Top News from Israel & Palestine: September 20, 2021

What We’re Reading

John Legend on Palestine

John Legend to Mehdi Hasan on why he speaks out re: Palestinian rights,

Legend: “…when I see what’s happening in Palestine to the Palestinian people, where they’re clearly not being able to experience full rights that they deserve, and it’s an extremely unfair, difficult life they are forced to live, I had to say something. It’s not fair. It’s not just. And given that Israel is the recipient of so much American aid and support, and is named as one of our strongest allies, we should hold them to a higher standard. What they’re doing with the Palestinian people is not fair and it shouldn’t be done in our name, with our resources contributing to it.”

West Bank

IDF soldiers injure left-wing activists at West Bank protest, drawing outcry,

“Several left-wing Israeli and Palestinian activists were wounded in the south Hebron hills on Friday afternoon after the Israeli army dispersed a protest in the area. In one video from the incident, which took place near the illegal West Bank outpost of Avigayil, an Israeli officer can be seen forcefully shoving an activist in his 60s to the ground; he was later hospitalized. The clip circulated widely on Israeli social media and television channels. The military claimed demonstrators had violently blocked the road to Avigayil, a charge demonstrators vociferously deny. Around 40 activists participated in the event, which aimed to raise awareness over inequality in access to water between Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank…In videos from the incident, the Israeli commanding officer can be seen repeatedly shoving apparently peaceful demonstrators off the road leading to the outpost. In one clip, he can be seen hurling left-wing demonstrator Eli Ziv, 65, to the ground. Ziv was later hospitalized in Tel Aviv with broken bones and facial injuries. He is set to undergo surgery this week.”


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Mental health impact on children of forcible home invasions in the occupied Palestinian territory,

“A new report by three leading Israeli human rights organisations—Physicians for Human Rights Israel, Yesh Din and Breaking the Silence—documents the grievous mental health repercussions, including on children, of the Israeli policy of forcible invasions by the military into the homes of West Bank Palestinian families…At a time when there are increasing concerns globally about violence perpetrated against children, the political goals of this tactic, its frequency, the adverse mental health impact on children as well as lack of available studies until now means that it bears close examination and criticism…Forcible home invasions are not the only exposure these victims have to direct and indirect violence. It is well established that there is a high prevalence of stress-related disorders and especially post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among Palestinians. While lifetime prevalence for PTSD in children ranges from 6.8% to 12.2% worldwide, among Palestinian children living in the West Bank it is estimated to be 34.1%–50.4%”

Palestinian grandmother blocked from retrieved land seven years after court order,

“’I want to go back to my land before I die!’ shouted Mariam Hassan Hammad, 80, at a group of Israeli occupation soldiers, who stood – armed from head to toe – blocking Palestinian landowners from reaching their lands in the Thahr al-Mazare’ area, northeast of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. The Palestinian landowners, including Mariam, were scheduled to enter their land on Saturday, 30 years after it was confiscated to build the illegal settlement of Ofra…On Saturday afternoon, the landowners headed towards their fields, carrying in their hands the Israeli Supreme Court’s order to return their lands in 2020, three years after the settlement of Amona was evacuated. Palestinians won the long court battles after managing to prove it was their private property upon which the outpost was built…As they approached their land, a surprise lay waiting for them. A group of Israeli soldiers blocked the landowners from reaching their area…When the families presented the soldiers with the papers containing the court’s decision and requested that they be permitted to access their lands, they were met with sarcasm and were told to turn back.”

The Gaza Strip

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid Meets With Egyptian Counterpart,

“Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spoke by telephone on Saturday with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry. The move is yet another sign of warming ties between Jerusalem and Cairo, less than a week after Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visited Egypt, where his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu had not visited since 2011. ‘Our conversation was warm and friendly,’ said Lapid. ‘We have a common desire to strengthen the ties between our two countries as well as economic cooperation.’ The Israeli minister also clarified that the exchange had focused on the ‘economy for security’ plan for the Gaza Strip, which he presented last week.”

'Just Hit Gaza Harder': No End in Sight for Israel’s Collective Punishment of Two Million Palestinian Civilians,

“Successive Israeli governments continue to pretend that if they just hammer Gaza harder, even by committing war crimes, they’ll get what they want. And this government is proving no exception.”

Hamas slams Arab MK for saying offensive on Gaza will not push his party to leave government,

“Hamas criticised an Arab member of Israel’s parliament who said his party would not leave the Israeli coalition government if it launched an offensive on Gaza. Israeli-Arab MK Walid Taha, who replaced a deceased colleague as head of Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee earlier this month, made his remarks in an interview with Israeli TV Channel 12. When asked what his party would do in the event of an Israeli offensive on Gaza like the one that took place in May, Taha said: ‘We despise wars, no matter [if they are waged by] the former, current or next government. What is the alternative? Let’s assume, God forbid, that there is a war with Gaza. So we have left the coalition, will the next government do good for Gaza?’”

UNRWA cuts exclude Gaza’s most deprived children of an education,

“Mohammed Ashour (6) was unable to join other children his age as they start primary school this autumn after his parents were told that he cannot enrol in a school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in the Gaza strip, according to new procedures which affect a segment of the population known locally as mahareem (‘deprived’). Mohammed is not the only child who has been unable to register in an UNRWA school: there are many others like him whose mothers are registered refugees, and whose siblings have always been treated as refugees and were registered in the agency’s schools. The label ‘mahareem’ is used for Palestinian families who benefit from UNRWA services and who have been categorised by the agency as ‘poor’, which formerly allowed them access to health, education and other relief services without their being formally registered as refugees.”

Report: Israel unlinks Gaza's rehabilitation from progress on captives,

“Ramallah-based Al-Ayyam daily cites Hamas official as saying the group seeks to have mediators pressure Israel into lifting more restrictions placed on the Strip.”


New Outline Plan for Givat Hamatos Approved for Deposit by Local Planning Committee,

“On September 12, a new outline plan (TPS 979336) initiated by the Jerusalem Municipality for Givat Hamatos A was approved for deposit for objections by the Local Planning Committee. The new plan would replace the already approved outline plan (TPS 14295) from 2014 for 2610 housing units, 1257 of which were tendered at the beginning of 2021. While the new plan will not prevent the tendered units from moving forward, further research is necessary to fully understand its potential impact on the construction process of the housing units. According to the information currently available, the new plan neither expands the territorial area of the future settlement nor does it explicitly call for an increase in the number of housing units. However, it does cite a 30% increase in the total scope of construction, which appears contradictory. Additional information is still needed to definitively confirm the details of this apparent 30% increase; however, it could be allocated, for example, towards the enlargement of individual housing units.”

Israel Must Stop Breaching the Status Quo on the Temple Mount,

“Quietly, under the radar, Israel is breaching the status quo on the Temple Mount. For the past two years, under police protection, groups of Jews who ascend the Mount hold daily morning and afternoon prayers, together in a quorum. This goes against the existing agreement between the Israeli government and the Waqf (the Muslim religious authority), the Palestinian Authority and the Jordanian government, by which Jews have access to the Temple Mount but Jewish prayer is held only at the Western Wall.”

Sheikh Jarrah activists included in Time Magazine most influential list,

“Mohammed El-Kurd and Muna El-Kurd made Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people list for 2021, but the decision has been met with heavy criticism from [right-wing, pro-occupation/annexation] NGOs and Israeli activists.”

Prisoners & Jailbreak

Israeli forces nab final 2 Palestinian fugitives in Jenin, ending jailbreak saga,

“Israeli security forces overnight Saturday arrested the two remaining Palestinian security inmates who escaped from Gilboa Prison in northern Israel nearly two weeks ago, the army said. The arrests of the two fugitives in the predawn hours of Sunday morning — a week after the four other escaped prisoners were recaptured in northern Israel — brought to a close a massive 13-day manhunt following one of the worst jailbreaks in Israel’s history. Iham Kamamji and Munadil Nafiyat, both members of the Islamic Jihad terror group, were apprehended in the West Bank city of Jenin, the Israel Defense Forces said early Sunday.”


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Israel carries out mass arrests of Palestinians after jailbreak,

“Israeli forces have detained dozens of Palestinians in recent days in a campaign of mass arrests in response to an embarrassing high-security prison escape earlier this month. According to figures from the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department and the Palestinian prisoners’ organisation Addameer, more than 100 Palestinians have been arrested since six high-profile Palestinian prisoners escaped from Gilboa prison in northern Israel on September 6.”

Cost of escaped Palestine prisoners manhunt hits $30m,

“On 6 September, the Israeli occupation launched its largest manhunt in history, searching for six Palestinian prisoners who escaped the high-security Israeli prison of Gilboa. The operation has so far cost $30 million, Sputnik reported on Friday. For the 14th consecutive day, the Israeli army and the Shin Bet intelligence service joined forces with police to look for the escapees using drones and helicopters. They set up hundreds of checkpoints. They found and recaptured four escapees and are still searching for the remaining two. Israeli security services have not yet found any traces of them…Israeli public broadcaster KAN reported that the manhunt for the two escapees has cost Israel between $3 and $6 million per day. KAN reported a police source stating: ‘It is the most expensive manhunt in Israel’s history.’”

6 Palestinians continue hunger strike in Israeli jails,

“Six Palestinian prisoners in Israel continued their hunger strike in protest of the Israeli policy of administrative detention, according to a Palestinian NGO on Sunday, reports Anadolu Agency. The Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) said in a statement that the longest striking prisoner, Kayed al-Fasfous, began his hunger strike 67 days ago.”


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Diplomacy, “Peace Process”, & Normalization

Premier says Israel PM’s no to contacts, negotiations and statehood show that he is not interested in peace,

“Israeli Prime Minister Neftali Bennet’s no to contacts with President Mahmoud Abbas, no to negotiations, and no to a Palestinian state indicate that he is not interested in peace, today said Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. These three nos, said Shtayyeh at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting held in Ramallah, show that ‘the Israeli government’s program is only to expand settlements, seize more land, deprive our people of their natural resources and abolish the geographical base of the State of Palestine.’ Bennett’s remarks, he said, ‘require a serious pause from all of us and the international community, especially those states that advocate and believe in a two-state solution, because what it means is to continue the systematic destruction of the possibility of establishing the state of Palestine, and this calls on us to review our present situation.’”

At Israel’s prodding, record 31 nations to boycott Durban conference anniversary,

“Thirty-one nations will boycott a UN meeting marking the 20th anniversary of the Durban World Conference on Racism — also known as Durban IV — on Wednesday, over concerns that it will veer into open antisemitism as it has in the past…This year, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan said Friday, a record 31 countries will be skipping the event, over double the number that have done so in the past. ‘In recent months I have worked for the world to understand that the Durban Conference was fundamentally rotten,’ he said in a Monday tweet. ‘I’m glad many more understand this today.’”


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The diplomats behind the Abraham Accords now working as investors,

“There is no question that the Abraham Accords have changed the Middle East. Peace between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco has led to greater stability, not only for the Jewish state but for the entire region. These four men, some of the key architects behind the historic peace deals, are no longer in government but they are still looking to make deals – this time in finance. It is an interesting, but not surprising move.”

Lebanon parliament speaker says Israel 'violating Lebanese sovereignty',

“Lebanese Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri called on the UN Security Council on Saturday to examine whether Israel violated Lebanese sovereignty, according to Maariv. ‘Israel violated negotiations by signing contracts for drilling under disputed waters,’ said Berri. ‘If they continue, it will be an act of aggression and a threat to peace,’ he added. Berri then reportedly requested the Lebanese foreign ministry to contact the UN Security Council on the matter.”


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Arab MKs urge US to reopen consulate in East Jerusalem,

“The Joint List of Arab members of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, has urged Washington to reopen the US Consulate in occupied East Jerusalem [letter actually says “Jerusalem”], despite the objections of the Israeli government. The Joint List sent its request in a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.” Also see: Israel Knesset members urge US to reopen East Jerusalem consulate (Middle East Eye)

Ambassador Erdan slams Ocasio-Cortez for her bid to block arms sale to Israel,

“Israeli Ambassador to the US Gilad Erdan criticized Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for submitting an amendment to the annual US defense spending bill to block the sale of precision-guided munitions to Israel. ‘I would expect a Congressperson to understand that Israel is defending its citizens against Hamas, a designated terrorist organization,’ tweeted Erdan on Saturday night. ‘Your amendment further legitimizes their heinous attacks against innocent civilians, as well as antisemitic lies.’”

Repeating debunked claim, Netanyahu mocks Biden for sleeping during Bennett meet,

“Opposition leader and former premier Benjamin Netanyahu was filmed Saturday providing a deriding impression of an apparently snoozing US President Joe Biden, as Netanyahu regurgitated a debunked claim that the American leader fell asleep during a meeting with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the White House last month.”

The PA

No EU funds for Palestine have been received in 2021, PA minister says,

“The European Union (EU) has not contributed any funds to Palestine this year, in a move that has delayed donations to poor Palestinian families, announced the Palestinian Authority’s Social Development Minister, Ahmad Majdalani.”

Germany, Palestinian Authority Sign $117 Million Cooperation Agreement,

“Germany and the Palestinian Authority have signed a 100 million euro ($117 million) cooperation agreement that will see German investment in areas under PA control. The donation will finance ‘sustainable economic development in [Palestine] over the next two years,’ according to PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh.”

Palestinians launch campaigns calling for Abbas to step down,

“Palestinian activists yesterday launched campaigns and petitions calling for Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to step down after 15 years in office, Safa news agency reported. Palestinian writer and activist Mohammad Shoukry said: ‘Such campaigns and petitions are part of the rights enshrined to the Palestinian people. Abbas himself gave us this right when he said in a TV show that when there are ten people taking to the streets calling for me to step down, I will step down.’”

Lawfare, Surveillance, & Weaponization of Claims of Antisemitism

'No target is un-hackable. Period',

“Col. Y., deputy commander of the IDF’s elite 8200 intelligence unit offers Israel Hayom a rare glimpse into what goes on behind a veil of secrecy, and explains why the personnel make it ‘a national treasure.’”

Think Facebook's review will fix alleged Israeli bias? Not so fast, say Palestinians,

“After years of complaining that Facebook was enforcing a pro-Israel bias on its platforms, its oversight board‘s call for an independent review into the moderation of Palestinian and Israeli posts seemed like a clear win for pro-Palestine digital rights activists. Not so fast, they say. Yes, this review is long overdue, but the platform still has a way to go before it is moderated fairly and transparently, and it remains to be seen if the company will act on the board’s recommendations.”

Discover card cuts ties with left-wing group over terrorist connections,

“Discover has stopped processing donations to a left-wing U.S. organization accused of supporting Palestinian terrorism. The credit card company last month froze donations to the Alliance for Global Justice (AFGJ), which provides funding to the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, a group that Israel labeled a terrorist organization earlier this year, the Washington Free Beacon first reported.”

Government Watchdog Calls on New York Pension Fund to Divest From Ben and Jerry’s Parent Company,

“A government watchdog group is calling on New York’s public pension fund to divest from Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, in response to the ice cream company’s decision to boycott Israel. The National Legal and Policy Center asked New York state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in a Thursday letter to ‘effect the immediate divestiture’ of the state pension fund’s $73 million holdings in Unilever, arguing that the company has not taken sufficient steps to oppose anti-Semitism and the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.”

Rwanda believed to have used NSO spyware against Belgian journalist, wife,

“Belgium’s military intelligence service has concluded that a Belgian journalist and his wife were targeted by spyware built by the Israeli NSO Group, likely at the behest of the Rwandan government, according to reports in Belgian media.”

‘Israel’s Top 50 Christian allies’,

“In honor of the Sukkot holiday, which begins this year on Monday evening, the Israel Allies Foundation (IAF) has published its annual list of Israel’s Top 50 Christian Allies.”

Selected Commentary

'Israel Was Born in Sin. I’m Collaborating With a Criminal Country,' Says Former PM’s Son,

“Scion to an iconic Zionist family and former member of the Shin Bet, Yaakov Sharett, 95, has become an anti-Zionist who encourages people to leave Israel.”

It is time Israel, the West admit the two-state solution is dead,

“A recent survey shows that even Western and Israeli pundits know two states in Palestine are impossible.”

Say It With Me: Bennett Is Establishing an Apartheid State,

“…it’s not just ‘one state’ that Bennett is establishing. He’s establishing an apartheid state. That word “apartheid” needs to appear from now on in every text. Apartheid will be Israel’s middle name, at least from the moment its prime minister declared that he has no interest in a peace agreement with the Palestinians and that the occupation is eternal in his view. Bennett deserves credit for telling the truth: He ended the masquerade of a peace process, which wasn’t a process and never intended to achieve peace. His predecessor once mumbled something about ‘two states,’ which now, too, is over.”

Why Israel is suddenly interested in its Palestinian citizens,

“Decades of discrimination have created profound gaps between Palestinian and Jewish citizens. Yet many Palestinians say they now see potential for advancing their interests.”