Top News from Israel & Palestine: September 10, 2020

What We’re Reading


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

“The United States government is planning to significantly ramp up its efforts to combat the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, The Algemeiner has learned. The initiative, led by the Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, will include a ‘diplomatic campaign,’ ‘all available legal and policy tools’ and the involvement of other government agencies, including the Commerce Department. Spearheading the project is Deputy Special Envoy David Peyman, who joined the office in May after overseeing economic sanctions enactment at the State Department. In an exclusive interview with The Algemeiner, Peyman described the new campaign to oppose BDS as an ‘intentional, strategic objective,’ and promised a ‘whole-of-government approach’ to implementing anti-BDS policy. ‘I’m actively focused, laser-focused on this issue, and we’re pursuing it relentlessly,’ said Peyman. The goal, he added, was ‘to tackle it, to fight it, to kill it.’”

Scottish Jewish lawyer plotted to frame pro-Palestinian group for home vandalism,

“A Scottish Jewish lawyer has been found to have attempted to discredit a pro-Palestinian group in accusing it of vandalism that he was aware never happened. Matthew Berlow, a criminal solicitor based in Glasgow, faces a £500 fine following a probe by the Law Society of Scotland, the local Daily Record newspaper reported Monday. A preliminary ruling said Berlow did not maintain the standards of behavior expected of a ­lawyer.”

TikTok, Israeli gov't team up to battle antisemitism, hate speech,

“Farkash-Hacohen [Minister of Strategic Affairs] called for greater accountability for the consequences of racist and antisemitic incitement on social media platforms, and for them to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism. She’s also called for social media companies to be more transparent and provide public reports on incitement and disinformation on their platforms.”

Settlements/De Facto Annexation

Researchers: Israel is going ahead with annexation,

“In light of the increasing demolition of Palestinian homes in occupied Jerusalem, a number of Palestinian researchers stressed yesterday that Israel is going ahead in its annexation plans, Safa news agency reported. During a conference organised by Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC), researchers cited the Israeli project of building the American Street which would connect illegal settlement blocs and connect the US embassy with occupied East Jerusalem. The researchers stated that up to 400 Palestinian homes would be demolished when the roads are ready, stressing that homes which are not along the route of the roads are also slated for demolition. According to the researchers, the Israeli occupation authorities claim security reasons for building this road in order to prevent Palestinian homeowners from appealing to the Israeli courts against the demolition of their properties.”

Practical Zionism Today,

“With the door (temporarily?) closed on extending sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, the time has come to return to the logic of what used to be known as ‘practical Zionism.’…If the geographical space is to effectively be shaped in accordance with the map of Israeli interests, three initiatives will be required: 1) to establish a wide-ranging string of agricultural ranches, 2) to establish a new city in the heart of the Jordan Valley along the Allon Road in the Ma’ale Efraim-Gitit area, and 3) to build a new and advanced network of roads.”

MKs urge PM to greenlight settlement construction,

“Seventeen lawmakers on Wednesday sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging him to unfreeze the construction of some 9,000 housing north of Jerusalem. The Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement, ‘Prime Minister Netanyahu has fostered an unprecedented construction boom in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and he will continue to do so. Efforts to push thought construction in the Jerusalem Zoning Committee are underway. The committee will debate the plans in the near future.’”

EU missions call on Israel to stop demolition policy,

“The European Union missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah yesterday called on Israel to stop the demolition policy pursued against Palestinian structures in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem including those funded by the EU and its member states.”

Occupation - Jerusalem

Israel court evicts Palestinian family from Jerusalem home,

“The Jerusalem District court yesterday ordered the eviction of Nasser Rajabi and his family from their home in the Batan Al-Hawa neighbourhood of Silwan, in occupied East Jerusalem. The Wadi Hilweh Information Centre, which monitors Israeli human rights violations in Jerusalem, said in a statement that the Al-Rajabi family’s property is a residential building consisting of three apartments housing 30 family members. According to the statement, the family has been locked in a legal battle over the ownership of its property since 2016. The court gave the Al-Rajabi family until 1 April next year to leave the property. In January, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ordered the family to leave their property following a lawsuit filed by the Ateret Cohanim settler association in the name of a Jewish trust from the late 19th century.”

Franco-Palestinian lawyer latest target of Israel’s Jerusalem residency revocation policy,

“Over the past 20 years, Salah Hamouri has been shot, arrested, imprisoned and seen his family forced out of the country. Last week, the Palestinian lawyer faced yet another hurdle in his fight to remain in his hometown. On 3 September, the Palestinian lawyer was summoned by Israeli intelligence services and handed a decision from Israeli Minister of Interior Aryeh Deri stipulating that his status as a permanent resident of Jerusalem was being revoked. Citing Article 11 of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, the decision was justified on grounds that Hamouri had ‘breached allegiance to the state of Israel’. ‘I now have 30 days to object to the sentence,’ Hamouri told Middle East Eye. ‘Although I am sure the Israeli minister of interior will refuse my appeal, I have the option of going to Israeli courts, which I will do. This may take years but I will not waiver my right to live in Jerusalem.’ Hamouri is the latest victim of Israel’s punitive policy of residency revocation, which has long been the bane of Palestinian Jerusalemites. Neither citizens of Israel nor residents of the occupied West Bank technically under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction, Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem have long lived in their own separate jurisdictional category. Granted so-called ‘permanent residency’ by Israel to live in their city, but at the mercy of losing it, Jerusalemites have long complained of being treated as immigrants whose presence in the city is a concession made by Israel that can be overturned at any time.”

Human Rights/Violence

A terrible injustice, belatedly acknowledged for the wrong reasons,

“The whole tragic story stinks, as it stank from the very start. In the chaotic darkness before dawn in a Bedouin village down south, a civilian lost his life. A cop lost his life. The authorities rushed to an unsupported and unsupportable conclusion, and for long years refused to acknowledge the truth. And that truth has only emerged now because of unrelated legal and political battles, raising the question of what else is being covered up by Israeli law enforcement that has yet to emerge because it does not serve somebody powerful’s unrelated personal interests.” Also see: Haaretz – In This Bedouin Town, Murder Wasn’t the Only Crime; +972 Magazine – The killing of a Bedouin man is a weapon in Netanyahu’s war for survival; Haaretz – Widow of Bedouin Man Killed by Police Demands Probe, Says Netanyahu’s Apology Not Enough

Case filed at UN against Hamas after activist detained for speaking to Israelis,

“Dozens of rights groups have filed a complaint with a UN expert panel over the five-month detention in Gaza of a Palestinian activist who organized a video conference with left-leaning campaigners in Israel. The coalition of 70 NGOs said they had lodged a complaint with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to demand the release of peace campaigner Rami Aman, detained by Hamas in Gaza on April 9. The Islamist terror group, which bans all communications with Israel, arrested six members of the Gaza Youth Committee, including Aman, the group’s founder, after they spoke to dozens of Israeli activists online.”

Israeli soldier’s plea deal in fatal shooting faces scrutiny,

“Ahmad Manasra was traveling home from a wedding when he spotted a family in distress on the side of a West Bank road. Moments later, the 22-year-old Palestinian was fatally shot while another Palestinian driver was seriously wounded — both by an Israeli soldier in a nearby watchtower. The shootings are now the focus of a plea bargain offering the soldier three months of community service — a deal that has come under fierce criticism from the victims and their families. It also revived accusations by Palestinians and human rights workers that Israel’s military justice system is hopelessly biased and creates an atmosphere of impunity for soldiers suspected of violent crimes against Palestinians.” Also see: Times of Israel – Court to check deal giving soldier 3 months of service for killing Palestinian

12 Palestinian prisoners infected with coronavirus,

“Twelve Palestinian prisoners have been officially diagnosed with the coronavirus in Israel’s Ofer Prison, reported Wafa news agency. According to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS), the infected detainees are in Section 14 of Ofer Israeli prison, with five testing positive yesterday evening and seven this morning. It also stated that a total of 27 detainees in various Israeli prisons have tested positive, in addition to two others who were officially diagnosed after being tested by the Palestinian Health Ministry immediately upon their release.”

The Gaza Strip & Hamas

Israel general: Target Hamas leaders not equipment,

“Israeli General Tal Brown has called for targeting Palestinian resistance leaders in Gaza instead of resistance sites in response to the firing of incendiary balloons into southern Israel. ‘As long as the people responsible for armed activities in the Gaza Strip are not under personal threat of harm, incendiary balloons will continue to be fired in the next [tension] rounds,’ Brown wrote on Israel’s Channel 7.”

Gaza factions say Hamas cut them out of deal with Israel,

“Hamas’ abrupt announcement of a Qatari-brokered deal with Israel to contain the escalation in Gaza was met with doubts as some parties complained of being left out of the talks.”

Plunged into despair: How Israel's policy affects Gazan families that depend on fishing for a living,

“On 12 August 2020, Israel reduced southern Gaza’s fishing range from 15 to eight nautical miles, officially because explosive-laden balloons had been launched from Gaza into Israel. On 16 August 2020, Israel banned access to the Gaza sea, and on 2 September 2020, reopened the fishing zone to 15 nautical miles. This further restriction of the permitted range joins various forms of collective punishment imposed on Palestinian fishermen since Israel began its blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Israel has arrested fishermen and seized their boats, banned the import of raw materials used for repairs, and fired at boats that it claimed sailed beyond the permitted range. To date, Israeli gunfire has killed seven fishermen and wounded hundreds. The restrictions have led to the near-collapse of the Gazan fishing industry: there are currently  less than 4,000 fishermen, as opposed to 10,000 or so 20 years ago. Those remaining suffer from perilous working conditions imposed by Israel and live with their families in abject poverty.”

Israel-UAE Deal & Broader Normalization

UAE: Israel war on Gaza will not affect ‘warm peace’ with Tel Aviv,

“A prominent Emirati official said yesterday that the controversial normalisation deal with Israel will not be affected even if Tel Aviv launches a war on the Gaza Strip. In an interview with Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, Ali Al-Nuaimi, chairman of the Defence, Interior and Foreign Affairs Committee at the UAE’s Federal Council, said that the ‘warm peace with Israel’ can endure such crises as a ‘war on Gaza’.”

Israeli-Arabs split over agreement with the Emirates,

“…the response among the Arab population is mixed, and the polemics have just begun. Those opposed to the agreement argue that it will shunt the Palestinian issue off to the side and remove it from the agenda. They worry that this agreement will lead to further agreements with other Arab states, and that these will fail to consider the Palestinians. But there are also those who speak of a unique opportunity, which will never present itself again, to build ties and connect with the Arab world, not to mention the economic and tourism benefits of the agreement. This leads to the question: Which of the Israeli Arab community’s two identities will be the decider when it comes to the agreement: its Israeli identity or its Palestinian identity?”

Arab League: Ministers agree not to condemn UAE-Israel deal,

“Palestinian leaders won renewed Saudi support for Palestinian statehood on Wednesday but failed to persuade the Arab League to condemn last month’s normalisation deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). At a video conference of foreign ministers, the Palestinian leadership softened its censure of the UAE over the US-brokered August 13 accord – to be formalised at a signing ceremony at the White House next week – in the hope of getting more Arab support, but to no avail.” Also see: Times of Israel – In blow to Palestinians, Arab League refuses to condemn Israel-UAE deal; JNS – Palestinian leadership tones down criticism of UAE-Israel peace deal; Middle East Monitor – Palestine calls Arab countries to reject Israel-UAE normalisation; Al-Monitor – Arab League refuses to back Palestinians in rebuke of Israel-UAE deal

Hamas denounces GCC criticism of Palestinian factions,

“The Palestinian Resistance Movement Hamas yesterday denounced the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)’s criticism of a meeting of Palestinian factions which condemned normalising ties with Israel, Anadolu reported. ‘The positions of Hamas and the other Palestinian factions stem from the national positions of the Palestinians and Arabs who rejected the UAE-Israeli normalisation deal,’ Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem said.”

Union of Muslim scholars forbids normalising relations with Israel,

“The International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) on Tuesday issued an unanimous religious ruling (fatwa) forbidding normalising relations with Israel. In its ruling, the union said the Palestinian cause is not just a political issue but one related to Al-Aqsa Mosque; the third holiest site for Muslims and a representation of their identity. The statement described the normalisation agreements concluded with Israel which ‘occupies most of Palestine, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque and plans to occupy the rest of the Palestinian territories’ as ‘a concession of the holiest and most blessed lands, and an acknowledgment of the legitimacy of the occupying enemy as well as its crimes against the Palestinian people. Therefore, the so-called peace, reconciliation, or normalisation agreements, in this case, are forbidden and void in Islamic Shari’a [jurisprudence], and a major crime, and a betrayal of the Islamic nation,’ it added.”

Kosovars Not Happy With Israeli Normalization But it is The Lesser of Two Evils,

“A local resident of Pristina who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons said the ruling dispensation came under the pressure of the US, as Washington wanted them to stop cold-shouldering Israel and be diplomatically warm to the Jewish state. A shopkeeper from Kosovo’s Prizren city said ‘both Albanians and Turks are uncomfortable’ with the deal. Since the US-brokered agreement was taken without parliamentary approval in Kosovo, the shopkeeper said he doesn’t think it would have been accepted if the matter had gone through the parliament…Many Kosovars say that the current government may not survive in the near future and its decision to normalise its ties with Tel Aviv will be one of the main reasons people would eject them from power. ‘Kosovars have been supporting Palestinian people since the Yugoslavia era,’ he said.”

Chad rumored to consider opening mission in Jerusalem,

“A source within the delegation that arrived Tuesday from Chad said his country would be willing to open a diplomatic mission in Jerusalem, though Chad’s Foreign Ministry denied having any plans to do so.”

Palestinians Politics & International Relations

Fatah and Hamas discuss committees for high level meeting,

“Senior officials from Fatah and Hamas, along with those from other Palestinian organisations, are discussing the creation of committees to expedite the decisions taken at the secretary general-level meeting held in Beirut last week. On the agenda will be mechanisms to end the political split that has plagued the Palestinians for more than a decade. It is intended that the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s executive committee will discuss the outcomes of that meeting and make sure that decisions are acted upon.”

‘Implications of PA's collapse may not be as dramatic as assumed',

“The prospect of the Palestinian Authority imploding should not concern Israel as much as it does, a new study by the Bithonistim security and defense forum, presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week, concluded. Netanyahu had asked the forum’s top members, including former head of the IDF Intelligence Directorate’s Research Division Brig. Gen. (ret.) Yossi Kuperwasser, to study the reification [sic] the PA’s potential economic collapse would have for Israel in a meeting they held about two months ago.”

US Scene

Israeli Filmmakers Put AIPAC and U.S. Evangelicals Under the Spotlight – and Are Alarmed at What They Find,

“Two new documentaries, ‘Kings of Capitol Hill’ and ‘Til Kingdom Come,’ offer a fascinating snapshot of the past, present and future of pro-Israel lobby groups in Washington.”

Congress questions sale of US residence in Israel to Adelson,

“The State Department has informally confirmed to Congress that Republican super-donor Sheldon Adelson is the buyer of the U.S. ambassador’s official residence in Israel, a congressional aide told The Associated Press on Wednesday. Lawmakers in the House and Senate are now looking into whether the deal complied with regulations.”

Kushner: Our plan is bid to save 2-state solution; Israel was eating up the land,

“Trump adviser warns Palestinians that if they continue to reject Trump peace proposal ‘the situation is just going to get worse and worse for them’; says US won’t ‘chase’ Ramallah.”

Sherman slams rivals on their Israel record in race for Foreign Affairs chairmanship,

“Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), one of several legislators vying to succeed Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) as chairman of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, questioned the other candidates’ commitments to a strong and bipartisan U.S.-Israel alliance on Wednesday as he seeks to ramp up support for his candidacy.  In a Zoom call hosted by Democratic Majority for Israel, Sherman sought to distance himself from rivals Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Joaquín Castro (D-TX). The California Democrat highlighted his refusal to boycott Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2015 speech to Congress, his opposition to the Obama administration’s abstention on the U.N. Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements (UNSC 2334) and his commitment to unconditioned military aid to Israel.”