Top News from Palestine & Israel: January 28, 2021

What We’re Reading

Occupation, Settlements, Annexation

All Foreseen and Not Prevented: Spike in settler violence backed and encouraged by state,

“Settler violence against Palestinians has long since been a routine part of the occupation in the West Bank. Addressing the death of Ahuvia Sandak as the cause of the settlers’ rage is detached from reality. For years, settlers have been committing acts of violence against Palestinians with full backing by the state, which does nothing to prevent the recurrence of these attacks. Israel sends security forces to protect the assailants and turn a blind eye to the crimes committed before their very eyes. It also takes care not to take retrospective action against the perpetrators. By doing so, it privatizes the oppression of the Palestinians and enjoys the fruits: the transfer of Palestinians’ means of subsistence and livelihood to Jews, who take over the land and treat it as their own. This is precisely what a Jewish supremacist regime looks like.”

No Indictments After a Month of Assaults on Palestinians in the West Bank,

“Over the past month, dozens of acts of violence against Palestinians and vandalism of their property have been reported. Much of the violence has been associated with protests by Israelis over the death last month in a police chase of Ahuvia Sandak, a teenager whom police suspected was part of a group throwing stones at Palestinian motorists. No criminal charges have been filed in any of the cases of violence, although, when asked for a response, police said investigations of some of the cases are still ongoing and that, in some instances, suspects have been arrested.”

Jordan announces resumption of Al-Aqsa Mosque restoration work,

“Jordan has announced the resumption of reconstruction and restoration work at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the occupied city of Jerusalem starting on Wednesday morning, following an Israeli obstruction lasting four days. This came during a meeting held on Wednesday between Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and members of the Palestine Committee of Jordan’s House of Representatives, broadcast by state television. Safadi addressed his country’s: ‘Firm and supportive position towards the Palestinian cause, and the daily and continuous coordination with the Palestinians in this regard.’ He added that the resumption of restoration and reconstruction work at Al-Aqsa Mosque resulted from diplomatic efforts on the part of the Jordanians.”

Israel demolishes mosque in occupied West Bank,

“Israeli forces have demolished a mosque under construction in Umm Qusah to the south of Hebron in the occupied West Bank, Anadolu has reported. The mosque was torn down along with several other structures earlier today. According to Muhammad Yatimin, the director of a local school near the mosque, the Israeli authorities cited the lack of necessary building licences as the reason for the demolition. ‘A freshwater well used by a school was also destroyed,’ he pointed out…All of the structures demolished today were located in an area of the occupied West Bank classified as Area C…” Also see: Palestine condemns Israel for demolishing mosque (Al Anadolu)

Israel destroys nature reserve, uproots 10,000 trees,

“The Israeli army on Wednesday destroyed a natural reserve and uprooted at least 10,000 trees in a military campaign in the northern West Bank in a move that Palestinians termed a ‘crime.’ Moataz Bisharat, who is responsible for monitoring Israeli settlement activity in the Jordan Valley, told Anadolu Agency that the occupation army pushed military vehicles and dozens of soldiers into the Ainun area in Tubas city in the morning and destroyed a nature reserve built on an area of about 400 dunums (98 acres). The occupation army ‘chopped down and destroyed about 10,000 forest trees and about 300 olive trees,’ he said. He also said the nature reserve had been afforested eight years ago as part of the Greening Palestine project supervised by the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture and funded by the Venezuelan consulate in Palestine. Bisharat stressed that the occupation alleged that the destruction of the reserve came as it was classed as a military zone even though it was not more than 300 meters (984 feet) away from residential areas and it served as an ‘outlet’ for the residents.”

Trees uprooted, land razed and wall demolished by Israeli occupation forces in the south of the West Bank,

“Israeli occupation forces today uprooted dozens of grown olive trees, razed large tracts of Palestinian-owned land, and demolished retaining walls in an area south of the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, according to a local official. Hasan Breijieh, who heads the Bethlehem office of the Wall and Settlements Resistance Commission, told WAFA that occupation soldiers raided Khillet al-Nahleh area of Wad Rahal village where they uprooted dozens of olive trees that were more than 10 years old, razed lands, and tore down retaining walls. Two days ago, a group of hardcore settlers broke into the same area with their sheep and destroyed the crops before the village residents and farmers were able to kick them out.”

Also from WAFA:

Biden Admin - People & Policies

Biden administration to restore aid to Palestinians, fix 'atrophied' relations,

“The Biden administration plans to re-open Palestinian diplomatic missions that were shuttered under former President Donald Trump and restore US aid to Palestine, the acting US ambassador to the UN has announced. Speaking to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Ambassador Richard Mills said the US plans to renew relations with Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian people, lamenting that those ties had ‘atrophied’ under the Trump administration. ‘President Biden has been clear in his intent to restore US assistance programmes that support economic development and humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people. And to take steps to reopen diplomatic missions that were closed by the last US administration,’ Mills said.”

Also see:

Incoming US envoy Thomas-Greenfield vows to 'stand with Israel' at UN,

“Incoming US envoy to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield has pledged to shield Israel from what she called ‘unfair targeting’, saying she would pressure Arab states that recently normalised relations with the Israeli government to support the country at international forums. At a Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Thomas-Greenfield faced several queries from legislators about Israel and how she would work to fend off international criticism against Israeli policies. She consistently agreed with the premise of the questions – that the United Nations and its agencies are hostile to Israel and regularly ‘single out’ its government.”  Also see: “To put this into context: Over last 10 years, UN Security Council, UN’s most important body, issued c. 600 resolutions on issues worldwide and only 1 on Israel/Palestine. Israel has relentlessly expanded settlements, thwarting peace & violating past UNSC res, with 0 consequences.” – Brussels-based analysts Martin Konecny (via Twitter). Also see: Biden’s U.N. ambassador nominee pledges to support Israel at the U.N. (Jewish Insider)

Biden’s UN envoy nominee: BDS activity ‘unacceptable, verges on anti-Semitic’,

“…On the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, Thomas-Greenfield said she finds the ‘actions and approach’ taken by its supporters to be ‘unacceptable.’ ‘It verges on anti-Semitic, and it’s important that they not be allowed to have a voice at the UN, and I intend to work against that,’ she said, in comments likely to please mainstream Jewish groups as well as the pro-Israel lobby in Washington.” [Reminder: What do Americans think of the BDS movement, aimed at Israel? Shibley Telhami/Brookings, 1/8/2020]

New US Secretary of State Blinken speaks to Israeli FM Ashkenazi for first time,

“Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi spoke with new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday, in the highest-level contact yet between Jerusalem and the new American administration. The two discussed ‘expanding the circle of peace, the Iranian threat and other issues,’ the Foreign Ministry said.”

Biden suspends arms deals to Saudi Arabia, UAE,

“The US administration of President Joe Biden has temporarily suspended the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in a significant move against the two US allies and in opposition to the preferential treatment given to the Gulf states by former President Donald Trump. In a White House press conference yesterday, the new Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that he was reviewing the commitments guaranteed by the US towards Arab states who had normalised ties with Israel, despite praising and endorsing those agreements.”

US flies B-52 bombers over Middle East for third time this year,

“The United States has flown B-52 bombers over the Middle East, US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Wednesday, the third so-called ‘presence patrol’ so far this year. The flyover was the first since US President Joe Biden took office on January 20, with the others taking place near the end of Donald Trump’s presidency in what was widely viewed as a show of strength against Iran.”

Palestinian Scene

Will Palestinian elections be held in East Jerusalem?,

“…Palestinians are worried that Israel might block this year’s polls in East Jerusalem after the US recognition of the city as Israel’s capital in 2017 and amid preparations for the Israeli elections on March 22. Abbas has repeatedly said that the Palestinian elections will not be held without Jerusalem. In his recent decree for holding the polls, Abbas wrote: ‘The Palestinian people in Jerusalem and all governorates of the homeland are called to cast ballot in free and direct elections.’ Jerusalem ‘is an integral part of the Palestinian territories, and elections will take place in the city as stipulated in the presidential decree’, Fadi al-Hadami, the Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, told Anadolu Agency. ‘The elections took place in the past in Jerusalem and they will be held in the coming polls,’ al-Hadami confirmed. It is not clear how the Palestinian Authority (PA) will react if Israel bars the elections in East Jerusalem.”

Israel warns Hamas in West Bank not to participate in elections,

“Israeli intelligence services have started to warn Hamas officials in the occupied West Bank not to participate in the upcoming Palestinian elections, sources within the movement revealed on Wednesday. According to the sources, the Israelis first summoned senior Hamas official Sheikh Omar Al-Barghouti to speak with intelligence officers at Ofer Detention Centre. While he was there, Al-Barghouti, who lives in the Ramallah neighbourhood of Coper, was ‘asked’ not to take part in the presidential, legislative and National Council elections. The Hamas leader was only released from prison a few weeks ago. Several other Hamas officials and senior members have also been “asked” the same thing by the Israelis. The sources said that some of were asked on the telephone and others were also summoned to detention centres or military bases to be interrogated on this issue.”

Convicted in an Israeli Military Court, This Palestinian Activist Is Also Being Persecuted by the PA,

“On Wednesday, political activist Issa Amro once again pleaded innocent to the charges being brought against him. This time, though, he wasn’t in an Israeli military court, but a Palestinian court in Hebron. It’s the Palestinian security apparatus that stands behind the charges brought against the 40-year-old activist and founder of the Youth Against Settlements group. This group has successfully drawn international attention to the violence perpetrated by settlers in Hebron’s Old City, the segregationist Israeli regime in the West Bank city and the eviction of Palestinians…What could explain the seemingly joint interests of the PA and the Israel Defense Forces? A longtime member of Fatah said: ‘There are those among us who are jealous of Amro, because he and his colleagues have achieved things and have garnered international attention. Instead of working together, we’re dismantling and crumbling and competing with one another. And another thing: The army doesn’t want there to be unrest in Hebron’s Old City, and the Palestinian security apparatus – which is made up of Fatah members – listens to the army.’”

Hamas condemns Israel leader's remarks about plans to target civilians,

“Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qasem condemned Israeli army Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi’s remarks that his army could attack civilian targets and residential areas in any future confrontation in Gaza or Lebanon. The Hamas spokesperson said that Kohavi’s threats reflect Israel’s ‘bullying’ techniques and the occupation state’s plans to perpetrate crimes against the Palestinian and Lebanese people. ‘The Israeli occupation is unable to achieve any victory in future confrontations and that’s why it plans to target civilians,’ Qasem added. The Hamas spokesperson stressed that the resistance will defend the Palestinian people during any Israeli aggression.”

Palestine elections: Marwan Barghouti eyes presidential run from behind Israeli bars,

“Palestinian political prisoner and veteran Fatah party leader Marwan Barghouti is reportedly mulling whether to run in the upcoming Palestinian Authority (PA) presidential elections, planned for July, from his prison cell, sources have told Middle East Eye. If his candidacy becomes official, Barghouti would be the first candidate in the history of the Israeli occupation to run for the highest post of the Palestinian leadership from behind bars. Barghouti is currently serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison for allegedly plotting attacks on Israeli targets during the Second Intifada.”

Israeli Scene

West Bank settlers pressure Netanyahu ahead of March vote,

“Jewish settlers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank are demanding concessions from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of a March general election which could hinge on a battle for right-wing votes…As another Israeli election nears, pro-settler groups are using tactics including a hunger strike outside Netanyahu’s Jerusalem office to demand recognition for another 70 wildcat outposts, home to some 25,000 of the 650,000 settlers in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. Yossi Dagan, an influential settler leader who staged a week-long protest fast outside the premier’s office this month, insisted that distinguishing between types of settlements was ‘absurd’. ‘There is no logical reason why 25,000 Israeli citizens do not have the same rights as others, it’s not a political question, it’s a question of social rights,’ he said.”

Israel: IDF chief of staff criticised for challenging US over Iran,

“The Chief of Staff of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), Aviv Kochavi, has been criticised for challenging the US administration over rejoining the Iran nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), reported on Wednesday…Israel’s most senior army officer warned that US President Joe Biden should not rejoin the 2015 JCPOA…Foreign Minister Gaby Ashkenazi said that Kochavi would do better to talk behind closed doors…In Yedioth Ahronoth, military correspondent Yossi Yosha said that not everyone at the conference where Kochavi made his comments were happy about them. ‘What will they understand in Tehran when they hear the IDF chief of staff saying this? They will say that he does not have any attack plans [now].’ The Americans, he added, will say that Kochavi is calling on them to stop working…A former head of military intelligence and senior defence ministry official denounced the chief of staff’s remarks as counterproductive. ‘What are we getting from this? You excoriate the administration in the United States that has barely been in its position for a week instead of having a quiet negotiation to see how to limit the damages of the deal and get some compensation for the IDF,’ Amos Gilad told Radio 103FM…”Also see: ‘There’s Never Been Anything Like This’: Israeli Military Chief’s Iran Remarks Rattle Senior Officials (Haaretz)

Efrat [settlement] resident seeks Labor Party seat to return party to roots,

“Until this past Tuesday, the rule in the Labor Party was that one needed to be a party member for six months in order to participate in their primaries. The Labor Party is welcoming new blood into its ranks. When MK Merav Michaeli won leadership of the party on Sunday, she decided that in this coming Monday’s election, any citizen may register for the Labor Party until 17:00 on Thursday – even without the half-year requirement. An Anglo-Israeli figure hopes to bring her passion to serve her country to fruition through the Labor Party. Nava Katz, a councilwoman in Efrat, contends, ‘The pioneering spirit of the Labor Party has been refreshed. A new generation has entered the world of politics.’ Katz said, ‘A brighter future for Israel is as much pluralism and equality as it is environmental awareness and new creative methods of educating our children.’”

Alliance of Israeli Arab Parties to Split Ahead of March Election,

“The Joint List alliance of Arab majority parties will split ahead of the upcoming election, the parties announced Wednesday after talks between its four constituent parties collapsed.  Following a two-hour meeting in Shfaram, representatives of three of the parties – Hadash, Ta’al, and Balad – said they had failed to reach an agreement that would make it possible for all four to run together.” Also see: Israel’s Southern Islamic Movement seeks to separate from Joint List (Middle East Monitor)

Three Reasons Yair Lapid Will Lead Israel's Center-left,

“Former army chiefs have been replaced by former army reporters as leaders of the left-wing camp. Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid worked for Bamahane magazine during his military service, while Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz and Labor chief Merav Michaeli worked for Army Radio. The three are in their 50s, secular, Ashkenazi and Tel Aviv residents with a decade of politics behind them. The three resemble their voters and understand their hopes and fears. They will certainly dispute this claim, but their differences are smaller than their similarities.”

Lawfare/Weaponization of Definition of “Antisemitism” 

NYC mayoral candidate Andrew Yang doubles down on anti-BDS remarks,

“New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang has doubled-down on his criticism of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), despite requests for him to retract his controversial remarks. Yang, who launched his mayoral bid earlier this month, was asked on the New York-based podcast The Brian Lehrer Show on Tuesday if he would clarify ‘or even retract’ his comments that ‘compared the BDS movement to Nazi fascism’. Yang had on Friday equated the BDS campaign to ‘fascist boycotts of Jewish businesses’…Yang, a former presidential candidate, refused to retract his comparison and instead accused the BDS campaign of being a movement sympathetic to violent resistance – a stance that is not backed by the official BDS campaign.”

Methodist Church to discuss ways to increase divestment of Israel [actually divestment from occupation],

“Methodist Church leaders are today discussing a move intended to increase economic action against Israel, the Jewish Chronicle has reported. The church is said to have growing concerns over Jewish only illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and is seeking new ways to support its longstanding policy to divest from companies that profit from the occupation. A report discussed by the Methodist Council says the humanitarian situation of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank has “worsened considerably” and describes conditions in Gaza as ‘inhumane’, the JC said…”


Why an Israeli Human-Rights Organization Decided to Call Israel an Apartheid Regime,

“A central political question of our time is not so much where or how to draw the line but when. All over the world, we see regimes that are following clear trajectories away from democracy, justice, and freedom. As we watch them move inexorably along these disastrous paths, we wonder: When do we decide that the thing we feared would happen has happened already? B’Tselem, a leading Israeli human-rights organization, has been documenting the violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories since 1989. Earlier this month, it issued a position paper announcing that it has decided to draw a line. The paper is titled ‘A Regime of Jewish Supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This Is Apartheid.’ The paper makes the case that what looks like apartheid—which the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines as “inhumane acts” committed under a “regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups”—ought to be called apartheid. On the last day of 2020, I spent an hour on Zoom with B’Tselem’s executive director, Hagai El-Ad, and the organization’s spokesperson, Amit Gilutz, talking about why the group decided to make this statement…”

The absurdity of demanding Gaza get its own COVID-19 vaccines,

“The PA and the Hamas de facto authority in Gaza must continue to struggle to provide for the needs of their people to the fullest extent possible in the current circumstances. They, too, bear obligations under the albeit broken doctrine of Oslo. But as the occupying power, Israel cannot transfer its responsibilities ­­— and most certainly not when it continues to undermine the ability of Palestinian authorities to fulfill theirs. Meanwhile, Israel continues to cherry-pick the clauses that are convenient for maintaining control of the occupied territory without any accountability. The denial of vaccines is just the latest, and a particularly stark example of the deadly consequences of letting Israel get away with it.”

‘What did the world give us?’ A letter to President Biden from Nabi Saleh,

“I was imprisoned by Israel because I resisted the occupation. I was brutally tortured in interrogation dungeons to the point that I could not walk for some time. My sister was beaten in cold blood at the headquarters of Israel’s so-called ‘military court,’ right in front of her 12-year-old son’s eyes. My land in the village of Nabi Saleh was expropriated, and then strangers built their houses on it. My own home, built in 1964, has been threatened with demolition because it is located in Area C, which according to the Oslo Accords, falls under Israel’s full military and administrative control. I used to believe in peace and the two-state solution adopted by the Palestine Liberation Organization — our people’s leadership — as our path to liberation from the occupation. I defended that solution, debated others over it, and struggled to achieve it. I sang for peace and named my own son “Salam” as a harbinger of a different future. But after decades of the peace process, ‘peace’ itself is yet to be born. The power balance is skewed in favor of our opponent. The bulldozers impose a reality on the ground that cannot be overcome with the good intentions of love and peace alone.”

There Is No Right to a State,

“For more than a hundred years, politicians and academics have debated whether or not nations have the right to self-determination. But a review of that history makes one point clear: If there is a right to national self-determination, it cannot mean that every nation has the right to its own country. In a binational state like Israel/Palestine, where partition into separate countries has become impossible, the only coherent and moral way to interpret the right to national self-determination is as the right not to sovereignty, but to autonomy. Such a solution would constitute not bigotry, but its opposite, equality.”