Top News from Israel & Palestine: May 15, 2020

What We’re Reading

Remembering the Nakba

Remembering 72 years of the Nakba in the shadow of annexation,

“When Palestinians commemorate the Nakba – the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 – they are not simply remembering a past event in which over 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homeland, over 400 villages and towns destroyed and thousands killed. They are also marking a continued Nakba (al-Nakba al-Mustimirrah in Arabic) – an ongoing process of erasure and ethnic cleansing which has seen Palestinians ghettoised, fragmented, killed and more. This year we will be marking 72 years of the Nakba and yet one word seems to be taking front and centre stage: annexation. Ever since the announcement of US President Donald Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ at the end of January this year, formal annexation of the occupied West Bank by Israel has been looming.”

Joint Statement: The Nakba at 72: A Legacy of Settler-Colonialism & Apartheid over the Palestinian People,

“Seventy-two years on, the Nakba has come to symbolise the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people through Israel’s racist colonial rule, implemented through an apartheid regime over all Palestinians, which continues to be entrenched. On Nakba Day, we call on civil society organisations and state representatives from around the world to take effective legal and political measures to eradicate colonialism, to bring perpetrators of suspected war crimes and crimes against humanity to justice at the ICC, and to publicly recognise and collectively overcome Israel’s apartheid regime imposed over the Palestinian people as a whole.”

Nakba Day: For Palestinians, not just an historical event,

“For Palestinians, the Nakba does not just represent an historical event but a continuing process that began in the 1880s as European Zionist settlers started moving into Palestine to lay the groundwork for their future state. While the Zionist project fulfilled its dream of creating a homeland in Palestine in 1948 after defeating five ill-equipped and outnumbered Arab armies, Palestinian displacement has never stopped. Between 1947 and 1949, about 750,000 Palestinians out of a population of 1.9 million were expelled from their towns and villages to make way for the new Jewish immigrants.”

Erasing the Palestinian refugees: Trump, UNRWA and the Nakba at 72,

“Seventy-two years after the Nakba, Israel and the United States continue to deny the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. They also are coordinating to ensure that UNRWA is unable to provide the necessary services and programmes to ensure their basic livelihoods and subsistence. Moreover, as evidenced in the Trump plan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, they have no intention of allowing the creation of a sovereign, independent Palestinian state. Despite the concessions by the Palestinian leadership, it will not be possible to reach a just solution to the Palestinian refugee issue until Israel and the United States respect their right of return. In addition, UNRWA must have the appropriate funding to meet its mandate, especially in the middle of a global pandemic. Finally, countries hosting Palestinian refugees, specifically Lebanon, where they suffer from discrimination and violations of their basic rights, must repeal their discriminatory laws. Otherwise, the wounds of the Nakba will remain unhealed.”

On ‘Nakba Day,’ Palestinians vow to foil annexation, Trump plan,

“PA President Mahmoud Abbas said in a televised speech on Wednesday night that ‘those who created our catastrophe wanted Palestine to be land without people or territories and were betting that the name of Palestine would be erased from the records of history.’ To achieve their goal, Abbas said, ‘they practiced the ugliest conspiracies, pressures, massacres and liquidation projects, the latest being the so-called Deal of the Century.’ Abbas said that “despite all the obstacles, and despite all the aggressive occupation policies, measures and violations, we are proceeding with confident steps towards the restoration of our full rights and the removal of this hateful occupation.”

Palestinians look to a digital future to connect with their past,

“’Coming to Palestine is transformational, especially for Palestinians who aren’t allowed to visit,’ said Ramallah-based Palestine VR founder Salem Barahmeh, 30, as he guided Zoom participants through the app’s 47 virtual tours of Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank. ‘We want to share Palestine with them, and help them feel and understand this place’.”

Marking the Nakba: From Betrayals and Warnings to Future Visions,

“To mark the 72nd year of the Nakba – the catastrophe when Zionist forces evicted the majority of Palestinians from their homes and lands, occupying 78% of Palestine – Al-Shabaka reissues this insightful compilation of essays by its engaged scholars and analysts.  These timely pieces dissect the betrayal of Palestine, the struggle of the refugees, the warning signs during the decades of seeking Palestinian-Israeli peace without justice, and strategies for the future. They give us strength at a time of looming annexation and the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Catching a train to Beirut after the return of Palestinian refugees,

“The following is the introduction to ‘Awda: Imagined Testimonies from Possible Futures,’ a book of fictional short stories published in 2013 by Israeli NGO Zochrot and Pardes Publishing. The book is comprised of 12 vignettes written by prominent Palestinians and Jewish Israeli authors and thinkers about what life could look like after the return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland. Each story was published in both Arabic and Hebrew.”

Israeli Politics

Netanyahu postpones government swearing-in ceremony until Sunday,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday delayed the swearing-in of the new government, just hours before it was due to take place, until Sunday. The prime minister has not yet finalized a new position for seven of his close supporters most of whom were ministers in his recent cabinet. Netanyahu’s political partner, Blue & White leader Benny Gantz agreed to the delay in order to give Netanyahu more time to allocate cabinet posts to those Likud members, a joint statement said. With the postponement, Gantz withdrew his resignation as Knesset speaker as he will not be taking up his new post as defense minister until then. A significant portion of the posts have not yet been filled, leaving responsibility for budgets worth tens of billions of shekels to last-minute horse trading. ‘It’s stuck with some of the ministries. Netanyahu has yet to reach a deal with Yoav Galant, Ze’ev Elkin, Nir Barkat, Gila Gamliel, Tzipi Hotoveli, David Amsalem and Avi Dichter,’ Likud officials said. Dichter said that he decided not to participate in Thursday’s vote on the establishment of the government because he said Netanyahu had not bothered to meet with him at all to offer him a proper role in the new cabinet.” See Also: “Drama in Israel’s Knesset: Swearing-in ceremony of new government delayed” (Al-Monitor)

Netanyahu Struggles to Find Enough Ministries to Appease Disgruntled Lawmakers,

“Thursday evening, Netanyahu announced that outgoing Justice Minister Amir Ohana will become the public security minister, while outgoing Culture Minister Miri Regev, who wanted the Public Security Ministry, will become transportation minister. But he has yet to find jobs for six current ministers – Yuval Steinitz, Tzachi Hanegbi, Tzipi Hotovely, Eli Cohen, Yoav Gallant and Gila Gamliel. Nor has he found positions for two other people who view themselves as deserving: Former Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and former chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Avi Dichter. The only portfolios he has left to give to somebody are education, energy and intelligence affairs. Consequently, he’s trying to invent new ministries, such as a Cybersecurity Ministry, and split some existing ministries into two. Further, Netanyahu has revived an old proposal to split the Education Ministry, thereby creating one ministry in charge of preschool through high school and another in charge of higher education. He offered the latter to Gamliel, but she refused, saying she wants the whole education portfolio.”

Peretz entering government as minister of Jerusalem affairs and heritage,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bayit Yehudi leader Rafi Peretz signed a coalition agreement overnight Friday. Peretz will serve as minister of Jerusalem affairs and heritage, the post that was sought by two Likud ministers. Peretz will be responsible for religious Zionist education. Peretz will also join the Likud faction in the Knesset…Peretz told his colleagues that he disagreed with their decision not to enter the coalition and that in a time of emergency, it is essential to take part in a unity government. With Peretz, Netanyahu’s coalition will have 73 MKs. The remaining five Yamina MKs will be in the opposition.”

Netanyahu names loyalist Ohana to public security post, despite police concerns,

“Police brass told Channel 12 Wednesday they feared that as public security minister, Ohana would seek an outside candidate to lead the force, while conferring with Netanyahu, despite the prime minister being required to stay out of the matter due to his upcoming trial. They were also concerned Ohana could move to curtail the work of the Lahav 433 investigation unit, which focuses on fraud and corruption, and led the probes against Netanyahu. And they were worried about the repercussions should Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit decide on a new police investigation into Netanyahu.”

Annexation Watch

Jordan’s king warns of ‘massive conflict’ if Israel annexes land in West Bank,

“Jordan’s King Abdullah has warned that should Israel move forward with plans to annex parts of the West Bank, it would lead to a ‘massive conflict’ with his country, and did not rule out pulling out of Amman’s peace deal with the Jewish state. In an interview published Friday by the German daily Der Spiegel, Abdullah insisted that a two-state solution was ‘the only way forward’ in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. ‘What would happen if the Palestinian National Authority collapsed? There would be more chaos and extremism in the region. If Israel really annexed the West Bank in July, it would lead to a massive conflict with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,” he said, when asked by his interviewer about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s intention to ‘take advantage of the opportunity that [US President Donald] Trump has created to seize large parts of Palestine…I don’t want to make threats and create an atmosphere of loggerheads, but we are considering all options. We agree with many countries in Europe and the international community that the law of strength should not apply in the Middle East,’ the king added, when asked if his country — one of only two Arab nations, along with Egypt, to have signed a peace deal with Israel — could suspend that treaty.”

Netanyahu, Gantz will ‘take a while’ to decide on annexation – State Dept.,

“The new government needs time to decide how and whether to move forward with settlement annexation, senior State Department officials said overnight Wednesday in a briefing in Germany, following US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s six-hour visit to Israel. ‘The Israelis are working through this,’ an official said. ‘We’re supportive of their efforts. They’ve got a coalition government that has various strands and I think it’s going to take them a while to come together with what they’re going to do’.”

The Annexation Government,

“The incoming Israeli prime minister and his future replacement under the coalition rotation agreement have both already expressed support for formal annexation in areas of the West Bank. They have both taken part in Israel’s systematic attempts to sever the economic, social and cultural connections between Palestinians living in Gaza and those living in the West Bank. The political goals behind these actions, namely – the deliberate reshaping of facts on the ground so as to remove millions of Palestinians from the demographic equation – should elicit a far stronger response from countries around the world, who for years have invested both energy and money in the region. Now Israel is antagonizing the European countries whose aid has kept Palestinians’ heads just above water, while counting on the support of the United States administration to rubber stamp further dispossession and deprivation.”

Punitive action: EU ministers review responses to Israel annexation in West Bank,

“European Union foreign ministers were set to meet Friday to consider potential measures against Israel over its plan to annex parts of the West Bank. The ministers were expected to meet virtually due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.”

Palestinian Politics

How a jailhouse letter to Abbas could fast forward Palestinian unity talks,

“The fractured Palestinian national movement received a small positive jolt recently when a left-wing Palestinian Liberation Organization leader smuggled a reconciliation letter from jail to the Palestinian president. Ahmad Saadat, the leader of the Palestine Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), called for a serious renewal of unity talks. The letter has sparked guarded hopes for movement on the stalled Palestinian unity talks. A high-level meeting is planned May 16 at the Ramallah presidential headquarters…In his letter from jail, Saadat says, ‘I assure the president and our brothers in Fatah that the atmosphere within the leadership of the Front [PFLP] is ready for a positive serious interaction for bilateral dialogue that can lead to overcoming financial difficulties, which we see as small in comparison with the national challenges facing our people.’”

Occupation, Human Rights, & Rising Tension/Violence

Clashes erupt in Wadi Ara over Sheba stabber's death,

“The Wadi Ara interchange was blocked Thursday evening after clashes erupted between locals and law enforcement during a protest over the death of Mustafa Younis ahead of his funeral at 6 p.m. Israel time, N12’s Fourat Nassar reported. Hundreds of protesters gathered on Highway 65 in Wadi Ara yelling ‘we shall sacrifice our lives for the martyr’ and ‘Israel is a terrorist state.’ Among the participants were Joint List MKs and local municipal leaders. Police forces fired stun grenades toward the protesters.”

Ten People Arrested at Protest Over Death of Arab Man After Attempted Stabbing,

“Ten people were arrested during a demonstration on Thursday prior to the funeral of a young Arab man who was shot while disarmed and lying on the ground after stabbing a security guard upon leaving a hospital. Dozens of people attended the protest, which took place at the Arara Junction in Wadi Ara. Several protesters blocked the junction at one point, and police used crowd control methods to disperse them. The police’s initial investigation claims that 26-year-old Mustafa Younis had threatened two people with a knife before stabbing and lightly wounding a security guard. The guards then shot him five or six times while he was incapacitated. But his family says he was mentally ill. ‘He’s a psychiatric patient and has behavioral disorders,’ Younis’ uncle, Esam, said on Wednesday. ‘He came [to the hospital] for counseling before an operation on his head, and also for a psychiatric examination.’”

Hilltop youth accused of attacking troops with beehive during outpost demolition,

“A young settler hurled a beehive at security forces during the demolition of an illegal tent in a central West Bank outpost on Thursday morning, a security official told The Times of Israel. Border Police officers and inspectors from the Civil Administration — the Defense Ministry body that authorizes West Bank construction — were stung repeatedly as a result.”

Why is Egypt building more walls around Gaza?,

“Speaking to Al-Monitor, Mustafa al-Sawaf, a political analyst close to Hamas, cast doubt on Rifai’s statements, saying 3,000 tunnels cannot be built in a small area not exceeding 14 kilometers. He told Al-Monitor that the number is exaggerated, saying, ‘There is no need for the tunnels since trade exchange was activated between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. The operating tunnels are probably two or three at present.’ He indicated that according to eyewitnesses, the Egyptian army is building an iron wall alongside the concrete and electronic barriers, under the pretext of protecting their national security and preventing infiltration attempts. He added that the Egyptian intelligence services have admitted that the Palestinian side is making tremendous efforts to prevent infiltration attempts and protect the border. He believes the new wall ‘is more like reinforcing the siege on the Gaza Strip.'”