Top News from Israel & Palestine: September 15, 2021

What We’re Reading

Occupation & Apartheid: West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem

In Jerusalem's Holiest Site, These Modern Pilgrims Are Playing With Fire,

“Despite religious edicts forbidding Jewish prayer, the status quo appears to be under threat at the Jerusalem holy site that’s sacred to both Muslims and Jews – and historically is at the heart of regional sectarian violence.”

The West Bank Archaeological Site at the Center of a Passionate Jewish-Palestinian Struggle,

“Tel Sebastia in the West Bank has become a battleground for both control of the site as well as over its historical narrative. The Israeli army, a huge Palestinian flag and Ahab, seventh king of Israel, have all been co-opted for the cause.”

Israeli occupation forces raid, ransack trade union office in Ramallah,

“Israeli occupation forces early today raided the headquarters of a trade union in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, according to local sources.They said that Israeli soldiers broke down the main door and entered the office of the General Trade Union of Workers in Services and Entrepreneurship Sector, tampering with its contents and seizing several computer hard discs and documents. Israeli forces have recently targeted international and local human rights organizations and Palestinian civil society organizations (CSOs) in the occupied territories, closing some of them for six months under flimsy pretexts.”

Israeli occupation forces, settlers attack Palestinian homes in the occupied section of Hebron city,

“Israeli occupation forces and settlers today attacked Palestinian homes in the occupied section of the southern West Bank city of Hebron, according to local sources. Aref Jaber, an activist against settlements, told WAFA that settlers from the illegal Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba attacked with stones and empty bottles houses of Palestinian residents in Jaber neighborhood, east of Hebron, and when the residents confronted the settlers, Israeli forces in the area fired live bullets and sound bombs at them causing panic, especially among children.” Also see: video

Israel locks down Palestinian territories for Jewish holiday,

“Israel will seal off the Palestinian territories as of Wednesday afternoon until midnight Thursday for the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. The Israeli Broadcasting Corporation network said the army will deploy additional forces to deal with any possible Palestinian protests during the holiday.”

Bulldozers bring heartbreak to Silwan,

“Caution tape still adorns the ruins of what was once a butcher shop owned by Nidal al-Rajabi in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. On 29 June, with one pass or sweep of a bulldozer, Israeli forces razed al-Rajabi’s shop, which provided the sole income to support 14 people. For 1,500 people in the al-Bustan quarter of Silwan threatened with displacement and demolition, the pile of rubble represents the remnants of a much larger fight against Israel’s efforts to expel Palestinians from the area. Amani Odeh, a 34-year-old dentist, has been waging this battle since Israeli authorities delivered demolition orders at her parents’ door in 2005. Demolitions in the neighborhood threaten to displace all 170 of her relatives spread across 39 houses.”


Prisoners & Jailbreak

Jailbreak mastermind claims nobody aided escape from Gilboa Prison,

“The reported mastermind behind last week’s jailbreak from Gilboa Prison said he and the other five escapees planned their operation nine months ago, and received no help from other prisoners. Mahmoud al-Arida spoke on Tuesday night with his lawyer, Raslan Mahajna, for the first time since his arrest on Friday, and revealed new information regarding the escape. ‘I am responsible for all planning for the escape and the excavation,’ al-Arida boasted, according to Hebrew-language media reports Wednesday. He said they received no assistance from inside or outside the prison.     But according to a Tuesday report, investigators probing last Monday’s escape believe that at least 11 prisoners were involved in the digging of the tunnel, which began as early as November 2020.”

Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails call off hunger strike after authorities agree to their demands,

“The Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails today called off a hunger strike they were planning to start on Friday after the Israel Prison Services (IPS) agreed to their demands that included ending the collective punishment imposed against them following the escape of six prisoners from Gilboa prison last week, according to the Palestinian Prisoner Society (PPS). The prisoners were planning to start on Friday a gradually hunger strike that would have involved all 4500 Palestinian resistance fighters incarcerated in Israel.”


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Arab League warns Israel over Palestinian prisoners,

“The Arab League’s general secretariat said it holds Israel’s government fully responsible for the welfare of the six Palestinian inmates who escaped an Israeli prison last week. Saeed Abu Ali, the organization’s assistant secretary-general for the occupied Arab territories, said the general secretariat is following with great concern the measures taken by Israeli authorities after the six inmates escaped Gilboa prison. Four of them have since been caught. Abu Ali affirmed the general secretariat’s absolute support for the Palestinian people, saying the issue of prisoners is one of rights, freedom and justice. He warned against punishing the six Palestinian prisoners and harming those who struggle for freedom and justice, stressing their rights international humanitarian law.”

Minors make up 67% of detainees at one Israeli detention centre,

“Two thirds of the Palestinian detainees in an Israeli detention facility at the illegal Etzion settlement bloc, south of the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, are minors, the Detainees and Ex-Detainees’ Affairs Commission revealed today. It said there were 24 Palestinian minors in the detention facility of Etzion who account for two thirds of the total number of detainees there. The majority were subjected to various forms of torture – both physical and psychological – during their detention and interrogation.”

At least seven Palestinians detained by Israeli occupation forces in the occupied territories,

“Israeli occupation forces today detained at least seven Palestinians from various parts of the occupied territories, according to local and Palestinian security sources and WAFA correspondent. They said that an Israeli force raided several neighborhoods of Ramallah and al-Bireh cities, including al-Irsal neighborhood, where they detained a 65-year-old man after storming his home…Israeli forces also detained a student enrolled in Birzeit University after storming his family home in Ramallah city…In occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli police detained two Palestinians, including a former prisoner, from Isawiyya neighborhood, as confirmed by the Wadi Hilweh Information Center. In the northern West Bank, undercover Israeli forces sneaked into Huwara town, south of Nablus, where they abducted a 16-year-old teen and assaulted him. Soldiers also raided Yabad town, southwest of Jenin city, and detained two people.”

Peace Process?

Palestinian statehood would be a 'terrible mistake' - Bennett,

“It would be a terrible mistake to create a Palestinian state, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a series of media interviews he gave on Tuesday night just after his return from his historic meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. ‘I oppose a Palestinian state. I think it would be a terrible mistake that would take the terrible situation in Gaza and recreate it in Judea and Samaria,’ Bennett told KAN news.”


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Israel FM says 'impossible' to reach an agreement with PA president,

“Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman said today that it impossible to reach an agreement with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Anadolu reported. ‘Security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority is a common interest, but it is not possible to reach a political settlement with Abu Mazen,’ Lieberman said in reference to Abbas. His comments reiterate those of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who said yesterday that he sees no reason to meet with Abbas, despite a number of high-level contacts between Israel’s new government and the PA.”

DM Benny Gantz: Israel won't evacuate settlements,

“In an interview with the U.S.-based Foreign Policy magazine in which he focused on the Iran nuclear threat and a likely return to negotiations, Defense Minister Benny Gantz also referred to the prospects of a peace deal with the PA. Gantz said Israel would not evacuate Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria but later on conceded that, ‘We will need two political entities.’ The Minister of Defense stated that while security cooperation with the PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas was of ‘the utter importance’, Abbas ‘still believes in a return to the pre-’67 armistice borders.’ ‘He needs to realize we’re here to stay,’ continued Gantz, adding: ‘It won’t happen. We won’t evacuate settlements.’”

Confidence-building measures with Israel trigger mixed reactions among PA leaders,

“All of the recent confidence-building measures, which fall under the heading of improving the living conditions of the Palestinians and supporting the PA, are the outcome of pressure exerted by the US administration. It seems the PA has been dealing with these measures positively, despite the Israeli government’s insistence not to discuss the political issues. The PA believes that these steps could increase its internal popularity, tame the tension and anger in the street against it, and restore its relations with the United States.”

Bennett Says Israel Pushing for Long-term Truce in Gaza 'But if Not, There Are Alternatives',

“…With regard to the situation in Gaza, Bennett said that the option of a military operation is on the table. ‘The defense minister has taken on himself a move, and is working very hard on it, to come to an arrangement and long-term calm in Gaza. If this succeeds, that’s great, but if not, there are alternatives.’ He added that in contrast to previous governments, his government responds ‘to every balloon’ sent from Gaza.”


Saudi Arabia considers buying Israeli missile defence system,

“Saudi Arabia has reached out to Israel over the possibility of procuring missile defence systems, according to trade-specific news and analysis magazine Breaking Defence. The Iron Dome manufactured by Israel’s defence technology company Rafael and Barak ER produced by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) are two of the options being considered by Riyadh. Israeli defence sources told the magazine that such a deal would be realistic, as long as both nations received approval from Washington. One source added that Saudi Arabia’s ‘interest in the Israeli systems has reached a very practical phase.’ The same sources are reported as saying that Riyadh has already held low-level talks with Tel-Aviv for several years about such systems. The talks apparently began to take on more energy once it became clear that the US was going to remove its air defence assets from the Kingdom.”

UAE puts 4 human rights defenders on terror list,

“Authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have placed 38 individuals and 15 companies on a terrorism list, saying they are ‘keen to target networks linked to the financing of terrorism.’…The four opposition figures had announced the formation of the ‘Emirati League Against Normalisation’ more than a year ago and issued a statement calling the normalisation agreement with the Israeli occupation a departure from the principles on which the UAE was founded.” Also see: UAE seeks staggering $1 trillion in economic ties with Israel over next decade (Times of Israel)

Fintech and fighter jets: One year on, UAE-Israel ties bear fruit,

“Despite ongoing tensions and conflict with Palestinians, Abraham Accords have brought tourism, aviation and financial deals that alone totaled over $500 million for both countries in August.”

Lebanon sends six to prison for obtaining Israeli citizenship,

“A Lebanese military court yesterday sentenced six citizens to 15 years of hard labour in prison for entering Israel and obtaining Israeli citizenship. Lebanon is treated officially as an ‘enemy state’ by Israel and has no diplomatic or other relations with the occupation state. According to the court, ‘The defendants made contact with the Israeli enemy and its agents, entered the country without permission from the Lebanese government, resided there, and obtained Israeli citizenship.’”

Lawfare, Surveillance, & Social Media

ACLU Becomes Top Legal Defender of Anti-Semitic BDS Campaign,

“The American Civil Liberties Union has evolved into the most powerful legal advocate for the anti-Semitic Israel boycott movement in the United States, a move critics argue undercuts the organization’s reputation as an advocate for minorities and other underrepresented groups. Now, as it prepares to defend that movement before a panel of federal appellate judges next week in a lawsuit against the state of Arkansas, the ACLU is facing fresh scrutiny from state lawmakers and legal experts who argue that the organization sticks up for all sorts of embattled minorities but is now embracing anti-Semitism.” Also see: Lara Friedman’s Twitter thread, starting with – “Backers of laws creating a free speech exception targeting critics of Israel/settlements – laws that are brazenly unconstitutional & already being used as template for targeting free speech on guns & fossil fuels – are now turning their wrath on the ACLU.”

Oversight Board overturns original Facebook decision: Case 2021-009-FB-UA,

“The Oversight Board agrees that Facebook was correct to reverse its original decision to remove content on Facebook that shared a news post about a threat of violence from the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian group Hamas. Facebook originally removed the content under the Dangerous Individuals and Organizations Community Standard, and restored it after the Board selected this case for review. The Board concludes that removing the content did not reduce offline harm and restricted freedom of expression on an issue of public interest.” Also see important analysis on the decision in this Twitter thread.

New Jersey threatens to divest from Ben & Jerry's over Israel settlements pullout,

“The US state of New Jersey warned yesterday that it will consider divesting funds Ben & Jerry’s, along with its parent company, Unilever, as a result of the ice-cream firms decision to stop selling ice cream in the illegal settlements located in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

Ex-U.S. Intelligence Officers Admit to Hacking Crimes in Work for Emiratis,

“…The investigation into the American employees of DarkMatter has continued for years, and it had been unclear whether prosecutors would bring charges. Experts cited potential diplomatic concerns about jeopardizing the United States’ relationship with the Emirates — a country that has cultivated close ties to the past several American administrations — as well as worries about whether pursuing the case might expose embarrassing details about the extent of the cooperation between DarkMatter and American intelligence agencies.”

BDS resolution withdrawn at Burlington city council meeting after community rallies against it,

“After more than two hours of public comments, the Burlington City Council meeting in Vermont ended on Monday night with a vote to withdraw a resolution that would have made it the first city in the United States to support the BDS movement and efforts to boycott Israel. ‘Last night’s vote was an incredible win for those opposed to BDS,’ said Yoram Samets, chair of the anti-Semitism task group of the Jewish Communities of Vermont. ‘We found out about this resolution two weeks ago. When we jumped into this challenge, we knew that seven city council members supported the resolution, and we were uncertain where the mayor would stand.’”

San Francisco union shelves BDS resolution,

“The San Francisco Labor Council (SFLC) has decided to shelve a proposed BDS resolution, going against a rising national trend of unions putting forwards resolutions on the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”