Top News from Israel & Palestine: September 7, 2021

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New From FMEP

[Podcast] Palestinian Bodies Held Hostage by Israel,

In this episode of “Occupied Thoughts,” FMEP’s Lara Friedman speaks with Budour Hassan (JLAC) and Noura Erekat (Rutgers) about Israel’s policy of holding hostage the bodies of slain Palestinians – an issue that has broken through into the news a bit with the continued holding of the body of Ahmad Erekat, and last week with a US Congresswoman, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, tweeting about another case: “Meet Mai Afana’s mother, Khuloud, who is fighting to be able to bury her daughter & begin her healing. Mai was a mother, loving daughter & successful PhD student. She was killed by the Israeli government last June. Israel won’t release her body to her family.” What is this policy? How does it impact Palestinians? How does Israel justify it? What do Israeli courts and international law say? And what does this policy disclose about the broader dehumanization of Palestinians, both by Israel and by the international community?


Six Palestinians escape from high-security prison in Israel,

“Israeli forces have been searching for six Palestinian prisoners who managed to escape from a high-security facility in northern Israel early on Monday. The prisoners escaped from the Gilboa prison, which is supposed to be one of Israel’s most secured facilities. Such breakouts are extremely rare…Local media reports said the men, who likely shared the same prison cell, escaped through a tunnel and appeared to have received some outside help. The tunnel appeared to have been dug from below a toilet in the cell, from which the prisoners crawled their way out of the facility. The prisoners included Zakariye Zubeidi, 46, a former Fatah party leader in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, as well as five Palestinian Islamic Jihad members serving life sentences for involvement in attacks on Israelis during the Palestinian Intifada – or uprising – in the early 2000s. The other detainees were identified as: Monadel Yacoub Nafe’at, 26, Yaqoub Qassem, Yaqoub Mahmoud Qadri, 49, Ayham Nayef Kamamji, 35, and Mahmoud Abdullah Ardah, 46. At least four men were serving life sentences, according to local media reports.”


Also See

Israel to Impose Closure on West Bank, Gaza During High Holidays,

“Israel will impose a general closure on the West Bank and Gaza on the Jewish High Holidays, with Palestinians being barred from passing through checkpoints into Israel, regardless of whether they have permits.  The military imposes such closures for all major Jewish holidays and election days. The crossings will first be closed for Rosh Hashanah and will go into effect on Monday at 4 P.M., ending at midnight on Wednesday night. The next closure will be for Yom Kippur and will last between September 15 at 3 P.M. and midnight on the night of September 16. For Sukkot, crossings will be closed between September 20 at 4 P.M. and midnight on the night of September 21. Finally, the Simhat Torah closure will begin on September 27 at 4 P.M. and end at midnight on the night of September 28. According to the military, the end time of each closure is “subject to a situation assessment.”” Related – “Israel bans Muslims from praying at Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque during the Jewish holidays” (WAFA)

October 6th Supreme Court Hearing on Al Walajeh Appeal Could Accelerate Largescale Destruction of Village,

“A hearing on the Al Walajeh residents’ 2018 principal appeal, which is currently protecting 38 homes from demolition in the Jerusalem section of the village, has been scheduled at the Supreme Court for October 6, 2021. In late June 2021, the State Attorney’s Office filed a motion to dismiss the appeal based on the claim that it is no longer relevant since the District Planning Committee had fulfilled the appeal’s demands. If the Supreme Court ultimately dismisses the appeal, the demolition freeze would be lifted, placing the 38 homes at imminent risk of being razed and some 300 Palestinians under threat of displacement. The demolitions would likely be carried out very swiftly since the area of Al Walajeh falls under the jurisdiction of the National Enforcement Unit, which is considered the most aggressive Israeli enforcement body. Indeed in the past five years, this unit has executed demolition orders in Al Walajeh immediately after conclusion of the court proceedings.”

Israel Asks for Extension to Present Plan for Khan al-Ahmar Eviction,

“Israel asked the Supreme Court on Sunday for a six-month extension of the deadline for presenting its position on evicting the residents of the West Bank Palestinian village of Khan al-Ahmar. The state said that there had been “significant progress” in coming up with a plan to evict the village that would be acceptable to all parties. The state said in a statement that it wishes to show a classified document relating to the issue to the justices hearing the petition against the evictions, and that the considerations that previously prevented the evictions “are still relevant.””

Editorial | The Khan al-Ahmar Show Must End,

“Judging by the response filed by the state to the High Court yesterday, this “government of change” doesn’t intend to change anything about Israel’s approach to evicting the Palestinian residents of the West Bank village of Khan al-Ahmar. Instead, it plans to continue the same hypocrisy that characterized its predecessor. On Sunday, the ministry had already announced that the government will ask the High Court of Justice for six more months in which to formulate its position on Khan al-Ahmar…Lapid and the rest of this government of change, most of whose members belong to the center-left, need to be told the following: Enough hypocrisy, enough hiding behind the High Court’s skirts. Lapid, Benny Gantz, Merav Michaeli, Nitzan Horowitz and Mansour Abbas – the leaders of five of the eight parties in the governing coalition – need to use their political power to push through a decision to leave Khan al-Ahmar in place, take the plan to evacuate it off the agenda and allow its residents to live their lives without uncertainty. The Khan al-Ahmar show must end.”

Growth rate of settlements plummets to all-time low,

“The West Bank settler growth rate dropped to an all-time low of 2.3% in 2020, the last year of the tenures of both former president Donald Trump and then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to data published Sunday by the Central Bureau of Statistics. This shows that “we are in an existential battle,” Beit El council head Shai Alon told The Jerusalem Post.”


Israel Strikes Targets in Gaza in Response to Explosive-laden Balloons,

“The Israeli army launched airstrikes in Gaza on early Tuesday morning in response to the launching of explosive-laden balloons into Israeli territory, the IDF said in a statement. Israeli fighter jets attacked Hamas sites, including a rocket launching site and a military compound in Khan Younis, where a concrete plant  used to build terrorist tunnels is located, the statement said…Hamas spokesperson Abd al-Latif al-Qanou said on Saturday that the Palestinians in Gaza insist on restoring their full rights as well as breaking the blockade that Israel is imposing on the coastal enclave. “The Palestinians won’t agree to additional and gradual easing of restrictions, and will employ all the measures at their disposal to lift the blockade,” al-Qanou said, adding that “all the means available to Hamas are legitimate in pressuring Israel and lifting the blockade.” Hamas leader in Gaza Yehya Sinwar said Friday that Gaza “will enter a military confrontation if steps meant to pressure Israel fail.”

Hamas Launches Incendiary Balloons Into Israel, Vows to Step Up Protests Due to Stalled Qatari Aid,

“Hamas launched over a dozen of incendiary balloons into Israel on Saturday, after Palestinian factions in the Strip vowed to intensify their activity along the border with Israel in protest of what they say is “Israel’s footdragging” on transferring Qatari aid money to impoverished families.

Qatar says ready to start Gaza cash infusion, including for Hamas employees,

“Qatar’s envoy to Gaza said on Monday that aid from his country will be distributed soon in the Palestinian enclave, including to employees of the Hamas government, seemingly resolving a main sticking point holding up the cash infusion. Qatar pledged $500 million for Gaza following the May 10-21 conflict that saw heavy bombardments in the Strip and intense rocket fire into Israel. Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi, who is currently in Gaza, said on Monday that “all the details” regarding the distribution mechanism “have been reviewed and the process will begin shortly.””


Also See

Three Palestinians Found Dead in Gaza-Egypt Border Tunnel,

“Several Palestinian groups from the Gaza Strip, including Hamas, called for an investigation on Friday after three Palestinians were found dead in a tunnel near the border area. According to reports in the enclave, there are factions that accuse Egypt’s army of killing the men using toxic gas. Hamas’ Interior Ministry confirmed that three bodies were extricated from the tunnel in southern Rafah, and that security forces are investigating the incident. On Thursday evening, they had lost contact with the three men.”

Those of us who survived in Gaza are buried in the fear of loss,

“The 11-day war in May — which killed over 250 Palestinians in Gaza and left thousands wounded — only compounded the challenges Palestinians there have been facing due to years of blockade, and more recently, a crippling pandemic. It involved massacres and destruction, stealing memories, and planting despair in our hearts. Though the bombing has ended, it has left a great deal of pain. Those of us who have survived are buried in the fear of loss. Beyond the human tragedy, the war “has severely weakened an economy already reduced to a fraction of its potential,” a July report by the World Bank, European Union, and United Nations concluded. It estimated that the total damage and losses incurred in Gaza following the latest assault are between $290 and 380 million. Behind these assessments lie real people: business owners who have lost their life-long enterprises, or who are again having to modify their ambitions; workers who have been forced into unemployment and poverty, both already rampant in Gaza. Here are three of their stories.”

The Palestinian Scene

Palestinian Authority Indicts 14 Security Force Members in Activist’s Death,

“Fourteen members of the Palestinian Authority’s security services were charged with beating to death an outspoken activist known for his fierce online criticism, in a case that turned into a rallying cry against what critics describe as the growing authoritarianism of the Palestinian Authority. Gen. Talal Dweikat, the spokesman of the security forces, on Sunday announced the indictments against members of Preventive Security, a force known for arresting opponents of the authority, including Hamas militants. The indictments came after international pressure, including from European Union, on senior Palestinian leaders. But family members of the victim, Nizar Banat, 42, expressed outrage that military prosecutors failed to indict more senior officials, who they contend bear responsibility for Mr. Banat’s death, and said they were seeking accountability through the international community. The authority has attempted to portray Mr. Banat’s death in late June as an isolated incident carried out by a group of undisciplined security forces.”

14 Palestinian security officers to be charged over activist's death,

“Gandhi Amin, Banat’s family lawyer, explained to Middle East Eye on Monday that the Palestinian military prosecution referred the assassination case to the military court, after indicting 14 officers and military personnel. He added that the indictments included charges such as beating leading to death with premeditated murder, use of torture, disobeying military orders, and unlawful confiscation. Amin denied that there would be indictments for other levels, such as those who issued the arrest warrant. “The other levels denied that they gave orders other than the arrest warrant, and stressed that the arrest must be in accordance with the law without the use of force or beatings,” he told MEE. The lawyer added that the trials are expected to be swift, with the possibility of a verdict next week. He predicted that the sentences will not be less than seven years and may include life sentences.”

International Relations & Diplomacy

Israeli president and Jordanian king hold secret talks,

“Israeli President Isaac Herzog has revealed he met King Abdullah II of Jordan in Amman, an unannounced meeting held against the backdrop of improving diplomatic ties between the two countries. “Last week I met and had a very long conversation with the king of Jordan, I was in his palace, an entire evening. It was an excellent meeting,” Herzog said in clips from an interview broadcast on Saturday on Israeli television…“Among the things we discussed were the core issues in the dialogue between our states, including an agreement to import agricultural produce during the shemitah (agricultural sabbatical) year, energy issues, sustainability, and solutions to the climate crisis that we can advance together,” the statement said.

Israel asks Egypt to pressure Hamas to end border violence,

“Israel’s Coordinator Of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Rassan Alian and the head of the Africa/Middle East desk at the National Security Council, whose name is forbidden from publication, visited Egypt Sept. 2 and met with senior intelligence officials there. Israeli press reports said that the two Israeli officials asked their Egyptian interlocutors to pressure Hamas to stop the ongoing nightly demonstrations at the Gaza border…The Sept. 2 meeting also dealt with two other topics. The Israeli officials asked their counterparts to tighten cooperation between Israel and Egypt on thwarting smuggling into the Gaza Strip. Specifically, Israel is worried over the smuggling of construction materials and parts that could be used for both civil and military purposes. Israel assesses that Hamas is trying to rehabilitate its attack capabilities, which were severely damaged in the last round of fighting in May.”

Analysis & Commentary

Israel's New Government Wants to 'Shrink' the Occupation. Meet the Man Behind the Idea,

“Goodman is a settler. After growing up in West Jerusalem, he has now lived about half his life in Kfar Adumim, an upscale settlement in the Judean Desert. The headquarters of his Beit Prat network of colleges is in the neighboring Alon settlement. He doesn’t seem to think any of this has much relevance to his analysis of the Israel-Palestine conflict, which I think is telling…“Twenty percent of Israelis are on the extremes, for either withdrawing from the territories or annexing them,” he says. “The remaining 80 percent who don’t want to rule over the territories or relinquish them don’t have a way to talk about the conflict, so they just don’t think about it. Which is the tragedy of the Israeli center.” Shrinking the conflict, rather than solving it, is what Goodman calls “replacing indifference with pragmatism,” and it sounds a lot like what ministers and senior advisers to the Bennett-Lapid government are already talking about in private. Goodman himself, in meetings with foreign diplomats, is a lobbyist for the plan that’s essentially a combination of economic incentives for the Palestinian Area A enclaves in the West Bank and various mechanisms designed to enhance “self-governance.” Examples of these include creating corridors between the enclaves and a border crossing to Jordan “up to the level that the Palestinians feel they are ruling themselves, without the capacity to threaten Israel,” Goodman says. “But they don’t get anything like the right of return, a state or Jerusalem.””

Israel-Palestine: 'No war, no peace' apartheid is Bennett's best case scenario,

“In his New York Times interview, however, Bennett basically said that this status quo of “no war, no peace” is not an interim situation, but rather the permanent situation to which he aspires. In this situation, Israel, on the one hand, will continue its military rule over the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and continue to accord Jewish citizens in the West Bank preferential rights as compared with Palestinians. On the other hand, Israel will not accord Palestinians civil rights equal to those of their Jewish neighbours as would be necessitated by a partial or full annexation of the West Bank. This approach also has a name – apartheid – and Bennett believes it to be the only one possible.”

Gestures toward Palestinians leave Bennett in bind,

“Hamas is milking Bennett’s bind for all its worth. Two weeks ago, an Israeli sniper was shot by a Hamas member during Aug. 21 rioting along the border fence with Gaza. The political right took advantage of his subsequent death to launch a vicious attack on Bennett’s government, claiming the soldier had been abandoned to his fate, that the army had tied his hands in limiting authorization to fire at Gaza rioters, just to ensure the survival of the government. When Gantz showed up at PA headquarters with bulging pockets just days after the shooting, Bennett was caught in the crossfire and went on the defensive. His people think Gantz overplayed his hand with the high-profile visit. Gantz’ associates say Bennett is ungrateful after the defense minister went to Ramallah at Bennett’s behest to pacify Hamas by arranging the aid transfer and promote a long-term cease-fire with the organization. Spoiler alert: The Bennett-Gantz tensions will sort themselves out. They will not bring down the government. The question is who will resolve the tension with Hamas and how.”