamas: no release of soldiers held in Gaza without prisoner swap,

“The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement said on Wednesday that Israeli soldiers held in Gaza will not be released unless such a move is part of a prisoner swap. Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem confirmed this to Anadolu in response to remarks by Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz, who made any development in Gaza conditional on the release of four Israelis held in the coastal territory.”

Israel & the Region/World

Israel, Arab countries mull establishing 'regional defence alliance',

“Israel is currently in contact with Western countries to establish a regional defence alliance with the participation of several Arab countries, against the “Iranian threat”, local Makan reported yesterday. ‘Israeli officials’ contact with their Arab counterparts increased in recent days,’ the newspaper quotes official sources as saying. It added that talks included a recent call between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Crown Prince of Bahrain Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa as well as a meeting between Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.”

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Top-ranking Hezbollah official says terrorist group uninterested in war with Israel,

“A top-ranking member of Hezbollah said on Wednesday that the Shi’ite terrorist organization has no intention of going to war with Israel in the near future. Hezbollah deputy secretary-general Naim Qassem told Lebanon-bases broadcaster Al-Mayadeen, however, that his group would make the Jewish state “see stars” if hostilities were to break out. ‘Hezbollah clearly declares that it has no intention of starting a war,’ Qassem said. ‘Israel must understand that the arena is not open to it, and today the battle will be within the Israeli entity.’”

In Myanmar coup, old Israeli weapons exports are still in the picture,

“The military coup in Myanmar last month gave birth to many iconic images and moments. Like the photo in which soldiers blocked the main, multi-laned, entrance into the Parliament building in the completely deserted capital Naypyitaw. Another moment, which went viral, saw a mask-laden gym instructor going through her aerobics routine while armoured vehicles were storming a government compound in the background. In a far less shared photo taken by AFP, a masked soldier is seen sitting behind a machine gun on the roof of an armoured vehicle that is driving through the capital. That photo does, however, is closely linked to Israel, as according to the New York Times, the armoured vehicle it depicts is manufactured by Israeli company Gaia Automotive Industries.”

Palestinian Scene/Elections

Jordan Calls For Joint Arab Action to Help The Palestinians,

“Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi on Wednesday highlighted the importance of activating the joint Arab action to face common challenges and serve Arab interests. Delivering the Kingdom’s speech at the 155th ordinary session of the Arab League at the foreign ministers level, Safadi said that there is a pressing need for an immediate Arab action to help Palestinians and realise progress towards a just peace that realises their legitimate rights, according to a ministry statement.”

The ruling Fatah party plans to run in Palestinian elections as one list, says official,

“The ruling Fatah party is going to run in the coming Palestinian legislative elections planned for May 22 in one list, today said Jibril Rjoub, secretary of Fatah’s Central Committee. He told Palestine TV that ‘Fatah has taken a final decision and that is it will run in one list and that there will not be more than one list.’ He said that representatives of the various Palestinian political factions, along with the presidency of the Palestinian National Council, the parliament in exile, the Fatah Central Committee, and the Elections Commission are going to meet in Cairo on March 16 as scheduled to lay out clear mechanisms for the elections.” On the other hand, see: In blow to Abbas, senior Fatah official to form separate bloc to run in election (Times of Israel)

Israel Presses Hamas Activists Not to Run in Palestinian Elections,

“With the growing likelihood that Hamas will be the largest party in the Palestinian parliament, mainly due to the splits in the rival Fatah movement, Israeli intelligence agents are warning Hamas activists not to run in the election for the Palestinian Legislative Council, scheduled for May 22. In recent weeks the Shin Bet security service has threatened West Bank political activists who support Hamas with detention for a number of years if they run in the election. In a few cases, Shin Bet coordinators have made phone calls to activists, warning them that running for the legislature could result in their being separated from their families for an extended period. In other cases, coordinators came to activists’ homes late at night, with an Israeli army escort, to deliver the message in person. A few coordinators have summoned Hamas activists and supporters to Shin Bet interrogation centers. One interviewee who told Haaretz about his own experience cited the names of about a dozen additional people who were warned by one of the above-mentioned methods. The Shin Bet spokesperson refused to reply to Haaretz question on the subject.”

Recognising Israel should not be required to stand in election, says Fayyad,

“Former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has said that recognising Israel and respecting previous deals with the occupation state should not be requirements to stand in elections or join the Palestinian government, Al-Watan Voice reported on Wednesday. Fayyad pointed out that these were the conditions set by the Middle East Quartet for any Palestinian factions or individuals. He made his comment during an online conference organised by the Brookings Institute. ‘Do the Quartet and the international community put similar conditions on any segment of the Israeli political system?’ Fayyad asked.”

Palestinian Authority's push to regulate NGOs raises fear of power grab,

“Palestinian civil society representatives have denounced as ‘crippling’ a new decree issued by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas regulating the work of nonprofit organisations. On Tuesday, Abbas issued a decree with force of law that introduced significant amendments to the law on Palestinian NGOs. Speaking after a press conference on Wednesday, Amjad al-Shawa, director of the Palestinian NGOs Network (PNGO) said the new law would set ‘a dangerous precedent” which risked undermining “the already-shrinking space of civil society work’.  The legislation imposes on nonprofit organisations to submit their yearly plan of action to the government, in line with the government’s policy, which is an interference in the work of nonprofits,’ Shawa told Middle East Eye.”

Arab FMs call on international community to pressure Israel not to hinder Palestinian elections in Jerusalem,

“The Council of the League of Arab States, at the level of foreign ministers, called on the international community to put pressure on Israel in order not to obstruct the Palestinian general elections in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories.”

Israeli Scene/Elections

Naftali Bennett: 'If I win 15 seats in the elections, I'll be prime minister',

“Two weeks prior to the elections, Yamina MK Naftali Bennett is sure he will be the next prime minister, replacing Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has served in the position since 2009. In an interview with Israel Hayom, Bennett said: ‘I will not excommunicate Netanyahu, but immediately after Passover, we will shake his hand, we will tell him, ‘Thank you very much,’ and we will replace him.’”

Also see:

Free Speech, Lawfare & Weaponization of Definition of “Antisemitism”

Social platforms monitoring group documents 24 violations of Palestinian content during February,

“Sada Social Center, a Palestinian youth initiative that monitors social media platforms, said in a new report that social media platforms continue to frequently violate the right of Palestinian content. It said that during February, the Center documented 24 violations on social media – Facebook has 18 violations, Instagram five violations, and Twitter two violations. The Center said Facebook is continuing to target the Palestinian content in several ways like restricting access, preventing publication, reducing the interaction of many Palestinian pages, and the feature of the live broadcast continues to be banned for many activists and journalists.”