Settlements/Occupation/De Facto Annexation/Apartheid
The Defense Ministry body responsible for authorizing settlement construction advanced plans for over 2,700 West Bank homes Thursday, capping off a two-day session which saw the green-lighting of nearly 5,000 homes in total. The approvals brought the annual total of housing units advanced to 12,159, in what the Peace Now settlement watchdog said was a record-breaking figure that beat out last year’s number by nearly 4,000.
Israel has approved over 12,000 West Bank homes in 2020, a record high for Jewish building in the West Bank, settlement watchdog Peace Now said Thursday. The announcement came after the Supreme Planning Council at the Civil Administration – the highest defense ministry construction body in the contested territory – approved plans for 4,948 more housing units during a two-day meeting held Wednesday and Thursday, Peace Now said. “While de jure annexation may be suspended, the de facto annexation of settlement expansion is clearly continuing,” Peace Now said.
European powers on Friday condemned Israel’s decision to approve thousands more settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, calling it a “counterproductive” move that undermines regional peace efforts. “The expansion of settlements violates international law and further imperils the viability of a two-state solution to bring about a just and lasting peace to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said a joint statement from the foreign ministers of Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain.
European powers, Jordan condemn Israel settlement approvals (Times of Israel)
Israeli occupation authorities announced yesterday their takeover of about 11,000 dunums of (1,000 hectares) of Palestinian land in the northern Jordan Valley region in the occupied West Bank, according to a Palestinian official. Qasem Awwad, a spokesman of the Palestinian Authority’s Apartheid Wall and Settlement Resistance Commission, said the Israeli confiscation order comes under the pretext of transferring the property of the said land to three natural reservoirs in the area, a pretext that Israel has used sometimes to serve the illegal settlement construction and expansion project. Awwad said most of the land confiscated is located in areas adjacent to the illegal settlements of Rotem, Maskiyot, and Mesovah, which proves that the reason for confiscation is expanding the built-up areas of the Israeli settlements rather than allocating more land for the natural reservoirs.
Palestinian Minister of Justice Muhammad Shalalda said today that the Palestinian judiciary will start within days to consider cases related to violations committed by Israeli settlers against Palestinian citizens. He told WAFA that the Ministry of Justice, and in cooperation with other government agencies and civil society institutions, will facilitate the task of victims of Israeli settlers to take legal actions against the settlers, explaining that according to the Palestinian Basic Law any citizen whose rights are violated has the right to file a lawsuit at the Palestinian courts….He stressed that the rulings issued by the Palestinian courts, if not implemented and respected by the occupation authorities, will be proof and evidence for their implementation before the countries whose nationalities are held by the settlers, and will support going to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which provides for complementary jurisdiction, meaning that victims of violations have exhausted all constitutional national steps, and decided to refer the implementation of rulings to the ICC.
Three months after Israeli settlers had seized Palestinian land in the occupied northern Jordan Valley and planted it with trees, the settlers today set up a caravan on that land, which is a prelude to establishing an illegal settlement outpost, according to a local rights activist.
A group of right-wing Israeli colonial settlers attacked and destroyed hundreds of Palestinian olive trees in al-Jabaa village, west of Bethlehem on Wednesday, at the height of the harvest season. Diab Mashaleh, head of the al-Jabaa village council, told the Palestinian Wafa News Agency that the Israeli colonial settlers invaded the Palestinian-owned olive orchards around the village and began chopping and uprooting trees, preventing the Palestinian farmers from harvesting their olives. This is the second time this week that the colonizers invaded and destroyed olive trees. In this instance, the colonizers killed 300 olive trees in the northern areas of the village.
See also: Settlers cut electric poles by chainsaw south of Nablus (WAFA)
Israeli forces arrested 341 Palestinians, including 32 children and three women, in September, local rights groups revealed yesterday. In their joint report, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, the Commission of Detainees and Ex-detainees Affairs, and the Wadi Hilweh Centre in East Jerusalem said that those arrested included 117 Palestinians from Jerusalem, 80 from Hebron, 25 from Ramallah, and 15 from Gaza. The others were spread across the occupied West Bank.
On Wednesday afternoon, Israeli forces used D9 Caterpillar Armored bulldozers (manufactured in Illinois, in the US) to demolish a Palestinian primary school east of Ramallah. The school had recently been constructed with the assistance of international aid from the Norwegian Refugee Council and the European Council…According to NRC Regional Director Carsten Hansen, “These are some of the most vulnerable children, whose life is already extremely hard, and Israel as the occupying power has a duty to ensure that they get their education and basic service. Instead, it uses its power to do the opposite, denying them their fundamental right to education and paving the way for illegal settlement expansion.”
The policy of expanding the settlements in Judea and Samaria was and remains hideously costly to the state of Israel with regard to its security, economy and society. Most of the security forces in the West Bank are invested in guarding the settlements and the roads to them, as well as in preventing “price tag” terror against Palestinians by Israeli extremists. And year by year, Israel has had to increase its subsidizing of the settlers, whose ranking is gradually dropping to the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. As time goes by, this policy is not achieving anything but rather is raising the price we are paying today and will have to pay in the future.
The new director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Philippe Lazzarini announced that the UN agency will examine its textbooks and school plans for inflammatory content against Israel, following the latter’s accusations. Lazzarini confirmed that the decision comes in response to Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Ardan, who vehemently attacked UNRWA claiming it: “Enables the establishment of an infrastructure for terrorism in its headquarters, and provides education with inflammatory content, in addition to its refusal to integrate refugees into the Palestinian Authority, and in the Arab countries.”
It is widely agreed that the two states solution is almost dead if not already passed away. Outside the emergency room where this solution lays, one group of worried Israeli, Palestinian and West European relatives refuses to give up hope that it will survive. Outside the hospital, another group cannot hide its satisfaction. The illegal inheritors plan annexing parts of the occupied Palestinian West Bank including Israeli settlements. They include not only Israeli settler and state agencies but also American evangelists and Trump administration members.
The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov today expressed concern about the situation of Palestinian hunger striker in Israeli jail, Maher al-Akhras, after completing 81 days of fast. Mladenov’s office told WAFA that the Special Coordinator has called on Israel to either charge al-Akhras, specify a time for his imprisonment, or immediately set him and all administrative detainees free. He said his office regularly calls on Israel to release administrative detainees.
I attended the lengthy hearing and in the vast, imposing courtroom my ears strained to take in all the erudite details about the precise legal standing of a person whose days are numbered if he is not immediately released. I have a copy of the protocol and reading it confirmed for me yet again what I already knew when I sat down there: There was no justice here, only a distortion of justice….What does a court of justice have to do with the Palestinians, who for decades are born and die under a military regime?…What right does the State of Israel, its laws and its courts have to define what terrorism is and what incitement to terrorism is and to differentiate between them and resistance, between them and popular uprising?
Arab world and Normalization
The United States has issued an ultimatum to Sudan to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel within 24 hours if the African country wants to be removed from the list of terror sponsors, London-based Asharq Al-Awsat reported. Media outlets in Sudan, meanwhile, said the government officials in the capital Khartoum were still divided on the issue….On Saturday, Asharq Al-Awsat reported that Washington had rejected a Sudanese request to separate between the issue of normalizing ties with Israel from a US decision on removing Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terror.
Violating local laws and risking possible criminal prosecution, a handful of activists from Sudan participated Thursday in an online forum discussing with Israelis their country’s relations to the Jewish state. Amid reports saying Khartoum may be next in line to normalize ties with Jerusalem, the activists, including journalists and artists, said the Sudanese public is largely in favor of ties with Israel, but also discussed how they occasionally face opposition for their activism.
For the first time ever, a commercial flight of an Emirati company entered Israeli airspace on Wednesday….Israel and Jordan signed a deal last Thursday to open more flight paths over both countries and shorten flight times between Gulf states, the Far East and Asia and Europe and North America. Israeli airspace will now be used by a multitude of Arab countries, including Iraq, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, as part of a new aviation agreement between Jerusalem and Amman.
Bank Leumi LUMI.TA said it had issued a dollar-denominated bank guarantee to First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) FAB.AD, its first to a United Arab Emirates bank, after Israel and the UAE signed a normalization deal last month. Leumi, Israel’s second-biggest bank, last month signed memorandums of understanding with FAB as well as Emirates NBD, saying the agreements would help enable the countries to implement economic relations. It said on Wednesday the guarantee came at the request of Tal Aviation, which represents several international airlines in Israel. Tal signed a cooperation deal with Etihad Airlines that will enable Israelis to fly on Etihad with connections in Jordan, Turkey or Greece.
Bringing Palestinians and Israelis to the negotiating table should be the priority of peace efforts before “eventual normalization” with Israel, the Saudi foreign minister said today. “We have always envisioned that normalization would happen, but we also need to have a Palestinian state and we need to have a Palestinian-Israeli peace plan,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said. “I believe that the focus now needs to be on getting the Palestinians and the Israelis back to the negotiating table. In the end, the only thing that can deliver lasting peace and lasting stability is an agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” he said during a virtual event hosted by the Washington Institute.
The 80-13 vote took place at the end of a lengthy debate…Lawmakers from the Joint List have already strongly condemned the deal, announcing that they will vote against it. “The agreement with the UAE is part of the ‘deal of the century’ which aims to derail the struggle against the occupation and to end the prospects for founding a Palestinian state,” MK Aida Touma-Sliman said. “The alliance between Israel and the UAE, under American auspices, is not good news – not for Palestinians, not for Israelis and not for the region. Peace will only come when the occupation ends.” Fellow Joint List MK concurred: “An agreement that perpetuates the occupation is not a peace agreement; it is a blood-soaked agreement that will bring more war.”
Dr. Tartir: “The so-called Abraham Accords are neither peace agreements nor historic breakthroughs, as is hailed by many observers. They are rather a prime example of the distortion of the very meaning of peace. At best, on one hand, they are a set of economic and diplomatic arrangements between a number of regional actors in response to a mutual interest. On the other hand, they are an expression of the formation of an alliance to face what is perceived as a common threat.”
A month after the historic peace treaty was signed between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain at the White House, the Kohelet Policy Forum, Shiloh Forum and Israel Hayom have teamed to host a special digital conference on the regional peace process. Titled “The Abraham Accords: Towards a New Middle East?” this digital international symposium will feature high-ranking Israel and US officials, as well as senior members from the Arab media, and prominent Israeli academics….”Thanks to a man sitting in the White House, we have a new Middle East, based on peace that derives from a position of power, sans buses exploding in the streets or ceding Israeli land,” said Israel Hayom’s Editor-in-Chief Boaz Bismuth. “The old paradigms have dissolved and a new chapter in the region is being written right before our eyes.
For many decades, one of the givens in the discussion about the Arab world’s war on Israel was the role that the American and international oil industry played as a supporter of the Arab war on Zionism. One of the most important factors in sustaining the hostility of the foreign-policy establishment to Israel was the enormous influence of the huge oil companies that viewed the US relationship with Israel as a threat to their ability to do business in the Middle East. The notion of any of those corporations doing business in Israel was unthinkable since they were among the primary enablers of the Arab boycott of the Jewish state.That’s why last week’s completion of the purchase of Noble Energy, the company which operates and holds the rights to most of the natural-gas reserves off of Israel’s coastline by the Chevron Corporation, should be regarded as a milestone in the country’s economic history. The fact that even many news sites treated it as just an interesting, if not particularly earth-shaking, piece of Middle East business news isn’t so much curious as it is a sign of just how absurd the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement’s efforts to economically isolate the Jewish state have become.
Unlike almost every other public health dimension, Gaza is performing better on COVID-19 containment than the West Bank, which has reported tens of thousands of cases and hundreds of deaths….However, it is clear to all that an outbreak in Gaza would be disastrous and almost guaranteed if there was uncontrolled community spread….In 2018, the World Bank reported that Gaza’s economy was in “free fall” with half the population living in poverty….Nearly 70 percent of households in Gaza were food insecure last year. Almost all the water produced by Gaza’s single aquifer is unfit for human consumption, and sewage is often dumped into the sea, washing up on beaches and overflowing into streets. This is not to mention the shortfall of hundreds of thousands of liters of fuel needed per month just to be able to keep hospitals and homes functional during power outages….In late December, it was estimated that nearly 150,000 residents in Gaza had become addicted to drugs, with no sanctioned treatment or community center amenable to drug rehabilitation. One in 10 residents, and more than half of all children, suffer from some form of mental disorder, often related to war trauma.
Lawfare/Stifling Dissent/Free Speech
The University of Toronto is ordering an “impartial review” of a hiring fiasco that led to an international firestorm that has imperiled its own prestigious human rights program….Critics slammed the announcement pointing out that participation in the review process is not mandatory, nor the review independent. Lawyers, academics, rights groups and public intellectuals from around the world have demanded that the university hold an independent review to unearth what may have transpired behind closed doors and led to its abrupt decision to cancel the hiring of a prominent scholar for the job of director. Valentina Azarova was the unanimous choice of the faculty’s own hiring committee. A sitting judge at the Tax Court of Canada and faculty donor is alleged to have expressed concerns over her academic work on Israeli settlements on Palestinian territories, sparking fears of undue interference.
The notion that some views are too vile to be allowed into the marketplace of ideas can be explained only by a fear that vile ideas may win. It suggests that those with “good” ideas lack confidence in them or think the marketplace itself is rigged, incapable of putting vile ideas in their proper place. Whatever the reasons, this belief that ideas should no longer be tested in a public forum upends our traditional notions of tolerance in a liberal society. I have been sorry to see the Jewish community successfully use these same rationales in seeking to silence pro-Palestinian speech that they consider wrong, offensive or dangerous to the State of Israel. Israel itself has taken a strong interest in these efforts, creating a semi-secret Ministry of Strategic Affairs to assist the diaspora in combating anti-Israel speech.
See also: Foreign Influence: How Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs Funded Lobbying & Extremism in the U.S. (FMEP Webinar)
Commentary / Long Read
Israel’s army is a savvy player on social media, using it to win the hearts of future recruits as well as to disseminate its own narrative in cyberspace.
Protest vs. protest. The protest of the dispossessed, rightless Palestinian farmers who are trying to fight for the last remains of their property and their dignity, and the protest of privileged Jewish Israelis, who want to have a different prime minister and who lament the end of their democracy. One protest stirs up emotions, while Israel ignores the other. But they are intertwined. It’s impossible to demand democracy without demanding democracy for everyone. There is no such thing as democracy that is not for everyone. Israeli fascism is in Burqa, not yet on the Tel Aviv beach….If people in Burqa can’t harvest their olives because of fascism and the Balfour Street protesters don’t care, the Balfour Street protest is not an anti-fascism or pro-democracy movement, as it purports to be, despite all its fine words.