Top News from Israel & Palestine: September 16, 2021

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New from FMEP

[Podcast] The Abraham Accords, Israel, Biden, and Regional Trends,

This week marks the first anniversary of the Abraham Accords. In this podcast, FMEP’s Lara Friedman talks with the Quincy Institute’s Annelle Sheline about the impact of those accords so far, and where the region is headed in the coming period.

Prison Break

Two of the Captured Detainees Report Torture, one Hospitalized,

“Lawyers for two of the Palestinian prisoners who managed to escape Israeli prison on September 6, on Wednesday, confirmed that the escapees have suffered torture at the hands of the Israeli forces, the Associated Press (AP) has revealed. For the first time, since they were captured, on September 11, lawyers were permitted to interview two of the detainees. Attorney with the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) Raslan Mahajna, met with political prisoner Mahmoud al-‘Arda, one of the six Palestinians who escaped from Israeli prison, who informed him of the harsh details of interrogation and the systematic denial of basic human needs.”


Also See

Arab League: Israel Stands Responsible For The Palestinian Prisoners Welfare,

“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.”

Palestinian Prisoner Vows to Escape Again,

“Hannan al-Khatib, a lawyer associated with a delegation linked to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), visited Qadri, and the delegation issued a statement following his visit. The statement noted that Qadri said he would keep fighting for his freedom until his last breath and the times he spent breathing freely in Palestine after escaping from the prison were the “best days” of his life. It further noted that Qadri was held in a small space in a Israeli prison without anything but a blanket and interrogators were subjecting him to psychological torture.”


Sheikh Jarrah’s El-Kurd twins make TIME top 100 list,

“Palestinian rights activists Muna and Mohammed El-Kurd, whose family faces forced displacement from their home in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, have been named to TIME magazine’s annual list of the 100 most-influential people in the world. The twins, aged 23, earlier this year became the faces of a global campaign to halt Israeli efforts to forcibly displace Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Jewish settlers. Israeli forces detained and questioned the siblings for several hours over their activism in June. “Through online posts and media appearances, sibling activists Mohammed and Muna El-Kurd provided the world with a window into living under occupation in East Jerusalem this spring – helping to prompt an international shift in rhetoric in regard to Israel and Palestine,” the magazine wrote about the siblings.In a statement on Twitter on Wednesday, Mohammad El-Kurd said that although being named to the list was a “positive” development, symbolism is not enough to truly support the Palestinian cause.” Also See – “Mohammed El-Kurd urges ‘tangible change in media system’ after TIME Magazine recognition” (The New Arab); “Palestinian activist twins featured in Time’s 100 most influential people 2021” (Middle East Eye)

Bennett Makes Time Magazine's 2021 List as Islamist Coalition Partner Hails His 'Courage',

“Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has made Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people, and his Arab-Israeli coalition partner Mansour Abbas thinks he knows why. “It all comes down to courage,” Abbas, the leader of the first Arab party to join an Israeli governing coalition, writes in the accompanying blurb explaining why his political opposite was recognized on the list published Wednesday. “After four elections in two years, a bold act was needed to unite a country frayed by political stalemate and brought to a desperate standstill. Something dramatic needed to change, but more importantly, someone courageous needed to make that change.”…Also on the Time list, in the “Icons” category, are brother and sister Palestinian activists Muna and Mohammed El-Kurd, who focused international attention this spring on efforts to evict Palestinians who have lived in their eastern Jerusalem home for decades.” Also See – “Naftali Bennett made the Time 100 list. It’s because of ‘courage,’ his Arab-Israeli coalition partner writes.” (JTA)


Qatar resumes aid to thousands of Gaza families,

“Qatar has resumed its distribution of aid to the besieged Gaza Strip for the first time since an escalation in violence in May between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian group that governs the territory. The Hamas-run government’s official news agency said the money is being disbursed through supermarkets, money exchange shops and other retail stores in a process that will continue during the coming days. The office of Qatar’s Gaza envoy, Mohammed el-Amadi, confirmed on Wednesday that the payments had restarted. The UN has said the funding amounts to $40m.”

West Bank & East Jerusalem

Israel army chief threatens 'large-scale operation' on Jenin after Gilboa jailbreak,

“Israel has plans ready to attack the occupied West Bank’s Jenin, the Israeli army’s chief said on Wednesday, after Tel Aviv suffered a serious embarrassment when a group of Palestinians escaped a high-security prison…One or both of those still on the run could now be holed up in Jenin, Kochavi said, prompting “the possibility of launching a large-scale military operation in Jenin.” “The plans are ready,” Kochavi told Tel Aviv-based broadcaster Channel 12. “If the situation escalates, we will launch an operation whenever we need to.” “[If] the number of attacks emanating from the city of Jenin in general, or the refugee camp in particular increases, it may be inevitable to launch an attack”. Kochavi said that the attack would target what he labelled “the terrorist cells in these areas”.” Also See – “Israel army chief: Raiding Jenin could become inevitable choice” (Middle East Monitor)

Israel's new plan is to 'shrink,' not solve, the Palestinian conflict. Here's what that looks like,

“The left, at best, doesn’t see much new in Goodman’s thesis and at worst is suspicious that “shrinking the conflict” is the same approach adopted in the past by the Israeli right — “managing the conflict” or “economic peace” — only rebranded. According to Dahlia Scheindlin, a political analyst at the Century Foundation think tank, Goodman’s approach appears to “perpetuate the paradigm of Israel giveth and Israel taketh away, and it’s unclear if it’s sincere regarding genuine Palestinian self-determination.” The new Israeli government, she adds, “latched onto a slogan, but I don’t know what content behind the slogan they’re actually going to implement and what their intention is behind it.” Palestinians appear bemused by this wholly Israeli debate about what is fundamentally their future too.

Elderly Palestinian resists Israel’s settlement ambitions,

“Near the border of the Palestinian territories with Jordan, Palestinian Hayel Mahmoud Bisharat, 76, has lived for 42 years on a high peak in Khirbet Humsa al-Tahta, which is a Palestinian Bedouin community within the Tubas governorate and the northern Jordan Valley in the northeastern West Bank. Along with members of his family, Bisharat is trying to resist Israel’s greed, as he lost vast acres of his land that extends over an area of ​​200 acres in favor of settlement expansion projects that already forced 38 members of his family to flee to the neighboring villages of the Tubas governorate. Israeli forces constantly invade the hill stretching over an area of ​​five acres to demolish the houses Bisharat repeatedly builds and ravage his sheep pens, which are the main source of livelihood for Bisharat and his family. He currently lives on top of the mountainous hill, which is surrounded by Israelis on three sides — namely the Hamra settlement, a training camp for the Israeli forces and an Israeli military checkpoint in Hamra.”

When Palestinian Political Speech Is “Incitement”,

“Since the latest escalation in violence in Israel/Palestine this May, incitement cases against Palestinian social media users have been on the rise, according to Adalah; 185 such indictments were filed in the late spring and summer. The proliferation of these charges comes alongside the growing use of online platforms to condemn Israeli military occupation and settler expansion. This spring, Palestinian activists used Twitter and TikTok to coordinate an unprecedented general strike that shut down businesses on both sides of the Green Line; in the months since, they have continued to broadcast scenes of American-born settlers taking over Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, and to share experiences of living under siege in the Gaza strip with the world. Political pundits have nicknamed this new wave of resistance “the TikTok Intifada.” But even as Palestinians have found new ways to gather online, prominent activists have been penalized for using these platforms. As leading figures like Kana’neh are forced out of public view, organizers who would follow their example may be intimidated into silence. “

'48 Israel

Israel shuts down for Yom Kippur, but forces on high alert,

“Israel shut down on Wednesday evening for Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement and the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, even as security forces remained on high alert amid a recent spike in attacks and with two escaped Palestinian security prisoners still on the run…Jerusalem has seen a spate of stabbing attacks in recent days, apparently in solidarity with six Palestinian security prisoners who escaped from the Gilboa Prison last week. Two of the six are still on the run. Searches for the two fugitives were expected to continue on Yom Kippur, Channel 13 reported, with the focus now on the northern West Bank. The IDF also imposed a closure on the West Bank and Gaza, a standard practice over Israeli holidays in a bid to ward off attacks.”

Man Seriously Wounded in Jaffa Stabbing; Palestinian Suspect Arrested,

“A Palestinian man was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of stabbing and seriously wounding an East Jerusalem resident in Jaffa, with police saying the assailant planned to harm Jews. The Palestinian, in his 20s from the West Bank, was taken in for questioning. Police are searching for two additional suspects. The 49-year-old victim, a Christian from East Jerusalem, managed to call the police after he had been stabbed and was taken to Wolfson Medical Center in Holon with impaired consciousness. According to a police source, the assailant has been residing illegally in Israel over the past few days. The Palestinian man, the source added, said during questioning that he had planned to carry out a stabbing attack. Police believe that he sought to harm Jews as Israel marks Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.”

The Palestinian Scene

Palestinian NGOs begin campaign against political corruption,

“For years, the AMAN coalition of Palestinian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) focused on issues of administrative and financial corruption. However, the Palestine chapter of Transparency International, which was established in 2000, decided in 2021 to tackle a much more controversial issue: political corruption. Those two words seem to many to be synonymous rather than an oxymoron, but the eroding integrity of the current Palestinian leadership appears to have forced the local Transparency International to raise the stakes and tackle a corrupt political system that among other things canceled an already long-overdue national election and allegedly ordered harming a critic in Hebron by the Palestinian security forces, an act that led to his death and the violent crackdown of demonstrations calling for accountability.”

Textbook hypocrisy: EU's new low point on Palestine,

“The whole idea that Palestinian anger towards Israel is driven by textbooks rather than the daily injustices Palestinians suffer under its occupation shows a lack of basic empathy. While both sides tend to omit the other from their schoolbook maps, Israel’s expanding settlements are erasing any possibility of a Palestinian state on the ground. This leaves in place open-ended Israeli occupation and ethno-domination over the Palestinians – recently qualified by the Human Rights Watch as meeting the legal definition of apartheid. Getting the EU bogged down in one-sided textbook revisions is a perfect way to deflect from that chilling development.”

Israeli Diplomacy & News from the Region

Bennett rules out meeting Abbas, but not economic cooperation,

“Interestingly, in his Ynet interview, Bennett was reluctant to say outright that Abbas was not a partner for possible dialogue or cooperation. ‘’Let’s leave aside definitions. Does anyone think there is a chance for a breakthrough? No one really believes that. I cannot repeat the stances of [President Joe] Biden and [Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al] Sisi. But I am a great believer that actions on the ground, especially in the economic and business domains, could serve as stabilizing elements.’’”

Gantz says Israel could accept new nuclear deal with Iran,

“Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz signaled that Israel could tolerate an American return to a nuclear deal with Iran, marking a departure from the rhetoric previously used by senior Israel officials to describe the multilateral accord. “The current US approach of putting the Iran nuclear program back in a box, I’d accept that,” Gantz told Foreign Policy in an interview published Tuesday.  The “back in the box” language has been used by US officials to describe their efforts to salvage the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the landmark nuclear deal abandoned by President Donald Trump in 2018. Under the multilateral pact, Iran agreed to limits on its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief. The Times of Israel quotes Gantz’ spokesperson as saying the minister does not support a US return to the landmark nuclear agreement but “rather maintains that Israel would accept some other longer, broader and stronger nuclear agreement.””

Israel Has Bolstered Red Sea Activities Over Iran Threats, Ex-navy Chief Says,

“Israel’s navy has stepped up its activities in the Red Sea “exponentially” in the face of growing Iranian threats to Israeli shipping, the country’s just-retired navy commander said in an interview. Vice Adm. Eli Sharvit stopped short of confirming a series of attacks and mishaps on Iranian ships that have been attributed to Israel. But he described Iranian activities on the high seas as a top Israeli concern and said the navy is able to strike wherever necessary to protect the country’s economic and security interests.”

Alignment of Egyptian-Israeli interests apparent in meeting of leaders on key regional issues,

“One key motivating factor behind El-Sisi’s decision to host Bennett is the Egyptian concern over a possible downgrade in relations between Cairo and Washington. This week, the Biden administration reportedly decided to hold some aid money from Egypt. According to a report by Politico, citing an American official, the Biden administration “has decided it will hold back some, but not most, of $300 million in conditioned military aid to Egypt over human-rights concerns” while “the money that is being sent will also have restrictions on its use.” The United States provides Egypt with $1.3 billion in annual military aid with Congress conditioning $300 million of that money on human-rights issues.”

UAE, Israel normalisation saved two-state solution, Emirati envoy says,

“The UAE Ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al-Otaiba, said the normalisation agreement signed between his country and Israel has saved the two-state solution. Speaking at an event organised by the Woodrow Wilson International Centre in Washington, Al-Otaiba said: “If the Abraham Accords had not occurred, we would not have talked about the possible two-state solution. I will be very frank. I think we are saving the two-state solution.” “Let me remind you that when Egypt made peace with Israel, there were no concessions to the Palestinians, and when Jordan concluded peace with Israel, there were no concessions to the Palestinians,” the Emirati diplomat said, adding that “perhaps this is the greatest advantage that has been achieved for the Palestinian cause in the past twenty years.””

The U.S.

Restricting US Military Aid to Israel in the Age of Normalization,

“Executive Summary: With the rise in global solidarity with Palestinians since the May 2021 Unity Intifada, United States policymakers and activists are calling for conditioning and halting US military aid to Israel. Al-Shabaka’s US policy fellow, Nadya Tannous, examines this shifting tide and offers recommendations for how policymakers, lobbyists, and the international community can seize on this historic moment in the defense of Palestinian rights.”

Palestinian-Americans are turning the tide of US policy,

“For many in the Palestinian diaspora, this enraging feeling is always compounded by a sense of paralyzing helplessness that stems from our physical distance, as we are forced to sit by and watch as Israeli forces pummel what could and should be “home.” The sense that we play only a peripheral role in the Palestinian struggle for liberation perpetually hovers over our heads, mingling with the fierce loyalty we have to a place we cannot return to. And like others, I have often internalized the fragmentation forced upon our people — a divide and conquer tactic that Israel has perfected over the course of decades. Or so we thought. Over the past few months, the global response to the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem neighborhoods like Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, along with Israel’s latest war crimes in Gaza, have shaken the policy of fragmentation that Israel hoped would permanently cripple the Palestinian movement. For what felt like the first time in decades, Palestinians from all geographies rose up in unprecedented scenes of unity, their shared identity superseding their physical and psychological separation under varying forms of Israeli apartheid.”

Vermont BDS resolution gets sent back to committee after pro-Israel backlash,

“Burlington, Vermont’s city council was scheduled to vote on a resolution endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) this week, but the sponsor sent the measure back to committee after backlash from pro-Israel groups. Burlington City Council member Ali Dieng had introduced the resolution in response a campaign waged by Vermonters for Justice in Palestine (VTJP), the same organization that helped pressure Ben & Jerry’s to stop selling its ice cream in illegal Israeli settlements.”