Top News from Israel & Palestine: October 22, 2020

What We’re Reading

Settlements/Occupation/De Facto Annexation/Apartheid

Special Focus: Sharp High Rate of Property Demolitions since the Second Half of 2020,

During the second half of 2020, Al-Haq noted a significant high rate of property demolitions by the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT). While the monthly average of demolished Palestinian homes and properties by the Israeli authorities was 31 during the first six months of the year, the past three months – July, August and September, witnessed an average of 59 demolitions each. In total, 186 Palestinian properties were demolished in the OPT during the first half of the year and another 177 properties during the period July, August, and September. Worth noting is that during the past three months, 62 out of the 177 demolitions happened in the occupied governorate of Jerusalem.

Settler Violence Against Palestinians Increases During Annual Olive Harvest,

Israeli authorities have documented five violent assaults against Palestinians and the destruction of 62 olive trees during the first week of the olive harvest, according to data obtained by Haaretz. The Yesh Din human rights organization reported 25 incidents linked to the annual harvest since it began earlier this October, including assaults, the destruction of trees, and thefts.

'Paradise lost': How Israel turned the West Bank into a sewage dump for its settlements,

Maarouf lives in the village of Deir Ballut, in the northern governorate of Salfit, in the occupied West Bank. He says his land was once “a paradise”. Today, it has become a wastewater swamp, due to the sewage that runs from the illegal settlement of Leshem nearby…Illegal Israeli settlements discharge millions of cubic metres of wastewater into the West Bank every year. A large amount of the wastewater is untreated sewage that flows into Palestinian valleys and onto agricultural land…“If they continue pumping the sewage to the olive trees, all the trees will die, and we will lose our main source of income,” he continues….About 10 dunams of the land’s original size were confiscated for the settlement area, which they are now forbidden from accessing. Settlers also previously attacked the land and cut down 200 olive trees that were about 25 years old. Deir Ballut is surrounded by the illegal settlements of Leshem, Peduel and Beit Aryeh-Ofarim, all of which release sewage that ends up on the village’s agricultural land…Like many other Palestinian villages across the occupied West Bank surrounded by settlements, the village is also exposed to constant attacks by illegal settlers. “Everyday the village is attacked by settlers. Last week they burned 50 olive trees that were over 60 years old,” says Mustafa.

Friedman: US position is never evacuate settlements,

The American position is that West Bank settlements should remain in place permanently and Israel should apply sovereignty to them at a later date, US Ambassador David Friedman said on Wednesday. “The position of the United States is that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria will never be evacuated. We will never ask any community in Judea and Samaria to ever disband,” Friedman said in a Kohelet Policy Forum conference on the Abraham Accords, conducted online with the Shiloh Forum and Israel Hayom. “We believe [that] in [the] long run, it is in Israel’s interest and America’s interest to extend [Israeli] sovereignty over these communities.” The Trump administration’s plan, should he be reelected, is “to put all our efforts in the near future in diplomatic efforts to make Israel as safe, secure and prosperous as the nations of the region and reduce that threat level as much as possible” by encouraging more countries to normalize ties with Israel.

Republicans in Israel chair: I hope Trump will formalize West Bank outposts,

Mark Zell, chairman of Republicans Overseas Israel, said on Thursday that he hopes US President Donald Trump will work to formalize Israeli outposts in the West Bank. Zell said that it is “because President Trump has already recognized Israel’s legal right to settle in Judea and Samaria that are the Land of Israel from the Bible and since the president, like every American president, supports human rights. “He went on to say that “because the president is interested in advancing the Trump plan under which no one – Israeli or Palestinian – will be removed from their home, and no settlement will be emptied, I hope that President Trump will… work to formalize Israeli outposts.”

Human rights/Violence

Red Cross: A Palestinian detainee on hunger strike is in critical condition,

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said today that it is seriously concerned about the deteriorating health of Maher al-Akhras, a Palestinian administratively detained and hospitalized in Israel, who has been on hunger strike for 89 days today demanding an end to his illegal administrative detention. “ICRC doctors have been visiting Mr. al-Akhras and closely monitoring his situation”, said the head of ICRC’s health department in Israel and the occupied territories, Yves Giebens. “More than 85 days into the hunger strike, we are concerned about potentially irreversible health consequences. From a medical perspective, he is entering a critical phase”.

Israel aims to charge officer who killed austistic Palestinian,

Israel’s justice ministry said Wednesday it will seek to file “reckless homicide” charges against a police officer who shot dead a Palestinian man with autism in Jerusalem’s Old City. Iyad Hallak, 32, was shot and killed on May 30 while walking to his special needs school in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, after officers mistakenly thought he was armed.

Why Israelis Care About the Killing of an Autistic Palestinian, but Are Silent About Others,

Hallaq’s case is not an exceptional or unusual one. What’s exceptional is the relatively fast investigation and eventually the decision to prosecute the policeman. B’Tselem knows of at least 11 cases in the last two years in which Palestinians were shot to death by security forces even though they were fleeing and posing no danger. Most of them were shot in the back. In none of these cases were the perpetrators, soldiers or policemen, prosecuted. Hallaq was not shot because he was autistic, he was shot because he was a Palestinian. His fate was sealed when his behavior was interpreted as dangerous and a policeman shouted on the radio that there was a terrorist nearby. One can assume that this killing would not have led to a prosecution were it not for the public outcry that followed….Eyad Hallaq is a convenient case, too convenient. His helplessness, his nature as a child in a man’s body, managed to allow the public to see him in his humanity. Unlike Hallaq, Israelis do distinguish between Jews and Arabs. Only when the victim is sufficiently helpless so as to completely dismiss any possibility that he harbored malicious intentions, are they viewed beyond their national category. It’s the justified outcry in Hallaq’s case that underscores the roaring silence in all the others.

Israeli NGOs demand government allow UN rights monitors,

Major Israeli rights organisations have written to the country’s foreign minister condemning cutting ties with the United Nations’ human rights agency. Israel has stopped giving visas to foreigners employed by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) after accusing it of bias, Middle East Eye revealed last week. A letter signed by 17 prominent Israeli rights organisations to Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi on 20 October called on the government to reverse course. “The severance of ties with OHCHR and the refusal to renew its staff’s visas undermine the UN commissioner’s work in the region and violate Israel’s obligation, under the UN charter, to cooperate with its agencies,” the letter, a copy of which was seen by MEE, said. Among the signatories are B’Tselem, Rabbis for Human Rights and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel.

Arab world and Normalization

UAE Investment in upgrading Israeli checkpoint only entrenches occupation,

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor expressed alarm by the Israeli-United Arab Emirates (UAE) plans to set an investment fund that will enable “modernizing” Israeli-operated checkpoints in the occupied Palestinian territories, said in a statement today. “The UAE government should refrain from and immediately halt any deals with Israel that may contribute to or embolden human rights violations against the Palestinians,” it said. Last Tuesday, the chief executive of the US International Development Finance Corporation, Adam Boehler, announced that the US, Israeli and UAE governments will create a $3 billion investment fund, to be called the Abraham Fund, that would seek to promote private investment in Israel, the West Bank and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa. On the top priorities of this fund would be upgrading and modernizing Israeli security checkpoints across the occupied West Bank.

U.S. has begun process of removing Sudan from state terrorism list, Pompeo says,

The Trump administration has begun the process of removing Sudan from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism while also working to get Khartoum to recognize Israel, which it hopes will happen quickly, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday.Pompeo spoke just two days after President Donald Trump announced Sudan would be taken off the terrorism list after it transferred $355 million to compensate U.S. victims and their families. However, Pompeo stopped short of saying Sudan’s removal would be linked to whether it normalizes relations with Israel. Sudan’s de-listing could set in motion steps toward Sudan’s establishment of relations with Israel, U.S. officials have told Reuters, following similar U.S.-brokered moves by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Rapprochement between Israel and another Arab country would give Trump a new diplomatic achievement as he seeks re-election on Nov. 3.

Israeli Officials Visited Sudan Ahead of Expected Normalization Deal,

Israeli representatives visited Sudan on Wednesday ahead of Khartoum’s declaration of normalization of ties with Israel…Also Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington had begun the process of removing Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism and is also working “diligently” to get Khartoum to recognize Israel. Sudan’s fragile interim government is sharply divided over normalizing relations with Israel, as it finds itself under intense pressure from the Trump administration to become the third Arab country to do so in short order – after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Report names Netanyahu, Trump aides who visited Sudan to reach deal on ties,

Following reports that Israeli and Sudanese officials have reached a final agreement on forging ties that will be publicly announced soon, the Walla news site names Israeli and American officials who participated in yesterday’s visit to Khartoum. The report cited officials with knowledge of the details as saying that among the officials were Prime Minister’s Office acting director-general Ronen Peretz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s unnamed special envoy to the Arab world, nicknamed “Maoz.” Also on the rare direct flight from Tel Aviv to Khartoum were the US National Security Council Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Miguel Correa, and Aryeh Lightstone, a senior adviser to US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

Israel, Bahrain sign deal for regular passenger flights,

Israel and Bahrain sign a formal deal for regular flights between the countries, Hebrew-language media reports, weeks after the Arab country agreed to normalize ties with the Jewish state.

Lawfare/Stifling Dissent/Free Speech

U.S. weighs labeling leading human rights groups ‘anti-Semitic’,

The Trump administration is considering declaring that several prominent international NGOs — including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam — are anti-Semitic and that governments should not support them, two people familiar with the issue said. The proposed declaration could come from the State Department as soon as this week. If the declaration happens, it is likely to cause an uproar among civil society groups and might spur litigation. Critics of the possible move also worry it could lead other governments to further crack down on such groups. The groups named, meanwhile, deny any allegations that they are anti-Semitic. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is pushing for the declaration, according to a congressional aide with contacts inside the State Department. Pompeo is eyeing a future presidential run and has taken a number of steps to gain favor with pro-Israel and evangelical voters who make up a key part of Trump’s electoral base. But the proposal is drawing opposition from career State Department employees. Among the opponents are department lawyers who warn that it is on shaky grounds due to free speech concerns, could lead to lawsuits and might even lack a proper administrative legal basis….The declaration is expected to take the form of a report from the office of Elan Carr, the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. The report would mention organizations including Oxfam, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. It would declare that it is U.S. policy not to support such groups, including financially, and urge other governments to cease their support. The report would cite such groups’ alleged or perceived support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which has targeted Israel over its construction of settlements on land Palestinians claim for a future state. It’s also expected to point to reports and press statements such groups have released about the impact of Israeli settlements, as well as their involvement or perceived support for a United Nations database of businesses that operate in disputed territories.

See also:

A State Department Memo Suggests It’s About to Accuse Prominent Human Rights Groups of “Anti-Semitism”(Mother Jones)


US State Department Planning Expanded Campaign Using ‘All Legal and Policy Tools’ to Combat ‘Antisemitic’ BDS Movement Against Israel (Algemeiner)


How the Right Has Tried to Rebrand Antisemitism (NYRB)


Constitutionality Issues & BDS Legislation: Source Docs & Expert Views (FMEP)


Trump administration considers labeling top humanitarian groups ‘anti-Semitic’,

Pro-Israel advocates have long complained of bias by groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, saying they focus too heavily on the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli government. The groups, however, have a lengthy track record of spotlighting the mistreatment of individuals at the hands of governments elsewhere, including authoritarian regimes and Western democracies. “It’s preposterous,” Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski (N.J.), who previously worked as Washington director of Human Rights Watch, said in a phone call. “They also document the treatment of the Palestinians by the Palestinian Authority. They are critical of every government in the world, including the United States. Yet the State Department under every previous secretary of state has relied on these organizations as credible sources of information and treated them as partners.” …Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam each strenuously denied any accusation of anti-Semitism. “Any insinuation that Oxfam supports anti-Semitism is false, baseless, and offensive,” Noah Gottschalk of Oxfam America said. “Oxfam and our Israeli and Palestinian partners have worked on the ground for decades to promote human rights and provide lifesaving support for Israeli and Palestinian communities. We stand by our long history of work protecting the lives, human rights, and futures of all Israelis and Palestinians.”

Pompeo said set to declare human rights groups ‘anti-Semitic’ over Israel stance,

The declaration would cite the human rights groups’ alleged or perceived support for the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, Politico said….Last year, then-strategic affairs minister Gilad Erdan (now Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations) threatened to ban Amnesty International from Israel over a report that called on websites like Airbnb,, Expedia and TripAdvisor to boycott listings in Israeli West Bank settlements….Also last year, Israel expelled the local director of Human Rights Watch for allegedly supporting the BDS movement against Israel.

State Department Accusations of Antisemitism against Amnesty International are Baseless and an Affront to the Human Rights Movement ,

Secretary Pompeo’s baseless accusations are yet another attempt to silence and intimidate international human rights organizations. The administration is spreading misinformation and working to undermine those who are working to protect human rights. Amnesty International USA is deeply committed to fighting antisemitism and all forms of hate worldwide, and will continue to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth, and dignity are denied. We vigorously contest any allegation of antisemitism. Our human rights work, as well as the broader human rights movement today, exist because of the actions taken by the international community in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Nations came together and said, ‘never again.’ Never again would atrocities such as those committed in the Holocaust occur because governments would now recognize that all human beings have rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the founding document of our work and our guiding light, came together precisely because of the  atrocities committed against  the Jewish people. These accusations are an affront to anyone who believes in the human rights movement….Any process aimed at a just and sustainable peace in Israel and the State of Palestine must include an end to systematic human rights abuses, dismantling of illegal Israeli settlements, and justice and reparation for victims of crimes under international law. This is what international norms demand, whether Secretary Pompeo likes it or not.”

Rabbinic human rights group: State department plan to label groups as “antisemitic” is “ridiculous”,

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Executive Director of T’ruah, released the following statement:  “A robust human rights sector is an essential element of a democracy. The work of human rights groups ensures that no government can violate k’vod habriot, basic human dignity, without fear of accountability. In casting aspersion on longtime respected human rights organizations, the Trump administration joins an ignoble list of autocratic governments that have discredited, smeared and even banned their own internal human rights organizations. Actions such as these damage U.S. democracy by threatening the transparency necessary to protect human rights. Human rights and civil society groups play a prophetic role, even if their words may not be ones governments want to hear. Any U.S. government declaration that these groups are antisemitic for criticizing the Israeli government is ridiculous, and contributes to the silencing of Israel’s human rights defenders. Israel is a state bound by international human rights law, like all other members of the United Nations, and like other countries can be criticized when it fails to live up to these commitments. By falsely smearing human rights organizations as antisemitic, the Trump administration only makes it harder to counter actual acts of antisemitism when they happen, while simultaneously harming these organizations’ effectiveness in reporting on all countries’ human rights abuses– including those of the United States. The Trump administration’s smear of these three human rights organizations is yet one more example of this administration’s disregard for democracy and human rights at home and abroad.”

Albania becomes first Muslim country to adopt IHRA anti-Semitism definition,

The Albanian parliament formally adopts the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism, making Albania the first Muslim-majority country to do so and promise to fight anti-Jewish prejudice. The IHRA definition, which casts some forms of criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic, has been adopted by many Western countries, but so far not by Muslim countries. Robert Singer, the executive vice president of the World Jewish Congress, is quoted by the Makor Rishon newspaper as expressing hope that more Muslim nations will follow in Albania’s footsteps.

Press Release: Al Mezan welcomes Dutch government’s dismissal of Israeli smear campaign,

The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights welcomes the recent answers by the Dutch government in response to parliamentary questions targeting Al Mezan. The questions had been filed by the right-wing Freedom Party (PVV) led by Geert Wilders based on a defamatory report by NGO Monitor, an Israeli organization working to undermine NGOs that defend Palestinian rights. On 31 August 2020, NGO Monitor issued a publication entitled “Al Mezan Center for Human Rights’ Ties to the PFLP Terror Group.” This publication contains a collection of factual inaccuracies, misleading allegations and straightforward propaganda designed to harm our credibility and to deter our donors, including the Dutch government. The Netherlands has been a long-time donor of Al Mezan, because we defend human rights and promote accountability for violations committed by all parties. In response to the PVV questions, the Dutch government concluded, “there is no reason to assume that there are links between Al Mezan and PFLP.” With that, the Dutch government effectively dismissed and debunked NGO Monitor’s standard tactic of associating Palestinian NGOs with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which is on the EU’s sanctions list.

Berlin art college withdraws funding to Israelis seeking to unlearn Zionism,

In Germany, Jewish Israelis who seek to challenge the Zionist narrative are now effectively considered antisemitic. About a year ago, a dozen Jewish Israeli artists and scholars living in Berlin started a program called The School for Unlearning Zionism as a “space for joint learning and internal, Jewish-Israeli self-negotiation with the Zionist story.” …But on Oct. 8, just days into the program, the university administration abruptly retracted the meager funding for the program — symbolic fees of 100 euros for each speaker — and took the page on its site down, without even notifying the organizers….Indeed, in trying to uphold a ban on boycotting Jews, the university is targeting and effectively boycotting certain Jews….The spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy in Berlin declined an interview. Instead, he referred me to their tweets on the issue, in which they not only stand by the university’s decision, but explicitly call the program antisemitic.

Leila Khaled shutdown shows how corporate tech is enemy of free speech,

Whether one agrees or disagrees with the content of the panel is irrelevant to the bigger issue of corporate thwarting of academic freedom. Zoom, Facebook and YouTube actively participated in silencing this perspective at the whim of a lobby group…Constitutional protections for freedom of speech, including academic freedom, were not laid down to protect popular ideas; on the contrary, the aim is to protect those ideas that are deemed unpopular and “difficult” to listen to. The neoliberal model of academia, based on the corporatisation of academic institutions, made it easy for a company like Zoom to shut down SFSU’s classroom, while the university administration did little to prevent this from happening.

Commentary / Long read

U.S. Foreign Policy Never Recovered From the War on Terror,

With the declaration of its global “war on terror” after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States went abroad in search of monsters and ended up midwifing new ones—from terrorist groups such as the Islamic State (or ISIS), born in the prisons of U.S.-occupied Iraq; to destabilization and deepening sectarianism across the Middle East; to racist authoritarian movements in Europe and in the United States that feed—and feed off of—the fear of refugees fleeing those regional conflicts. Advocates of the war on terror believed that nationalist chauvinism, which sometimes travels under the name “American exceptionalism,” could be stoked at a controlled burn to sustain American hegemony. Instead, and predictably, toxic ultranationalism burned out of control. Today, the greatest security threat to the United States comes not from any terrorist group, or from any great power, but from domestic political dysfunction. The election of Donald Trump as president was a product and accelerant of that dysfunction—but not its cause. The environment for his political rise was prepared over a decade and a half of xenophobic, messianic Washington warmongering, with roots going back into centuries of white supremacist politics.