Top News from Palestine & Israel: February 5, 2021

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Annexation, Apartheid

Israel Destroys and Seizes Structures in Khirbet Humsa, Leaving Over 30 Palestinian Minors Without a Roof,

“Israel’s Civil Administration demolished and confiscated most of the structures in Palestinian village of Khirbet Humsa in the northern Jordan Valley, in the second massive operation in the last three months at the site. The Civil Administration ordered the 73 residents of the village, half of whom are children, to move a few kilometers to the west. On Wednesday evening, the army declared the area a closed military zone, detaining Palestinian activists who arrived there and preventing them and residents of the community from re-erecting tents and sheep pens.

Also See:

Palestinian PM in Area C calls for sanctions on Israel over demolitions,

“Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh called for international sanctions against Israel, while on a visit to the site of the illegal tent village of Khirbet Humsa that the IDF dismantled three times this week. “Serious sanctions on Israel should be imposed because this Israeli occupation should have a serious price,” he said Thursday during his visit to Area C of the West Bank together with a European Union delegation. “If the Israeli occupation is not costly, then Israel will not stop its actions against our people.”

UAE massively cut aid to Palestinians after normalization with Israel,

“The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have substantially cut back funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees following their normalization with Israel, in possible “revenge” for the Palestinians’ bitter condemnation of the move, Channel 12 news reported Friday. Citing the Center for Near East Policy Research, an Israeli NGO, the network said that while the UAE sent the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) $53 million in 2018 and $51 million in 2019, it provided the agency a mere $1 million in 2020. The report said Bahrain too had cut funds, but did not provide any figures.”

IDF: Palestinian tries to break into settlement home, is shot dead during tussle,

“An unarmed Palestinian man was shot and killed after entering into a West Bank settlement outpost in the predawn hours of Friday morning and attempting to break into a home, the Israel Defense Forces said, calling the infiltrator a terrorist. A military spokesperson said the decision to label the incident an attempted terror attack and its description of the event were based almost solely on the testimonies of the settlers involved in the incident. This included details that they likely could not have known.”

Also See

Relying on Nation-state Law in Ruling on Arab Students Was Wrong, Israeli Appeals Court Says,

“The Haifa District Court on Wednesday ruled that a lower court was mistaken in relying on the controversial nation-state law in deciding that the Carmiel municipality is not obligated to reimburse the transportation expenses incurred by Arab residents of the city who send their children to an Arabic-language school outside of the city.”

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 occupied 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. The Israeli military said that in recent weeks “there have been several reports of friction between settlers and Palestinians in caves near the village of (At-Tuwani)” and that troops worked to “separate the participants and restore order”.”

"I have chosen a life of advocating for Palestine.",

“I have chosen a life of advocating for Palestine. It is the work I do & enjoy. Every now & then I reflect on what that means and some of the situations I encounter. Fighting your own dehumanization really highlights the global structural inequalities we face. It takes a toll…The crux of every conversation is: I am a human too and deserve to be free.”

We, the Palestinians, are stuck in limbo,

“Today, we, the Palestinians, are sidelined, silenced and forgotten. We are stuck in limbo, with no hope for a better future. Yes, more and more people are calling out Israel’s apartheid for what it is. However, more and more people also seem ready to accept this unjust and illegal state of affairs as unchangeable and move on.”


Palestinians receive 10,000 doses of Russian vaccine,

“Around 10,000 Russian-made coronavirus vaccines arrived in Ben Gurion airport Thursday and were delivered to the Palestinian Authority. The shots — enough to inoculate 5,000 people — are a donation from Russian President Vladimir Putin. They are set to be given first to frontline healthcare workers and other priority groups, Palestinian Authority Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said.”

Israel sees alarming leap in child coronavirus cases,

“Israel has seen a worrying rise in the number of coronavirus infections in teens, small children and even toddlers over the past few months, mainly due to the emergence of a number of variants of the pathogen in the country. “The high infection rate among children is expanding to younger ages and reaching infants,” says Prof. Tzachi Grossman, head of the Israeli Pediatric Association. “These are new phenomena that reflect everything that is happening in the country in terms of infections. It all stems from the new mutations, including the British one that many fear is more deadly than the original virus,” he says. “If this is indeed true, it means that not only are more children getting infected, but that they may even die at higher rates. The solution is to inoculate as many people as possible.””

In Gaza, Pandemic Forces Tough Choices And Health Care System Hangs By A Thread,

“”There are many others like me who don’t want to report their illness so they can keep working,” he said. This is common in Gaza, where most live below the poverty line and the economy is in a chokehold due to a nearly 14-year Israeli and Egyptian blockade severely restricting trade and travel to the Islamist-ruled territory. In the first months of the pandemic, being cut off proved to be an advantage. The few infected travelers who did enter Gaza were quarantined and there was no discernible community spread.”

Israel’s Vaccine Success Unleashes a Debate on Palestinian Inequities,

“It remains unclear precisely when the roughly two million Palestinians in Gaza, the blockaded enclave controlled by the militant anti-Israel group Hamas, will begin to receive vaccinations.”

The Biden Administration

Biden Signals Break With Trump Foreign Policy in a Wide-Ranging State Dept. Speech,

“The president said that he would end support for Saudi Arabia in its intervention in Yemen and that the U.S. would no longer be “rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions.””

Also See

The Biden Admin issues its 1st response to recent Israeli army actions in the West Bank,

The Biden Admin issues its 1st response to recent Israeli army actions in the West Bank: demolition of Palestinian homes the EU calls “immediate threat of forcible transfer” & a tank maneuve @btselem says aims to forcibly transfer Palestinians. @StateDept response to @NPR”
Also See

US Senate approves amendment to keep embassy in Jerusalem,

“The United States Senate voted 97-3 late Thursday to support an amendment to the COVID-19 budget resolution that affirmed the country’s intention to keep its embassy in Jerusalem. It was put forward by Republican Senators Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Bill Hagerty of Tennessee. Inhofe tweeted that the amendment “would make the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem permanent, effectively preventing it from being downgraded or moved. It’s an important message that we acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.””

For More See:

Netanyahu still waiting for Biden’s phone call,

“As of this morning, Feb. 5, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to bite his nails as he waits by the phone for a long-anticipated call from the White House. Just as Netanyahu took his time congratulating US President-elect Joe Biden on his election victory over President Donald Trump in November, so now-President Biden is taking his time getting back to him. This would never have happened with Trump. Phoning Netanyahu was at the top of his to-do list when he took office in 2017. Four years later, Netanyahu has been relegated to the sidelines. The cushioned, pampered Trump protege finds himself being punished, sent to stand in the corner.”

Weaponizing Antisemitism to Quash Criticism of Israel [i.e. Free Speech]

Facebook's Latest Proposed Policy Change Exemplifies the Trouble With Moderating Speech at Scale,

“The latest vocabulary controversy at Facebook surrounds the word “Zionist,” used to describe an adherent to the political ideology of Zionism—the historic and present-day nationalist movement that supports a Jewish homeland in Israel—but also sometimes used in a derogatory manner, as a proxy for “Jew” or “Jewish.” Adding complexity, the term is also used by some Palestinians to refer to Israelis, whom they view as colonizers of their land. Because of the multi-dimensional uses of this term, Facebook is reconsidering the ways in which it moderates the term’s use. More specifically, the company is considering adding “Zionist” as a protected category under its hate speech policy….While there is no denying that “Zionist” can be used as a proxy for “Jewish” in ways that are anti-semitic, the term’s myriad uses make it a prime example of what makes moderation at scale an impossible endeavor.”

How should US anti-Semitism be defined in the Biden era?,

“According to Yousef Munayyer, a Palestinian-American writer and analyst, the bigger picture behind the potential political use of the definition by policymakers and enforcers also includes a push to limit Palestinian free speech and demands for greater rights. Munayyer notes that efforts in the United States to pass laws against the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement – an organisation which works to pressure Israel to comply with what the BDS considers are its obligations under international law – have failed when faced with laws protecting free speech. Munayyer says that to apply the IHRA definition as Trump did, however, could allow opponents of the BDS movement, and those who want to limit criticism of Israel more generally, to bypass laws protecting free speech – for example, they could use pre-existing laws against discrimination and interpret them to curb Palestinian rights activism. “This is about binding institutions to take action against people who those behind this effort want to see silenced,” Munayyer said of the push to have the definition transformed into policy.”

[WEBINAR] "The IHRA Definition & the Fight Against Antisemitism Part 5: Opportunities and Struggles for Progressive Jews",

“FMEP is proud to host a webinar featuring progressive Jews exploring the challenges and opportunities embodied in the ongoing debate over how to define antisemitism. Join us as we host Corey Balsam, National Coordinator for Canada’s Independent Jewish Voices, writer and filmmaker Rebecca Pierce, and Dr. Barry Trachtenberg, professor and scholar of modern European and American Jewry — all in discussion with FMEP President Lara Friedman. “

Paris adopts the IHRA definition of antisemitism,

“The city of Paris adopted the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism during a session of the Council of Paris on Thursday, joining a growing number of cities around the world, including London and more recently the French city of Nice, to make the move. The decision was taken by the Council of Paris, headed by Paris’ Mayor Anne Hidalgo, which consists of 163 councillors and that is responsible for governing the French capital.”

Israeli Elections

Netanyahu chooses Steve Bannon protege to run his election campaign,

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s newest campaign manager is Aaron Klein, a former reporter for the right-wing Breitbart News site who worked with Steve Bannon on Donald Trump’s first presidential campaign…Netanyahu had previously hired Trump campaign veterans Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie but fired them after only a month.”

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.”

Meretz MK says party would join Sa’ar coalition if it meant ousting Netanyahu,

“Opposition MK Yair Golan of Meretz said Thursday that his left-wing party is prepared to back right-wing challenger Gideon Sa’ar as prime minister in the approaching elections, and join a coalition headed by Sa’ar, if it means ousting incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu. Sa’ar, a former member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, in December set up his own right-wing party, New Hope, in order to directly campaign for the premiership.”

The Israeli right wants Arabs at the polls — with one big condition,

“It doesn’t take a professional fact-checker to show how cynical and hypocritical Netanyahu’s new “Arab loving” persona is. Just last March, he erased 15 Knesset seats from his political arithmetic by “demonstrating” on a white board how he, not Benny Gantz, had won the election because some of the Knesset members who had recommended Gantz were — you guessed it — Arabs…Despite his centrality in Israeli politics today, focusing on Netanyahu alone misses the larger picture: many right-wing politicians have been falling over each other to sweet talk Arab citizens in recent weeks…

What makes all of this particularly perplexing is the fact that this “love blitz” toward Palestinian citizens lacks any talk of peace with the Palestinians or a need to end the occupation of the Palestinian territories: Sa’ar has barely mentioned the conflict, and Bennett has said that he is setting his annexation plans aside. Still, all these right-wing politicians fundamentally reject the establishment of a sovereign, independent Palestinian state and an end to the occupation according to international agreements…

In other words, the Israeli right, and Jewish politics in general, is embracing Arabs while trying to erase Palestinians. Jewish Israel is tearing down the walls that have separated it from the Arab world — as evidenced by the thousands of Israelis scrambling to vacation in the United Arab Emirates — while fortifying the walls that keep Palestinians away. Arabs are good, Palestinians are bad.”