Top News from Palestine & Israel: January 22, 2021

What We’re Reading

New Resources from FMEP

Calling the Thing by its Proper Name: “Apartheid” Between the Jordan River & the Mediterranean Sea,

Watch yesterday’s webinar here.

Is it time to recognize Israel – on both sides of the Green Line – as an apartheid state?  With the occupation – and the separate-and-unequal regimes it involves – now in its 54th year, and with the 28 year-old peace process paradigm and its two-state solution rendered obsolete by Israeli facts on the ground (established expressly for that purpose), and with the Nation-State law codifying discrimination against Palestinians as a constitutional principle of the state of Israel, the question has salience today, both with respect to injecting honesty into the discussion around Israel-Palestine and to injecting energy, focus, and urgency into the fight for justice, human rights, freedom, and peace.

To discuss this question, FMEP hosted Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director of Israel’s premier human rights organization B’tselem, which recently published a ground-breaking paper entitled, “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid;” Sawsan Zaher, Deputy General Director of Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and who was part of Adalah’s legal team presenting oral arguments before the Israeli High Court of Justice in the petition against the Nation-State Law; and Nathan Thrall, an author and journalist who recently published an essay entitled, “The Separate Regimes Delusion” in discussion with Lara Friedman.

Challenging the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism – Expert Views & Resources,

Lara Friedman writes “…In the media and on social media, and in the mainstream political discourse, there are almost daily interventions in support of the IHRA definition – interventions that too often dismiss the well-established, well-fleshed-out substantive and constitutional concerns/objections to the definition and its implementation. Yet, this new definition has been the focus of enormous controversy and myriad challenges, including from academics/experts on antisemitism and Holocaust studies in the U.S., Israel, and around the world; from prominent voices and groups that defend free speech and human rights; from progressive Jewish community organizations; from leading legal scholars; from groups defending Palestinians and Palestinian rights; and more. In this context, I have created a new data table — a compendium of expert views and other resources laying out concerns/objections to the IHRA definition.”

Beginning the Biden Administration

Analysis: What will survive of U.S.-Middle East policy under Biden?,

“Biden and his team have said they will restore ties with the Palestinians that were cut by Trump, resume aid and reject unilateral actions, such as construction of Israeli settlements on occupied territory. But Blinken said the U.S. embassy in Israel would remain in Jerusalem, which Trump recognised as Israel’s capital….One day before Biden’s inauguration, Israel issued tenders for more than 2,500 settlement homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, on top of hundreds more announced by Netanyahu last week….Blinken returned to long-standing, pre-Trump, diplomatic norms at his senate hearing. “The only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic state and to give the Palestinians a state to which they are entitled is through the so-called two-state solution,” Blinken said. But he added: “Realistically it’s hard to see near-term prospects for moving forward on that.””

New Israeli envoy arrives in Washington, turning page on Trump era,

“Israel’s new ambassador to the U.S., Gilad Erdan, began his tenure in Washington, D.C., on Thursday with his appointment coinciding with the inauguration of President Biden….Erdan, who will hold dual roles of Israeli ambassador to the U.S. and United Nations, said he is committed to working with the Biden administration on tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change….Erdan is the second ranking member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud political party, and his position in Washington is viewed as a direct extension of Netanyahu.”

Netanyahu and Israel reluctantly adjust to a post-Trump Washington,

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his close aides are very nervous about the transition to a new U.S. administration after a four-year honeymoon with Donald Trump. One Israeli official told me it felt like going through detox….Netanyahu fiercely opposes Biden’s plan to return to the Iran nuclear deal, putting the two on a collision course.”

Robert Malley being considered for special envoy on Iran,

“Robert Malley, who served as a national security official in the Obama administration, is being considered for a position in the Biden administration as special envoy on Iran, sources with knowledge of the plans inform Jewish Insider….After leaving the White House, Malley, who served as special assistant to the president and White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf region, served as president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based International Crisis Group.”

Also see: “Biden’s First Foreign Policy Blunder Could be on Iran” (Bloomberg)

Biden Must Face the Facts: Israel Is an Apartheid Regime,

B’Tselem makes a strong case, one that will be a difficult for the Biden administration to ignore. The organization’s reputation, and its identity as an Israeli rights group, will make it more difficult for American leaders to dismiss the group’s characterization….Biden could try to dismiss B’Tselem as a “fringe group” or as a bunch of radicals who aren’t representative of the Israeli people. Certainly, most of the Jewish population of Israel would not agree with B’Tselem’s characterization of their country. But he will have to explain why the US State Department relied for so many years on B’Tselem reports for its annual human rights evaluation of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. He’ll have to explain why B’Tselem is seen the world over as a fair arbiter of human rights, and is respected by the United Nations and many other world bodies, and why it has long been seen as a credible source in the United States despite years of attacks by right-wing forces.”


Graffiti calling to kill Arab bus drivers spray-painted in West Bank settlement,

“Graffiti calling for the murder of Arab bus drivers was spray-painted early Thursday in the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Modiin Illit. “Kill Arab drivers,” the graffiti said. Other graffiti found in the West Bank city warned “the damage won’t stop” until the Kavim bus company stops employing “terrorists.”… The union also called on authorities to protect bus drivers and apprehend those responsible for the graffiti. There have been several assaults on Arab Israeli and Palestinian bus drivers in the West Bank in recent years, including a 2018 incident in Modiin Illit that a court later ruled was road rage.”

Also see: “Israeli settlers threaten to kill Palestinian bus drivers in occupied West Bank” (MEMO)

5-year-old Palestinian boy hurt by rock thrown at car in reported settler attack,

“A 5-year-old Palestinian boy was injured Thursday night by a rock thrown by West Bank settlers toward a vehicle he was traveling in, according to an Israeli rights group….The incident was one of several cases of violence toward Palestinians reported Thursday by Yesh Din, which said settlers blocked numerous junctions in the West Bank and in some cases threw rocks at Palestinian cars. According to the organization, 44 settler attacks against Palestinians have taken place in recent weeks and the 5-year-old was the second Palestinian child injured this week.”

Also see: Palestinian Child Injured by Stones Thrown by Settlers (Haaretz)

Settlers Are Taking Their Anger Out on Palestinians – as Israeli Troops Watch,

“Since the death of a settler teen in an accident a month ago, there have been some 44 attacks by settlers on Palestinians – but not one arrest….

During the month since Sandak’s death, researchers of the Israeli NGO Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights have received confirmed reports of 44 incidents in which Israeli settlers attacked Palestinians across the West Bank. In 31 cases, settlers blocked central junctions along Highway 60, the main road in the West Bank, and threw stones at Palestinian vehicles. Yesh Din reported that at least nine people were wounded in these incidents, including one child. In 10 cases settlers invaded Palestinian communities, throwing stones at people and houses and torching cars. In the other three cases, groups of settlers attacked Palestinian farmers as they worked their land.”

Settlers hurl Molotov cocktails toward Palestinian houses south of Nablus,

“Israeli settlers on Thursday evening hurled Molotov cocktails toward two Palestinian houses in Burin village, south of Nablus city, according to local sources. They confirmed that the settlers stormed the southern part of the village, and threw Molotov cocktails toward two houses.

The villagers rushed to fend off the settler attack and help the families extinguish the fire, leading to confrontations with Israeli soldiers who raided the village.

The soldiers opened fire towards the villagers, causing many to suffocate from tear gas inhalation, and rounded up a villager, in his 30s.  The attack was perpetrated shortly after groups of hardcore settlers sealed off several roads and junctions and attacked Palestinian vehicles with stones and empty bottles.”

Also see: “Israeli settlers attack Palestinian homes with petrol bombs” (MEMO)

Premier Shtayyeh condemns “organized settler terrorism” across West Bank,

“Premier Mohammad Shtayyeh Thursday evening condemned “organized settler terrorism” against the Palestinian people and property across the West Bank.

Premier Shtayyeh decried the “organized terrorism” carried out by Israeli settlers shortly after groups of hardcore settlers committed a string of attacks across the West Bank, including hurling Molotov cocktails toward two houses in Burin village, south of Nablus city, attacking a vehicle near the entrance of the same village and injuring a three-year-old child in his face, besides to attacking Palestinian vehicles at several junctions and roads in the northern West Bank.”

For UN Mideast envoy, ‘peace’ meant placating apartheid,

“To his credit, Mladenov certainly maximized what little margin he had to maneuver to assert as much influence as possible. And as the Times rightly pointed out, Mladenov was indeed one of the rare diplomats who was able to shake hands with Hamas officials and Israeli government leaders alike. That trait, however, was also his biggest flaw. In his eager attempts to have Israel’s ear, the envoy ultimately gave in to Israel’s bullying of the international community when it came to the Palestinians. By playing in Israel’s court, Mladenov helped to blank-check a racist, supremacist regime’s oppression of an entire people….

What Mladenov refused to recognize throughout his tenure was that the Israeli government is not an ally working in good faith that needs pampering — it is a threat to the international legal order, democracy, and human rights. Accountability, which is at the heart of ensuring a more peaceful world, is still not applied to Israel.

That complacency with the Israeli narrative has led us to where we are today: de facto annexation that amounts to the crime of apartheid, an increasingly supremacist Israeli society, a fragmented and subjugated Palestinian polity, and an international scene where alliances among authoritarian, ethno-nationalist regimes are deemed an “opportunity for peace.””

Al-Haq Welcomes B’Tselem’s Recognition of Israeli Apartheid,

Al-Haq welcomes the publication of B’Tselem’s position paper recognising the construction and maintenance of a single apartheid regime over the Palestinian people….“The recognition of apartheid by B’Tselem, the leading Israeli human rights organisation, is an important step in the mainstreaming of the legal analysis of apartheid over the Palestinian people as a whole, whether they live within or beyond the Green Line, or living as refugees and exiles abroad, and for the struggle for human rights and an end to racial discrimination,” said Shawan Jabarin, General-Director of Al-Haq. “The work of B’Tselem has brought us one step closer to the dismantlement of apartheid in Palestine, and we value their commitment to justice and accountability for Palestinians.””

Israel Rearrests Palestinian Teen Who Was Released by a Military Judge,

“A 17-year-old Palestinian who was arrested on November 2, charged with hurling stones and released on bail, was arrested again Thursday by Israeli soldiers. Amal Nakhleh, who suffers from a rare autoimmune disease, was released on bail 40 days ago by a military judge. Before the judge’s decision, military prosecutors said he would be put in administrative detention – detention without trial – if released.”

Opinion | The Duty to End Israeli Apartheid,

“This is not mere wordplay. This harsh definition gives rise to practical conclusions that are just as harsh and painful. If this is an apartheid state, then the international community is obligated to treat it as it did its predecessor. Israel, which often complains about being subjected to discriminatory treatment, about a double standard and hypocrisy, not to mention antisemitism, is apparently the most spoiled country in the world. No other state has received so many resources and so much support for decades, while also enjoying incredible tolerance. An apartheid state as the West’s darling, its spoiled child, which is never asked to take real responsibility for its actions and to pay for its crimes.”

"We Won't Be Silenced" ,

“The extreme right wing pro-occupation group Ad Kan are at it again. Yesterday they filed a defamation suit against us and a former soldier, shamelessly claiming that testimonies we published in our booklet on Gaza (in the comments) amount to ‘libel’….

We go to extraordinary lengths to protect the anonymity of those who choose to speak to us about their service – partly because of bullies like Ad Kan who aim to make their lives hell for it; but mainly because the testifiers themselves aren’t the story. As IDF soldiers they were part of a much bigger system, one which has for the past 53 controlled the lives of millions of Palestinians in the territories, and continues to do so.
Ad Kan on the other hand are yet again trying to frame this as if the very existence of the occupation hinges on the words of individual witnesses. Together with Yediot Aharonot (one of Israel’s most popular daily newspapers, who published the story this morning) they seem to believe that the occupation isn’t a problem so long as the people talking about it are brought into disrepute. What they fail to understand is that as long as soldiers are sent to maintain the occupation, there will be those who come back and speak out against it. This brazen attempt to intimidate us and all those who talk about what the occupation actually looks like simply won’t work.”

Start with Givat Hamatos,

“From the Palestinian point of view, Givat Hamatos, situated a mere 300 yards from the Green Line, is the key to perhaps their last practical option of dividing Jerusalem from the south. The unconcealed Palestinian desire is to one day create urban contiguity stretching from Bethlehem, through Beit Jala and Givat Hamatos, to the neighborhood of Sharafat and Beit Safafa on the approach to Malha shopping mall. They view this urban contiguity as part of their future capital – “east Jerusalem.”

From the Israeli perspective, building up Givat Hamatos is one of the keys to preventing Jerusalem’s division from the south, and preventing a Palestinian wedge that will thwart contiguity from the neighborhoods of Gilo and Har Homa, on the capital’s southern border. Israel should have built on Givat Hamatos a long time ago. The window of opportunity while Trump was in office was squandered, but better late than never.”

UK criticises Israel for new settlement approvals,

“The British Foreign Secretary has criticised Israel’s decision to construct thousands of new settler housing units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, warning that it puts a viable two-state solution at risk.

“The UK has repeatedly urged Israel to end illegal settlement expansion in the West Bank,” tweeted Dominic Raab yesterday. “The decision to proceed with new settlements in Givat HaMatos [a Jerusalem neighbourhood] separates Palestinians in East Jerusalem from Bethlehem, and threatens the viability of a two state solution.””

Israeli army targets farmers in southern Gaza Strip,

“Israeli army today targeted Palestinian farmers tending to their lands east of Khan Younis city in the southern besieged Gaza Strip, according to WAFA correspondent. He said that Israeli military forces stationed in military towers along the border, east of the city, opened gunfire on farmers tending their crops in al-Fakhari area, forcing them to flee. Fourteen years following the Israeli “disengagement” from Gaza, Israel has not actually disengaged from Gaza; it still maintains control of its land borders, access to the sea and airspace.”


Israel's roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine - What Palestinians have to say about it,

“In the past few weeks, Israel has been praised in mainstream international media for being a world leader in the COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Palestinians and allies have spoken up against this distorted narrative that covers up the reality of the racist and discriminatory reality of Israel’s COVID-19 vaccine roll-out. As Yara Hawari , Palestine Policy Fellow of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network writes in Al-Jazeera, “there is a dark side to Israel’s ‘vaccine success story’: While it is immunising its citizens against COVID-19 at an unrivalled rate, the Israeli government is not doing anything to vaccinate millions of Palestinians living under its military occupation.”

Normalization & Broader Middle East

Israeli missiles strike Syria’s Hama killing four civilians: SANA,

“Syrian state media claims at least four civilians were killed when Israeli warplanes fired several missiles in central Syria region of Hama early on Friday, adding that its air defence forces downed most of the missiles….Friday’s attack was Israel’s first attack on Syria since US President Joe Biden took office. Israel has justified the attacks inside Syria, claiming Iran and Hezbollah pose a security risk.”

Abu Dhabi fund to invest $100m in clean energy in Israel,

“Abu Dhabi-based Masdar and Israel’s EDF Renewables have signed a strategic cooperation agreement, which will see the renewable energy arm of the UAE investment fund Mubadala invest hundreds of millions of dollars in developing renewable energy projects in Israel, according to Israeli business and finance outlet Globes. This will be the first major investment by the UAE in renewable energy in Israel and follows the signing of the Abraham Accords on the White House lawn in September. The normalization of ties between the UAE and Israel has already encompassed agreements in business, finance, security, diamonds, technology and energy. As part of the agreement, Masdar will become the strategic partner of EDF Renewables Israel, a subsidiary of the French utility giant EDF, which already operates 18 solar energy projects in Israel.”

The Israeli Scene

Arabs Don't Believe Netanyahu, Says the New Face of the Israeli Left,

“Rinawie Zoabi is in a very realistic fourth place on Meretz’s Knesset roster. The party’s choice to have her there is no surprise to those who have followed her career. As president of Injaz – a nonprofit whose website says it aims “to establish and advance organizational infrastructures, capacities, knowledge and skills” in Arab municipalities – she gained expertise in advising heads of Arab local governments in the realm of economics and management. She was one of the key figures in revising the government’s approach to development of the Arab community over the past 15 years….

Zoabi: “In April 2019, Meretz received a whole seat from Arab voters, and we will be no less successful this time. The Joint List probably won’t be dismantled, it looks as though there is true partnership there, and that’s good. From Meretz’s point of view, to place two Arab candidates in the opening five is a strong message to Arab society.”

Tel Aviv University faculty condemn deal with settlement medical school,

“Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine has signed a student exchange agreement with Ariel University, located in the settlement of Ariel in the occupied West Bank. The deal will allow students from Ariel University’s Adelson School of Medicine to be placed in hospitals affiliated with Tel Aviv University for their clinical practice….

Academia for Equality, an organization that includes 600 academics in Israel working to promote democratization, equality, and access to higher education for all communities living in Israel, demanded Sackler withdraw from the agreement. In a letter sent to the university administration on Jan. 10, the group said: “Cooperation with such an institution forces faculty and students at Tel Aviv [university] to support the settlements and the occupation, and forces them to adopt a political position that some [faculty and students] strongly oppose.”

The letter stated that many international research funds do not provide grants or funding to institutions in the occupied territories. “One must ask whether the fact that the Faculty of Medicine in Tel Aviv diverts its resources toward the institution in Ariel as part of the ‘deal’ in question does not violate the conditions attached to the funds, which are enjoyed by researchers in the faculty,” since the “equipment and manpower made available by these funds will be made available to Ariel.””

The American Scene

How the Israeli flag became a symbol for white nationalists,

“For right-wing groups in the United States, Israel has become a symbol for a set of values, an entire worldview that, while sometimes grounded in concrete support for Israel and its policies, often transcends any geopolitical reality and takes on a life of its own. Indeed, different parts of the U.S. right use the Jewish state as a canvas to project their own fantasies of nationalist chauvinism, Christian redemption, white pride, and antisemitic conspiracism. And none of these roles, in fact, turn out well for Jews, for Palestinians, or for the prospects of a just peace in the Middle East….

For the ascendant forces of right-wing populism in the United States and around the world, however, support for Israel takes on a special intensity. Israel is celebrated as a front-line defender of Western civilization in its crusade against radical Islam. It is viewed as a nation that embodies the strong arm of xenophobic nationalism and militarized masculinity, unapologetically pushing back invading ethno-religious Others, expanding its territory, and protecting its heritage in bold defiance of a chorus of liberal outcry. The Israeli and U.S. right share “a desire,” as Palestinian writer Nada Elia put it, “to establish and maintain a homogeneous society that posits itself as superior, more advanced, more civilized than the ‘others’ who are, unfortunately, within its midst, a ‘demographic threat’ to be contained through border walls and stricter immigration law.””

Georgia’s new senators will write the next chapter in Black-Jewish relations,

“But the provisional Black-Jewish alliance of 2020-2021 did not come without a price: among other things, the strategic alignment meant that Warnock felt pressure to pivot from his previous commitments to Palestinian rights. One major centrist Jewish Democratic PAC withheld its endorsement of Warnock until he created distance from earlier statements he had made about Israel/Palestinian territories, particularly one issued by faith leaders comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa. A number of other mainstream Jewish civic and political organizations made it clear that a demonstrated and uncomplicated fealty to Israel was a litmus test for inclusion in this current iteration of Black-Jewish relations. An insistence by some American Jews that there can be no Black-Jewish alliance without these ritualized declarations of loyalty to Israel on the part of leading African Americans dates back at least to the 1970s, as historian Cheryl Greenberg and others have documented.”

Former US ambassador's Chief of Staff: It was a love affair with Israel,

Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone, the former chief of staff of the United States Ambassador to Israel, spoke to Arutz Sheva to summarize his term in Israel. “It’s bittersweet,” he says of his departure. “You leave knowing you’ve done so much, but knowing that there’s so much left to do. It was a love affair – we have so much in common, and our fates are so intertwined,” Rabbi Lightstone stated….We ask him if the connection was true Friendship. “If someone is not unabashedly pro-Israel, you need to question their Pro-American bona fides as well”, Lighstone explains, “Every decision that’s been made for this region has been from an American point of view. We can still disagree with Israel, question Israel, disapprove of Israel – we do so with all of our allies – but it has been in the American interest to be pro-Israel. Every chance we have to strengthen this relationship has proved to be a win-win”.”

'We left the Middle East in good shape' ,

“Most incoming US presidents face a Middle East that is ‘on fire,’ outgoing US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman tells Israel Hayom. Thanks to the Trump administration policies and the historic Abraham Accords, President Joe Biden will not, he says.”

Palestinian Scene

Palestinian skeptics not yet sold on elections,

“A major worry about the holding of Palestinian general elections continues to be the internal conflict between the two biggest factions, Fatah and Hamas, as well as the deep divisions within the two organizations, especially Fatah.

Marwan Muasher, vice president of the Middle East program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former deputy Jordanian prime minister, told Al-Monitor that Palestinians need to be unified before they can move ahead with a serious effort such as holding national elections. Muasher welcomed elections as a gateway for Palestinian legitimacy. “National elections serve to renew Palestinian legitimacy, which has been significantly impacted.” But Muasher also warned that without national unity elections will fail, insisting that “national unity is a necessary first step.””

Israel wrestles with allowing east Jerusalem Palestinians to vote in PA elections ,

“On Friday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that legislative and presidential elections would be held in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Three days after the announcement, on Jan. 19, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said the Palestinian Authority is set to formally request that Israel allow east Jerusalem Palestinians to participate in the scheduled elections. Abbas’ announcement was hailed by the international community. The European Union stated that it “stands ready to engage with relevant actors to support the electoral process. The EU also calls on Israeli authorities to facilitate the holding of elections across all the Palestinian territory.” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was more explicit, saying, “The holding of elections in the occupied West Bank, including east Jerusalem, and Gaza will be a crucial step towards Palestinian unity.”

For Israel, allowing east Jerusalem Palestinians to vote could be used as leverage if and when talks with the Palestinians are relaunched. It’s a much easier card for Israel to use than any territorial concessions in the West Bank. The Palestinians’ decision last November to resume security cooperation with Israel could push Jerusalem in that direction. Still, Israel’s decision on east Jerusalem is likely to depend on assessments of whether holding elections there will significantly benefit Hamas.”

Criticism of Israel & Accusations of Antisemitism

What Zoom Does to Campus Conflicts Over Israel and Free Speech,

“The video, which Ms. Kiswani said was three years old, was posted by a website called, started by a woman in Connecticut who became a social influencer under the name “Jewish Chick.” The site named Ms. Kiswani “2020 Anti-Semite of the Year”; she succeeded Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota.

“Even just the idea of being a Palestinian organizer inherently is painted as anti-Semitic,” Ms. Kiswani said in a telephone interview. The law school was barraged with emails denouncing her and demanding she be punished. Many of the accusers seemed to have been prodded by a cellphone app called Act.IL, which assigns users “missions” to combat anti-Semitism, including a prewritten note to be sent to Ms. Kiswani’s deans. The app was developed by former Israeli intelligence officers and partly financed by the casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who died this month.”

Andrew Yang: My vision for New York City’s Jewish community,

“A Yang administration will push back against the BDS movement, which singles out Israel for unfair economic punishment. Not only is BDS rooted in antisemitic thought and history, hearkening back to fascist boycotts of Jewish businesses, it’s also a direct shot at New York City’s economy. Strong ties with Israel are essential for a global city such as ours, which boasts the highest Jewish population in the world outside of Israel. Our economy is struggling, and we should be looking for ways to bring back small businesses, not stop commerce.”