Top News from Israel & Palestine: September 22, 2021

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Settlements, Apartheid

Settlement housing starts rise 68%, Bennett pledges W. Bank development,

“Prime Minister Naftali Bennett pledged to develop West Bank settlements as housing starts in those Jewish communities rose by 68% in the first two quarters of this year, according to Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) data. The Settlement Affairs Ministry pledged to “preserve state land in Judea and Samaria for cultivation and development,” in a document published Monday in which the government laid out its priorities for the near future….Still, despite Bennett’s statements, the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria has not met to substantially approve or advance settlement construction plans since January 2021. This includes the period since Bennett’s government was sworn into office in June. A council meeting to advance plans for 2,223 settler homes slated for August was canceled. A new date has not yet been set. The lag in approvals came after the spike in West Bank settlement planning that occurred during the four years of the former Trump administration, but those approvals did not translate into an increased rate of building. There were fewer settler housing starts during the four years of the Trump administration than in the last four years of the Obama administration.

Israel reopens West Bank crossing near Gilboa Prison after Palestinian escapees all recaptured,

“Israel on Wednesday reopened a crossing with Palestine’s illegally occupied West Bank for the first time since a daring escape by six Palestinian detainees two weeks ago. The men tunnelled out of the nearby Gilboa Prison in Israel’s north in a rare escape that triggered huge embarrassment and a desperate search before they were all recaptured. The Israeli military body that oversees civilian affairs in the West Bank said the Jalameh crossing into the northern West Bank would be open for the first time since 6 September, when the prisoners broke free.”

Israeli forces clash with residents, students in East Jerusalem neighborhood, youth injured,

“A Palestinian youth was shot and injured by a rubber-coated steel bullet during confrontations that broke out with Israeli forces in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of al-Tur. Local sources told WAFA Israeli forces clashed with residents and students near the al-Tur Secondary Boys’ School in occupied Jerusalem, shooting and injuring a youth in the foot with a rubber-coated steel bullet. He was taken to an interrogation and detention center in the city of Jerusalem.”

Israeli forces detain six Palestinians from West Bank,

“Israeli forces Wednesday overnight detained at least six Palestinians from various parts of the West Bank, according to local and security sources. They said that Israeli soldiers rounded up a Palestinian after ransacking his family house in Jalazone refugee camp, north of Ramallah city. In East Jerusalem, dozens of Israeli soldiers hiding in a minibus stormed Shuafat refugee camp and snatched four others. Meanwhile, the sources confirmed a similar raid in Jericho city, resulting in the detention of another.”

Israel levels large tract of Palestinian farmland south of Nablus,

“The Israeli occupation authorities today leveled a large tract of Palestinian land to the south of the West Bank city of Nablus, according to a local official. Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors Israeli colonial settlement activities in the northern West Bank, said that Israeli bulldozers razed 30 donums of land belonging to the villagers of Qusra, Jurish and Aqraba. He expressed his concerns that this step was intended as a prelude to the construction of a new colonial settlement outpost in the area.” More from Nablus: “Israeli force seal off archaeological site north of Nablus” (WAFA)

Palestine PM Mohammed Shtayyeh slams Israel's Bennett and his three 'no's',

“Shtayyeh said the Israeli leader’s “no’s – no contact with President [Mahmoud Abbas], no negotiations, and no Palestinian state – demonstrate that the new Israeli government seeks to continue illegal West Bank settlements, confiscate more Palestinian land, “and bulldoze the geographical base of the State of Palestine”, according to Anadolu Agency.”

Why the climate movement must support the Palestinian cause,

“Every Palestinian olive tree that is uprooted by the Israeli military or burned by settlers, every square foot of fertile land taken for an illegal Israeli settlement or road, represent thousands of litres of precious water wasted. While food waste is widely recognised as a major driver of climate change, earlier in the summer Israel was happy to impose arbitrary demands on besieged Palestinian farmers in the Gaza Strip which meant that tonnes of Gaza’s tomato crop were threatened.With a bitter irony, while committing these and many more violations of environmental and human rights, Israel has consistently attempted to portray itself as an environmentally aware nation, something critics have identified as “greenwashing”.”

Opinion: Say it with me: Bennett is establishing an apartheid state,

““Apartheid” must be said, not for its lyrical beauty but as a punch to the face of the world that embraces Bennett. The American and the Egyptian presidents have gone out of their way to embrace this new, not-Netanyahu, and somebody needs to remind them whom they’re embracing. There were a considerable number of world leaders, including our own Yitzhak Rabin, who embraced South African Prime Minister John Vorster and later suffered regret and perhaps even shame. Now the world embraces Bennett, an affable, humble, pragmatic, talented and sane man, without seeing what’s hiding behind the man they embrace.”

Gaza (& Hamas)

Hamas Official Says Group Proposed New Prisoner-swap Deal to Israel,

“According to the newspaper report, the first proposal would see the captives and soldiers’ remains held by Hamas given to Israel in exchange for the release of all prisoners who were rearrested after being released in the 2011 deal to rescue Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Under this proposal, Israel would also release all Palestinian women and children that are in jail, according to Al Akhbar.The second reported proposal includes two stages. First, in exchange for information on the Israeli captives, Israel would release women, children, and some of the prisoners rearrested after the 2011 deal. In the second phase, Israel would release thousands of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the Israelis. Earlier this month, Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Hamas’ military wing, said any future prisoner-swap deal would include the release of six Palestinians who recently escaped a high-security prison and were recaptured after a vast manhunt.” Also See: “Hamas says recaptured jailbreakers must be part of swap deal” (Al-Monitor)

Gaza artist mixes beauty with pain in her ballet paintings,

“Palestinian artist Abeer Jebril’s dark-coloured paintings show ballerinas chained in barbed wire, dancing on rocks, or facing barricades to mirror what she calls the “ticking bomb” reality of women in Gaza. She hopes her portraits will bring attention to the social and political problems women face in Gaza, home to two million people and devastated by wars and economic restrictions.”

'48 Israel

Man found shot dead in Negev, 3rd Arab victim of gun violence in two days,

“A man in his thirties was found shot dead on Tuesday in a car in southern Israel’s Negev desert, the third apparent victim of Arab communal violence in two days and the 89th since the start of the year. The man’s body was found in a vehicle near Ramat Hovav, south of Beersheba. The car’s front had been smashed and it had been riddled with bullets.”

#Arab_Lives_Matter: Activists demand end to crime raging in Arab sector,

“The hashtag #Arab_Lives_Matter, alongside its Arabic and Hebrew translations, has been gaining traction on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms, targeted at raising awareness of the continual shootings and killings that are plaguing Arab communities in Israel. “Should have been obvious that ALL lives matter, including Arab lives, but apparently it is not. And here we are, yet another murdered Arab citizen of Israel.” posted Mira Awad, Arab-Israeli singer, actress and songwriter, after three Arab citizens were killed in the past 24 hours in shootings across the country.”

Israel recruiting hundreds of police in fight against violence in Arab community,

“Public Security Minister Omer Barlev tweeted Tuesday that after the state budget “passes in the coming weeks,” the government will step up its efforts: “1,100 police officers will be recruited and directed to this task, police stations and posts will be reinforced, [and] the Shin Bet will help.””

From the United Nations General Assembly...

In UN Address, Biden Says 'Long Way' From Two-state Solution for Israel, Palestinians,

“During his remarks at the gathering, the president reiterated the United States’ unequivocal support for “an independent Jewish state,” while emphasizing his belief that “a two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable, sovereign, and democratic Palestinian state.”  “We are a long way from that goal at this moment, but we must never allow ourselves to give up on the possibility of progress,” Biden said.”


More on Biden’s Speech at the UNGA

In UN speech, Qatar emir lashes Israeli ‘violations’ in Jerusalem,

“Qatar’s emir criticized Israel during his address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, blaming the Jewish state’s Jerusalem policies for the May war in the Gaza Strip. “This year has witnessed numerous Israeli violations in occupied East Jerusalem and the recurrence of attacks on Islamic and Christian sanctities, especially the Al-Aqsa Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, and the seizure of Palestinian homes in the context of the Judaization and settlement policies,” Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said. He said this was followed by “a dangerous military escalation in the Gaza Strip which caused hundreds of casualties among unarmed civilians, aggravating the already dire humanitarian situation in the Strip.””

Erdogan: Mideast peace impossible if Israel continues ‘oppressing’ Palestinians,

“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed Israel’s “oppression” of Palestinians and “violations” in Jerusalem during his Tuesday address to the United Nations General Assembly calling for the resumption of peace talks. Erdogan, a frequent critic of Israel, emphasized “the necessity of reviving the peace process and looking forward to a two-state solution again as soon as possible without further delay.” He said that peace and stability in the Middle East are impossible as long as Israel’s “oppression against our Palestinian brothers” continues.”

Abraham Accords partners issue joint UN human rights statement on women, peace,

“Israel joined three of its new regional Arab partners in submitting a joint statement at the United Nations Human Rights Council (HCR) in Geneva on Wednesday, marking the first time the countries that signed the Abraham Accords have undertaken such an initiative. The “Joint Statement on Women, Peace and Diplomacy,” offered at the 48th regular session of the HRC by Israel, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, emphasized the value of integrating women in peace processes, and called for the increase of women’s influence on issues of human rights, sustainable development, security, and peace, on the basis of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women and security.”

The U.S.

Democrats Aim for Stand-alone Vote 'This Week' on $1b Iron Dome Funding After Uproar,

“Democratic leadership will bring to the House floor a stand-alone vote on $1 billion in emergency funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced Tuesday, following uproar over its removal from a key budget bill. Hoyer’s move, after progressive Democrats successfully managed to remove the aid from a stopgap government funding bill, comes under suspension of rules, meaning the House will go against normal parliamentary protocol to bring the bill to a vote later this week…Israel receives $3.8 billion in U.S. military aid annually, $500 million of which dedicated to funding Iron Dome. The $1 billion in question is in addition to the already committed funds.” Also See – “Iron Dome replenishment bill to be brought ‘before end of week’ – Hoyer

House removes funding for Israel’s Iron Dome from spending bill,

“The removal came at the behest of progressive Democrats, The Hill reported. Many progressive Democrats in the House vocally criticize US support for Israel. The change to the bill led to criticism from lawmakers in both parties. Democratic Rep. Ritchie Torres of New York slammed the modification. “A missile defense system (i.e., the Iron Dome) defends civilians from missiles. Hence the name. Only in a morally inverted universe would this be considered a ‘controversy,’” Torres tweeted. Republican Rep. Kay Granger has already introduced an amendment to re-add Iron Dome funding into the bill. The House of Representatives convened late Tuesday afternoon to continue discussions on government-funding bills.” Also See – “Progressive Democrats Succeed in Removing $1 Billion Iron Dome Funding From Bill” (Haaretz); “Progressive Dems Slam Leadership Bid to ‘Slip’ Iron Dome Funding Into Budget Bill” (Haaretz)


Essential Analysis

  • Lara Friedman (FMEP) tweets: “The MOU provides $500 million in missile defense annually (which includes Iron Dome). That is in the NDAA & is not being challenged. The $1 billion is ON TOP OF THAT & represents around 60% of what US has given Israel for Iron Dome over a DECADE…What is happening here is that we have entered a through-the-looking-glass political moment, in which $1 BILLION in proposed EXTRA aid is being treated as an untouchable Israeli entitlement. Just surreal.”
  • Seth Binder (POMED) tweets: “US gov has provided $1.7 billion for the Iron Dome since 2011 & has committed to fund it every yr until at least 2028. This yr Congress provided $73 million for Iron Dome procurement. $1 billion is about 14 times more than this year & 60 percent of what US provided over a decade.”
  • Mairav Zonzein (Crisis Group) tweets: “Top story on Israels public broadcaster this morning is the US Iron Dome funding, framing it as Democrats capitulating to “anti-Israel voices.”… Israeli news reporting the Iron Dome issue without any context or accuracy, framing it as if the delay by a few weeks could endanger its security when this is EXTRA funding, as US military aid for iron dome already exists.”
  • Anshel Pfeffer (Haaretz) tweets: “The fact that Israel knows it can rely on US “aid” (mainly a back-channel subsidy to American arms manufacturers) has allowed Israel’s military to continue inflating the defense budget. An end to US “aid” would ultimately strengthen Israel’s economy & rationalize defence spending…Whatever the motive, this is a positive move. Israel is a wealthy country with a western-level GDP. The US shouldn’t be subsidizing its defense budget. It’s in Israel’s interest to stand on its own 2 feet and not rely on American largesse.”

For Background on Iron Dome

Lapid downplays removal of Iron Dome funding from US budget bill,

““Minister Lapid thanked Majority Leader Hoyer for his commitment and stressed the need to approve the request as quickly as possible to ensure Israel’s security needs,” his office said….New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman told Bloomberg that the problem was that the Iron Dome provision had been added in at the last minute, and that there had been no proper discussion. “It’s not about Israel, it’s about, once again, leadership, throwing something on our table last minute and expecting us to decide in five minutes what to do with it, that’s the bigger problem,” Bowman said. Explaining the reasoning behind some in the progressive caucus’s refusal to back the funding, a source familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel, “It was being added to an unrelated bill to keep the government open, with zero strings attached.””

AIPAC raps ‘extremists in Congress’ after Iron Dome funding struck from bill,

“American Jewish groups on Tuesday condemned the removal of a $1 billion allocation for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system from a US budget bill. The move came at the urging of progressives in Congress. The funds are widely expected to be approved, but at a later date. A Congressional aide, speaking to The Times of Israel on condition of anonymity, insisted that the Iron Dome funding would eventually be approved, but instead would be attached to the 2022 Defense Appropriations Bill. The measure nonetheless drew fierce criticism from some pro-Israel activists and from Republicans.”

Diaspora minister urges ‘long-term fix’ of Israel’s ties with Democrats,

“Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai on Wednesday called for a “long-term fix” in Israel’s ties with the Democratic Party, after $1 billion in funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system was pulled from a United States government funding bill due to opposition from progressive House members. “Long-term developments in the US are changing the Democratic Party and strengthening the progressive and anti-Israel axis,” Shai said in an interview with the Kan public broadcaster. He slammed former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his opposition to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, signed by Democratic president Barack Obama, and charged that the ex-premier “clearly went in the Republican direction.””

Barkat to meet senators on Jerusalem consulate for Palestinians,

“Future Likud leadership candidate Nir Barkat will lobby US senators and congressmen in Washington on Wednesday and Thursday against reopening a consulate in Jerusalem that would exclusively serve the Palestinians. Barkat will meet with more than 10 senators and congressmen from both parties, as well as key journalists and influencers, in an effort to persuade US President Joe Biden’s administration to not move forward with the idea of having a consulate in Israel’s capital that handles relations with the Palestinian Authority. “The Palestinians are served by the American embassy, which provides consular services,” Barkat told The Jerusalem Post from New York. “If the Americans want a diplomatic emissary to meet with the Palestinians, it cannot be in Jerusalem. There is no other capital where America has a consulate and embassy serving two nations. It would be tantamount to dividing Jerusalem, and opening a consulate requires Israeli approval, so it would be Israel approving dividing Jerusalem.””

Big Tech, Free Speech, & Media

Florida pension leader says on track to restrict Unilever,

“Florida’s top pension investment officer said on Tuesday he expects the state will restrict purchases of Unilever PLC in October after the company’s Ben & Jerry’s brand halted sales in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Ash Williams, chief investment officer of the Florida State Board of Administration, which oversees pension assets, said at a webcast state hearing that “we’ve not seen any meaningful response from Unilever” after discussions with the company.”

Arizona pulls funds from Ben & Jerry's over Israel settlement boycott,

“Arizona announced on Tuesday that it would pull all public funds it has invested in ice cream parlor chain Ben & Jerry’s after the company announced it would ban sales of its products in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.”

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

“Palestinian digital rights advocates have welcomed Facebook’s Oversight Board’s call for an independent review into alleged bias in the tech giant’s moderation of Palestinian and Israeli posts. But not so fast, they say. While the review is long overdue, 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.”

Book Review

Who fought in 1948?,

“On April 4, 1948, just weeks before the establishment of the State of Israel, an Iraqi soldier named Abdullah Dawud took part in an unsuccessful attack on a kibbutz in northern Palestine. One of the key battles of this time, the attack lasted for nearly two weeks, involved heavy artillery, and ended in a total of 115 casualties. Dawud, a sniper, was one of thousands of volunteers from across the Arab world who made up the Arab Liberation Army (ALA), which had carried out the assault. In 1990, Israeli journalist Sarah Leibovitz-Dar interviewed Dawud about his service in the ALA; five decades later, the former soldier was still proud of his ability as a sniper. “I was such a great soldier,” he boasted, “that my officer, Husayn, who was a real bastard, told me: Abduallah, too bad you are Jewish.” The interview took place in Tel Aviv: Dawud, who was indeed Jewish, had immigrated to Israel in 1950, just two years after fighting against the nascent Israeli army. Dawud’s story opens “Dear Palestine: A Social History of the 1948 War” (Stanford University Press, 2021), a new book by Shay Hazkani, an assistant professor of history and Jewish Studies at the University of Maryland, which uncovers a trove of letters written by soldiers from both the Israeli army, the ALA, and Palestinian civilians during the war, which were previously classified and stored in the Israel Defense Forces and Defense Establishment Archives. These letters were secretly intercepted and copied by the Israeli censorship bureau in order to gauge public opinion, and thus inadvertently preserved for future historians. The book also draws on propaganda pamphlets from the time, both those produced and captured by Israel.

If Dawud’s Jewishness seems surprising, it is likely because of what the sociologist Ulrich Beck called “methodological nationalism”: the common, implicit assumption that we can deduce the motivations of individuals from the nationalities/ethnicities they belong to. For many contemporary Jews, this translates into expectations that Arab volunteers and soldiers were largely motivated by antisemitism , and that Jews justified the actions of the Israeli government and army at the time, fighting what was seen as a war for survival.