Top News from Palestine & Israel: February 4, 2021

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Settlements, Annexation

Palestinian rights must be respected to defeat anti-Semitism, says US Congressman,

“US Congressman Andy Levin has warned that anti-Semitism cannot be properly defeated without addressing Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians. Speaking earlier this week during an online discussion hosted by the progressive Jewish movement IfNotNow on how the Biden administration can combat anti-Jewish racism, the Michigan Democrat lawmaker mentioned his long track record of urging the US to oppose Israel’s occupation.”

IDF razes Palestinian herding village Khirbet Humsa twice in one week,

“The Civil Administration attempted to raze tents in the illegal Palestinian herding village of Khirbat Humsa twice in one week. The Civil Administration initially destroyed a small village of 18 tents and modular structures located in the Jordan Valley in November, housing 11 families, according to the left-wing group B’Tselem. It returned again on Monday to remove 13 tents which the families had rebuilt, as well as shacks and tents for livestock, B’Tselem reported. The families returned to the area, as did the Civil Administration, which on Wednesday, removed 7 tents that housed nine families, as well as tents and shacks for livestock. It also confiscated four portable toilets and destroyed another two, as well as confiscated material for three additional tents, according to B’Tselem. The IDF also confiscated two vehicles, one that belonged to a Palestinian human rights activist and another that belonged to the Palestinian Authority, B’Tselem stated.”

Also see:

Why Is the Israeli Military Exercising in These Palestinian Villages, for the First Time in 7 Years?,

“Despite explicit promises to residents of Masafer Yatta, military vehicles drive onto farmland, damaging vital crops and cisterns, during large-scale drills.”

Palestinian cave-dwellers worry over Israeli settler incursions,

“Home for Palestinian Barakat Mour is a hillside cave in the West Bank, which he says is often under threat from Israeli settlers in the territory. ‘You’ll be sitting with your wife in the cave and the settlers will raid it without any notice,’ Mour, 60, told Reuters about his family’s dwelling near the West Bank city of Hebron. ‘Here is where I was born. I was born in this cave. Homeland is very dear and my land is very dear to me, it is part of me,” he said.”

High Court approves demolition of confessed terrorist's home,

“Judges reject petition by family of Muhammad Mruh Kabha, who murdered Esther Horgen in December, that razing the top two floors of their West Bank house was collective punishment and violation of international and Jewish law.”

In its war on Palestinian students, Israel deems book fairs and falafel sales a crime,

“The systematic harassment of hundreds of students in the West Bank over the past two years has been exacerbated by administrative detention, detention pending sentencing, or imprisonment. Israel is currently imprisoning or holding in custody dozens of students from universities across the occupied territories, including An-Najah National University in Nablus, Birzeit University, Bethlehem University, Palestine Technical University – Kadoorie (from its two respective branches in Tulkarm and Hebron), and Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem. The increase in student arrests in recent years is related to the Shin Bet’s intensive efforts to prevent any political organizing aimed at resisting the occupation, even in theory. However, one cannot ignore the fact that these arrests serve the interests of the Palestinian Authority as well…”

Palestinian re-detained immediately following release after serving 7-year prison time in Israel,

“The Israeli occupation authorities today re-detained a Palestinian man immediately following his release after serving his 7-year prison term he spent for resisting the Israeli occupation, according to local sources. They told WAFA that Mohammad Kamal Obeid, 25, from Isawiyya neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem, was leaving Naqab prison in the south of Israel after completing his prison term when he was re-detained and taken to the Russian Compound police station in West Jerusalem. Obeid’s family, which was waiting for him outside the Naqab prison, was not able to see him. The sources said Israel often does this to prisoners from East Jerusalem in order to delay or prevent their families and neighborhood from celebrating their release from prison and to welcome them as heroes.”

UAE embraces trade with Israeli-owned businesses in Judea and Samaria,

“According to Yaakov Berg, he and wine suppliers in the United Arab Emirates are finalizing ‘several deals in the making’ to export the Israeli wine to the Gulf, crediting the progress made in trade relations between Israel and the UAE to the Trump administration and former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who visited the Psagot Winery during his most recent visit to Israel, becoming the first top American diplomat to tour an Israeli-owned company located beyond the pre-’67 borders.”


Palestinian Authority receives first 10,000 doses of Sputnik V vaccine [note: Adult Palestinian population of West Bank & Gaza is around 2.5 million people],

“The Palestinian Authority received its first shipment of the Russian-made Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine on Thursday morning, according to Israeli media reports. Moscow is said to have sent at least 10,000 doses of the vaccine to Ramallah, on top of a smaller shipment of roughly 2,000 jabs transferred by Israeli authorities earlier this week. The PA has made deals with four companies – AstraZeneca, Moderna, Sinopharm, backed by the Chinese government, and Sputnik V – to deliver doses of vaccine to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, a senior official in the PA’s health ministry last week expressed concern about the Russian vaccine, a key pillar of Ramallah’s coronavirus vaccination plan. Both Sputnik V and Sinopharm have been controversial due to lack of transparency during clinical trial phases, with some health experts expressing skepticism about their safety and effectiveness.”

Israel’s Blockade Worsens Gaza's Coronavirus Situation,

“According to a study conducted by the UK-based University of Bath and the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, in cooperation with IOD PARC consulting organization, Palestinians are aware of the risks and understand the importance of public health measures to reduce the number of infections, but many perceive the preventative measures as more challenging than the disease itself.”

Palestinians Protest The Closure of The Sidon UNRWA Office in Lebanon,

“Palestinian refugees in the Ain al-Hilweh camp escalated their protests against UNRWA Wednesday shuttering their office in Sidon claiming neglect as coronavirus viciously spreads among their camps. With the coronavirus widespread in the Palestinian camps in Lebanon causing high numbers of deaths and infections, the refugees have started to intensify their steps in protest of UNRWA’s handling of the health situation in what they describe as “neglect,” where a health emergency hasn’t even been declared yet.”

Israel confirms 7,385 new virus cases since Wednesday, death toll rises to 4,947,

“At least 7,385 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed over the last 24 hours, Israel’s Health Ministry said in a statement Thursday morning. The latest data also showed 85,925 Israelis being screened for COVID-19 since Wednesday, resulting in an 8.9 percent positivity rate. The Jewish state confirmed that 76,896 cases of COVID-19 are currently active in the country. Some 1,103 patients are considered to be in serious condition and 315 people have been placed on artificial respirators. To date, 4,947 people have died from the disease. Meanwhile, Israel’s world-leading vaccination campaign to all members of the public above the age of 16 following a decision made by cabinet ministers Wednesday evening.

Israel Set to Exit COVID Lockdown With No Game Plan, Gambling on Vaccination Success,

“Israel is exiting this lockdown, which lasted over six weeks, with one of the highest infection rates since the pandemic began, pinning its hopes on the success of the vaccine campaign. Even if the health system meets its goals – fully vaccinating five million Israelis – the big question, as Israel prepares to ease restrictions next week, is whether this will suffice to get the pandemic under control, let alone eradicate it.”

Peace Process?

Normalisation deals with Israel no 'substitute for peace', US State Department says,

“Recently cemented normalisation deals between several Arab countries and Israel cannot replace peace negotiations with the Palestinians, a US State Department spokesman says. In his first official news conference, State Department spokesman Ned Price stressed that while the previous administration’s work to establish the normalisation deals is welcomed as progress, advancing peace between Israel and the Palestinians remains a priority. ‘While we support normalisation between Israel and countries in the Arab world, it’s also not a substitute for Israeli-Palestinian peace, and that’s very important,’ Price said during Tuesday’s briefing.”

Lavrov lists conditions for Palestinian-Israeli talks,

“The resumption of direct Palestinian-Israeli talks will depend on the results of Israel’s parliamentary elections in March and the position of the new US administration, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday. Speaking at a press conference in Moscow following a meeting with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi, Lavrov stressed the necessity to push the sides to hold a new round of negotiations. ‘A number of events await us that will directly affect the creation of conditions for such a direct dialogue,’ he said. Lavrov praised the process of intra-Palestinian reconciliation, saying the differences are being resolved, and stressed that normalization between Arab countries and Israel should not overshadow the issue of the Palestinian problem. Meanwhile, the Quartet of Middle East mediators — Russia, the US, the UN and the EU — and Arab countries have to actively encourage Palestine and Israel to resume direct talks, he said.”

UN chief hopes Mideast Quartet can meet within few weeks on way forward,

“UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday he hopes to see the Middle East Quartet of mediators meet again in the next ‘few weeks’ now that there is a new U.S. president in the White House. The Quartet – the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations – does not appear to have had a meeting since September 2018.

Palestinian Scene

Cairo talks to define participation in polls: Hamas,

“Hamas said Wednesday the next week’s Cairo talks will determine the shape of the group’s participation in the upcoming Palestinian elections. ‘The shape of Hamas’ participation in the polls is linked to what we will agree upon during the Cairo talks,’ Hamas deputy chief Khalil al-Hayya told a press conference in Gaza City. Al-Hayya said there are ‘multiple options’ for the shape of his group’s participation in the vote, without giving any further details. On Monday, Hamas and its rival group Fatah said Palestinian factions will hold talks in the Egyptian capital on Feb. 8 to discuss ways of rendering the elections successful. Al-Hayya said the discussions will particularly focus on ‘the legal and judicial process related to the vote’.” Also see: Fatah: elections will be held in Jerusalem against the Zionist entity’s will (Middle East Monitor)

Fatah needs new faces to win Palestinian elections, says leading academic,

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction needs to get its act together if it wants to win the upcoming general elections, prominent Palestinian Professor of Philosophy Sari Nusseibeh said on Thursday. Nusseibeh, former President of Al-Quds University, said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post that he was skeptical about the chances that the elections would be held. ‘If Fatah does not get its act together, it’s likely that it will not succeed, or succeed well enough, in the elections,’ he cautioned. ‘If Fatah runs together with Hamas in a joint list, I’m not sure that will do any good. On the contrary; I think that will be a problem. The main problem lies with the leadership of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, which is being run in an authoritarian manner, and that’s unfortunate.’”

Israeli Scene

Far-right parties led by Smotrich and Ben Gvir, a Kahane disciple, join forces,

“A day before final electoral slates must be presented, the far-right Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit parties announced on Wednesday that they had signed a merger agreement to run jointly in the upcoming election…Otzma Yehudit is made up of followers of the late racist rabbi Meir Kahane, a former MK whose Kach party was banned from the Knesset in the 1980s — the first instance of a party being banned for racism. Otzma Yehudit supports encouraging emigration of non-Jews from Israel and expelling Palestinians and Israeli Arabs who refuse to declare loyalty to Israel and accept diminished status in an expanded Jewish state whose sovereignty extends throughout the West Bank.”

Also see:

Israel’s Arab parties split in boost for Netanyahu,

“An alliance of Arab parties in Israel finalized its breakup on Thursday, setting up the possibility that a small Islamist party could hold the key to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remaining in office and avoiding prosecution on corruption charges. The Joint List, an alliance of four Arab parties that won a record 15 seats in elections held last year, finalized the split overnight in which three will run together and the United Arab List, an Islamist party led by parliament member Mansour Abbas, will strike out on its own. One of the main points of division was Abbas’ openness to working with Netanyahu or other Israeli leaders to address longstanding issues like crime and housing in Israel’s Arab community, which makes up around 20% of its population.”

Also see:

More Israeli elections news:

Court rejects use of nation state law to block funds to bus Arab students,

“The Haifa District Court has rejected using the Jewish Nation-State Law as a basis for blocking funding for busing Israeli-Arab students, while still rejecting their funding requests on other technical grounds.The court spokesperson’s office announced on Thursday that the District Court had issued a ruling Wednesday partially reversing a November 2020 ruling by the Krayot Magistrate’s Court in the North.”

In the Region

Former Shin Bet chief calls for Israel to 'initiate military operations against Iran',

“In light of Iran’s fast-moving efforts to develop a nuclear bomb, Likud MK and Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Avi Dichter has called to ‘initiate serious operational moves, in the IDF in particular.’ The comments followed an Israel Hayom report that the International Atomic Energy Agency had also found Iran was systematically violating the agreement and getting closer to obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Syria alleges Israeli airstrike near Damascus,

“Arab media reported that the strike targeted sites near Damascus International Airport, as well as sites belonging to the Syrian military and pro-Iranian militias in the area.” Also see:Syria demands UNSC take ‘immediate’ action following alleged Israeli strike (Jewish News Syndicate);Syria says it responded to ‘Israeli aggression’ (Al Jazeera)

Netanyahu again cancels scheduled trips to UAE, Bahrain,

“Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced once again to cancel an official trip to the UAE and Bahrain due to the shuttering of Ben Gurion Airport stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. A statement released from the premier’s office said that the decision was made ‘despite the importance of the trip.’” Also see: Fearing Backlash, Netanyahu Delays UAE, Bahrain Visit for Third Time (Haaretz)

Yemen slams STC remarks on Israel normalization,

“The head of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) in Yemen has been slammed for his remarks to normalize relations with Israel. Earlier this week, Aidarus al-Zoubaidi said that the organization, which is backed by the United Arab Emirates, intends to normalize relations with Israel in case a separate southern Yemeni state is formed. In an interview with Russia Today Arabic, al-Zoubaidi described the recent normalization deals with Israel ‘an exemplary action’ to achieve regional peace.”

Lawfare & Weaponization of Definition of “Antisemitism” 

German cabinet recognizes IHRA as international institution,

“Germany recognized the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) as an international institution on Wednesday, further enshrining its legislative commitment to fighting anti-Semitism.”


Gaza and the One-State Reality,

“In contemporary conversations around Israel/Palestine, the Gaza Strip is construed as a state of exception, rendering the territory either hyper-visible or entirely invisible. Through the prism of the Covid-19 pandemic and Israel’s possible de jure annexation of portions of the West Bank, this piece argues that rather than being exceptional, the Gaza Strip represents the very embodiment of Israeli settler colonialism in Palestine. Its isola-tion and de-development constitute the endpoint of Israel’s policies of land theft and Palestinian dispossession. This endpoint, referred to as Gazafication, entails the confinement of Palestinians to urban enclaves entirely surrounded by Israel or Israeli-controlled territory. The Trump plan, otherwise known as the “deal of the century,” along with the  Covid-19 crisis, have inadvertently exposed the reality of Gaza as an enclave of the one-state paradigm.”

‘My Birthright trip was super radicalizing:’ A conversation with IfNowNow co-founder Max Berger,

“My Birthright trip was super radicalizing. I think there were a lot of things that happened on my trip that don’t happen on a normal trip. The original leader got kicked off the trip and was replaced by someone who was pro-settler, carried a Glock and told us about the dangers of ‘Arab ideology.’…What struck me was the extent to which the basic questions I was asking on Birthright were not treated as answerable, but rather as if the act of asking the question was wrong. I walked away thinking that these answers cannot be good, because if you think that I’m doing something wrong by earnestly trying to understand the situation, then you are hiding something egregious and horrible.”

Authors of California Ethnic Studies Curriculum Decry Cuts to Arab Studies,

“The campaign against the ESMC that produced this impasse has been led by Israel-advocacy groups, whose opposition originally focused on the inclusion of material related to Palestine—including mention of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement—but has since broadened to encompass larger complaints about the project. In December, these forces declared multiple victories: The CDE had excised all Palestine-related content from the draft, along with much of the content about Arab American studies in general, while agreeing to add two lesson plans on Jewish American experience and antisemitism…Even after extensive revisions, the group continues to call for further alterations, claiming that the curriculum ‘celebrates or glorifies current and historical figures who have promoted antisemitism’ because the original proponents of ethnic studies, the leaders of the Third World Liberation Front, ‘celebrated oppressive communist dictators.’ StandWithUs also contends that the curriculum should revise a lesson on ‘Important Historical Figures Among People of Color’ to cover figures from ‘marginalized communities,’ and add prominent Jews such as former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and writer Bari Weiss.”