Top News from Palestine/Israel: November 12, 2020

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New from FMEP

Weaponizing Anti-Semitism, State Department Delegitimizes Human Rights Groups,

“Amidst the hullabaloo around last week’s U.S. elections, most people probably forgot the recent shocking news that the U.S. Department of State plans to label three leading global human rights groups—Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam—“anti-Semitic.” They shouldn’t have. A new report today suggests that the plans will not only move forward, but will be geared to have even broader impact than originally suggested. With the victory of President-elect Biden, some might now be tempted to dismiss all of this as a desperate, partisan gambit that, if implemented, will be easily undone by a new Biden administration. In reality, the labeling of humanitarian and civil society groups as “anti-Semitic” looms as an inexorable outcome, now or in the future, of an ongoing and escalating campaign, embraced by Democrats and Republicans alike, which has weaponized combating anti-Semitism to quash criticism of Israel, attack progressive political actors and movements, and delegitimize civil society organizations.”

Biden’s Israel-Palestine policy: A chance to restore and reset,

“If Biden tries to resurrect U.S.-Palestinian relations from within this tangle of laws — laws that are intended, explicitly, to politicize and obstruct the very ability of the United States to conduct diplomacy with the Palestinians — not only does he have little chance of success, but he will be validating Congress’ continued unconstitutional interference with the executive’s diplomatic prerogative. Alternatively, Biden has an historic opportunity before him to assert executive authority and declare unconstitutional those elements in the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1987 and the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act that seek to dictate United States’ relations with the Palestinians. In doing so, he can both restore the PLO mission to Washington and reset the U.S.-Palestinian relationship, opening the door for a different era of diplomacy in which Congress, correctly, is removed from the mix.”

[Rescheduled for 11/18] WEBINAR - Annexation and the Aftermath of the U.S. Election: Analysis & Expectations,

On Tuesday, November 3rd, while the world was busy watching Americans go to the polls, Israel quietly razed an entire Palestinian community in the Jordan Valley, carrying out the “largest West Bank demolition operation in a decade.” This erasure of a Palestinian community was just the latest sign that the Israeli government has accelerated the process of de facto annexation in the West Bank, despite putting formal annexation on hold to pursue normalized relations with various Arab states.  De facto annexation is likely to accelerate in the lead-up to Joe Biden’s inauguration, especially in Area C, as Israel works to take over more land in a rush to achieve “faits accompli” prior to President Trump leaving office. The current trends suggest a further increase in actions against Palestinians, including home demolitions, state-backed settler violence, and the continuing expansion of settlements. To discuss these and related issues, we invite you to join us for a webinar, jointly presented by FMEP and B’Tselem USA, featuring IMEU analyst Diana Buttu, Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy Executive Director Salem Barahmeh, and B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad in conversation with FMEP President Lara Friedman.

Weaponizing Allegations of Anti-Semitism to Stifle Dissent

Pompeo expected to announce process for U.S. to label groups anti-Semitic,

“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has decided to establish a new process by which the United States can declare groups, including NGOs, to be anti-Semitic. For now, however, Pompeo won’t be naming any names. The decision is a compromise. Three people familiar with the issue confirmed it, but noted that Pompeo could still change his mind and hold off on an announcement. In recent weeks, as first reported by POLITICO, Pompeo had been weighing whether to label Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam as anti-Semitic because of their alleged actions toward the Israeli government. Had Pompeo named the groups, the plan was to say the U.S. would not support the organizations and to urge other governments also not to support such groups, financially or otherwise. That proposal, however, drew fierce internal pushback from some State Department staffers, as well as external condemnation from lawmakers and other critics….Details of what would go into that process also were not immediately available. However, it is expected to rely in part on the working definition of the term anti-Semitism as established by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, a group of nations that includes the United States.”

Also See: “Pompeo expected to announce process for US to label groups, NGOs antisemitic” (Jerusalem Post)

International lawmakers to push social media giants on online anti-Semitism,

“An inter-parliamentary task force convened its first meeting Tuesday to hear recommendations from panelists on how to combat online anti-Semitism. The group included members from across party lines in national legislatures from the United States, Australia, Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom. The meeting, on Zoom, opened with presentations from representatives of the American Jewish Committee, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs in Canada, B’nai Brith Canada, Canadian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and the Online Hate Prevention Institute in Australia. Several panelists and lawmakers encouraged the task force to push social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism. The classification includes demonization of Israel alongside more traditional forms of anti-Semitism, which critics say limits free speech…The task force was announced in September and includes Wasserman Schultz, fellow Florida Democrat Ted Deutch, along with Chris Smith and Mario Diaz-Balart from the Republican party. From outside the US, Blue and White MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh represents Israel, MPs Anthony Housefather and Marty Mortantz represent Canada, MPs Josh Burns and Dave Sharma represent Australia and MPs Andrew Percy and Alex Sobel represent the United Kingdom. The group is set to convene again at the end of November.”

As Rev. Warnock’s Israel Record Becomes an Issue, Atlanta Jews Call the Senate Candidate a Friend,

“The criticism of Warnock’s Israel record could become a defining issue in the two-month campaign before the runoff election, which is already drawing significant national attention and political donations.  The Republican Jewish Coalition on Tuesday tweeted a story about Warnock’s Israel record, saying, “Believe his actions, not his self serving words.”  Meanwhile, Warnock has the endorsement of Georgia’s only Jewish state senator, Democrat Mike Wilensky, as well as several Jewish U.S. senators and the Jewish Democratic Council of America, a pro-Israel progressive group. The council on Tuesday tweeted its support for Warnock.”

Occupation, Annexation, & Human Rights

Israel to expand settlements in East Jerusalem during Trump's last days,

“The Israeli municipality in Jerusalem is pushing to build settlement units that would cut off two Palestinian-majority areas of occupied East Jerusalem prior to the inauguration of US president-elect Joe Biden on 20 January. Settlement units are planned in Har Homa, Givat Hamatos and Atarot, which would cut the Palestinian neighbourhoods of Beit Safafa and Sharafat, curtailing any chance of splitting the holy city, the east part of which is sought by Palestinians, in any future talks around a two-state solution. Another settlement expansion is planned for Ramat Shlomo, north of East Jerusalem.

Fearing a Biden Settlement Freeze, Jerusalem Expedites Construction Beyond Green Line,

“Recently, after the results of the U.S. presidential election became clear, officials in the city engineer’s office and the urban planning division in Jerusalem City Hall were instructed to speed up the approval of building plans beyond the Green Line out of fears that it would be much more difficult to approve them after the change of administrations. The large plans for construction for Jews over the Green Line include thousands of units in Givat Hamatos, Har Homa, Atarot and other neighborhoods. One of the neighborhoods at the center of the clash with the Americans under Obama was Givat Hamatos. For the U.S. administration, this neighborhood was especially sensitive because it could block the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa from all sides – and in the opinion of many, would end any possibility of dividing Jerusalem in the future.”

New Israeli settlement road in south of the West Bank to eat up over 2000 dunums of Palestinian land,

“Israeli bulldozers started today work on a new road for settlers in the south of the occupied West Bank that would eat up over 2000 dunums of Palestinian land, today said a local activist. Fouad al-Amour, coordinator of the Protection and Steadfastness Committee in the south of the West Bank, told WAFA that Israeli bulldozers began work on a new road for settlers, which would run from the illegal Israeli settlement of Avigal to bypass Road No. 60 and would pass through the village of Ma’in and Um-Ishqihan area, eating away at more than 2000 dunums of land belonging to Palestinian residents. Israel has recently intensified its settlement activities throughout the occupied Palestinian territories, but mainly in the south of the West Bank.”

Settlers attack farmers, damage chicken coops and kill over 300 chickens in the village of Qusrah,

“This was just another routine day for Palestinians, settlers and soldiers in the West Bank. Israel upholds, encourages and supports this reality in order to promote its goals, in utterly disregard for the devastating consequences for Palestinian residents.”

Current status of new projects in the Ben Hinnom Valley and surrounding area,

An update on 8 settler-backed construction projects in the Ben Hinnom Valley in Jerusalem.

Right-wing Activists Attacked Us at Israel's Supreme Court,

“For a long time now, hearings on cases involving Hamoked have drawn activists from right-wing organizations, who come to the courthouse to harass the organization’s lawyers. They recruit bereaved families and arrange for them to confront the Hamoked representatives, filming the encounters to be posted on social media. These activists also invite politicians from right-wing parties to come to the courthouse, and the hearings generally turn into a carnival from hell. On this particular day, because of the coronavirus regulations, Hamoked’s lawyers had to wait outside the courtroom while my hearing was taking place. When I stepped out for a break, I found the following scene: Dozens of right-wing activists following the Hamoked lawyers and shouting things at them, photographers shoving their cameras in their faces and haranguing them with accusations that they collaborate with murderers. Within moments, one of the right-wing activists recognized me, and they pounced on the new target, demanding that I tell them if I enjoy “defending murderers of Jews.” It was really insulting. I think I’ve done enough in my life for them to go after me about cases that I actually litigated, not on a case I am not involved in.”

Missing Israeli soldier found dead in West Bank, military says,

“The soldier’s body was found near an army checkpoint close to Jerusalem, the military said in a statement. “Earlier today, combined forces of the IDF (Israeli army) and the Israeli police located the body of an IDF soldier, the late corporal Sagi Ben-David, near the Hizma checkpoint,” the military said. The soldier had gone missing on Tuesday, the statement added. Israel’s military and police are investigating the circumstances of his death.”

Israel warns Gaza terrorists against attacks on tense anniversary – report,

“Israel has sent a message to Palestinian groups warning them that any attack to mark the anniversary of the killing of a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander last year will be met with the assassination of terror leaders, a UK-based Arabic newspaper reported on Thursday. According to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, the message was sent to both the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups, warning them that the firing of rockets or any other form of attack against Israel will elicit a harsh response.”

The Palestinian Scene

Abbas aide: Palestinian leadership ready to resume Israel talks,

“A senior Palestinian Authority official said Wednesday that the PA was ready to resume negotiations with Israel at the point at which they stopped in 2014 or when Israel guarantees to abide by the agreements already signed. The comments by Nabil Abu Rudeineh, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, came a day after Defense Minister Benny Gantz urged the PA leadership to return to the negotiating table.”

PLO's Saeb Erekat laid to rest after military honours,

“As the sun began to set over his home city of Jericho, veteran Palestinian peacemaker Saeb Erekat was laid to rest on Wednesday after a memorial ceremony and funeral attended by hundreds…Erekat’s memorial took place on the anniversary of Arafat’s death in 2004, marked in a separate ceremony earlier in the day. In Ramallah, a procession of Palestinian soldiers carried Erekat’s coffin through an outdoor plaza in Abbas’s presidential compound. A military honour guard laid a wreath over his coffin. Abbas and other senior officials waved goodbye as the body was driven to Jericho for burial.”

Also See – “Palestinians bid their final goodbyes to Saeb Erekat at mass funeral” (Middle East Eye)

Biden’s victory spells doom for Palestinian unity talks,

“Fatah and leftist sources close to the Palestinian presidency told Middle East Eye that Abbas currently prefers to postpone reconciliation steps with Hamas, and to wait for Biden’s approach to the Palestinian cause to become clear.”

What Saeb Erekat’s Death Means for Palestinians of My Generation,

“His death is a painful reminder that members ofmy generation who worked hard to achieve a Palestinian state may never see their dreamrealized. It should also be painful for Israelis. The demise of a man so thoroughlycommitted to a negotiated peace agreement is a tragedy for them as well.”

The Future of U.S. Relations w/ Israel & Palestine

Incoming Israeli ambassador will have to win over Democrats,

“Jan. 20 is Inauguration Day for Joe Biden, but another person will also enter a new post in Washington: Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan…Erdan’s first challenges will be to try to reverse the trend of Israel becoming a partisan issue in Washington, and manage relations with Biden’s White House at a time when big policy differences seem unavoidable. “I hope my friend Gilad Erdan is taking a crash course in spoken Democrat. It is a very special language — very different from the dialect we Israelis speak,” Dani Dayan, Israel’s former consul general in New York, tweeted. Erdan hired former Washington Post Jerusalem correspondent Ruth Eglash as his spokesperson, which should help him in “speaking Democrat.””

Also See: “Former ‘Post’ reporter appointed as Erdan’s int’l communications officer” (Jerusalem Post)

What Trump has in store for Israel, Middle East during final 70 days in office,

“…a US official speaking on the condition of anonymity said that Israel has “little reason to expect any surprises — definitely not bad ones, but probably not good ones either” over the next ten weeks before President-elect Joe Biden enters the White House. This isn’t to say that no work will be done on the Israel front during the lame-duck period. Tacitly acknowledging an electoral defeat (which US President Donald Trump has yet to do himself), several administration officials who spoke with The Times of Israel said they plan on working all the way to January 20 in order to solidify Trump’s legacy.”

Should Israel’s Settlers Fear Joe Biden?,

“Settler leaders should not expect an invitation to Biden’s inauguration party. The next U.S. ambassador to Israel will probably be a supporter of the (moribund) two-state solution, not a donor to the settlements on record as saying Israel has a “right” to annex permanently parts of the West Bank. Instead, s/he will criticize Israel’s ever-expanding settlement of the occupied territories…The settler movement knows this, of course. In sharp contrast to their cartoonish image as irrational fanatics, settler leaders are exceptionally shrewd in reading and playing the political context within which they operate. David Elhayani, head of the Yesha Council, told the Washington Post, “Under Obama, we built more houses [in settlements] than we have under Trump.” And it could be even better under Biden, whom both he and Netanyahu have called “a friend of Israel.” It’s not only because of this precedent that the Israeli Right has little reason to fear a Biden-Harris administration. During the party primaries, as more and more outspoken critiques of Israel were heard within the Democratic camp, Joe Biden literally said, “I am a Zionist.  You don’t have to be a Jew to be Zionist.””

The Real Anti-Semitism

A Proud Boys leader is trying to rebrand the group as explicitly white supremacist and anti-Semitic,

“Kyle Chapman, the founder of a “tactical defense arm” of the Proud Boys known for engaging in street violence, claimed in a message on the encrypted chat app Telegram that he has staged a “coup” against the current leader of the Proud Boys — a Black man named Enrique Tarrio.  “We will confront the Zionist criminals who wish to destroy our civilization,” Chapman wrote after using other bigoted language. “We recognize that the West was built by the White Race alone and we owe nothing to any other race.” Chapman also wrote that he has renamed the group the Proud Goys, referring to the Jewish term for non-Jews that neo-Nazis have tried to appropriate and use to symbolize their anti-Semitism…In his post on Telegram, Chapman said he deposed Tarrio, whom he referred to with a racial slur. He wrote that the group will now focus on “the issues of White Genocide, the failures of multiculturalism, and the right for White men and women to have their own countries where White interests are written into law and part of the body politic.” “White genocide” is a myth advanced by white supremacists that falsely claims that nonwhite immigration and interracial marriage are a conspiracy to destroy white people.”

Also See – “‘Proud Goys’: Far-right Group Member Pushes Full Embrace of White Supremacy, Antisemitism and Homophobia” (Haaretz)

Disrupting the dark web of white supremacy,

“Beyond a captivating narrative, “Culture Warlords” also contains a piercing analysis of what insurgent fascism looks like and where it comes from. Its politics are centered on an explosive anti-Blackness built into the foundations of Western colonialism, which motivates the revolutionary energy of those who cannot wait to eradicate non-whiteness. Antisemitism, too, is an “ideological linchpin” that lends a kind of coherence — no matter how delusional — to white nationalist ideology, writes Lavin. In this worldview, Jews are proposed as the masterminds of a plan to erase whiteness from the earth, given that white supremacists believe people of color to be incapable of doing so for themselves. White nationalists claim Jews are responsible for “Globohomo,” all things wrought by degenerate liberalism, from queerness to feminism to individuality. This story is matched by Lavin’s own experience of Jewishness as conditional white privilege, a status made uneasy by the specter of antisemitism.”