Top News from Palestine & Israel: July 7, 2021

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Palestinian Politics & Protest

Upcoming FMEP Webinar: Palestinian Grassroots Protests & Violent Repression by the Palestinian Authority,

Featuring Aseel AlBajeh (Al Haq), Dr. Yara Hawari (Al Shabaka), and Mona Shtaya (7amleh) with Sarah Anne Minkin (FMEP), Friday, July 9th, at 11am Eastern.

Two weeks ago, Palestinian security forces violently arrested Nizar Banat, a political activist and well-known critic of the Palestinian Authority. Banat’s subsequent death – viewed by many Palestinians as a political murder if not a deliberate assassination – sparked outrage across the West Bank. Protests against the PA that began immediately after his death are continuing today, as Palestinians take to the streets to oppose the PA. They are doing so despite facing brutal repression at the hands of PA security forces and PA supporters, with women – especially female human rights workers and journalists – facing particularly tough intimidation and harassment.  Join FMEP and a panel of experts – all of whom are located in the West Bank – to discuss these protests and the PA’s response. We will discuss questions including: who are the people going out to protest against the PA? What are their demands? What risks do they face in protests? What is behind the PA’s violent response? What do these protests tell us about Palestinian grassroots organizing and leadership, especially in relation to the recent Palestinian uprisings in Jerusalem and inside the Green Line? Where might things go from here? And how is the uprising against the PA part of a larger struggle against occupation, annexation, and apartheid?

As protests grow, the PA turns its repression on Palestinian journalists,

“The prevalence of undercover and plain-clothed security agents — a tactic commonly used by the “mista’arivim” unit of the Israeli army against Palestinian demonstrations — has been a prominent feature of the PA’s efforts to thwart the protests over the past two weeks. Moeen al-Taher, a Palestinian political analyst and writer for the Institute for Palestine Studies based in Amman, explained that the main purpose of these agents is to infiltrate the demonstration and arrest the leaders of the protest. “They were also targeting journalists in order to prevent them from covering these events, while confiscating their phones and equipment or even destroying them,” he said. Notwithstanding their serious harms, al-Taher told +972 that perhaps the most dangerous element of the recent events were the counter-demonstrations organized by the PA, which largely included members of the security forces and other members of the Fatah movement. “The goal is to cover up the original demonstration and to give the PA forces an excuse to break it up under the pretext of stopping the clashes, which they themselves created,” he explained.” See also: “Palestinian plainclothes security agents further popular dissent” (Al Monitor)

The Palestinians’ problem with the Authority,

“Banat’s death has tapped into widespread anger at the Palestinian Authority and Abbas, who has been at its helm for 16 years. “The protests, along with growing calls for a general strike, reflect rising frustration with widely perceived corruption and incompetence within Palestinian leadership ranks,” my colleagues wrote last week…The Palestinian Authority “has turned into a private company saturated with administrative and financial corruption,” wrote Nidal Betare and Hazem Youness in a Washington Post op-ed. “It has coped with the occupation, working closely with the Israeli security authorities and playing a functional role for them.””

Critic’s Death Puts Focus on Palestinian Authority’s Authoritarianism,

““They are not hiding it anymore,” said Wissam Husseini, 29, a Palestinian yoga and meditation teacher who said he had been beaten and pepper-sprayed. “This is a second occupation actually, not really a government.””

Palestinian security forces escalate brutal campaign of repression,

“The Palestinian authorities in the occupied West Bank have launched a chilling campaign of repression cracking down on peaceful protests with unlawful force, targeting journalists, civil society activists, and lawyers with arbitrary arrests and torturing detainees, said Amnesty International today….“Over the past two weeks, Palestinian authorities have launched a deliberate campaign of repression, clamping down on peaceful protesters and carrying out arbitrary arrests in an attempt to instil a climate of fear and crush dissent,” said Saleh Higazi, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.”

Ahmed Jibril, leader of pro-Syrian Palestinian faction, dies aged 83,

Ahmed Jibril, the leader of one of the main pro-Syrian Palestinian organisations, has died aged 83 in a hospital in the Syrian capital Damascus. The head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), Jibril had lived in Syria for most of his life after his family left for the country in the 1940s, acquiring citizenship at an early age and fighting as a soldier in the Syrian army. He formed the PFLP-GC in 1968 after breaking away from the Palestinian Marxist-Leninist organisation the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), following a disagreement over ideology, personal rivalries and the group’s relationship with Syria. The group carried out numerous attacks within Israel, including the Avivim school massacre and Kiryat Shmona in 1970 and 1974 respectively, which saw dozens of civilians – including children – killed. It played a role as part of the Rejectionist Front along with other Palestinian groups who opposed negotiations with Israel and advocated a military solution to the occupation. Since the 1970s, the group has been fiercely loyal to, and funded by, the government of Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, a relationship which transferred to his son Bashar on his death in 2000.” Also see “Palestinian Faction Leader in Syria Ahmed Jibril Dies at 83” (Haaretz)

Fatah open to return of all dismissed members, except Dahlan,

The Palestinian Fatah movement is open to the return of all of its ex-members who were dismissed for whatever reason, except Mohammad Dahlan, Al-Quds Al-Araby reported on Wednesday. The Palestinian MP now lives in the UAE and is involved with the regime in Abu Dhabi.” See also “Dahlan slams PA for arresting political figures in West Bank” (MEMO)

The Israeli Scene // Inside the Green Line

Israel’s most racist law comes crumbling down — for now,

““There is no need to hide from the essence of the Citizenship Law — it is intended to ensure a Jewish majority in the State of Israel,” said Bennett’s coalition partner Yair Lapid during a meeting by his Yesh Atid party in the Knesset on Monday. That same day, former IDF Maj. Gen. and current Meretz MK Yair Golan lambasted the opposition for “betraying the Zionist dream” and trying to “drown Israeli citizens in a sea of Palestinians.” Lapid and Golan’s brutal honesty may shock some readers, but their words reflect the demographic obsession that has been the drip feed of the Zionist project since its early years. Their remarks are a reminder that Israel is still in the throes of a colonial process with the goal of territorial and demographic domination over Palestinians. To that end, it will invoke security justifications precisely to serve its ideological ends. This is the reason Israelis often refer to themselves as engaged in a “demographic war,” while Palestinians — by their very nature as non-Jews living under a Jewish regime, regardless of whether they are citizens — are repeatedly referred to as a “demographic bomb.” It is precisely the reason why Palestinian refugees are denied the right to return to their homeland while any Jewish person can immediately become a citizen of Israel. It is precisely why Mizrahi Jews were sent to settle depopulated Palestinian villages located along Israel’s borders in the early days of the state. Because in this country, demography and security are locked in a dance that serves one purpose: to deepen Jewish control and remind Palestinians who is in charge.”

Analysis | Netanyahu's Glee Aside, Bennett's Defeat on Citizenship Law Is a Promising Step for Israel,

“To start with, for the first time in many years, there has been a relatively broad and heated public debate about the implications of the controversial temporary provision that has affected thousands of families. Until now, its annual automatic renewal was facilitated by general indifference, despite the legal and moral criticism, but this time the political complexity compelled the Israeli public to recognize and show interest in a long-standing problem that demands to be addressed rather than repressed….Second, in the current absence of the Temporary Provision for the Denial of the Status of Palestinian Spouses in Israel (the correct title for a law that does not prevent their entry but denies them status and rights), the state will now have to examine each case individually and justify whether there are any reasons, security-related or otherwise, to prevent a specific family unification, with each case reserving the right of appeal. The situation will increase the burden on state authorities, and it is very possible that, as in the case of asylum seekers, the state will do everything in its power to delay and reject each application, especially with Ayelet Shaked at the Interior Ministry. In essence, however, the situation is still an improvement because it prevents collective discrimination. Nor does the Interior Minister have the legal power for sweeping rejections.

Analysis | Citizenship Law's Expiry Is 'Window of Hope' for Arab Israelis, but a Narrow One,

“The failure of the Knesset to extend the amendment to the Citizenship Law on Tuesday raised cautious optimism among Palestinian families seeking Israeli residency….The morning after the vote, it looks like Arab society was concerned with how much the amendment’s expiry would really change things for the affected families.”

Shaked vows to bring downed Palestinian family unification law to another vote,

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked vowed Tuesday that a law that barring Palestinians from obtaining Israeli citizenship through marriage, which was defeated earlier the same morning, “will be brought to a vote again” in the coming weeks.” Also see Herzog takes office as Israel’s 11th president, warns of dangers of polarization (Times of Israel)

Jerusalem & West Bank

Palestinian community in West Bank demolished for seventh time,

“Israeli forces have demolished the Palestinian Bedouin community of Humsa al-Baqai’a in the Jordan Valley, including structures that were provided by the international community. At least 65 people, including 35 children, were displaced, said Christopher Holt of the West Bank Protection Consortium, a group of international aid agencies supported by the European Union that is assisting the residents. The demolitions left the villagers, who earn their livelihood primarily by herding some 4,000 sheep, homeless again. The EU in the past has helped residents rebuild after previous demolitions.” 


Also see: 

Al-Haq sends an urgent appeal on Israel’s arbitrary detention of human rights defender Farid Atrash,

At dawn of 4 July, the IOF, arbitrarily detained Atrash at an army checkpoint east of Bethlehem as he was driving home from Ramallah city, where he participated in a protest against the killing of Nizar Banat. With his health deteriorating, Atrash was transferred to Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, before he was then taken to the Atarot police station in Jerusalem, and finally to Ofer Prison, where he currently is detained. He appeared in court today, which turned down an appeal for his release and remanded him until Sunday. Noting that the arrest of Farid illustrates Israel’s attempts to discourage individuals and organizations from documenting and highlighting consistent violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territory, said Al-Haq, the urgent appeal further underscored the need to address the arbitrary detention of Atrash within the broader context of Israel’s systematic policy of silencing of opposition to maintain its apartheid regime over the Palestinian people as a whole.” Also see “A Palestinian detainee on hunger strike is in critical state” (International Committee of the Red Cross)

Protecting Children Digital Rights Violations Against Jerusalem Children & Youth, Position Paper ,

“The virtual world has become the primary space where children and youth in occupied East Jerusalem spend their time. 42 per cent use the Internet for more than 5 hours per day, while 31 per cent use it for 3 – 5 hours per day. It has also become the space where they express their opinions and political views. However, 87 per cent of children and youth rarely or never participate in political discussions online due to fear of prosecution from the authorities who monitor their social media content. Additionally, 35 per cent of Palestinian youth active on social media, fear government surveillance of their activities and 20 per cent feel constantly unsafe expressing opinions online. In addition to being under surveillance and targeted by Israeli authorities, many youth are exposed to cyber bullying, pornographic material, extortion, theft of personal virtual accounts, theft of personal information, threats, social or political persecutions resulting from sharing personal opinions, sexual harassment, and other forms of abuse….Since 2000, a total of 8,000 children have been arrested by the Israeli authorities. Addameer’s documentation reports that Israel prosecutes 500 to 700 children in military courts every year, some as young as 12 years old. In East Jerusalem alone, from January until the end of April, 2021 Israeli authorities arrested 230 Palestinian children, and put 27 children in solitary confinement. The reasons behind arrests and detentions range from stone throwing to posts on social media platforms, targeting young Palestinians and putting them in vulnerable situations.”

Israel closes Palestinian NGO in Ramallah for 6 months ,

The Israeli army on Wednesday sealed off the offices of Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), a Palestinian non-profit organization in Ramallah, central West Bank, for 6 months. Eyewitnesses…added the Israeli army sealed the main door of the NGO with solid metal panels and pasted an order there, closing it for 6 months. The Union of Agricultural Work Committees has branches in different areas in the West Bank and Gaza, and works for the Palestinian farmers and agricultural development. Meanwhile, the Israeli forces also detained the director of the Union of Health Work Committees, Shaza Abu Owda, and confiscated a vehicle of the NGO. On June 9, the Union of Health Work Committees was also closed for 6 months.” See also “Director of leading health organization among ten Palestinians detained from West Bank” (WAFA)

Dozens of Israelis storm Al Aqsa complex in Jerusalem ,

Dozens of Israeli settlers on Wednesday forced their way into the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem, according to a Palestinian agency. In a statement, the Islamic Endowment Department in Jerusalem said 63 settlers broke into the flashpoint site guarded by Israeli police.”


Israeli bombardment severely weakened Gaza economy: Report,

“The Gaza Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment (RDNA) report published on Tuesday estimated that the damage caused by the 11-day bombardment was between $290m and $380m, while the recovery needs are projected at between $345m and $485m. “Following the hostilities, 62 percent of the population of Gaza is food insecure,” the report said, adding that unemployment was already at 48 percent and poverty rates above 50 percent before the escalation.” Also see “Report raises cost of Gaza’s recovery to $485M” (Al Monitor) 

Canary in the coal mine: Gaza, the Levant, and climate change,

“Climate change is expected to compound these challenges by making precipitation even more erratic and unpredictable, further weakening the depleted and contaminated coastal aquifer, upon which life in the strip depends. It is also expected to increase temperature and water evaporation, reducing agricultural productivity and further worsening food insecurity. While the situation in Gaza may seem exceptional, it is the canary in the coal mine for the environmental and humanitarian disaster the whole of the Eastern Mediterranean region will face, if urgent climate action is not taken….Global climate change is widely expected to bring wetter conditions to many places around the world. But due to the Eastern Mediterranean’s unique geography, the Levant, Turkey, Egypt, and the island of Cyprus are all likely to experience the opposite. Climate models suggest that climate change will bring less rainfall and longer droughts to the region, with less groundwater available to help bridge dry periods. The consequences of these changes cannot be overstated.”


US freezes Abraham Fund, as Israel-UAE business ties falter,

“The US administration has suspended the Abraham Fund indefinitely, US and Israeli sources close to the matter have told “Globes.” The Abraham Fund was set up after the signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel, the UAE and the US in September 2020 and the signatories were meant to finance the fund along with other countries who would join later….The Abraham Fund was already operating in October 2020 and within three months examined hundreds of requests for funding of various ventures. It also approved more than ten of the ventures in the fields of energy, food-tech, and fintech. The Abraham Fund also approached large financial institutions in the US who were asked to join the efforts in order to increase the capital in the fund. However, the election of Joe Biden as the new US President brought activities to a halt. At the end of January, shortly after Biden’s swearing in ceremony, Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone, who had been appointed by Donald Trump to head the Abraham Fund, stepped down. Since then the Biden administration has not replaced him.” Also see “Israeli-UAE investment projects in uncertainty as US indefinitely ends support for Abraham Fund” (The New Arab)

Opinion | Why Saudi Arabia Is Now in No Rush to Recognize Israel,

“In recent years, it’s likely Saudi leaders like Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were largely focused on the potential benefits of a possible opening to Israel. The recent violence undoubtedly called close attention to the potential pitfalls as well, and will fortify, for now, Saudi Arabia’s assessment that on normalization, they have no reason to move quickly, and every incentive to wait and see.”

U.S. return to Iran nuclear deal is fait accompli, senior official says,

“A United States return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or the Iran nuclear deal as it is commonly known, is a fait accompli, a senior Israeli official said on Tuesday. According to the source, Washington may very well sign an agreement with the Iranians even before the end of President Hassan Rouhani’s term when hardliner Ebrahim Raisi is set to take office.”

Senior Israeli Foreign Ministry Official Visits Morocco,

The head of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alon Ushpiz, visited Morocco on Tuesday to discuss ways to strengthen relations between the two countries, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry….According to Israel Speaks Arabic, a Twitter account run by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, the visit came after a telephone call between Lapid and his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita.”

The U.S. Scene

Congress pushes Biden to reopen US consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem,

Congress is seeking to fund the Biden administration’s plan to reopen the US consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem, but so far has shown little appetite for removing recent legal barriers that inhibit the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) from reopening its office in Washington.”

The Four Questions that Explain American Jewish Attitudes Toward Israel,

“What determines American Jewish attitudes toward Israel? Let’s say you had to guess an American Jew’s views on Israel-Palestine by asking a series of questions, none of which could involve politics. What would you ask? Here are my top four. Question One: How old are you? … Question Two: Are you Orthodox? … Question Three: How long has your family been in the United States? … Question Four: How much time have you spent listening to Palestinians?”