Top News from Israel & Palestine: September 30, 2020

What We’re Reading

Settlements/Occupation/De Facto Annexation

Twenty Years After the Second Intifada, the Israeli Victory Is Nearly Complete,

There are four failures in all. The first intifada, with its hopeful demand for a sovereign state within the June 4, 1967 lines, failed. The Madrid and Oslo talks, which began in the wake of it, did not diminish Israel’s ravenous appetite for Palestinian land. Mahmoud Abbas’ tactic of diplomacy and acceptance in the UN also failed: The condemnations by Western countries do not amount to a policy — they are only meant to cover their butts. With the exception of a few isolated successes, the popular and legal battles against land seizures also failed. And the use of weapons, which many Palestinians still view as the pinnacle of the struggle and the resistance, even though only a few actually choose to do so, did not stop the process either. The use of arms is an expression of anger and the desire for revenge. It has no strategic value. Twenty years later, the Israeli victory is nearly complete: The well-planned armed robbery of Palestinian land goes on daily unhindered. The model that Israel created in Gaza is being copied in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and translated into something akin to “Pales of Settlement” which, as long as they don’t show signs of fury and rebellion, are of no interest to the Jews in Israel, the supreme ruler.

Israeli forces demolish structures in southern Hebron hills,

Israeli forces Wednesday demolished a number of Palestinian-owned structures Khirbet Shaab al-Butum, to the east Yatta town, south of Hebron city, according to local sources. Khirbet Shaab al-Butum is among dozens of small communities located in the Masafer Yatta area, which rely heavily on animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood, and has a population of 300. Masafer Yatta is classified as Area C, which is under full Israeli military control. Area C makes up around 60 percent of the area of the occupied West Bank, which Israel plans to annex after expelling its Palestinian population. It has been designated as a closed Israeli military zone for training since 1980s and accordingly referred to as Firing Zone 918. Israeli violations against the area include demolition of animal barns, homes and residential structures. Issuance of construction permits by Israel to local Palestinians in the area is non-existent.

Israeli forces demolish structure in the Jordan Valley,

Israeli forces have recently escalated the demolitions and served demolition orders against Palestinian-owned homes and structures in the village….Israel has severely restricted Palestinian access to water in the area, particularly the 23 underground wells used for agriculture. Local water springs are susceptible to dryness and depletion as a result of Israel’s control over water. The Israeli water company of Mekorot has depleted the wells and has been granted monopoly on the excavation, restoration, distribution and selling of water. In contrast, Palestinians have been forbidden from constructing new wells and restoring existing ones.

Miriam Levinger, mother of Hebron’s Jewish community, passes away at 83,

Miriam Levinger, 83, who, together with her husband, Moshe, personally led the Jews back to Hebron after the 1967 Six Day War, passed away in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur holiday and was buried Tuesday in the biblical city on whose behalf she had battled for most of her adult life. “I am grieved by the passing of the mother of all those who returned to Hebron, Rabbanit Miriam Levinger of blessed memory,” President Reuven Rivlin said upon hearing of her death….“Dear Levinger family, may the building of Hebron and Jerusalem be your consolation.”…Under Rabbi Moshe Levinger’s leadership, Jews took rooms in Hebron’s former Park Hotel during Passover 1968 and refused to leave until a compromise was reached, by which Kiryat Arba was created. But Jews were not allowed to live in the ancient biblical city until Miriam led a group of women to illegally enter Hebron’s formerly Jewish Beit Hadassah building in late 1979, refusing to leave until the government agreed in 1980 to authorize Jewish life in Hebron.

Human Rights/Violence

Gazans Left Stranded Abroad by Israeli-Palestinian Stand-off,

They need an Israeli permit to return to Gaza through the occupied West Bank and Israel, which would normally be facilitated by the PA’s civil affairs division. But the Palestinians officially cut off all ties with Israel in May to protest its plans to annex parts of the West Bank, making it even more complicated to get permission to travel. The Palestinians had hoped to pressure Israel by forcing it to assume more of the burden of its half-century occupation of the territory. Instead, the decision has mainly hurt ordinary Palestinians, underscoring the control Israel exerts over nearly every facet of their lives….Gisha, an Israeli group that advocates for Palestinian freedom of movement, has been able to help some families obtain permits outside the normal channels. But it says Israel is ultimately responsible for allowing Gazans to return home. “Israel’s ongoing control over Gaza comes with legal obligations to uphold the rights of Gaza residents, including to freedom of movement,” it said in a statement. “Returning to one’s home is a fundamental human right that cannot be withheld using procedural excuses.”

‘No one cares’: Palestinian citizens decry Israeli inaction on gun violence,

The mother of three children, including a six-month-old baby, Abu Muammar was killed in her third-floor apartment by a stray bullet from a nearby gun fight between two rival gangs. With her death, the number of people killed by firearms in Arab towns and villages in Israel this year rose to 57….A fifth of the state’s population, Palestinian citizens of Israel have long felt that they are living in a state of lawlessness in their communities, with the Israeli authorities doing little to curb organized crime and rampant illegal gun ownership. Following Abu Muammar’s death, the police swiftly arrested three young men in connection to the shooting — but for many in the community, this response is rare. “We want the police to do what they are supposed to do: guarantee security for people and come down hard on the crime organizations in the same way they did in Israeli society in general,” says Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman. “No one can convince me that the police are unable to know where the illegal weapons are. If these weapons were, God forbid, intended to be used against Jews’ security or for nationalistic reasons, they would come to our villages and towns and destroy everything until they find them. But as long as these weapons are used only against us, it looks like no one cares.”

Report: Digital Safety Among Jerusalemite Children & Youth,

“Digital Safety Among Jerusalemite Children & Youth” shows how the majority of East Jerusalem adolescents constantly feel surveilled and unsafe on the Internet, as a result of both cultural and familial reasons, as well as Israeli authorities and strangers’ influence on the online space. It also shows how primary care givers and school counselors are lacking skills to protect children and youth online…Children and youth living in East Jerusalem – unlawfully annexed by Israel – face unique challenges in the protection and safeguarding of their digital rights due to a lack of representation and access for the Palestinian Authority to the city, as well as the systematic neglect of East Jerusalem residents by Israel.

Palestinian Refugees and Lebanon’s Multilayered Crisis,

Though exact figures are difficult to ascertain, nearly half a million Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Over half of them live in 12 refugee camps throughout Lebanon, a country with roughly 1.5 million refugees. They have been amongst the groups most affected by the economic collapse, the lockdown measures instituted as a result of COVID-19, and the August 4 explosion. While the explosion did not physically impact refugee camps, the scale of the destruction, which obliterated the country’s main grain silo, in addition to the ongoing economic crisis, have had dire consequences for refugee communities who rely on cash distributions to feed their families. … Many institutions in Lebanon laid off a large number of their workers, cut back the wages of workers kept on, and expelled non-Lebanese staff, particularly Palestinian workers….There has also been a decline in UNRWA services as a result of regional and global financial crises, even as socio-economic needs multiplied. The aid provided by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Palestinian Authority (PA), and various Palestinian factions has also declined. 

United Nations / Israel / Hezbollah

Israel’s Netanyahu says Hezbollah has ‘arms depot’ in Beirut,

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah of maintaining a “secret arms depot” in a residential neighborhood of Beirut, warning it could cause another tragic explosion in the Lebanese capital. In an address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Netanyahu showed maps purportedly showing the missile depot’s location next to a gas station and residential housing. He also showed what he said was a picture of the entrance to the depot. “Here’s where the next explosion will take place, right here,” he said.

IDF tweets Hezbollah missile stockpile coordinates,

The English-language Twitter account of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit posted on Tuesday night the coordinates of Hezbollah’s reported missile stockpiles.”Here are the coordinates to put in your Waze,” the tweet said.

Hezbollah scoffs at PM claims, offers 'missile site' media tour,

Hezbollah took journalists on a grand tour around what it said was a facility Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alleged was an undercover missile depot, during his speech at the UN on Tuesday. The press tour, dismissed by the IDF as a publicity stunt on behalf of the Iran-backed terrorist group, came hours after Netanyahu claimed Hezbollah was running a covert missile depot in a residential area in the Jnah neighborhood of Beirut during his video address to the United Nations General Assembly. Journalists were shown around what the group said was a private metal-cutting factory, showing off the cutting equipment and gas canisters. After Netanyahu’s address, the IDF posted the coordinates of two additional alleged missile sites, which were ignored by Hezbollah as it showcased the alleged facility in Jnah.

Full text of Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to the 2020 UN General Assembly,

For decades, all progress was halted and was held hostage to completely unrealistic Palestinian demands, such as the demand that Israel withdraw to the indefensible lines of 1967 and place its security in the hands of others; or the demand that Israel expel tens of thousands of Jews from their homes, effectively committing ethnic cleansing; or the demand that Israel absorb millions of Palestinians who are descendants of refugees from a war that was launched by the Palestinians against Israel more than half a century ago. Of course, these demands, along with many others, are complete non-starters for any responsible Israeli government. Yet for years, many in the international community have tried to appease these absurd Palestinian demands, and as a result, they have wasted time to try to advance an illusion that won’t happen, instead of working for a realistic solution that could happen. Thankfully, President Trump chose a different path to peace—a path anchored in reality.

UN will ‘lose its right to exist’ if it doesn’t treat Israel fairly, envoy says,

Israel’s new ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan on Tuesday claimed the international body was at risk of “losing its right to exist” over its unfair treatment of the Jewish state and predicted it could be defunct by the end of the century. “The UN is risking the loss of whatever relevance and legitimacy it has left. If the organization can’t take action against the worst regimes and continues to cling to the Palestinian obsession, in 75 years there will be no UN to mark its birthday, because it will simply lose its right to exist,” Erdan wrote in a column for the Israel Hayom daily.

“Peace” / Normalization: What’s Next & Dividends

UAE Envoy: We’re not a democracy, but public support allowed for normalization,

The UAE ambassador to the US said Tuesday that while his country is not a democracy, its rulers have taken public opinion into account, which allowed Abu Dhabi to proceed in normalizing relations with Israel….“Because we’re not a democracy we have to be very in tune with what our people want and what the street feels and people really wanted this,” the envoy said of his country, which is a federation of seven constituent monarchies. “This is not something that we’re forcing against the popular will of the Emiratis that live in the country. There is a genuine energy that people are excited about.” Otaiba’s comments on goodwill toward Israel on the Emirati streets seemed in line with reporting by Israeli journalists in the UAE over the past month, who have uniformly testified to being received with enthusiasm by the citizenry.

Israel in the Balkans: Why did Serbia and Kosovo sign up to Trump's deal? Middle East Eye,

On 4 September, the White House was the place of a strange political proceeding. US President Donald Trump observed the signing of an economic normalisation deal by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovan Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti. … What was strange was that the country that profited most was one that had nothing to do with the territorial dispute in the Balkans: Israel. The deal stipulates that Serbia will move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Kosovo also agreed to mutual recognition with Israel, followed by the opening of an embassy to Jerusalem. … Israel quickly reciprocated by recognising Kosovo just minutes after the White House deal. Israeli foreign policy in the Balkans has undergone a full renaissance. In recent years, Israel’s policy in the region has been to weaken the EU’s stance on Palestine and to build partnerships with countries beyond its Middle Eastern, Islamic periphery.  On the former point, Serbia opening an embassy in Jerusalem would be a win, coming from an EU membership candidate and a country that – unlike most others in the Balkans – has frequently voted in favour of Palestinian membership in international institutions.


Redefining Anti-Semitism on Facebook,

Adopting the by now well-known approach of weaponizing anti-Semitism, they began pressuring Facebook to introduce a specific definition of anti-Semitism to its own data mining tools, so that instead of trolls labelling criticism of Israel anti-Semitic, algorithms would. The objective, in other words, is to force Facebook to alter its hate speech definition so that its own “detection algorithm” will characterize any criticism of Israel as hate speech and automatically remove the pertinent content from the platform.

See also:

Israel-Advocacy Groups Urge Facebook to Label Criticism of Israel as Hate Speech (Lara Friedman, Jewish Currents)

Social Media in the Crosshairs: The Effort to Redefine Antisemitism to Quash Criticism of Israel (FMEP Webinar)

Congress launches inter-parliamentary task force to combat online anti-Semitism,

A bipartisan group in the US House of Representatives on Tuesday announced the launch of an inter-parliamentary task force to combat online anti-Semitism….Deutch’s office said the goals of the task force would include “establishing consistent messaging and policy from legislatures around the world in order to hold social media platforms, including Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, and Google, accountable.”…The task force will also seek to adopt transparent policies regarding hate speech, and to raise awareness of online anti-Semitism in particular, the statement from his office said.

Trump’s Domineering Demeanor in Cleveland Debate Disgusts and Delights Biden,

Confronted with yet another demand to explicitly condemn white supremacists, in general, or the alt-right neo-fascist Proud Boys, in particular, an alarmed Trump stumbled, fumbled and then uttered the bizarre statement “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” as if he was their commander in chief…Trump may have thought he was joking, but his obstinate refusal to condemn white racists should remove any lingering doubts about where his true sentiments lie. Jewish voters who support Trump because of his supposed generosity towards Israel must now work that much harder to repress the realization that they are giving their votes to the hero of nativists, neo-Nazis and racist nutballs all tinged with more than a touch of antisemitism.

The Proud Boys: A Republican Party Street Gang,

The absence of undeniably racist symbols such as a Klan hood or a Nazi swastika has given the Proud Boys a level of access to the Republican mainstream (as well as a free pass for militant street activism) that the Alt Right can only dream of. For these reasons, it’s too simplistic to view the Proud Boys as yet another White supremacist group. Rather, when the Alt Right and overt White nationalism became too toxic for mainstream Republican tastes after the tragedy in Charlottesville, the Proud Boys filled the gap.

Erosion of Democratic Norms

Israel Passes Law Limiting Protests Under Lockdown,

The Knesset passed an amendment to the government’s coronavirus law early Wednesday morning that would bar protesters from traveling more than a kilometer (0.6 miles) from their homes to attend a demonstration…Along with the law, a “special state of emergency” was declared, which the ministerial cabinet will need to ratify three times each week. The declaration and its extension will be brought to the constitution committee, which will be able to overturn the state of emergency retroactively…A special state of emergency does not allow the government to completely ban prayer, protests or religious ceremonies, but will be able to limit the number of participants in such gatherings. In addition, it will allow the government to limit protesters from demonstrating beyond the designated radius from their home, at the moment set to one kilometer (0.6 miles).

A Body Blow to Democracy,

The Knesset debated Tuesday an amendment to the law defining the government’s authorities in handling the coronavirus pandemic, a change that would render impotent the two main factors determining the force of a protest in a democracy: the number of people taking part and the location. This is a measure that is unprecedented in the history of Israel…It’s important to be precise: In practice, this legislation does not limit demonstrations, it bans them. The proposed restrictions are so draconian that they amount to a prohibition. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is attempting, in the most cynical fashion, to exploit the coronavirus and the restrictions needed to fight its spread in order to undermine fundamental democratic rights and to suppress the dissent against him and his incorrigible government.

Historical Record

Did James Baker Really Say ‘F*** the Jews’? New Book Clarifies U.S. Diplomat’s Infamous Quote,

A new biography of the former diplomat, written by two of the most accomplished reporters in present-day Washington, corrects the record about the infamous quote – which was attributed to Baker at the height of his confrontations with Likud Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, in 1991. It turns out the full story is more complicated than how most people remember it….“Bush and Baker had a strained relationship with Israeli leaders from the start,” the book explains. “Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir came to visit the White House in April 1989, shortly after the new administration took office and whatever was said ended up driving an enduring wedge between the two sides.” During that meeting, Shamir told Bush that settlements in the occupied West Bank “shouldn’t be a problem” for the administration’s plans to start peace talks between Israel and its neighbors. Bush and Baker saw the comment as a commitment from Shamir not to expand settlements, whereas the Israeli premier meant the exact opposite: that he would continue to build in the occupied territories, because such building shouldn’t pose a problem in his view. “Two weeks later still more settlements were announced,” the authors write. “Bush believed Shamir had lied to him and never forgave him.”