Top News from Israel & Palestine: November 25-December 1, 2023

What We’re Reading

New from FMEP

FMEP Legislative Round-Up: December 1, 2023,

1.Bills, Resolutions
2. Letters
3. Hearings & Markups
4. Selected Media & Press releases/Statements

See also this Arab Center Washington webinar 11/30/23, Assessing America’s Response to the Gaza Crisis: The White House, Congress, and the American Public, ft. Lara Friedman (FMEP), Shibley Telhami (University of Maryland) and Aaron Miller (Carnegie Endowment for Intl Peace), in conversation with Yousef Munayyer (Arab Center DC)

Top News Updates

‘A mass assassination factory’: Inside Israel’s calculated bombing of Gaza,

“The Israeli army’s expanded authorization for bombing non-military targets, the loosening of constraints regarding expected civilian casualties, and the use of an artificial intelligence system to generate more potential targets than ever before, appear to have contributed to the destructive nature of the initial stages of Israel’s current war on the Gaza Strip, an investigation by +972 Magazine and Local Call reveals. These factors, as described by current and former Israeli intelligence members, have likely played a role in producing what has been one of the deadliest military campaigns against Palestinians since the Nakba of 1948. The investigation by +972 and Local Call is based on conversations with seven current and former members of Israel’s intelligence community — including military intelligence and air force personnel who were involved in Israeli operations in the besieged Strip — in addition to Palestinian testimonies, data, and documentation from the Gaza Strip, and official statements by the IDF Spokesperson and other Israeli state institutions. Compared to previous Israeli assaults on Gaza, the current war — which Israel has named “Operation Iron Swords,” and which began in the wake of the Hamas-led assault on southern Israel on October 7 — has seen the army significantly expand its bombing of targets that are not distinctly military in nature…Several of the sources, who spoke to +972 and Local Call on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that the Israeli army has files on the vast majority of potential targets in Gaza — including homes — which stipulate the number of civilians who are likely to be killed in an attack on a particular target. This number is calculated and known in advance to the army’s intelligence units, who also know shortly before carrying out an attack roughly how many civilians are certain to be killed.” See also ‘The Gospel’: how Israel uses AI to select bombing targets in Gaza (Guardian); Gazans mourn loss of their libraries: Cultural beacons and communal spaces (WaPo)

Ceasefire reveals the toll of devastation in Khan Younis ,

“Khan Younis has become heavily overcrowded in recent weeks amid an influx of displaced people from the north, which Israeli troops have invaded, and the areas in the east close to the fence that encages Gaza, which have faced intensive airstrikes and shelling since the beginning of the war. As a result, the city’s population has tripled to approximately 700,000, with residents new and old seeking shelter in hospitals, schools managed by the government and the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), and the homes of friends and relatives. Conditions in the city in recent weeks have been incredibly difficult. The roads in the city center are badly damaged, and getting around by car is almost impossible. The markets long ago ran out of food, and we have also faced severe water shortages. Although the temporary ceasefire has allowed for the entry of more humanitarian aid, this is nowhere near sufficient to address the needs of the population after nearly two months of Israel’s bombardment and intensified siege.” See also At least 57 journalists killed in Israel-Hamas war, watchdog says (Axios); 

How Israel keeps hundreds of Palestinians in detention without charge,

“In lists distributed to media, Israeli authorities label all the prisoners up for release as “terrorists.” Some were convicted of crimes such as attempted murder; others were detained for activities like “throwing stones” or carrying knives. And a few, like 59-year-old Hanan Barghouti, the eldest female prisoner to be released, were in indefinite Israeli custody without any charge…Meanwhile, in the West Bank, most of which is under Israel’s military administration, Israeli authorities have detained roughly as many Palestinians as have been released in the past few days. A post-Oct. 7 crackdown saw the Palestinian population in Israeli custody almost double, by some measures: According to Palestinian rights groups, more than 3,000 Palestinians, mostly in the West Bank, were swept up by Israeli security forces. The majority appear to be held in administrative detention — that is, a form of incarceration without charge or trial that authorities can renew indefinitely. Under international law, the practice of administrative detention is supposed to be used only in exceptional circumstances. But, as Israeli and international human rights groups document, it has become more the norm in the West Bank.” See also Jailed without charge: How Israel holds thousands of Palestinian prisoners (Al Jazeera); Why Israel imprisons so many Palestinians (Vox);Israeli prisoner release shines light on system of detaining Palestinians without charge (NBC: “Of the 300 prisoners identified as eligible for release in exchange for hostages, 80% were not convicted of any crimes, an NBC News analysis revealed.”); Palestinian icon Ahed Tamimi speaks out on Israeli threats after release from prison (New Arab: “The 22-year-old activist shares harrowing experience of imprisonment- including an alleged blackmail by Israeli forces to have her father killed, following her prison release.”)

Israel Knew Hamas’s Attack Plan More Than a Year Ago,

“Israeli officials obtained Hamas’s battle plan for the Oct. 7 terrorist attack more than a year before it happened, documents, emails and interviews show. But Israeli military and intelligence officials dismissed the plan as aspirational, considering it too difficult for Hamas to carry out. The approximately 40-page document, which the Israeli authorities code-named “Jericho Wall,” outlined, point by point, exactly the kind of devastating invasion that led to the deaths of about 1,200 people. The translated document, which was reviewed by The New York Times, did not set a date for the attack, but described a methodical assault designed to overwhelm the fortifications around the Gaza Strip, take over Israeli cities and storm key military bases, including a division headquarters. Hamas followed the blueprint with shocking precision…The Jericho Wall document lays bare a yearslong cascade of missteps that culminated in what officials now regard as the worst Israeli intelligence failure since the surprise attack that led to the Arab-Israeli war of 1973.”

Key Findings & Advocacy from Human Rights Defenders

Gender-Based Violence as a Weapon of War during the October 7 Hamas Attacks,

“This position paper highlights the sexual and gender-based violence committed during the October 7 Hamas attacks.The position paper brings together the various accounts and reports made public so far. These include the testimonies of survivors who witnessed acts of sexual violence, descriptions by security and emergency personnel, and visual accounts that were circulated online. Of course, the information published to date is only partial. This is both due to a lack of systematic analysis of the findings for forensic evidence of sexual abuse and due to the conditions of some of the victims’ bodies and the urgency of identifying and evacuating them – sometimes under fire. Yet, even if the available information is partial, it is our duty to already address the events. We must acknowledge that sexual and gender-based violence was a part of the October 7 attacks. We must present all currently-known information to encourage further documentation and reporting and to urge the investigation of the incidents as crimes against humanity.” See also The Scope of Hamas’ Campaign of Rape Against Israeli Women Is Revealed, Testimony After Testimony (Haaretz); Prominent Israeli Human Rights Group Urges ICC Probe of Hamas for Rape and Other Sex Crimes (Haaretz)

Report: The systematic torture and/or ill treatment of protected persons (children) and their unlawful transfer from occupied territory,

“Today, MCW released a report relating to the torture and/or ill treatment of Palestinian children held in Israeli military detention and their unlawful transfer from the occupied West Bank. The report is based on 1,100 testimonies collected from children detained between January 2013 and June 2023. The report also relies on, inter alia, testimonies from 40 parents of detained children, 62 former Israeli soldiers and data from the Israel Prison Service (IPS).   The issues raised in the report fall into three general categories: (1) The widespread and systematic use of torture and/or ill treatment of Palestinian children detained by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank; (2) The widespread and systematic use of solitary confinement of Palestinian children detained by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank as part of their interrogation amounting to torture and/or ill-treatment; and (3) The widespread and systematic unlawful transfer of population groups, in and out of the occupied West Bank, with a direct connection to points 1 and 2 above.”

Gaza: Findings on October 17 al-Ahli Hospital Explosion,

“The explosion that killed and injured many civilians at al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza on October 17, 2023, resulted from an apparent rocket-propelled munition, such as those commonly used by Palestinian armed groups, that hit the hospital grounds, Human Rights Watch said today. While misfires are frequent, further investigation is needed to determine who launched the apparent rocket and whether the laws of war were violated.” Also from Human Rights Watch: “On November 9, Israeli airstrikes hit Al-Nasr Medical Center in Gaza City, cutting off the neonatal intensive care unit’s oxygen supply. The attack forced staff to evacuate the next day, leaving babies that could not be transported alone in intensive care, according to Doctors Without Borders. On November 28 during the ceasefire, doctors were able to return and found five babies dead.”

And in the West Bank...

42 Palestinians Killed in Seven Weeks: A Visit to a West Bank City That Has Become a Firing Zone,

“Since the start of the war, 42 residents of Tul Karm and its two refugee camps have been killed by IDF troops. Among the dead: A mentally ill man and a youth of 15, shot twice in the head. When the boy’s father tried to tend to him, the soldiers shot him as well” See also Four Palestinians including 8-year-old killed by Israeli forces in West Bank (Reuters)

Amid a Settler Onslaught, Protective Presence Activism Falters,

“Under protective presence, Israeli and international activists try to use their privilege to “be the buffer between the Palestinians and the Israeli authorities and settlers,” as Elie Avidor from the anti-occupation group Jordan Valley Activists told me. However, since Israel began its war on Gaza—which many understand as an all-out war on Palestinians—the power of this form of activism has appeared to wane as Israeli settlers and soldiers operate with near-total impunity. The activists in Wadi a-Seeq witnessed this shift firsthand when soldiers and uniformed settlers attacked the village. Their presence did nothing to deter the assailants; indeed, the settlers proceeded to take all five Israelis captive alongside the three Palestinians they were trying to support. The kidnappings represented an unprecedented escalation, calling into question the premise animating protective presence activism—namely, that under Israel’s apartheid system, non-Palestinians enjoy relative safety that can be leveraged to create something like a “protective presence” around Palestinians. In Wadi a-Seeq, Israeli American activist Oriel Eisner told me that Israeli activists themselves were “zip tied, shuffled around, and held in a room,” while their presence did nothing to protect Palestinians from torture and attempted sexual assault.” See also Video shows Israeli extremists assaulting Palestinians in their West Bank homes (Times of Israel); A Bitter Season in the West Bank (David Shulman//NYRB: “The war in Gaza has provided Israeli settlers fresh opportunity and impunity. I see entire villages fleeing in panic.”)

Inside of '48/Israel

Ben-Gvir's Ministry Cuts Corners to Issue Gun Permits to Israelis,

“Israel’s National Security Ministry has appointed people with no legal authorization to issue conditional gun permits, and the people designated as “temporary licensing clerks” include cronies and employees of National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir…Over the past several weeks, security sources said, these clerks have issued hundreds or even thousands of gun permits, and a random sampling revealed that some of these permits were issued to people who don’t meet the criteria for gun ownership. “This behavior is a recipe for disaster,” one senior security official said. “They’re handing out guns like candy. A gun permit isn’t a game for children. There’s almost no oversight in the ministry.””

The Guns of October: The mass armament of civil spaces in Israel,

“Gun Free Kitchen Tables Coalition (GFKT), comprising 19 civil society organizations, has been monitoring small arms in Israel and the occupied West Bank since 2010, and never before have we seen such an intentional government-led increase in licensing of tens of thousands of private Israeli gun owners. In the context of the unfolding conflict in Gaza, and in light of the previous violent events of May 2021, these weapons are very likely to contribute to an upsurge in civilian armed violence, a spillover into the West Bank and Israel proper, escalation of the conflict, and possible war crimes. The mass armament of Jewish civilians can easily serve to attack, intimidate and control Israel’s Palestinian citizenry and Palestinians in the West Bank, in yet another manifestation of the violent persecution of Palestinians throughout the whole of historic Palestine and unleased at new levels in the past weeks. This deluge of civilian guns underlines the strong, immediate linkage between Israel’s small arms policies and legislation and the violent, militarized measures that it is currently applying in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Recognizing this reality, we are committed to sounding a strong alarm. Under the umbrella (or guise) of emergency security needs, but in direct continuation of its policies prior to the Hamas terrorist attack of October 7, Israel’s current government is fast tracking a combination of legislation, executive decisions and action which are generating an enormous spike in small arms proliferation throughout the civilian population.”

Elon Musk, under fire for antisemitism on X, visits Israel and tours ravaged kibbutz with Benjamin Netanyahu,

“Musk’s visit comes as he faces continued criticism over his engagement with antisemites on X and over the platform’s role in fueling misinformation about Oct. 7. Last week, multiple major advertisers dropped the platform after Musk called an endorsement of the antisemitic “Great Replacement” theory the “actual truth.” (After speaking with Musk, the Anti-Defamation League’s CEO praised Musk, who later tweeted that he would be donating X’s revenue associated with the war to hospitals in Israel and the Red Crescent in Gaza.)” See also Opinion | Why Netanyahu Loves Antisemites Like Elon Musk So Much (Haaretz)


In undisclosed call, Pope Francis warned Israel against committing ‘terror’,

“As bombs fell and tanks penetrated deep into Gaza in late October, Israeli President Isaac Herzog held a fraught phone call with Pope Francis. The Israeli head of state was describing his nation’s horror over the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 when the pope issued a blunt rejoinder. It is “forbidden to respond to terror with terror,” Francis said, according to a senior Israeli official familiar with the call, which has not been previously reported. Herzog protested, repeating the position that the Israeli government was doing what was needed in Gaza to defend its own people. The pope continued, saying those responsible should indeed be held accountable, but not civilians.That private call would inform Israeli interpretations of Francis’s polemic statement, at his Nov. 22 general audience in St. Peter’s Square, that the conflict had “gone beyond war. This is terrorism.” Taken with the diplomatic exchange — deemed so “bad” by the Israelis that they did not make it public — the implication seemed clear: The pope was calling their campaign in Gaza an act of terrorism.”

In growing European trend, Germany freezes UNRWA Gaza aid ,

“Germany moved to freeze its funding for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees’ Gaza operations indefinitely, marking a trend in Europe away from aid to the Palestinians. The German Development Ministry announced last week that Gaza would be excluded from its continued contributions to UNRWA, “due to the current situation.” Berlin contributed close to $1 billion in the last five years, making it UNRWA’s largest donor.”

UK protests expose wide gulf between gov’t and public on Palestine,

“Hundreds of thousands in Britain have been mobilizing for a Gaza ceasefire, pushing back against efforts to smear them and restrict their civil liberties.”

US Scene

As Congress Weighs Aid to Israel, Some Democrats Want Strings Attached,

“Democrats in Congress are clashing with each other and the Biden administration over a push from the left that would attach conditions to an emergency infusion of security aid for Israel during its war with Hamas, the latest reflection of a growing rift within the party over support for the Jewish state. The debate is a striking departure from longstanding practice on Capitol Hill, where for decades, lawmakers have approved huge amounts of military funding for Israel with few strings attached. Now, as Israel battles Hamas in a conflict whose civilian death toll has soared, a growing number of Democrats are voicing worry about how American dollars will be used.” See also Schumer: What American Jews Fear Most (Chuck Schumer//NYT: “The solidarity that Jewish Americans initially received from our fellow citizens in the aftermath of Oct. 7 has since waned, drowned out by other, more disturbing voices, even from some we considered allies, while hate crimes against Jews have skyrocketed. Today, too many Americans are exploiting arguments against Israel and leaping toward a virulent antisemitism. The normalization and intensifying of this rise in hate is the danger many Jewish people fear most.”)

Three Palestinian students shot and wounded in Vermont, police say,

“The head of the Palestinian mission to the UK, Husam Zomlot, identified the victims as Hisham Awartani, Tahseen Ahmed and Kinnan Abdalhamid, undergraduate students at Brown, Haverford and Trinity. Zomlot said on X – formerly known as Twitter – that each of the victims was wearing the Palestinian keffiyeh when they were attacked, though authorities have stopped short of publicly discussing a possible motive for the triple shooting.” See also Palestinian Vermont shooting victim: ‘I’m not safe in America’ (The Hill: “In the West Bank, we’re not safe because of the occupation, and as a Palestinian American, I’m not safe in America because of people like this that might come out,” Kinnan Abdalhamid, 20, told The New York Times in an interview a day after he was discharged from the hospital.”)

Dissent, and a generation gap, inside the Biden administration over the Israel-Hamas war,

“The Biden administration is facing growing internal dissent over its support for Israel’s military assault on Hamas in Gaza, reflecting a wider debate in American society and a generational divide among Democrats over the issue. The extraordinary scope of the dissent inside the government, including statements in open letters from government employees, goes beyond anything seen in previous administrations dating back to the 1980s, including during the Iraq War and President Donald Trump’s restrictions on travel from mainly Muslim states, former officials said.” See also Scoop: Blinken warns Israeli officials global pressure will grow longer war goes on (Axios); Scoop: Biden warned Bibi Israel can’t operate in southern Gaza the way it did in north (Axios); US: IDF should not displace Gazans en masse in the south like it did in the north (Times of Israel)

Toward a Sober Assessment of Campus Antisemitism,

“It’s fair for American Jews to be concerned for our safety, with reports of vandalism, harassment, death threats, and physical attacks making headlines across the US. The global picture is even more alarming, as we have seen attacks on synagogue buildings in Berlin and Tunisia; a Jewish woman stabbed in Paris, a swastika painted on her door; an angry mob in Dagestan storming the airport with signs saying, “We are against Jewish refugees”; and many other heinous incidents. This wartime spike in antisemitic acts is not without precedent: Studies show that Israeli military offensives tend to correlate with upticks in antisemitism in the diaspora, perhaps because antisemitic attitudes and actors are emboldened when the State of Israel commits great violence in the name of world Jewry. But as experts seek clarity about the scale of the rise in antisemitic activity, political leaders and Israel-advocacy organizations are funneling this communal anxiety into a national moral panic. The campus has become a primary site of this dangerous and counterproductive panic—not only as a long-standing target for the right’s culture war, but also as a vehicle for the generational anxieties of the American Jewish establishment. The end result is immense repression of speech, with crackdowns primarily targeting Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim student activists, as well as other students of color.” See also Brandeis Center files lawsuit against UC Berkeley for hostile campus environment (Jewish Insider)

Opinion | Toxicity Doesn't Rule the Hamas-Israel Debate on U.S. College Campuses,

“What characterizes the current discourse surrounding campus culture is the image of toxicity and polarization, accompanied by feelings of betrayal and shattered illusions. In the U.S., as in Israel, an increasing number of critics lament the rise of “progressive trolls” who employ a Manichean rhetoric of villains and heroes, label their rivals as evil, and create a toxic environment by preferring shaming and canceling campaigns rather than dialogue. Despite some undeniably ugly attention-grabbing incidents, by both some professors and students, we must warn against a twisted image of the campus environment. Some banal truths need to be told: most of the students and colleagues, most of the time, are open-minded, curious, sensitive, and empathic to others’ suffering and pain. Reasoned debate is still alive and kicking…Media coverage plays a central role in generating this feeling of gloom and despair. However, in many schools, faculty responded to the challenges of the last month by going out of their way to organize lectures, panel discussions, roundtables and other pedagogical events, channeling frustration into educational initiatives…These pedagogical activities and efforts are not “newsworthy” and go unnoticed. They are easily eclipsed by vocal demonstrations or provocations that generate headlines.”

Rereading History & Forecasting the Future

A paradigm shift in the hundred years’ war on Palestine?,

“Six weeks ago, this talk would have had a different title and offered somewhat different content. I would then have given the historical background to the present moment via the framework laid out in my book, The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler-Colonialism and Resistance. This book explains events in Palestine since 1917 as resulting from a war waged on the indigenous Palestinian population over different stages by a variety of great powers that were allied with the Zionist movement – a movement that was both settler colonialist and nationalist. These powers were later allied with the Israeli nation-state that grew out of that movement. I still see that framework as the best way to explain the history of the past century and more…However, while I think that framework has been reinforced over the past six weeks by the muscular level of U.S. participation and the relatively limited nature of that of Iran and the Arab states, we may be seeing a paradigm shift because of new elements that have appeared since October 7. What I am about to put forward is highly tentative. As a historian, I am reluctant to predict how events might develop. But, in light of the course of this war over more than a century, it is clear that new elements have appeared that may possibly indicate that this war is entering a new phase. I want to single out five of these elements.”

An Inevitable Rupture: Al-Aqsa Flood and the End of Partition,

“The speed with which Israel mobilized and the scale of its assault underscore the Palestinian conviction that the settler colonial regime is executing long-held plans for mass expulsion. Meanwhile, Israeli officials have utilized a narrative campaign of Palestinian dehumanization to lay the groundwork for justification of the immense violence.  Against this backdrop, this commentary anchors Israel’s latest assault on Gaza in its wider context; it unpacks Israel’s ghettoization of Palestinian land through partition and pinpoints Hamas’s Al-Aqsa Flood operation as a moment of rupture for the partition framework. Importantly, it brings the question of what comes after partition to the forefront and gives pause for the expanding possibilities for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.”

"From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free," with Maha Nassar,

“Maha Nassar joins host Yara Hawari to discuss the historical significance of this popular slogan, used by Palestinians and their allies as they protest the assault on Gaza and ongoing genocide against the Palestinian people.” See also from Maha Nassar: ‘From the river to the sea’ – a Palestinian historian explores the meaning and intent of scrutinized slogan 

Was Peace Ever Possible?,

“We assembled a panel of scholars and experts — three Palestinian, three Israeli and an American — to help us understand the history of Oslo: Was it a genuine chance for peace? Was it doomed from the start? Why did it unravel?”

What Would a Lasting Peace Between Israel and Palestine Really Look Like?,

“I think the most fundamental thing is that, on both sides, support for a single state with true equality of collective and individual rights for Jews and Palestinians is quite low. There is, however, considerable support on both sides for a single state that is exclusively Jewish or exclusively Palestinian. Both ideas are fanciful since neither Palestinians nor Israeli Jews are going anywhere, and neither side will accept anything less than full equality in collective and individual rights. If a realistic political alternative to the status quo is to emerge, it will have to offer more clarity about the rights of the other side. That clarity is lacking not just in the messages sent to the outside world but within the Israeli and Palestinian coalitions themselves: Palestinians have not agreed internally about what status the Jews would have in a Palestinian state. And Jews likewise have not been clear about what status Palestinians should have in this more than half-century-old single state that Israelis still manage to deceive themselves into calling temporary. In the meantime, while everyone argues about these entirely hypothetical scenarios, Palestinians are constricted into smaller and smaller spaces while Jewish settlements expand, the U.S. increases its support for Israel, and anyone who says that this system of ethnic subjugation is racist is at risk of being called an antisemite.” See also At University of Arkansas, a State Law Stifles Pro-Palestinian Speakers (NYT: “To receive a modest speaker’s fee, academics and writers must sign a pledge that they will not participate in anti-Israel boycotts. The author Nathan Thrall said no thank you.”) 

Israeli arrogance thwarted a Palestinian political path. October 7 revealed the cost,

“A Fatah-Hamas agreement in 2021 offered a different political horizon. But success blinded Israel — just as it did before the 1973 war.” See also I Lost My Son to the War With Hamas. Force and Violence Aren’t the Solution (Elana Kaminka//Haaretz: “The idea that seven million Jews can rule millions of Palestinians with violent force, forever, without paying a steep price in the loss of democracy – or, for me, in the loss of my beloved first-born child – is an illusion. An illusion that was shattered on October 7”)

“Never Again” After October 7th,

“Scholars of the Holocaust discuss the mobilization of Jewish memory in the wake of Hamas’s attacks and Israel’s war on Gaza.”

A political stalemate led to the bloodshed in the Middle East. Only a political settlement can truly end it,

“The only way out of this conundrum is for Israel to declare that it seeks a peaceful resolution of the conflict with an appropriate and willing Palestinian leadership. Making such a statement would dramatically transform the situation and clear the way for intermediate steps to be taken on the ground, starting with a halt to the mutual killing and a return of all surviving hostages. Any political path to resolving this crisis must include steps toward ending the occupation.”

Why Israel Won’t Change,

“Although Israelis blame the country’s leadership for the catastrophic security failures surrounding the attacks, their basic political orientation seems unlikely to budge. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may well be forced to step down when the war is over—if not before, since the war has no clear endpoint. But as Israeli history has repeatedly shown, especially in recent decades, episodes of war or extreme violence like the current one have only reinforced a rightward tilt in Israeli politics. If that pattern holds now, Israelis might elect a new government, but they might also endorse the same flawed assumptions that have defined that tilt and which have helped shape the current crisis.”