Top News from Palestine & Israel: January 14, 2021

What We’re Reading

Setting the Stage for the Biden Presidency

Sheldon Adelson’s far right alliance will serve Israel long after his death,

“…Trump is set to leave office on Jan. 20. But as last week’s riot shows, the forces that led to his rise — a toxic cocktail of Christian evangelicalism, white supremacy, and hard-right Zionism — are here to stay. In many ways, we are living in the world that Adelson made. Even in death, Adelson’s wealth, now taken over by his wife Miriam, will continue to give life to the nightmare on display in the United States and in Israel-Palestine.”

Israel to push Biden to take it easy on Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt,

“Israel plans to lobby the incoming Biden administration to avoid confrontations over human rights and other contentious issues with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, senior Israeli defense officials tell me. Why it matters: President-elect Biden has promised to put human rights and democracy at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy, and he skipped over all three when placing phone calls to the leaders of 17 countries after his election victory. He was particularly critical of Saudi Arabia during the campaign over the war in Yemen and human rights issues. Israel sees its security and intelligence relationships with the three countries as central to its strategy to counter Iran and an important pillar in regional security. Now, Israel fears that Biden will not only seek a deal with Iran, but also cool relations with America’s Arab partners.”

Jerusalem gives preliminary approval for location of new US Embassy,

“Jerusalem municipal authorities said Wednesday they have given preliminary approval to a location for a new US Embassy in the city. In a statement on Twitter, Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum said the city’s building and planning committee approved the plans. She said another committee must still grant approval, which she expects to happen in the coming weeks.”

Biden taps Power, “who allowed anti-settlement UN resolution,” as USAID chief [Reminder: the UN Ambassador carries out the policy of the president he/she serves],

“US President-elect Joe Biden named Samantha Power, a former US ambassador to the United Nations, to a top foreign aid post on Wednesday. Power — notable during her UN tenure in part because of her role in allowing through an anti-settlements resolution at the tail end of the Obama administration — was tapped as the administrator of the US Agency for International Development. Biden elevated her position to include a seat on the National Security Council, a reflection of his determination to roll back President Donald Trump’s diminishment of US assistance overseas, including to Palestinians.”

Wary of Biden tack on Iran, Israel revisits military options - report,

“Israel is revising military options for a possible clash with Iran, an Israeli newspaper reported on Thursday, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government braces for differences with the incoming US administration on Iranian nuclear policy.” Also see: Likud minister warns Israel could attack Iran nuclear program if US rejoins deal (Times of Israel)

Syria Denounces Israeli Strikes, Calls on UNSC to Intervene,

“The Syrian government has condemned new Israeli airstrikes on Syrian territory, calling on the United Nations Security Council to take immediate and decisive measures to prevent the repetition of such attacks.”


Israeli settlers continue their rampage against Palestinians in the West Bank with total army apathy,

“Israeli settlers continued for the second week in a row their rampage against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank with attacks against their properties and on vehicles with Palestinian license plates driving on West Bank roads with total Israeli army apathy, according to officials and witnesses. Wadi Abu Awwad, mayor of the town of Turmus Ayya, northeast of Ramallah, told WAFA that settlers sneaked into the outskirts of the village during the early morning hours and set two Palestinian-owned vehicles on fire while they smashed the windows of a third. He said Israeli occupation forces came to the village and took the three cars away, accusing the Israelis of attempting to hide the settlers’ vandalism of Palestinian property. Settlers also last night attacked Palestinian vehicles commuting on the main Ramallah-Nablus road, near Turmus Ayya, said witnesses. The settlers threw rocks at the cars damaging many but without causing any bodily harm to their occupants. Soldiers, who were in the area, did not intervene, said the witnesses.”

Note: These attacks continue to get little if any media coverage, but are being extensively documented on Twitter. See: Yesh Din’s Lior Amihai (Hebrew); Btselem’s Sarit Michaeli (English), Kerem Navot’s Dror Etkes (Hebrew); video here. Tweet from FMEP’s Lara Friedman: “Settler terror campaign against Palestinians continues, with Israeli govt apparently unable to do anything to stop them…which, given Israeli forces’ record of speedily finding/arresting Palestinians accused of attacks can only mean: unwilling to intervene to punish/stop them.”

Death of 16-year-old provokes settlers' ire against police, Palestinians,

“…according to data published on Jan. 9, December 2020 was the most nationalist-violent month since the beginning of 2017. Israeli security agencies registered 41 ‘price tag’ incidents, which is the name used for vengeance crimes carried out by Israeli extremists against Palestinians and against Palestinian buildings and property. Most of these December attacks were the throwing of stones and rocks at Palestinians in the West Bank, with seven people in total injured. A report by the Yesh Din Volunteers for Human Rights nonprofit organization on Jan. 1 said the group had recorded 25 attacks against Palestinians and their property since Sandak was killed — in other words, 25 incidents in ten days. As aforementioned, the increase of violence by settlers and far-right activists is linked to the death of 16-year-old Sandak last month. He was killed when the car he was sitting in collided with a police car and then overturned. It happened during a car chase as police officers tried to detain five settlers — Hilltop Youth — suspected of throwing stones at Palestinians. Police said the driver lost control of the vehicle.” Also see: High Court rejects Honenu attack on police probe of Ahuvia Sandak case (Jerusalem Post)

Israeli army uproots dozens of olive trees in West Bank,

“Israeli military bulldozers on Wednesday destroyed two acres of farmland and dozens of olive trees in the West Bank city of Hebron, according to local residents. At least 80 olive trees were chopped down by soldiers in the town of Beit Ummar, northwest of Hebron, the residents said. Palestinian farmers complain of repeated attacks on their farmlands by Israeli soldiers and settlers. According to the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Camping — a coalition of Palestinian non-governmental organizations –, 2020 was the harshest year for the farmers. More than 8,400 olive trees were uprooted or burned.”

Land of wine and honey? Israeli settlers export to UAE, to Palestinian chagrin,

“After forging official relations with the UAE last year under a U.S.-brokered deal that enraged Palestinians, bottles from Tura Winery in the Rehelim settlement are now in stock in the UAE, an alcohol retailer there said, although they did not appear to be on shelves yet. The winery’s owner, Vered Ben-Sa’adon, told Reuters the exports showed that new Israel-UAE ties also extended to settlements, on West Bank land captured in a 1967 war and that Palestinians seek for a state…”

Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem self-demolish house to avoid heavy Israeli fines and charges,

“A Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem today self-demolished his house in Beit Hanina neighborhood to avoid paying high costs and fines after he received a demolition order from the Israeli municipality of West Jerusalem, according to the house owner. Fawaz Abu Hamad, the house owner, said that he proceeded to demolish his house, built 10 years ago and inhabited by seven people, and to remove the rubble to avoid paying exorbitant costs and fines if the West Jerusalem municipality carries out the demolition itself. He said that the demolition, as well as efforts to obtain a building license over the years, have cost him thousands of dollars and in the end, he was forced to tear it down under the pretext it was built without a permit. Abu Hamad said that in his latest session with the municipality over a permit to his house, he was proposed to pay a fine of $10,000 in return for delaying the demolition for six months, which he did not agree to considering that he spent years paying fines without getting a building permit.”

Gaza aid worker attends 154th court hearing in Israel,

“Former Gaza aid worker, Mohammad El-Halabi, is attending his 154th court hearing in Israel, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club (PPC) said yesterday. The 42-year-old, who was the director of World Vision in Gaza until he was detained in 2016, has attended all the previous court hearings behind closed doors. His lawyer has been prevented from reviewing Israeli prosecution evidence. In a statement, the PPC said: ‘What is happening with Al-Halabi poses danger on the human rights and humanitarian work as it is an obvious intimidation to aid and human rights institutions in Palestine.’ The ‘arbitrary measures’ practiced against El-Halabi, the PPC added, ‘are considered a test for the international rights system and its humanitarian message.’”

More than 20 Palestinians rounded up in an Israeli army operation in two Ramallah-area villages,

“In an early morning Israeli army raid on two Ramallah-area villages, soldiers rounded up more than 20 Palestinians, according to Palestinian security sources. They said that soldiers raided the village of al-Mughayyer, northeast of Ramallah, and rounded up at least 16 Palestinians, five of them were later released. The detainees included the father and brother of Ali Abu Alayya, a 13-year-old boy shot and killed by Israeli soldiers in the village in early December.”

Israel: IDF issues partial demolition order for house of Esther Horgan murder suspect,

“Suspect admitted killing mother of six from Tal Menashe settlement. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) issued a partial demolition order on Wednesday for the house of Muhammad Kabha, the Palestinian suspect behind the recent murder of a settler woman. General Tamir Yadai, Israel’s Central Command chief, ordered to demolish the two floors of the structure where the terrorist lived. Kabha has admitted killing Esther Horgan, a 52-year-old mother of six from the West Bank settlement of Tal Menashe, in December out of a ‘”nationalist’ motive.”

Palestinian Activist Detained Hours After Protest, Charged With Assaulting Israeli Soldier,

“…According to the indictment, Sami Huraini, 24, from the village of al-Tawani, pushed a soldier during Friday’s demonstration, struck him with a flag and kicked him. He is charged with obstructing a soldier and violating a military closure order. Huraini was arrested hours after the protest, at about 1 A.M., at his home. In a video filmed by Israeli activists during the demonstration, a Border Police officer is heard calling to Huraini: ‘You’re a main instigator, I’m arresting you.’ However, the arrest itself took place much later. Huraini, who was in custody since early Saturday morning, was released only on Wednesday, after the indictment was filed. A condition of his release was for him to pledge to appear at the Hebron police station on Friday from 8 A.M. to 3 P.M., the hours during which most of the protests in the West Bank are held, as well as not to organize or take part in any protest.”

Minister Yankelevich visits 'Young Settlement' leader who collapsed during hunger strike,

“Diaspora Minister Omer Yankelevich and Samaria Council Chairman Yossi Dagan came to visit Itai Zar, one of the leaders of the ‘young settlement’ struggle, who collapsed Wednesday night in a protest tent and refused to receive a blood transfusion. Zar has been on hunger strike for the past nine days in a protest tent, demanding that the prime minister approve a proposal to regulate [i.e., suspend the rule of law and legalize] the ‘young settlements’ at a cabinet meeting next Sunday, which will allow 46 communities to be connected to water and electricity infrastructure.”


Rights center demands Israel set up COVID-19 vaccine stations for Palestinian Jerusalemites living behind separation wall,

“Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent an urgent letter on 7 January to Israeli health officials demanding that they establish COVID-19 vaccine stations for the residents of two Palestinian areas of Jerusalem for which Israeli authorities hold responsibility. The neighborhoods of Kufr Aqab and the Shufat refugee camp both were illegally annexed and fall within the boundaries of Israel’s Jerusalem municipality, but are located behind Israel’s separation wall. Israel has not established any COVID-19 vaccination stations to serve the 150,000 residents of Shufat refugee camp, Kufr Aqab, and the surrounding areas.”

Rivlin calls for vaccination of prisoners: Ban is ‘inconsistent with our values’,

“Last month, Ohana instructed prison officials to refrain from vaccinating inmates against COVID-19 until further notice, after a Palestinian official said that security prisoners were expected to soon begin getting shots. Ohana’s ban included not only security prisoners, but all inmates.” Also see: 7 more Palestinians catch COVID-19 in Israeli prisons (Al-Anadolu)

Hamas bars patients from going to US charity’s field hospital on border,

“Gaza’s Hamas rulers said Wednesday they would bar patients from the Palestinian territory from going to a field hospital opened by a US charity in protest of what they say are insufficient services. The hospital, located on no-man’s land along the Israeli border, is meant to support the overwhelmed health system in the blockaded enclave…The evangelical Christian group FriendShips, which quietly built its ‘Camp Gaza’ tent hospital over the past year and a half, said this week it was ‘ready to receive patients.’ With a photo of a smiling medical worker on the project’s Facebook page, it added that ‘we anxiously await the coordination of patients from Ministry of Health in Gaza.’”

Palestinian Scene

Senior official expects legislative elections in Palestine on May 22, presidential two months later,

“Azzam al-Ahmad, member of both the Executive Committees of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Fatah Central Committee, said today that he expects legislative elections in Palestine to be held on May 22 and the presidential elections two months later. He told the official Voice of Palestine radio that he expects President Mahmoud Abbas to issue the decrees on holding elections on the 20th of this month.”

PA issues a stark warning of digital economy tardiness because of deprivation of 4G/5G spectrum for Palestine,

“The Palestinian Authority (PA) today issued a strong warning that Palestine’s momentum towards the digital economy is falling behind due to Israel’s control over access to the 4G/5G spectrum. This continued deprivation of access to the necessary spectrum will have negative economic and social consequences, especially as Covid-19 is transitioning the Palestine society to digital life across key sectors and the current broadband infrastructure is not enough. In a letter addressed to the international and donor community operating in Palestine, the Palestinian Authority reported the negative impact of such deprivation and the positive results of access to technology.”

Fatah hails Turkish efforts to end Palestine division,

“A leading figure in the Palestinian Fatah movement thanked Turkey for efforts to end political division in the country. Jibril Rajoub, Secretary General of Fatah’s Central Committee, met with Turkey’s Consul General in Jerusalem, Ahmet Rıza Demirer, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Rajoub’s office said in a statement. ‘We are grateful to Turkey for its strong support to an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,’ Rajoub said.”

Israeli Domestic Scene

Bibi goes MAGA: How Netanyahu is exploiting the Capitol Hill riot,

“‘If, God forbid, Bibi loses, who supports doing what Trump’s supporters are doing?’ asked a Facebook user last Wednesday on the popular ‘Likud Voters’ group online, home to more than 14,000 members who support the ruling party in Israel. The storming of Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. was still taking place and Israelis, like the rest of the world, were watching the events mouth agape. Since then, Israelis have been wondering aloud  — including on social media — whether a storming of the legislature could take place here as well, should Netanyahu lose the upcoming elections on March 23. Netanyahu himself has a vested interest in reversing this narrative; he has quickly sought to spin the story on its head and portray the protesters who have been demonstrating against him for months as violent extremists, a la the insurrectionists at the Capitol. It is a spin that has further revealed the near-symbiotic relationship between the pro-Netanyahu right in Israel and Trumpist right in the United States.”

Wooing Arab votes, Netanyahu claims 2015 ‘voting in droves’ remark was twisted,

“In a rare visit to the Arab city of Nazareth on Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a 2015 video broadcast in which he urged Likud voters to go vote because ‘the Arabs are voting in droves’ had been twisted by his political opponents. ‘They twisted my words,’ said Netanyahu, claiming that ‘My intention was not to protest against the fact of Arab citizens voting in elections,’ but rather ‘to protest against their voting for the [Arab-majority] Joint List party.’..Arab Israeli politicians were quick to criticize Netanyahu’s remarks. The prime minister must think the Arab community has a ‘short memory,’ said Joint List chair Ayman Odeh.”

Also see:

Weaponization of Antisemitism Concerns

Citing Antisemitism Danger Conference of Presidents, JFNA, ADL, OU, Hadassah Urge Biden to Quash Criticism of Israel,

Twitter thread from FMEP’s Lara Friedman: “Less than week after display in DC of kind of antisemitism that lead to LETHAL attacks on Jews, CoP, JFNA, ADL, AJC, Hadassah, & OU send Biden letter demanding quashing of campus free speech critical of Israel (like Pittsburgh, last week never happened). THIS is the cynical weaponization/instrumentalization of  antisemitism that too many people want to ignore.Hard to imagine a clearer example of how supposed defenders of Jews are sacrificing fight against ACTUAL antisemitism to goal of insulating Israel criticism/pressure. Feels like a re-run of Oct 2018, when in response to Pittsburgh massacre — carried out by a white supremacist – there were calls to…adopt law to quash criticism of Israel on campuses…”

IHRA definition of anti-semitism is ‘not fit for purpose’ at universities, academics conclude,

“A controversial definition of anti-semitism is ‘not fit for purpose within a university setting’ and cannot be legally enforced, a major report by a group of UCL academics has concluded. Universities have come under increasing pressure from Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Jewish prejudice. However, the report published today says that the definition is ‘not fit within a university setting’ and is a weak tool for university action against anti-semitic harassment. The report, compiled over a year by members of UCL’s academic board in consultation with anti-semitism experts and eminent lawyers, calls on the top London university to drop the definition.”