Top News from Palestine & Israel: February 8, 2021

What We’re Reading

TODAY: The Sentencing of Palestinian Non-Violent Human Rights Activist Issa Amro

I am getting into the military court now...",

“I am getting into the military court now, the sentence is today. I want to thank all my friends who are standing with me and with Palestine”

Drop politically motivated charges against Palestinian activist Issa Amro,

“The Israeli authorities must end their campaign of persecution against Palestinian activist Issa Amro, who is a prominent voice against Israel’s regime of discrimination and systematic human rights violations against Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), particularly in Hebron. “Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the Israeli authorities to drop all the charges they have imposed on Issa Amro. It considers them all to be politically motivated and linked to his peaceful work in exposing Israel’s human rights violations.”

[Video] Nonviolence on Trial,

“Participating in a protest without a permit” is not internationally recognizable as an offense. Human rights defender @IssaAmro  will be sentenced tomorrow by an Israeli military court & could face prison for nonviolent community organizing.”

Local EU statement on the charges against Palestinian Human Rights Defender Issa Amro,

“The EU and EU Member States call on the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to drop the politically motivated charges against Issa Amro.”


ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I issues its decision on the Prosecutor’s request related to territorial jurisdiction over Palestine,

“Today, 5 February 2021, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or “Court”) decided, by majority, that the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in the Situation in Palestine, a State party to the ICC Rome Statute, extends to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, namely Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

I.C.C. Rules It Has Jurisdiction to Examine Possible Israel War Crimes,

“The International Criminal Court on Friday determined that it has jurisdiction over the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, despite Israel’s insistence to the contrary, opening the way for an inquiry into allegations of Israeli, and Palestinian, war crimes in the region. The ruling by the I.C.C. in The Hague came six years after the office of the court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, began a preliminary investigation of Israeli actions in the territories, including during the devastating 50-day Gaza war of 2014. The precedent-setting decision, coming more than a year after Ms. Bensouda asked the court to confirm its jurisdiction in the area, was hailed by Palestinian leaders and human rights organizations as a step toward justice for the victims. It was excoriated by Israel as a contentious political move without valid legal basis…The State Department expressed “serious concerns” about the decision in a statement by a spokesman, Ned Price. “The United States has always taken the position that the court’s jurisdiction should be reserved for countries that consent to it, or that are referred by the U.N. Security Council,” he said. While Israel is not a member of the court, the Palestinians joined in 2015 and asked for the I.C.C. inquiry. Dealing a severe diplomatic blow to Israel, the court ruled that for its purposes, Palestine qualified as the state on the territory where the events in question occurred and defined the territorial jurisdiction as extending to the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The ruling was not unanimous, with one of the three judges, Péter Kovács, presenting a dissenting opinion, disputing the notion that the court has jurisdiction in this case.”

Also See

US opposes ICC ruling it has jurisdiction to probe Israel, Hamas for war crimes,

In a formal statement, the State Department said: “We have serious concerns about the ICC’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel. The United States has always taken the position that the court’s jurisdiction should be reserved for countries that consent to it, or that are referred by the UN Security Council.”…The ICC is meant to serve as a court of last resort when countries’ own judicial systems are unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute war crimes. Israel’s military has mechanisms to investigate alleged wrongdoing by its troops, and despite criticism that the system is insufficient, experts say it has a good chance of fending off an ICC investigation into its wartime practices. When it comes to settlements, however, some experts say Israel could have a difficult time contesting international law forbidding the transfer of a civilian population into occupied territory. Bensouda indicated in 2019 that a criminal investigation, if approved, would focus on the 2014 Israel-Hamas conflict (Operation Protective Edge), on Israeli settlement policy and on the Israeli response to protests at the Gaza border in recent years.”

Palestinian rights groups urge swift action after ICC ruling,

“Palestinian rights groups have welcomed the International Criminal Court’s ruling that it has jurisdiction over the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and called on the court’s prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to take swift action…“A critically important step towards ensuring the rule of law, the decision also marks an important step towards ending impunity, while ensuring the dignity of the Palestinian people,” read a statement by rights groups Al-Haq, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and Al Dameer Association for Human Rights…Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh praised the ICC ruling as a “victory for justice and humanity” and Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister Riyad al-Maliki described Friday as an “historic day”. A Hamas official in Gaza welcomed the ruling and said it did not fear investigation. “Hamas resistance and the resistance of the Palestinian people is legitimate and consistent with International Humanitarian law,” said spokesman Hazem Qassem. Diana Buttu, an international lawyer and former legal adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said the Palestinians still faced many hurdles. “The road to actual justice is a long one, for the ICC will undoubtedly face political pressure not to proceed,” Buttu said.”

Netanyahu: An ICC investigation of Israel would be ‘pure anti-Semitism’,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday assailed the International Criminal Court for ruling it has jurisdiction to open a war crimes investigation against Israel, calling such a probe “pure anti-Semitism” and vowing to fight it. “When the ICC investigates Israel for fake war crimes, this is pure anti-Semitism,” Netanyahu said in a forceful English-language video sent out by his office.”

More News, Reaction, & Analysis from Jewish Israelis:

Israel to Brief Hundreds of Defense Officials, Fearing They May Be Arrested After ICC Ruling,

“Hundreds of senior Israeli security officials, past and present, are expected to be called in for briefings following a decision by the International Criminal Court in The Hague that allows investigations of alleged war crimes by Israel to proceed, fearing they may be arrested abroad. In July, Haaretz reported that Israel had prepared a confidential list of decision makers and senior military and security officials who might be arrested abroad if the ICC authorized the investigation by the international court. Israel is keeping the list strictly confidential over concern that exposing it could put the people on the list at risk.”

Int’l Criminal Court’s Positive Step on Investigation of Crimes Committed in Palestine,

“More fundamentally. the Rubicon has been crossed. A young Israeli soldier at the Gaza border now knows she can be held accountable to an international authority — maybe not today or tomorrow but possibly for the rest of her life. This awareness alone is likely to affect Israel’s military operations down the chain of command. In anticipation of the PTC’s ruling, Israel had already reportedly drawn up a list of officials vulnerable to ICC prosecution, presumably to warn about the risk of arrest they might face if traveling outside the country.”

Occupation, Annexation, Apartheid

Jerusalem Planning Board Decision Paves Way for Home Demolitions in Palestinian Village,

“Israel is liable to demolish 38 homes in the West Bank village of Walaja after the Jerusalem District Planning Board rejected a master plan drafted by the village’s residents. The committee ruled that conserving nature and traditional local farming in the area take precedence over developing Walaja, even though the same board approved in the past a significantly larger building plan for Jewish neighborhoods in the same area…

The northern half of Walaja is located within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, but residents do not receive services from the municipality or from the state of Israel. Instead, they rely on the Palestinian Authority for services ranging from education to trash collection. The village has not had a master plan since the 1967 de facto annexation of East Jerusalem, preventing residents from being able to build new homes legally. Residents built dozens of homes out of necessity over the past 54 years without permits.

Fifteen years ago, residents attempted to rectify the situation by preparing a master plan for the village with the help of the late architect Claude Rosenkowitz and the planning NGO Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights. The plan was supposed to enable residents to receive permits for homes that were already built, and provide permits for future construction to other residents.

For years, the district board refused to discuss the plan, and was forced to do so only after residents petitioned the Supreme Court. The board’s hearing, held last July, included former Minister Benny Begin, who supported the plan. The Civil Administration and the Nature and Parks Authority also supported it.

But the board recently published not only its decision to reject the plan in its totality, but also to adopt a host of extremely limiting restrictions for approving any future plans. Among other decisions, the board ruled that a large area in the village be set aside for an urban park, and that residents would only be able to receive a construction permit for structures built before 1967 or attached to them.”

Israeli settlers kill unarmed Palestinian near Ramallah,

“An Israeli settler shot dead a Palestinian man near the town of Ras Karkar in the central occupied West Bank on Friday, according to Israeli and Palestinian sources…According to the mayor, “nothing in the Israeli version makes sense. Why would someone like Khaled attack armed settlers unarmed? And supposing it was true, why did they have to kill him when they could have arrested him?” While details of Khaled Nofal’s killing are still unknown, Shawan Jabarin, director of the Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq, says there are “clear indications that he posed no threat. Therefore his killing was completely arbitrary and unnecessary.” “For Israeli authorities, there is always a reason to justify killing a Palestinian. It is more than a policy. It is a behaviour that reflects a racist mindset and culture,” he told MEE. For Abu Fikheidah, the killing was an intentional act designed to intimidate Palestinians who approach the settlement.”

The goal? Judaization. The means? A military exercise in the middle of a village,

“In 1980, the Israeli army declared the area as Firing Zone 918, even though 12 Palestinian villages, including Jinbeh, resided there long before Israel was founded in 1948. The army’s goal: displace the Palestinian residents…

Ali said he has four brothers, all of whom left Jinbeh over the past decade. They abandoned the village they were born in because of Israel’s policies, because of Firing Zone 918, he remarked. He explained that the army is preventing them from paving roads and is refusing to grant them building permits, or let them connect to water and electricity.

Jinbeh is one of more than 200 Palestinian villages in Area C of the occupied West Bank, over which the Israeli military has full control, that are systematically denied building permits — even though the land is privately owned by the residents.

The army preserves only the old stone houses in the village, like Ali’s. Everything else — the clinic, the school, the soccer field — can be demolished at any moment. It’s a violent policy; a way to pressure people into leaving their private land. This is also why the army declared this area a firing zone, even though it rarely trains here: to compound the pressure.

In 1999, under Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s leadership, Israel issued evacuation orders against the residents of Jinbeh and the other villages in the area, on the claim that they live in a firing zone. But the goal of Judaizing the area can be traced back to the 1967 Allon Plan, created by then-Labor Minister Yigal Allon. It was the Labor Party’s blueprint for settlement-building in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

In assertion of sovereignty, Palestinians launch postcodes in West Bank,

“The Palestinian Authority announced Sunday that it would begin using its own postal codes, a move at easing the delivery of parcels in the disputed territories, as well as asserting sovereignty. International mail sent to or from the West Bank currently has to pass through Jordan or Israel. But the PA said Sunday that it had asked the Universal Postal Union to notify its member states that Palestinian postal codes were coming into force. “From April, postal items that do not bear a Palestinian postal code will not be processed,” Palestinian Minister of Communications Ishaq Sidr told reporters in Ramallah, the West Bank headquarters of the Palestinian Authority.”

Explainer: Israeli settlements may face new scrutiny,

“Any investigation would look at Israeli military actions during a devastating 2014 war in the Gaza Strip and mass border protests that began in 2018. But Israel’s settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem appears to be open to even tougher scrutiny….“The settlement issue is really the biggest issue. This is the elephant in the room,” said Yuval Shany, an expert on international law at the Israel Democracy Institute. Israel annexed east Jerusalem after the 1967 war and considers the area an inseparable part of its capital. It says the West Bank is “disputed,” not occupied, and its fate should be decided through negotiations. Yet the Israeli positions have little support internationally, particularly since the departure of the settlement-friendly Trump administration last month. Shany said the court ruling means that Israeli settlement policy could come under hard-to-defend scrutiny. “This exposes basically the entire Israeli political elite that has been part of a settlement policy to criminal proceedings before the court,” he said. “This is a significant setback.””

Israel Police Let People File Complaints Online. But Not if You're Palestinian,

“Palestinians may not avail themselves of an online police complaint filing system introduced at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, effectively rendering it more difficult for Palestinians to file complaints on alleged hate crimes or any crime in Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli control. The online system, implemented to minimize crowding at police stations during the pandemic, is part of the Israeli network, and is therefore only open to those with Israeli identity numbers or credit cards. An Israeli NGO, Yesh Din, asked legal advisors at the police’s Judea and Samaria District, which is responsible for the West Bank, to let Palestinians file complaints online, especially in light of movement restrictions and lockdowns imposed by the Palestinian Authority.”

Israeli village demolition leaves Palestinian families desperate and homele,

“Aisha Abu Awwad, 57, sat in front of a demolished tent that once constituted her family’s home in the Palestinian community of Humsa al-Fawqa. With practically no shelter from the winter weather, she held tightly to her youngest granddaughter, three-month-old Manar, who is also the youngest newborn in the community. As the cold wind intensified and storms approached, the pair could do nothing but wait for a new tent to be erected. On 1 February, the Israeli army demolished and confiscated a number of homes and tents in the Bedouin community, which lies in the occupied West Bank’s northern Jordan Valley.”

The Weaponization of Antisemitism to Quash Criticism of Israel

How the ADL’s Israel Advocacy Undermines Its Civil Rights Work,

“According to its website, the ADL’s mission is twofold: “to secure justice and fair treatment to all”—which has driven a programmatic focus on civil rights and racial justice, among other progressive causes—and “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people,” which, for the ADL, has long included an emphasis on “Israel advocacy and education” and fighting “anti-Israel activity and BDS [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions].” In the case of the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, those two missions—Israel advocacy and fair treatment for all—came into conflict. In the end, Israel won out.”

Codifying IHRA’s definition of antisemitism as law is harmful,

…”antisemitism is a sick evil, but attempts to misrepresent all of Israel’s critics or political opponents as antisemitic – or to ignore the ways that antisemitism is closely linked to forms of xenophobia and racism that also impact other minority communities – is not helpful or wise. Ultimately, we should feel comfortable using the IHRA definition of antisemitism as a tool where appropriate, but not push for it to be codified into foreign governmental laws in a way that will harm our commitment to liberal democracy, or undermine our efforts to form strong partnerships that benefit Israel and the Jewish people.”

The Palestinian Domestic Scene

Sharply divided Palestinian factions arrive in Cairo for election talks,

“Senior Palestinian officials arrived in Cairo on Sunday to discuss how the first Palestinian national elections in 15 years would be conducted. “We are at a turning point in the Palestinian struggle,” senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya pledged to Hamas-linked Safa News, at the Rafah crossing with Egypt on Sunday morning. “We are at a turning point in the Palestinian struggle,” senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya pledged to Hamas-linked Safa News, at the Rafah crossing with Egypt on Sunday morning. Observers are skeptical that elections will indeed happen, as several election promises have fallen by the wayside since the last Palestinian national elections were held in 2006. Negotiating teams led by Fatah Secretary-General Jibril Rajoub and Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri left for the Egyptian capital on Sunday to begin the talks. Representatives of other Palestinian factions, such as Islamic Jihad and the Popular Struggle Front, also attended the discussions.”

Abbas’s election journey is fraught with peril,

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s call for elections has thrown his political future into peril, forcing him to negotiate competing demands to engage with a friendlier US administration, mend the rift with his Hamas rivals and keep his unruly Fatah movement from breaking apart. The presidential decree issued last month, calling for what would be the first Palestinian elections in 15 years, stemmed from negotiations launched with Hamas last year aimed at shoring up ranks in the face of unprecedented crises.”

The Demise of Palestinian Productive Sectors: Internal Trade as a Microcosm of the Impact of Occupation,

“The Israeli occupation has crippled Palestinian productive sectors, leading to the dominance of internal trade in the Palestinian economy. Al-Shabaka policy analyst, Ibrahim Shikaki, examines how these structural distortions developed as a result of Israel’s oppressive economic policies since it occupied Palestine in 1967. He offers recommendations to the international community and aid agencies for how to support Palestinian economic self-determination. “

The Israeli Domestic Scene

Netanyahu Appears in Court, Denies Corruption Charges,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pleaded not guilty as he appeared Monday at the Jerusalem District Court to respond to the corruption charges against him. Netanyahu, who is charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three cases, confirmed the written answer his defense team submitted to the court on his behalf in January, arguing he was not guilty in all the charges against him.”

Also See – “Netanyahu Enters Plea of Not Guilty in Corruption Trial” (New York Times)

Israeli protesters call on PM Netanyahu to step down,

“Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the official residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night, demanding his resignation. The protesters have been gathering each week in central Jerusalem for over seven months, saying Netanyahu should step down because of his corruption trial and what they say is mismanagement of the country’s coronavirus crisis. The protesters say Netanyahu cannot serve as prime minister when he is on trial for charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three separate cases. His trial is set to resume this week.”

The U.S. Scene

FMEP Legislative Round-Up January 29, 2021,

“…on Feb. 4-5, the Senate took up on the Senate floor S. Con, Res. 5, “A concurrent resolution setting forth the congressional budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2021 and setting forth the appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2022 through 2030.” This bill always attracts a ton of non-germane, grandstanding amendments. This year was no different, as Senate Republicans – newly installed as the minority party – introduced loads of amendments intended to score points at the expense of Senate Democrats. By the time the amendment period closed, a total of 889 amendments had been offered (the Republican Policy Committee has a tracker here – links in it, sadly, don’t seem to work).

The introduced amendments include a plethora of amendments related to — yep, you guessed it  – Israel and Iran. Of these, only one was considered/passed — but make no mistake, the rest are useful hints of what is likely to come. See Section 2, below, for details of amendments.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  As of this writing, the Congressional Record for February 4 has still not been published (in all likelihood because the Senate was in session all night finishing up with this very bill). As a result, text is available for only amendments submitted on February 3 (1-47 are here, 48-546 are here). Below are details of Middle East-related amendments from those first 546, plus some information gleaned from the RPC tracking document related to the remaining 343 amendments. Stay tuned for next week’s Round-Up for additional details.”