Top News from Palestine & Israel: January 27, 2021

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Annexation, Apartheid

Israel’s conviction of human rights defender shows disdain for international obligations, say UN experts,

“UN experts said today Israel must immediately stop using its array of military security tools to obstruct the legitimate and indispensable work of human rights defenders. Their comments come after an Israeli military court convicted Issa Amro, a Palestinian human rights defender and founder of Youth Against Settlements, a Hebron-based group which opposes settlement expansion through non-violent civil resistance….

“This is part of a clear and systematic pattern of detention, judicial harassment and intimidation by Israel of human rights defenders, a pattern that has increased in intensity recently,” the experts said. They said Israeli authorities had arrested Amro numerous times, with the aim of silencing those who would defend the human rights of others. “Rather than prosecuting human rights defenders, Israel should be listening to them and correcting its own human rights conduct. Israel must obey its international obligations to provide protection to human rights defenders,” the UN Special Rapporteurs said.”

See also: “UN rights experts urge Israel to respect international obligations” (UN News)

Report: Israeli settler population surged during Trump era,

“Israel’s West Bank settler population has grown at a far higher rate than the country as a whole over the last four years, a pro-settler group said Wednesday, a period that coincides with the Trump administration’s unprecedented acceptance of settlement activity. The report by West Bank Jewish Population Stats shows the settler population growing by around 13% since the start of 2017 to reach 475,481. During the same period, Israel’s population grew by around 8% to reach nearly 9.3 million, according to the government. The group’s report, which is based on official government data, does not include annexed east Jerusalem, home to more than 200,000 settlers.”

See also “Report: Israeli settler population surged during Trump era” (WaPo)

Opinion | Cogs in the Israel Settlement Defense Forces,

“Hundreds of Israeli soldiers age 19 to 21 are deployed every night on missions of state terror when they break into Palestinian homes in the West Bank, without a judge’s warrant or oversight of a body that is not an interested party (there is no such body). The authority is a military order from 54 years ago, when we thought the occupation was temporary. We were wrong, and now it’s impossible to understand our society without taking into account the tens of thousands of Israelis who, with a sense of entitlement, commit these violent intrusions on the privacy of millions of Palestinians.

Israel gives these young soldiers so much power. They kick in doors or break them down with a huge explosion that invades the sleep of the people who live in the house. With shouts and screams they raid the rooms; with guns aimed, they rouse the children, the old and the young out of their beds.

Imagine them, the great heroes: heavily armed, sometimes with a dog in tow, wearing helmets, standing in front of the pajama-clad residents. They move the family into one or two rooms. Sometimes they make arrests immediately, sometimes they rummage through the towel and underwear drawers, or shoot holes in the mattresses. Sometimes they pour out the contents of sugar and rice sacks. Sometimes they take over the house and turn it into a military post. They bark orders, they shout, “quiet.” Sometimes they take the people outside into the cold. Is it the darkness or their acquired hardheartedness that prevents the soldiers from seeing that the children’s lips are turning blue?”

Israel attacked Palestinian fisherman on 320 occasions in 2020,

“Israeli occupation forces attacked Palestinian fishermen off the coast of the Gaza Strip on at least 320 occasions in 2020, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) has reported. The Gaza-based union said on Tuesday that the Israeli Navy used heavy machine guns, shells and water cannon to harass Palestinian fishing boats and their crews. They also limited Palestinian access to Gaza’s territorial waters, restricting them to fishing just three miles offshore….There were 63 more attacks in 2020 than in 2019.”

Israeli forces shoot dead Palestinian teen in occupied West Bank,

“Israeli forces have shot dead a Palestinian teen near the Jewish settlement of Ariel in the occupied West Bank. According to an Israeli military statement on Tuesday, Atallah Rayyan, 17, tried to carry out a stabbing attack against Israeli soldiers deployed at the Ariel settlement junction.”

Israeli forces dismantle two structures in Khan al-Ahmar,

“Israeli forces Wednesday morning dismantled two structures in Khan al-Ahmar village, east of Jerusalem, a local activist said. Spokesman for Khan al-Ahmar, Eid Abu Khamis, told WAFA that an Israeli military force stormed the community, and dismantled two structures used for cattle breeding and seized their contents, without even handing the owners any demolition notices in advance.”

Settlers plow Palestinian farmlands east of Bethlehem,

“Israeli settlers today encroached upon and plowed a large tract of Palestinian farmland, east of Bethlehem district, according to a local official. Coordinator of the Anti-Wall and Settlement Comission, Hassan Breijah, told WAFA that scores of settlers, under the military protection, ploughed dozens of donums of Palestinian farmland belonging to the Zawahreh and al-Wahsh clans in al-Badiya Ash-Sharqiya (Eastern Wilderness), as a prelude to seize them.”

Also from WAFA:


Israel cries blood libel over false Palestinian COVID-19 vaccines charge,

“False Palestinian charges with regard to the COVID-19 vaccines is a modern-day form of a blood libel, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan told the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday. “I would like to shatter the latest blood libel being spread by the Palestinians – false and grotesque accusations about Israel’s campaign to vaccinate its people,” Erdan said….”Anyone who joins the Palestinian campaign of lies either doesn’t know the facts or is motivated by politics or antisemitism,” the ambassador said. He noted that the charges were made on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. “There is a long history of using every crisis to spread antisemitism and blame the Jews,” he explained.”

UN calls on Israel to help make vaccines available to Palestinians,

“The United Nations has called on Israel to help make vaccines available to the Palestinians, but has stopped short of asking it to distribute the vaccines to them….”This will be critical for the broader efforts of both governments to control the pandemic and is also in line with Israel’s obligations under international law,” Wennesland told the United Nations Security Council, which held its only meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Tuesday.”

Prisoner Society: 38 new coronavirus cases confirmed among Palestinian prisoners in Israel,

“The Palestinian Prisoner Society (PPS) said today that 38 new coronavirus cases were confirmed among Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli Rimon prison, which raises the number of cases in that prison to 111 since the first case was confirmed on January 11. It blamed in a statement the Israel Prisons Service (IPS) of neglecting the pandemic situation in the prison, which was the reason for the high number of cases.”

Palestinian Scene

PA vows to sue US ambassador over support to Israeli settlements,

“Ahmed al-Deek, political adviser to the Palestinian minister of foreign affairs, told Al-Monitor, “The ministry will personally oversee the matter [of recognizing the City of David] with legal experts and concerned parties to seek accountability for the settler Friedman before competent international courts.” … He explained that the goal behind suing Friedman is to shift from formal and verbal condemnation and denunciation to practical steps in prosecuting Israel and its settlement project. He said, “We have always wanted to impose sanctions that would deter Israel and anyone supporting its settlement projects. Countries that care about human rights must see this task through.””

Abbas rival Dahlan banned from running in Palestinian election — Fatah official,

“Former Gaza security chief Mohammad Dahlan — widely seen as a key rival of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — will not be allowed to run in the upcoming Palestinian presidential elections, a senior Palestinian official told The Times of Israel. “Dahlan cannot run for the presidency, as he does not have a clean record. No one with a conviction registered in the Justice Ministry, who can’t obtain a clean record, can nominate themselves,” Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad said in a phone call late last week….A former Fatah chief and an ex-PA security minister, Dahlan was expelled from the West Bank following a bitter and bloody political dispute with the current Palestinian Authority leadership. He was convicted in absentia by a Palestinian court on charges of corruption and sentenced to several years in prison. His supporters allege that the charges were politically motivated.”

Palestinian elections: Democracy for no one,

“But even if elections do go ahead as planned, they will likely be neither free nor fair. Public support for Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza is waning. They have no popular mandate and are maintaining their grip over these territories through authoritarianism and corruption.

Indeed, political opposition has long been repressed in both the West Bank and Gaza. Authorities regularly arrest journalists and activists who question their actions or reveal information that make them appear oppressive, corrupt or inept. The Israeli regime has also played a big role in this political oppression by incarcerating thousands of Palestinians for “political” crimes and outlawing most Palestinian political activity under its illegal military law. The result has been the cementing of a one-party system in both territories and depoliticisation of the Palestinian society….

It is thus clear that the recently scheduled Palestinian elections are nothing but political theatrics to provide cover for the fact that among the main actors there is no interest in promoting a representative and accountable Palestinian leadership and a democratic Palestinian society.”

Israeli Scene

Netanyahu bristles in warning as Biden seeks reentry to Iran deal,

“Israel’s former national security adviser, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, framed the issue in clear terms in Jan. 18 comments at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security. “In a situation where the United States returns to the old nuclear agreement with Iran, Israel will have no choice but to act military against Iran to prevent it from manufacturing a nuclear weapon,” he said. Amidror no longer holds an official government role, but remains a close associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his remarks often reflect Netanyahu’s views and even his guidance. His latest remarks, so it seems, were hardly a slip of the tongue. They were probably deliberate, measured and intended to raise the ante and convey a veiled threat to Washington: If you reject our recommendations and return to the original Iran nuclear deal, all options are on the table, including the military one.”


Analysis | Backing Netanyahu on Iran, Israel's Military Chief Strikes Defiant Tone Against Biden,

“Israeli chiefs of staff usually portray their opinions and plans as the direct continuation, sometimes with tweaks, of their predecessor’s program. But Kochavi’s speech Tuesday marked a decisive break with Eisenkot, notably by assailing the Iranian nuclear agreement and avoiding the sensitive topic of the Israel Defense Forces’ relationship with Israeli society….In an interview with Haaretz in 2018, Eisenkot said Iran wasn’t seen to be violating the agreement. The New York Times quoted from the piece in an editorial, and Netanyahu was furious with his army chief. Kochavi was singing a very different tune Tuesday. In the background, of course, is U.S. President Joe Biden’s declaration that he plans to reenter negotiations with Iran and sign a new nuclear deal soon, to replace the one Donald Trump withdrew from nearly three years ago. Since Biden was sworn in a week ago, the Israeli media has been quoting senior officials warning the president against returning to the original agreement and even threatening that in that case there will be no reason to speak with the Americans. But Kochavi was the first to say this explicitly and in public. According to the chief of staff, “Iran is a global problem. No one has any doubt that Iran aspires to be a military nuclear state and to put it to use. A return to the nuclear deal, or even a similar deal with some improvements, is bad and wrong.” Kochavi also mentioned that the IDF is revising its operational plans for thwarting Iran’s nuclear program and added, after first hinting this to journalists, that the IDF will need more funding to do this.”

Israeli Arab Political Alliance Likely to Break Up Over Religious Tensions, Netanyahu Ties,

“A day after the meeting between the heads of the four parties that make up the Joint List, the rift seems to be getting worse. Despite efforts at reconciliation, the four party leaders are not holding out much hope for bridging the gaps and running together….Differences reached a peak Monday afternoon when UAL issued a statement saying that in the Sunday meeting, a request was made to avoid votes that undermine the religious and conservative character of Arab society. Legislation affecting the LGBTQ community was specified, as were surrogacy laws and issues regarding sharia courts. In addition, UAL said it had demanded that the Joint List respect its wish to vote independently because the party does not like being considered in the pocket of either side of the political map, left or right, but rather wants to serve the Arab public as a whole….Hadash said the main disagreement was over UAL’s refusal to commit to the agreed-upon political platform and to the mechanism for decision-making. Hadash also rejected the UAL’s “free vote” demand, which could mean UAL recommending Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, voting for the “French law” to block prosecution of a sitting prime minister, or making any other covert deal with Likud….It seemed clear that Hadash and Balad would stick together; as Haaretz reported several weeks ago these parties have already agreed to run on a merged slate. UAL is seen likely to recruit new faces and run independently, while Ta’al has yet to decide whether to run with the first two parties or with UAL.”

7 Things to Know About Gilad Erdan, Israel’s New Ambassador to the U.S,

“He falsely claimed an Arab citizen killed by police was an ISIS-sympathizing terrorist. The incident with Trump was not the first occasion in which Erdan falsely labeled non-terror events as terrorism. In January 2017, in what proved to be the biggest scandal of Erdan’s career to date, an Arab Israeli citizen, Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, was shot dead by police in the southern Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran. Protesters had been demonstrating there against planned state demolitions of houses in order to clear the way for a new Jewish town. Erdan claimed Abu al-Kiyan, a math teacher with a doctorate in chemistry, was an ISIS-inspired terrorist attempting to ram his car at police officers and intentionally killing one of them by doing so. These allegations were debunked and the Shin Bet security service, while the Justice Ministry and independent British forensic experts later supported Abu al-Kiyan’s innocence….

He played a key role in Israel’s campaign against the BDS movement. Erdan’s most notable work to date has been his efforts in combating the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. He has exerted diplomatic, economic and legal pressure on anyone connected with the group. He coordinated anti-BDS efforts with the Mossad, and worked to establish a database of Israeli citizens who promoted and supported the movement. He also urged Israelis to cooperate with the state in ridding the country of foreigners who support BDS and promoted a law that prevents proponents of boycott from entering Israel. He compared pro-boycott advocates to those supporting boycotts of Jewish-owned businesses in Nazi Germany.

He wants Israel to relax its gun regulations, taking a page from U.S. gun laws. Upon assuming his position as public security minister, Erdan enthusiastically supported increasing the number of civilians in possession of privately owned legal firearms. His policy empowered more than 500,000 armed Israelis to walk the streets. He worked to ease restrictions on obtaining weapons permits, receiving widespread criticism for making weapons readily accessible as a political tool rather than a public safety mechanism.”

Netanyahu seeks to use Morocco king in electoral campaign,

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the National Security Council are exerting efforts to arrange a visit by Moroccan King Mohammad VI to Israel prior to the March election, Ynet News reported yesterday. According to the Israeli news website, Netanyahu is trying to bring the Moroccan king to Israel to give himself and his party the Likud credit before the elections slated for 23 March as the king is respected by Israeli Moroccan Jews.”

American Scene

Biden Will Restore U.S. Relations With Palestinians, Reversing Trump Cutoff,

“The Biden administration will restore diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority, more than two years after President Donald J. Trump effectively ended them….Mr. Mills also reaffirmed support for a “mutually agreed, two-state solution” between Israel and the Palestinians, “in which Israel lives in peace and security, alongside a viable Palestinian state.” And he called on the parties to refrain from unilateral actions, such as the annexation of territory and settlement activity by Israel, or incitements to violence by the Palestinians, that could make such an outcome more difficult.

Mr. Mills said the Biden administration would “take steps to reopen diplomatic missions that were closed by the last U.S. administration,” without offering specifics. In addition to closing the Palestinian Mission in Washington in September 2018, the Trump administration also closed the United States Consulate in East Jerusalem. Mr. Biden has no straightforward way of reopening a Palestinian Mission in Washington. A law passed by Congress in 1987 blocked the Palestinians’ right to open an office in America. Successive presidents were able to bypass the legislation with a waiver, but subsequent laws passed in 2015 and 2018 limit the president’s ability to circumvent the earlier restriction.”

Also see: “Biden Administration Restores Aid to Palestinians, Reversing Trump Policy” (NPR); “Biden Administration lays out its policies on Israel-Palestine at the UN” (Axios); “Biden to Restore Palestinian Aid, Reopen Diplomatic Missions Shut by Trump, UN Envoy Says” (Haaretz)

At UN, Washington assures support for two-state solution in Middle East,

“U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration supports a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians and will overturn several Trump administration decisions, the acting U.S. envoy to the United Nations assured the Security Council on Tuesday….He said the Biden administration intended to restore Palestinian aid and take steps to re-open the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington….”We do not do these steps as a favor to the Palestinian leadership,” Mills said. “U.S. assistance benefits millions of ordinary Palestinians and helps to preserve a stable environment that benefits both Palestinians and Israelis.””

Renewed talk of two-state solution illustrates US influence - analysis,

“A report from Arab News noted on Monday that US President Joe Biden was throwing his weight behind a “two-state solution for Palestine and Israel as Russia called for a new Middle East peace conference, to include Saudi Arabia.” That extraordinary sentence tells us many things. It mentions how the Biden administration’s renewed call for two states was putting wind in the sails of discussions from Moscow to Riyadh….First is the major international push for peace talks again. First of all, Germany, France, Egypt and Jordan held a meeting in Cairo and a joint statement was issued underlining commitment to two states on January 11. This was similar to a call in the summer of 2020, but clearly designed to frame the new Biden presidency with a policy push. The White House has now followed this up with comments of its own.

Meanwhile, as large countries are rushing to jump on the two-state bandwagon again, some major critics of Israel, primarily Jewish voices and activists based in Israel or the US, are pushing a “one-state” solution. This bizarre concept has been conjured up in recent months by voices like Peter Beinart and then B’Tselem.”

The Complex Reality of Black–Jewish Coalitions in Georgia,

“That disconnect can be exacerbated by Jewish communal support for Israel. According to Ilise Cohen, co-founder of the Atlanta chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the mainstream Jewish community often plays a “gatekeeping” role in its relationships with Black communities, in which part of the focus of coalition work is ensuring that Black organizations fall in line with Jewish communal goals and provide outspoken support for Israel. She believes these dynamics were on display during the senate campaign when Warnock was targeted by Republicans and some Jewish groups because he had previously visited the West Bank and compared conditions in the occupied territories to racism in the United States. (Warnock ultimately retained the strong support of Jewish Democratic groups after he put out statements pledging strong support for the Jewish state.) Often, Shapiro says, the fact that many Jewish organizations link Black radical organizing to the Movement for Black Lives—which endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement in its 2016 platform and used the words “apartheid” and “genocide” to describe Israeli treatment of Palestinians—has made them hesitant to participate. She said many local rabbis, when asked to show up in support of fights for racial and economic justice and refugee rights, say they “can’t do any organizing because of Israel/Palestine, because it’s all too much of a live wire.””

Normalization & Broader Middle East

UAE, Bahrain call for joint stand with Israel in approaching US on Iran threat,

“The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on Tuesday urged Israel to join their ranks in forging an outreach effort to the United States against the Iranian threat in the region. Speaking at a joint Israeli-Emirati-Bahraini panel during an annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif ben Rashid Al Zayani said the country saw eye to eye on many aspects of the matter. These included Iran’s nuclear ambitions, ballistic missile program and support for regional terrorist groups. “A common regional position on these issues will allow us to have greater influence over the United States,” he said, stressing that the issues were of high importance for regional stability.”

Signs of Peace? Israeli companies to openly take part in Abu Dhabi weapons exhibition,

“SIBAT, the International Defense Cooperation Directorate at Israel’s Ministry of Defense, will participate in the upcoming International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) set to open in Abu Dhabi on February 21. The defense relations between Israel and the Gulf States were kept secret for years. Now, after Israel signed an agreement to establish full diplomatic relations with both the UAE and Bahrain, Israel’s defense sector companies will be openly participating in IDEX, a biennial arms and defense technology sales exhibition and the largest of its kind in the Middle East. An official Israeli delegation is also set to travel to the conference, and it may be led by Minister of Defense Benny Gantz, although that is dependent on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visiting the UAE first as he has barred any ministers from traveling to the region before he does so. Israel Aerospace Industries, Elbit Systems Ltd., and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. will each be setting up their own displays at the exhibition after receiving permission from the Israeli Defense Export Controls Agency to showcase significant weapon systems. Discussions regarding the actual sale of these systems to interested countries in the Gulf are still ongoing.”

‘Psychological war’: Iran dismisses Israel military action threat,

“President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff said the Biden administration is independent and will not follow all Israeli commands like the previous US government, after Israel announced it is revising attack plans against Iran….Iran’s presidential chief of staff Mahmoud Vaezi dismissed Kochavi’s remarks as “psychological war” and said Israel “in action, they neither have a plan nor the ability to carry it out”. “Some officials in the Zionist regime think Washington would accept whatever they say,” he told reporters on Wednesday after a cabinet meeting. “But I believe the new US administration has its own independence – just like other countries have their own independence.””

Lawfare & Using Accusations of Antisemitism to Quash Criticism of Israel

AJC praises German corporate giants for adopting IRHA definition of anti-Semitism,

“American Jewish Committee (AJC) Berlin welcomes the joint declaration of five major German corporations to combat antisemitism. Daimler, Deutsche Bahn, Deutsche Bank, Volkswagen, and Borussia Dortmund published a statement today endorsing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism….”By adopting the IHRA Working Definition, these five well-known German companies are sending a clear signal. They are telling their employees worldwide, as well as their customers, that anti-Semitism has no place in their organizations,” said AJC Berlin Director Dr. Remko Leemhuis. “We look to many more companies and organizations taking similar action,” Leemhuis said.”