Top News from Israel & Palestine: May 6, 2021

What We’re Reading

Eyes on Jerusalem

Sheikh Jarrah: Israel Supreme Court postpones decision on evictions,

“The Israeli Supreme Court postponed on Thursday its ruling on the expropriation of several Palestinian families from the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, amid high tensions in the city. The court said it would hold another hearing in the case on Monday 10 May.” Also See – “Sheikh Jarrah families say no compromise has been reached with settlers” (WAFA); Israeli Supreme Court postpones ruling on Sheikh Jarrah evictions” (WAFA)

The Threat of Mass Palestinian Displacement in East Jerusalem,

“Since the beginning of 2020, the Israeli courts authorized the evictions of 36 Palestinian families, totaling 165 individuals, dozens of them children, from their homes in Batan al-Hawa, Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah in favor of settlers. Located within the Old City environs, the most politically contested and religiously sensitive area in Jerusalem, these two neighborhoods are under concerted and heightened pressure from state-backed settler groups. More than 100 families are in various stages of proceedings in eviction lawsuits filed against them by settler organizations. More than 1000 people are at risk of becoming homeless with no compensation nor alternative housing and an obligation to cover exorbitant legal fees. This unprecedented threat of mass displacement would cause a humanitarian disaster for the families, as well as carry far-reaching political ramifications on the prospect of peace and the stability of Jerusalem….This provides a rare opportunity for local and international actors to exert pressure on the Israeli government to block these processes of forced displacement and dispossession, which carry acute humanitarian ramifications and undermines any future political resolution on Jerusalem.”

Israeli security forces on high alert in response to Sheikh Jarrah,

“Israeli security forces are on high-alert after the threats of Mohammed Deif, the head of Hamas’ military wing, and the recent demonstrations and tensions in Sheikh Jarrah, KAN reported on Thursday. Another contributor to the attentiveness of Israeli security forces is the fact that this Friday is the last Friday of Ramadan.  Throughout the duration of the holiday, tensions ran high, leading to multiple protests that resulted in injuries on both sides. ” Also See – “Israel said upping security readiness ahead of possible Jerusalem tensions” (The Times of Israel)

Ben-Gvir moves his office to Sheikh Jarrah amid tensions,

“Otzma Yehudit head Itamar Ben-Gvir announced that he is setting up office in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on Sunday.

Jerusalem Day 'Dance of Flags' parade route dangerous - police chief,

“Israel Police’s Jerusalem District Chief Doron Turgeman implored that the annual “Dance of Flags” parade through the Old City on Jerusalem Day be re-routed amid the ongoing violence between Arabs and Jews throughout the city.”

In Sheikh Jarrah, Palestinian youth are leading the struggle to defend their homes,

“Every night for the past week, young Palestinians have been gathering in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood to protest the imminent forced eviction of local Palestinian families. The youth break their Ramadan fast together, sing, and come together in a show of solidarity with the neighborhood’s residents. Israeli police have attempted to disperse these demonstrations using disproportionate force, including stun grenades and the Skunk, a vehicle that shoots putrid liquid at high velocity. On Tuesday, that violence peaked when officers arrested three protesters, including Mahmoud El-Kurd, whose family is facing displacement. Another protester, who was pinned to the ground as an officer kneeled on his neck, was bleeding when police detained him; he was later taken to hospital while still under arrest”

How Palestinians Put Aside Their Fear and Rallied Behind Sheikh Jarrah,

“Recently, however, it seems that Sheikh Jarrah has become a symbol. The young Palestinians who have been meeting at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate since the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan have begun urging people to go to Sheikh Jarrah after mosque services. And they have been coming there every evening…Recent weeks have demonstrated that what happens in Sheikh Jarrah doesn’t stay in Sheikh Jarrah. If the evictions proceed, as the Jewish groups hope, and hundreds of people are thrown out of their homes, it would sharply fuel security tensions in Jerusalem and elsewhere. Hopes that with the end of Ramadan, calm will be restored to the city would be dashed. What won’t end is the injustice.”

EU decries Israeli expansion of Har Homa, pending Sheikh Jarrah evictions,

“The European Union condemned Israel’s advancement of a new 540-unit housing project in the Jewish east Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa and “urgently” called on Israel to halt the project. It also took issue with the possible eviction of east Jerusalem Palestinians from homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, a move which is now on appeal before the High Court of Justice. At issue is a property dispute between them and the Nahalat Shimon company over land rights, with past court rulings dismissing their claims.” Also See – “UN Mideast Coordinator voices concern over imminent evictions in Sheikh Jarrah” (WAFA)

The West Bank & Gaza Strip

Israeli forces shoot, kill 16-year-old Palestinian boy,

“Israeli forces shot and killed a 16-year-old Palestinian boy Wednesday night, south of Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank. Said Yousef Mohammad Odeh, 16, from Odala, a village located south of Nablus, was shot dead by Israeli forces with live ammunition around 9 p.m. near the entrance to the village. Israeli forces reportedly confronted Palestinian youth at the village entrance prior to the shooting. Said was not involved in the confrontations at the time he was shot, according to information collected by Defense for Children International – Palestine. “

Palestinian arrested over West Bank attack after 3-day chase,

“Troops and Shin Bet operatives raided a building in the village of Silwad in the occupied West Bank, arresting Muntasser Shalaby, 44. Shalaby, a Palestinian from the nearby village of Turmus Ayya, had no known ties to militant groups, officials said. Local media reported that he also held U.S. citizenship. The U.S. embassy had no comment on the report, citing privacy concerns.”

Gaza incendiary balloons spark 6 fires in southern Israel,

“At least six brush fires were ignited Thursday in southern Israel by balloons carrying incendiary devices that were launched from the Gaza Strip, the fire department said. Two of the fires ignited in the Be’eri forest, and another four in the Kissufim forest, two nature reserves located on the border of Israel and Gaza, a spokesperson for the Jewish National Fund said.”

Four Palestinians to be charged with diverting European aid to terrorism,

“Four Palestinians are expected to be indicted for funneling European humanitarian aid to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a designated terrorist group, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced on Thursday…The Shin Bet, together with the IDF and police, found that the funding was sent to Palestinian organizations in the West Bank – particularly one called Health Work Committees – that are affiliated with the PFLP, designated a terrorist organization by the EU, US, Canada, and others. The Shin Bet said it has materials documenting the lengths to which the organizations went to mislead European countries, including diverting large sums of money from European governmental institutions to terrorism. The Palestinian NGOs generated reported reports of fictional projects, false documents, forged bank authorizations and more.” Also See – “Shin Bet: Palestinian terror group stole millions from European aid donors” (The Times of Israel)

Settlers to sue B'Tselem for alleging they set Palestinian fields ablaze,

“The Samaria Regional Council plans to sue the left-wing NGO B’Tselem for slander after it alleged that settlers from Yitzhar had set fire to fields near the Palestinian village of Burin. Overnight B’Tselem tweeted a dramatic nighttime photo of the village with the flames burning in the background. In the tweet it stated, “settlers torched Palestinian fields in Burin.”At 8:10 a.m. it also sent a release to the media about it, but within two hours, at 10:07, it retracted the charges. “The fires in Burin tonight are being re-examined. I will update with any new information I have,” B’Tselem stated. No further information was provided.” Also See – “‘We put our souls into this land’: Palestinians mourn land lost to settler arson attack” (Mondoweiss)

Since pandemic, has Israel allowed almost no Palestinians out of Gaza for medical treatment,

“Allowing Palestinians from Gaza to enter the West Bank or Israel for medical care is not an act of charity on Israel’s part. Israel created this reality and is therefore responsible for it. It is the authority that controls all passage into and out of the Gaza Strip (except for Rafah Crossing), that determines the level of medical care available within Gaza, that has chosen to imprison more than two million people and keep them cut off from the world, and that prevents residents from receiving crucial treatment they cannot receive within Gaza due to Israeli policy. B’Tselem’s field researchers in the Gaza Strip collected testimonies from Palestinians who were denied permits to leave Gaza for essential medical care.”

This Checkpoint Revitalized the Palestinian City of Jenin. Why Has Israel Refused to Reopen It?,

“A flash point during the second intifada, Jenin enjoyed a dramatic economic transformation after Jalameh checkpoint became a key crossing point for visiting Arab Israelis in 2007. Now, a prolonged and unexplained closure threatens to sink the city”

Israeli Politics

For first time in a long time, Netanyahu’s rule threatened,

“Israel’s president said on Wednesday that he has given opposition leader Yair Lapid the task of trying to form a new coalition government. President Reuven Rivlin made the announcement after Netanyahu failed to meet a midnight deadline for forming a government himself the previous day. Lapid, who was once Netanyahu’s governing partner but has morphed into a formidable nemesis, now has 28 days to cobble together a majority coalition in parliament with a range of parties that have little in common.”

Wide coalition ramps up negotiations on Israel's next government,

“The coalition negotiations on a broad-based government have been underway for weeks. Initial drafts of its founding principles and proposed appointments are already on the table. Lapid is expected to serve as prime minister in the second half of the government’s term even though his party is much larger than Bennett’s. His concession was vital to roping in Bennett and obtaining the needed majority to remove Netanyahu from office and end the election cycle. Meanwhile, Netanyahu is doing all he can to sow discord within Bennett’s party to shake the resolve of some of its seven Knesset members. He has scored at least one success with freshman Knesset member Amichai Chikli, who informed Bennett this week that he would vote against a government of change because it would violate Yamina’s pledge not to serve under Lapid and also rely on Arab parties.”

Declaring support for Bennett, Yamina MKs allege strong Likud pressure to defect,

“As he works to prevent the formation of an alternative government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been attempting to persuade Yamina Knesset members to defect from the party and declare their opposition to entering a coalition with left-wing factions, a number of its lawmakers said Thursday. One Yamina lawmaker, Amichai Chikli, has already said that he will vote against a government that includes the left-wing Meretz or that relies on the predominantly Arab Joint List alliance.”

Israeli Banks Are Reluctant to Give Loans to Arabs. So Many Get in Trouble With the Mob Instead',

“Activist Maisam Jaljuli, 49, explains what’s causing the surge of violence and crime in Israeli-Arab communities, and what it’s like to live in constant fear’

The Palestinian Scene

Hamas rallies opposition to Abbas after elections pushed back,

“Speaking to Alghad TV on April 29, Hamas’ parliamentary bloc spokesman Mushir al-Masry said Abbas will face serious consequences for postponing the elections. He called for Abbas’ dismissal and revoking all political agreements made with him. Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar newspaper revealed April 30 that consultations are underway to unite those opposing Abbas’ decision to pressure him. On May 1, Barghouti’s Freedom and Dignity List called on the European Union to suspend financial support for the Palestinian Authority and expressed its intention to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights to that end.”

One State for All: a Palestinian feminist view,

‘Looking at the experience of other colonized and oppressed people, we learn that we, Palestinian women, are able to imagine a future that is more just, one that aligns with our principles based on equality for all. What other vision could be better than fighting for a single democratic state for all its citizens in historical Palestine regardless of religion, race or gender? It’s our legal right to return to our initial liberation project and fight for the liberation of all of historical Palestine, from the river to the sea. Just like the apartheid regime in South Africa was dismantled and the South African people elected Nelson Mandela as their first Black president after he had been a political prisoner for 27 years, we aspire to dismantle Israeli apartheid and the abandonment of  Zionist colonial privileges. That cannot be achieved without the return of Palestinian refugees to their towns and villages of origin, compensation for their children and grandchildren, and the establishment of a democratic, civic constitution that guarantees the cultural, social and religious rights of all citizens of Palestine after the distribution of wealth by a just system that ensures the irreversible demise of apartheid and settler-colonialism.”

The U.S. Scene

US ‘deeply concerned’ by Israeli advancement of outpost legalization bill,

“The US on Wednesday said it was “deeply concerned” by legislation to legalize 70 wildcat outposts in the West Bank that passed an initial stage in the Knesset a day earlier. “We are deeply concerned about the potential ‘legalization’ of outposts that have long been deemed illegal under Israeli law,” a State Department spokesperson said in response to a query from The Times of Israel…On Wednesday, the Knesset’s Arrangements Committee voted in favor of fast-tracking several pieces of right-wing legislation, including the so-called outpost legalization law, which would formally allow 70 outposts beyond the Green Line to be connected to the state’s electricity and water supplies”

Support Grows for ex-Congressman Robert Wexler to Be Named U.S. Ambassador to Israel,

“In the days since Tom Nides was reported as the front-runner to become the next U.S. ambassador to Israel, a groundswell of support has emerged for Robert Wexler, the former Democratic congressman from Florida who has spent the past 11 years running the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. While Nides is still widely considered the favorite, Wexler has received significant endorsements from key figures in President Joe Biden’s orbit and the U.S.-Jewish community – including several contenders for ambassadorships – as well as Rep. Ted Deutch, chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism…Wexler was widely considered a front-runner for the position during the Obama administration, but he opted to remain in his role at his D.C.-based nonprofit advocacy group, which works with leaders and policymakers in the United States and the Middle East to work toward a two-state solution. Wexler has also served as a back channel to Israeli officials and civil society organizations.”

This ‘progressive’ Israel lobby group has a racism problem,

“Since launching in January 2019, the lobby group Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) has marketed itself as the flagship organization for those wanting to integrate “progressive values” with support for Israel. But a recent series of offensive social media posts made by two DMFI board members, coupled with a history of other troubling statements, has undermined the group’s attempt at laying such a claim. For Palestinian rights advocates, the posts — which include a call to “burn Gaza” and a laugh at an anti-Muslim joke — are a stark example of how anti-Palestinian speech is tolerated in Democratic Party circles. The offensive posts came from board members Archie Gottesman and Sam Lauter, both of whom have close ties to the Democratic Party establishment and the Biden administration. Despite ensuing outcry, both remain board members of the organization. The social media posts highlight DMFI’s particular brand of Israel advocacy, which is characterized by a combative Twitter account and personal attacks on legislators who are critical of Israel’s human rights violations. As the brand of the hawkish American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has taken a hit in the Democratic Party due to its clashes with former President Barack Obama, DMFI has taken a lead role in the Israel lobby’s attempt to curb criticism of Israeli human rights abuses within the party.”

Jamaal Bowman defends support of bill to regulate aid to Israel,

“My decision to sign on to this bill was not in a vacuum. It was made in consultation with many within the Jewish community in the district who also supported the bill,” Bowman said in a conversation with Rabbi Michael Miller, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, which was posted to YouTube on Monday. “In order for us to get to a two-state solution, we have to have honest conversations about what’s happening on the ground — to ensure the long term safety and security of Israel, of the Jewish community and of the Palestinians there.” “I think honest conversations about what’s happening, transparency around how our aid is being used will take us one big step closer to a true two-state solution, which we’ve been far apart from for my entire life,” he added.

In Washington, a debate grows over conditioning aid to Israel,

“For decades, US military aid to Israel has been a sacred cow, with Republicans and Democrats in the United States shielding it from criticism, scrutiny and especially, any calls for restraint. But after years of campaigning, Palestinian rights advocates and progressive lawmakers say the discourse is shifting – and what was once a solid, bipartisan wall of support for unconditional US support for Israel is slowly cracking.”

The International Scene

Russia ready to promote direct Israeli-Palestinian contacts,

“Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after meeting with Palestinian counterpart Riad al-Maliki, “We emphasized our readiness to facilitate direct dialogue between the Palestinians and Israelis in order to resolve all fundamental final-status issues.” Lavrov said Russia considers it crucial to hold a ministerial-level meeting of the Quartet, which consists of Russia, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations.”