Top News from Israel & Palestine: October 8, 2020

What We’re Reading

Occupation/De Facto Annexation/Apartheid

Over 1m Palestinians displaced, 166,000 homes demolished since formation of Israel,

Israel has demolished nearly 166,000 Palestinian homes since it was established on the land of Palestine in 1948, a report by the Land Research Centre of the Arab Studies Association in occupied Jerusalem has revealed, adding that more than one million Palestinians have been displaced as a result of the occupation. “During the first nine months of the year 2020, the occupation forces demolished 450 homes and facilities, and also pushed some Palestinians to demolish their homes with their own hands,” the centre added. The report also highlighted that the Israeli regime had adopted the policy of limiting construction by Palestinians, forcing them to resort to building their homes without permits…Last month, it was reported that the number of building permits Israel granted Palestinians in the occupied territories decreased by 45 per cent in the second quarter of 2020.

PEACE NOW: Amid Pandemic and Economic Crisis, Israel to Advance at Least 4,430 Settlement Units,

The Higher Planning Council (HPC) of the Civil Administration is set to convene to advance at least 4,430 settlement units in the West Bank in two consecutive meetings on 14 and 15 October. This will be the first time the HPC will have held such a hearing in eight months, and follows a declaration by Prime Minister Netanyahu on 1 October that he has instructed it to approve 5,400 units. It is set to make 2020 the highest year on record in units in settlement plans promoted since Peace Now began recording in 2012….According to Peace Now data, at least 4,430 units are slated to be advanced, including: All of them except 2 units will be in settlements that Israel will probably have to evacuate under an agreement (reference: east of the Geneva Initiative line).

Jerusalem Approves Plan That Would Legalize Homes in Palestinian Neighborhood,

For the first time in 30 years, the Jerusalem municipality has approved a master plan for the neighborhood of Isawiyah, in East Jerusalem. The plan includes a new zoning mechanism to allow for the retroactive approval of most of the buildings in the Palestinian neighborhood, which were built without permits. But residents say the plan will not meet their future needs because authorities refused to increase the size of the neighborhood.

Israeli army arrests Palestinian police in West Bank,

Israeli forces arrested Palestinian police officers and confiscated their weapons in the occupied West Bank, Israel media reported on Wednesday, Anadolu reports. According to the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation, the Israeli army was carrying out an operation in Area C in the city of Ramallah when they arrested the Palestinian officers.

Israeli settler sets up a tent south of Hebron as a nucleus for a new settlement,

An Israeli settler set up a tent on Palestinian-owned land in Birin village, located to the east of the southern West Bank city of Hebron, according to a local activist. Member of the Popular Committees in Southern Hebron, Rateb al-Jbour, said that a settler set up a tent on a plot of land belonging the Burqan family from Birin, east of Yatta, and hoisted the Israeli flag in the vicinity as a prelude to seizing the land for the construction of a new colonial settlement.

Israeli settlers set up mobile homes near Nablus, a prelude to building an illegal settlement,

Israeli settlers today evening installed mobile homes and an animal barn in Beit Dajan to the east of Nablus, in the northern occupied West Bank, which is usually a prelude to building a new illegal settlement, according to a local activist. Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors Israeli settlement activities in the north of the West Bank, told WAFA that for the last few days, the northeastern part of Beit Dajan lands has been witnessing sweeping operations and the paving of roads, starting from the outskirts of the illegal Israeli settlement of Hamra, in the Jordan Valley, all the way to Beit Dajan.

Human Rights/Violence

Palestinian hunger striker in mortal danger after 73 days without food,

A Palestinian administrative detainee is facing mortal danger as he entered his 73rd day of a hunger strike in an Israeli hospital on Wednesday. Maher al-Akhras, 49, is currently hospitalized in Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, south of Tel Aviv in the center of the country, where he has refused all medical treatment and is only accepting water….Israel uses administrative detention to indefinitely detain Palestinians (and occasionally Jews) without charge or trial. Administrative detention orders are reviewed every six months, but the detainees are not told what crimes they are being accused of, nor shown the evidence against them. As a result, it is virtually impossible to defend oneself against an administrative detention order….“My husband is under arrest for no reason,” [his wife] continued. “In the past, he was threatened with arrest and told his life would be destroyed. The purpose of the strike is liberation.”

See also:

Prisoner’s wife joins in hunger strike

Warnings of damage to Akhras’s heart and eyes

Israel Falsely Tells Court Palestinian Hunger Striker Recorded Boasting of Islamic Jihad Membership,

The state had claimed in a closed-door High Court session that hunger striking Palestinian administrative detainee Maher Akhras had been recorded boasting about being a member in militant Islamic Jihad organization, despite the transcript showing that he did not….The same day in response to the attorney’s request state prosecutors handed over the transcript and it was found to not contain any reference by Akhras to Islamic Jihad. The transcript does quote Akhras as vowing to continue his under strike until he is freed or dies as a martyr, and he also called to protect the al-Aqsa Mosque and expressed a desire to worship there.

Despite Netanyahu's Apology, His Office Still Labels Incident in Bedouin Village a Terror Attack,

An incident that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently apologized for mislabeling as a terror attack is still termed a “car-ramming attack” on his office’s website, which refused to change the wording even after Haaretz brought this to the PMO’s attention. The 2017 incident occurred during a demonstration at the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, in which policeman Erez Levy was killed when he was hit by Yakub Abu al-Kiyan’s car, who was then shot and killed by the police.

See also: 

+972: The killing of a Bedouin man is a weapon in Netanyahu’s war for survival

+972: WATCH: Visual analysis undermines police version of events in Umm el-Hiran

Weekly Report on Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (01– 07 October 2020),

Israeli occupation forces (IOF) continued to commit crimes and multi-layered violations against Palestinian civilians and their properties, including raids into Palestinian cities that are characterized with excessive use of force, assault, abuse and attacks on civilians….This week, PCHR documented 197 violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law (IHL) by IOF and settlers in the oPt. It should be noted that the limitations due to the corona virus pandemic, has limited PCHR’s fieldworkers mobility and ability to conduct field documentation; therefore, the information contained in this report are only part of the continued IOF violations.

"Peace" + Dividends

Exclusive: Qatar makes formal request for F-35 jets - sources,

Qatar has submitted a formal request to the United States to buy stealthy F-35 fighter jets, three people familiar with the deal said, in a deal that if pursued could strain U.S. ties with Saudi Arabia and Israel….A U.S. State Department spokesman said, “As a matter of policy, the United States does not confirm or comment on proposed defense sales or transfers until they are formally notified to Congress.”

Britain, the Middle East and arms sales: A breakdown,

Over the past decade, the Middle East has spent more on defence than any other region of the world.…Saudi Arabia was confirmed as comfortably being the biggest defence spender of any single country in the past 10 years, having purchased $116bn worth of arms….While the Middle East dominates arms imports, the only country from the region to feature in the top 10 exporters over the past decade is Israel. The US leads the way on sales, having exported $341bn worth of arms to the rest of the world. The UK is second with $125bn, followed by Russia’s $98bn. Israel is joint seventh, exporting $16bn – the same figure as Canada and Spain.

The real winners in the Israel-UAE deal? Arms dealers,

The normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is, according to Israeli arms industry leaders, a “win-win” situation. Speaking in late August at an online business conference on the potential of the UAE deal, Israel Aerospace Industries’ deputy CEO, Eyal Younian, waxed lyrical about Israel’s regional know-how and the UAE’s deep pockets and “great appetite for advanced technologies.” IAI is Israel’s largest state-owned arms manufacturer, and Younian’s remarks were part of a clear focus on potential arms deals at the conference. From this perspective, the normalization was indeed a win for both Israel and the UAE, and perhaps for the United States, too — a win-win-win….The win-win-win scenario for the arms industries is much bigger than just a diplomatically negotiated market expansion, however. On the sidelines of the three-way agreement between Israel, the UAE, and the United States, the latter two countries struck a deal wherein the United States will sell fifth-generation American F-35 fighter jets to the Gulf state at a minimum price of $77.9 million per unit. Israel is now in the process of weighing up what kind of “compensation package” to secure from the U.S. government, in exchange for the perceived dent to its “qualitative military edge” in the region — the maintenance of which has previously prevented such arms deals. This “compensation” will manifest as part of the United States’ military aid to Israel.

Israeli Government, Parliament to Vote on Monday on UAE Normalization Deal,

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will bring Israel’s normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates to a government vote on Monday, according to the agenda for Monday’s cabinet meeting released by his office. The vote on the agreement between the two countries, which involves establishing full diplomatic and economic ties, will go first to the cabinet ministers and then to the Knesset. According to officials familiar with the planned vote, the version that will be presented to cabinet and Knesset is identical to the one already made public last month. The agreement includes a commitment to continuing efforts to achieve a just, comprehensive, realistic and enduring solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, alongside understandings in other spheres such as finance and investment, civil aviation, trade and economic relations. The sale of American F-35 fighter jets to the UAE is not mentioned in the agreement, an issue that has stirred controversy as it might jeopardize Israel’s air superiority and qualitative military edge in the Middle East. The government is highly likely to vote in favor and ratify the accord, but on the chance they do not, the agreement might not go into effect.

House bill seeks to give Israel veto authority over US arms sales to Middle East,

A bipartisan group of US lawmakers are seeking to give Israel authority over American arms sales to the Middle East. A bill introduced in the House of Representatives last week by Brad Schneider, a Democrat, aims to guarantee Israel’s qualitative military edge in the Middle East. The issue has been highlighted in recent months, as the Trump administration has vowed to move forward with a sale of F-35 jets to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) despite Israel’s objections. The bill “would require the President to consult with the Israeli government to ensure [qualitative military edge] concerns are settled”, a statement released by Schneider’s office said on Friday. The United States already has legislation on the books that guarantees Israel’s edge in the Middle East, but Congress has the authority to make the distinction, not Israel, as this recently introduced legislation would require. 

'Palestinians always bet on the losing side and that comes at a price',

Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief and ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, slammed the Palestinian leadership for criticizing the decision of some Gulf states to normalize ties with Israel. In an interview with Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television on Monday, the prince labeled the Palestinians’ criticism a “transgression” and “reprehensible discourse.” “The Palestinian cause is a just cause but its advocates are failures, and the Israeli cause is unjust but its advocates have proven to be successful. That sums up the events of the last 70 or 75 years,” he said in the first of a three-part airing of the interview. “There is something that successive Palestinian leadership historically share in common: they always bet on the losing side, and that comes at a price.”

Report: France’s Macron proposes Israel sign long-term ceasefire with Hezbollah,

French President Emmanuel Macron offered to broker a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hezbollah, according to a Tuesday report in Kuwaiti paper Al-Jarida….According to a source familiar with the offer, France suggested holding parallel talks to the unprecedented U.S.-brokered talks between Lebanon and Israel over their maritime border. France believes Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah viewed the idea favorably, according to the paper.

Stephen J. Harper and Shuvaloy Majumdar: Why we should celebrate the Abraham Accords,

The Abraham Accords are truly transformative and will pave the way for historic realignments across the Middle East. Yet one of the most interesting aspects of this development is not what has been achieved, but how it has been achieved. We were told that moving embassies to Jerusalem would lead to irreparable diplomatic strife. That accepting Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights would raise the spectre of violence. That ending the Iranian nuclear deal and eliminating its terror chief would provoke regional war. That standing behind Arab allies confronting Iranian proxies in Yemen and elsewhere would inflame conflict. That dispensing with Palestinian obstruction as a condition for Arab-Israeli relations would forever damage the prospect of peace. These have been axioms of Western diplomacy. And they were all proven wrong.

Almost half of Arab youth considering emigrating, survey says,

The Arab Youth Survey 2020 has found that more than four in 10 people aged 18-24 have considered emigrating from their home countries. The survey, which interviewed 4,000 Arab youths from 17 countries and was released on Tuesday, found that 42 percent of all Arab youth surveyed had considered emigrating to another country, with 15 percent actively trying to leave. The Levant region had the highest number of youth who wanted to emigrate, at 63 percent. In Lebanon, the number stood at 77 percent. Youth in the Gulf countries of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were the least likely to emigrate, at three percent, the survey said. The survey found that disappointment with poor leadership, rampant corruption and widespread economic failure were among the reasons that many young people were considering emigrating.


US pro-Israel pastor John Hagee contracts Covid-19,

News that the 80-year-old had been diagnosed with the coronavirus was met with an outpouring of sympathy and prayers from a large section of the evangelical Christian community that is spread across the US….Still, on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted: “I pray for the speedy recovery of Pastor John Hagee. Israel has no better friend.”

Ex-Shin Bet analysts recruited to fight coronavirus within Israeli-Arab society,

Journalist Yoav Etiel reported Oct. 4 on the Walla! News website that the Israel Defense Forces’ Home Front Command is recruiting “experienced” former Shin Bet operatives “who specialized in the Arab-Israeli community,” to participate in an information campaign planned to combat the coronavirus in the Arab community. According to the official announcement, “The campaign will be charged with formulating a status report for each of the different sectors of the population in order to help the relevant divisions in the Home Front Command develop appropriate courses of action and formulate messages targeting these specific communities.”…What does Ayman Saif, head of the coronavirus general staff for the Arab community, have to say about this? In a conversation with Al-Monitor he was unequivocal, saying, “Of course I am opposed to it. There are enough public relations firms and advertising agencies in the Arab community that can provide professional services to get information out.” Knesset member Ahmad Tibi, head of the Arab Joint List party Knesset faction, told Al-Monitor, “It’s scandalous. It is now 2020. The military government ended ages ago. Anyone who makes a decision like that is stupid, arrogant and racist. It is a decision based on the stereotype that Arabs always constitute a security threat to the country. I appealed to Defense Minister [Benny] Gantz to put an immediate end to it.” In addition to this letter by Tibi to the minister of defense, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, State Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and the Chief of Home Front Command Uri Gordon, demanding that they put an immediate halt to the recruitment of former members of the Shin Bet by the Home Front Command, “with the goal of collecting intelligence about Palestinian citizens of Israel as part of its efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19.”

See also: Adalah, Israeli military recruiting Shin Bet agents to gather intelligence on Arab communities in ‘securitized’ effort to halt COVID-19

US Election

In US election to be won on margins, Modern Orthodox Jews may be key demographic,

Modern Orthodox Jews have outsized visibility not only in pro-Israel crowds at White House events, but also within the administration itself. Members of the community, whose religious orientation falls between the Conservative denomination and the more stringent traditional-Orthodox world, have been appointed to posts such as senior White House adviser, peace envoy and US ambassador to Israel. Despite the optics, however, those familiar with the small subset of roughly 300,000 US Jews caution against drawing conclusions from the South Lawn crowd regarding the movement’s broader voting patterns. Experts say Modern Orthodox voters are actually far more diverse than those Jews in denominations to the left and right. If that weren’t enough, most of these Jews are concentrated in swing states such as Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. As a result, Modern Orthodox Jews become a demographic to watch in the runup to November, with both major US parties seeking to expand their support beyond traditional boundaries.

Former Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer Endorses Joe Biden,



Lawfare/Stifling Dissent/Free Speech

Secretary Pompeo to Host [pre-recorded] Virtual Conference on Combatting Online Anti-Semitism,

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo will host and deliver opening remarks during the first-ever U.S. Government conference focused on combatting online anti-Semitism.  Organized by the Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, the virtual conference aims to explore the threats posed by anti-Semitism on the internet and social media and to consider practical responses for governments and civil society.

Permission to Narrate Palestinian Feminisms,

On September 23, 2020 the corporate digital platform Zoom blocked an online open classroom featuring Palestinian freedom fighter Leila Khaled….From our standpoint as Palestinian feminists who confront Israeli colonial occupation and dispossession, we assert that the voices, experiences and narratives of Palestinian women have long been surveilled, policed and targeted as part of the same structure of violence that targets our bodies, sexualities, lands and lives.  We understand that the attempted devaluation and erasure of our narratives as Palestinian feminists is intimately connected to the attempted erasure of our indigenous history and presence in our homeland. When writing or speaking out about the injustices facing our people, including histories of gender and sexual violence that continue to inform the present, many of us have faced Israel’s violent attempts to silence our voices and in doing so, discipline us into erasure, with punitive ramifications politically, professionally, and personally.

PA/PLO/Palestinian Politics

Accept tax revenues collected by Israel or lose aid, EU tells Palestinians,

The European Union has given the Palestinain Authority an unprecedented ultimatum: accept tax revenues collected by Israel on its behalf or lose EU aid. The PA has since May refused to accept the taxes collected on its behalf in protest against Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank. It has also severed security and civilian coordination with Israel, which were laid out under the Oslo Accords. Since the planned annexation was suspended last month, a partial stipulation of the UAE’s normalisation deal with Israel, the EU has decided it is time for the PA to come back to the table and accept the tax revenue and coordination efforts, Axios reported on Wednesday.

See also: EU gives Palestinians ultimatum by linking aid to financial ties with Israel

Palestinians ready to talk peace after US presidential election, says top Abbas adviser,

A senior adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said that an international conference, in coordination with the Quartet — the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia — should take place in early 2021 regardless of who wins the US presidential elections on Nov. 3. In an exclusive interview with Al-Monitor, Majdi Khaldi, the most senior diplomatic adviser to Abbas, reiterated the call made by the Palestinian president to the United Nations General Assembly Sept. 27, saying, “We are open to dealing with whoever is elected as president of the United States.”

UNSC to hold open session to discuss President Abbas' initiative on peace conference,

Palestine’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, said today that the UN Security Council is scheduled to hold an open session at the end of this month, for a public debate to discuss President Mahmoud Abbas’s initiative on holding an international peace conference.

Arabic press review: Arab countries obstructing Palestinian reconciliation,

Four Arab countries have rejected an agreement of understanding between the Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas which are aimed at achieving reconciliation after a 14-year political rift, the Al-Akhbar newspaper reported, citing informed sources. The Lebanese newspaper quoted its sources as saying that both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the latter of which signed a normalisation deal with Israel last month, have endorsed Egyptian and Jordanian efforts to thwart the outcomes of the Istanbul agreement.

Analysis/Long Read

A Palestinian Statelet in Gaza,

Gaza is in fact turning into a statelet separate from the West Bank, but it is Israeli policies that are driving the “Gaza is Palestine” option with a series of measures that have been implemented since the early 1990s to sever Gaza from the West Bank. This development has intensified under the administration of U.S. president Donald Trump. In the White House’s vision for Middle East peace, which turns the West Bank into a series of isolated Bantustans enveloped by Israeli territory and shorn of Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip becomes the centerpiece of any future Palestinian entity. The international community, laser focused on avoiding another war in Gaza, has prioritized the humanitarian over the political crisis, furthering the excision of the Palestinian territory. As aid flows directly into Gaza, bypassing Ramallah, and Israel and Hamas negotiate a long-term ceasefire, the Palestinian Authority (PA) finds itself increasingly marginalized.

Interview with Omar Shakir: “Legitimate Advocacy for Human Rights Is Being Silenced”,

In late November 2019, the Israeli Supreme Court upheld the Ministry of Interior’s order to deport Human Rights Watch (HRW) director for Israel and Palestine, Omar Shakir. The court based its decision on a 2017 amendment to Israel’s 1952 Entry into Israel Law enabling the government to refuse entry to foreigners who allegedly advocate for the boycott of Israel. The same law was invoked to deny entry to U.S. congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar in the summer of 2019. The campaign against Shakir began almost immediately after he was hired by HRW in 2016, and the court’s decision marked the culmination of a multi-year battle against the deportation order. In this interview, JPS Editorial Committee member, Rutgers University professor, and author Noura Erakat discusses the details of his case with Shakir in an exchange that also examines the implications of the case for human rights advocacy, in general, and for Palestinians, in particular.

Falling in line: Why the Second Intifada was a watershed moment for Israeli media,

During the days of the Second Intifada, I was working at Yedioth Ahronoth, then Israel’s most popular and influential newspaper. With over 400,000 copies circulating daily, both the writers and editors of Yedioth walked around with a sense that they were “the country’s newspaper,” shaping the Israeli consensus on the most pressing matters. As the head of reporters and later on as head desk editor, I witnessed from up close just how Yedioth’s consensus-building machine worked. It was during those days that I also saw how it was changing direction by excluding or completely distorting the voices of Palestinians in the media. After the Oslo years, Israelis were beginning to learn that there was only one side to this conflict — their side.