Top News & Analysis on Israel/Palestine: March 1-8, 2024


1. New from FMEP
2. Gaza
3. River to the Sea
4. Region/Diplomacy
5. US Scene
6. Long Reads/Perspectives

New from FMEP

Two new Occupied Thoughts podcasts: 

  • Media Bias in Reporting on Sexual Assault on October 7th – Breaking Down the Damage — FMEP Fellow Rania Batrice and analyst Krystal Ball look at the controversy surrounding allegations of widespread and systematic sexual assault by Hamas on October 7th. This conversation does not ask “was there or wasn’t there sexual assault on October 7?” Rather, it focuses on the harm caused by biased media reports and the absence of independent and thorough investigations. The podcast discusses how the narratives promulgated by mainstream US media – most notably the 12/28/23 New York Times front-page article entitled “Screams Without Words: How Hamas Weaponized Sexual Violence on October 7th” – have contributed to the dehumanization of the entire Palestinian population of Gaza, and the politicization of what should be a serious demand for professional investigation and accountability for the crimes of October 7th.
  • Biden & Israel: What it’s Like to Make Policy in the White House — FMEP Fellow Peter Beinart is joined with Steven Simon, former Director of the National Security Council in the Obama Administration. The two discuss what the conversation in the White House is in regards to U.S. policy towards Israel, as it was in the Obama Administration and possibly now in the Biden Administration.

FMEP Legislative Round-Up: March 8, 2024 (Lara Friedman) – “1. Bills, Resolutions; 2. Letters; 3. Hearings & Markups; 4. Selected Media & Press releases/Statements

Settlement & Annexation Report: March 8, 2024 (Kristin McCarthy) – 1) Israel Advances Plans for 3,400 Settlement Units; 2) A Must-Watch WSJ Feature on Outposts & Illegal Settlement Roads; 3) Bonus Reads


U.S. floods arms into Israel despite mounting alarm over war’s conduct (WaPo) – “The United States has quietly approved and delivered more than 100 separate foreign military sales to Israel since the Gaza war began Oct. 7, amounting to thousands of precision-guided munitions, small-diameter bombs, bunker busters, small arms and other lethal aid, U.S. officials told members of Congress in a recent classified briefing. The triple-digit figure, which has not been previously reported, is the latest indication of Washington’s extensive involvement in the polarizing five-month conflict even as top U.S. officials and lawmakers increasingly express deep reservations about Israel’s military tactics in a campaign that has killed more than 30,000 people, according to Gaza’s health authorities. Only two approved foreign military sales to Israel have been made public since the start of conflict: $106 million worth of tank ammunition and $147.5 million of components needed to make 155 mm shells. Those sales invited public scrutiny because the Biden administration bypassed Congress to approve the packages by invoking an emergency authority. But in the case of the 100 other transactions, known in government-speak as Foreign Military Sales or FMS, the weapons transfers were processed without any public debate because each fell under a specific dollar amount that requires the executive branch to individually notify Congress, according to U.S. officials and lawmakers who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive military matter. Taken together, the weapons packages amount to a massive transfer of firepower at a time when senior U.S. officials have complained that Israeli officials have fallen short on their appeals to limit civilian casualties, allow more aid into Gaza and refrain from rhetoric calling for the permanent displacement of Palestinians.” See also Israel’s war on Gaza live: Ceasefire by Ramadan ‘looking tough’, Biden says (Al Jazeera); Blinken says truce ‘ball’ in Hamas’s court; terror group says no to compromise (Times of Israel); U.S. plans more airdrops into Gaza amid hope for Ramadan cease-fire (WaPo); Biden Sends Sharp Message to Israel During State of the Union: Don’t Use Gaza Aid As bargaining chip (Haaretz); Netanyahu says Israel will push on with Gaza offensive, including in Rafah (Reuters) 

Survivors of Gaza aid convoy massacre describe ‘indiscriminate’ Israeli fire (Mahmoud Mushtaha//+972) – “In the early hours of Feb. 29, more than 110 Palestinians were killed and several hundred wounded in northern Gaza when a convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid reached Gaza City, where a starving crowd had amassed near the coast. Israel immediately denied responsibility for the casualties, releasing edited drone footage purporting to show that its forces “didn’t open fire on those seeking aid” and shot only at “several individuals” who “posed a threat”; instead, Israel accused the Palestinians of “trampling other Gazans to death.” However, testimonies gathered by +972 Magazine from Palestinians who survived what they are calling the “starvation massacre” describe Israeli forces opening fire indiscriminately on the crowd…Amid the panic induced by the gunfire, many Palestinians were also killed and wounded as a result of being crushed by the crowds and the aid trucks themselves.” See also Gaza doctor says gunfire accounted for 80% of the wounds at his hospital from aid convoy bloodshed (AP); US blocks UN Security Council resolution blaming Israel for dozens of deaths during humanitarian aid delivery (JTA); Lives Ended in Gaza (NYT); Starvation, survival, and the Flour Massacre (Ahmed Dremly//We Are Not Numbers) 

Biden plan to build Gaza port, deliver aid by sea draws skepticism, ridicule (WaPo) – “The most generous responses to President Biden’s plan to establish a maritime aid corridor to battered Gaza, including building a temporary port and aid deliveries from Cyprus, were marked by skepticism that it would work. Others saw in the proposal, which Biden announced Thursday in his State of the Union address, more evidence of the administration’s reluctance to confront Israel over its obstruction of relief deliveries or use the United States’ extraordinary leverage as Israel’s main military backer to mitigate the most catastrophic consequences of the war.” See also How the U.S. military will use a floating pier to deliver Gaza aid (WaPo) US port plan to step up aid delivery to Gaza criticised as ‘distraction’ (Al Jazeera); Five killed and 10 injured in Gaza aid airdrop when parachute fails to open (Guardian); 

EU will open sea corridor to send aid from Cyprus to Gaza amid famine fears (Guardian) “The EU has announced the opening of a sea corridor this weekend for shipping humanitarian aid from Cyprus to Gaza in the race to stave off a famine that is already claiming lives.” See also How Israel’s restrictions on aid put Gaza on the brink of famine (WaPo); Analysis | The Israeli Military Doesn’t Grasp the Risk of Mass Death by Starvation in Gaza (Amira Hass//Haaretz); 16 children have died of malnutrition in aid-starved Gaza, health officials say (WaPo); It’s not just Israeli bombs that have killed children in Gaza. Now some are dying of hunger too (AP); Born and died during Gaza war, infant twins are buried in Rafah (Reuters) 

UNRWA report says Israel coerced some agency employees to falsely admit Hamas links (Times of Israel) – “The UN agency for Palestinian refugees says some employees released into Gaza from Israeli detention reported having been pressured by Israeli authorities into falsely stating that the agency has Hamas links and that staff took part in the October 7 attacks.” See also Canada lifting freeze on UNRWA funding after weeks of protests, criticism (Al Jazeera); Anesthetics, crutches, dates. Inside Israel’s ghost list of items arbitrarily denied entry into Gaza (CNN)

‘They wanted to humiliate us.’ Palestinian women detained by Israel allege abuse in Israeli custody (AP) – “Rights groups say Israel is “disappearing” Gaza Palestinians — detaining them without charge or trial and not disclosing to family or lawyers where they’re held. Israel’s prison service says all “basic rights required are fully applied by professionally trained prison guards.”’ See also War on Gaza: Israeli tanks deliberately ran over dozens of Palestinians (Middle East Eye) 

Desperate to Escape Gaza Carnage, Palestinians are Forced to Pay Exorbitant Fees to Enter Egypt (The Intercept) – “With almost no options for escape, people in Gaza are increasingly paying thousands of dollars to fixers connected to the Egyptian government.” See also The price of freedom: The company making millions from Gaza’s misery (Sky News)

News outlets express solidarity with journalists in Gaza (Committee to Protect Journalists) – “Dozens of news organization leaders from across the world, including the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, and Reuters, have joined an open letter (full text below) affirming their solidarity with journalists reporting in Gaza.”

Gaza Becomes Israel’s Testing Ground for Military Robots (Haaretz) – “In an effort to avoid harming soldiers and dogs, the IDF has been experimenting with the use of robots and remote-controlled dogs in the Gaza War. Most of the tests have been with a “robot dog,” which is also equipped with a drone and can replace or reinforce the Oketz Unit’s dogs in certain situations. Unmanned remote-control D9 bulldozers are also being used.”

River to the Sea

Palestinians ‘beaten and sexually assaulted’ at Israeli detention centres, UN report claims (Guardian) – “An internal UN report describes widespread abuse of Palestinian detainees in Israeli detention centres, including beatings, dog attacks, the prolonged use of stress positions and sexual assault. The report was compiled by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) and is largely based on interviews of Palestinian detainees released at the Kerem Shalom crossing point since December, when UNRWA staff were present to provide humanitarian support.”

A new surge of settler outposts is terrorizing Palestinians off their land (Imad Abu Hawash//+972) – “Over the last five months, large swathes of Palestinian-owned land in the West Bank have been effectively annexed by Israeli settlers. In some areas, like Battir, settlers have established completely new outposts — nine of them, according to a report by Peace Now. While all Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law, the construction of unauthorized outposts is technically illegal even under Israeli law. Nonetheless, the Israeli army invariably protects the settlers, and the state generally allows them to be hooked up to the electricity and water grid — unlike the Palestinian communities on whose lands they are built.  And under Israel’s current far-right government, the distinction has been blurred even further: in December, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich allocated NIS 75 million (around $21 million) of state funds to outposts across the West Bank…And in several cases, under the cover of war and with the army’s active or tacit collaboration, settlers have simply taken over land by force, threat, or military decree.”

Israel carries out biggest Ramallah raid in years (Reuters) – “Israeli forces raided the Palestinian administrative capital of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank overnight, killing a 16-year-old in a refugee camp during their biggest such operation into the city in years, Palestinian sources said on Monday.”

Journalism out, hasbara in: How Israeli TV news joined the Gaza war effort (Eyal Lurie-Pardes//+972) – “Tectonic shifts in Israeli broadcasting have played a key role in shaping the country’s nationalist and militaristic discourse, with Oct. 7 marking their apex.”

Kibbutz Be’eri Rejects Story in New York Times October 7 Expose: “The Were Not Sexually Abused” (The Intercept) – “Two of the three victims specifically singled out by the New York Times in a marquee exposé published in December, which alleged that Hamas had deliberately weaponized sexual violence during the October 7 attacks, were not in fact victims of sexual assault, according to the spokesperson for the Kibbutz Be’eri, which the Times identified as the location of the attack.” See also New York Times Launches Leak Investigation Over Report on Its Israel-Gaza Coverage (Vanity Fair)

Hostage families block main highway with cages; report says new signs of life received (Times of Israel) – “Families of hostages being held captive by Hamas in Gaza staged a protest on Friday late afternoon and evening, blocking the main highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to urge the government to reach a deal to free their loved ones.” See also We were constantly in terror’: Israeli hostage tells of captivity in Gaza (The Guardian)


UN finds ‘convincing information’ that Hamas raped and tortured Israeli hostages (Guardian) – “The UN’s special envoy on sexual violence in conflict has reported “clear and convincing information” that some women and children hostages held by Hamas had been subjected to rape and sexualised torture and that there were “reasonable grounds” to believe such abuses were “ongoing”. The special envoy, Pramila Patten, also reported on Monday that there were “reasonable grounds” to believe sexual assaults including rape and gang-rape in several places took place during the 7 October attacks by Hamas. Patten led a nine-strong team of experts to Israel and the West Bank in the first half of February, but cautioned that there were limitations on what it could achieve in a limited time given a number of constraints. Primary among those limitations was that the team did not manage to meet any survivors of sexual violence during the 7 October attacks, “despite concerted efforts encouraging them to come forward”. See also Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict (UN); Israel Recalls U.N. Ambassador to Protest Response to Sexual Violence Report (NYT

Three sailors dead after Houthis strike ship in Gulf of Aden, US says (Guardian) – “Three sailors have died and others have been injured after a Houthi missile attack on a ship in the Gulf of Aden, US officials have said – the first fatalities of crew of commercial shipping since the Houthis began launching strikes at ships in waters off Yemen last year. The officials told US news agencies that the crew of the MV True Confidence had abandoned ship after the attack, which was claimed by the Houthis.”

Could Houthi-sunk ship Rubymar spell eco-disaster for the Red Sea? (Al Jazeera) – “Rubymar, the Belize-flagged, British-owned cargo ship that was badly damaged in a Houthi attack in February, has almost completely sunk into the Red Sea, causing an oil slick and prompting serious concerns about environmental damage to the surrounding waters and their coral reefs. Here’s a look at the sort of damage the Rubymar might cause.”

Lebanon, not Gaza, could trigger regional war as Israel-Hezbollah tension soars (Al Monitor) – “As clashes between Hezbollah and Israel intensify despite US mediation efforts, an all-out war between the two sides is no longer a remote possibility. Striking a deal to avert one, however, appears to hinge on reaching a cease-fire in Gaza.”

US Scene

US vice president calls for ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Gaza (Al Monitor) – “US Vice President Kamala Harris called Sunday for a proposed six-week ceasefire deal in the Israel-Hamas war to be accepted, while criticizing Israel over insufficient aid deliveries into Gaza. “Given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire for at least the next six weeks, which is what is currently on the table,” Harris said during a speech in Selma, Alabama. Her comments were the strongest to date by a US administration official on Israel since the war started, as President Joe Biden comes under acute pressure over his support for Israel and the civilian death toll in Gaza soars.” See also Harris calls for ceasefire, says “people in Gaza are starving” (Axios); Administration officials watered down Kamala Harris’ Gaza speech before delivery (NBC); Harris stresses US support for Israel, Gaza truce in talks with Gantz (Al Jazeera) 

‘State of the Union is genocide’: Gaza protesters challenge Biden speech (Al Jazeera) – “About 150 protesters gathered on Pennsylvania Avenue – the arterial road that connects the White House to the seat of the US legislature in Washington, DC – ahead of the annual address on Thursday…“As President Biden prepares to give the State of the Union address, we’re here to say, no more genocide with our tax dollars,” Cat Knarr, of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, told Al Jazeera. Protesters near the Capitol laid out a swimming-pool-sized Palestinian flag across the avenue’s asphalt. They held signs that said “Biden’s legacy is genocide” and “End the occupation”.”

Joe Biden is exasperated by Israel but will not stop its war (The Economist) – “For all his annoyance with Mr Netanyahu, Mr Biden has declined to use America’s leverage more directly,  in the manner of Ronald Reagan, who blocked the delivery of weapons to Israel in the 1980s or of the elder George Bush, who halted loan guarantees to Israel in the 1990s…Though opinion is shifting, especially among young Democrats, Americans are still largely sympathetic to Israel. Mr Biden is a self-declared Zionist. Thus far in the crisis he has lived by the dedication he wrote years ago on a picture he gave Mr Netanyahu: “Bibi, I don’t agree with a damn thing you say, but I love ya.”’ See also Why America Isn’t Using Its Leverage with Israel (Isaac Chotiner interviews Senator Chris Van Hollen//New Yorker); Israel’s Gantz meets Austin, Blinken on ‘unauthorized’ Washington visit; ‘We look 100 percent weak’: US airdrops in Gaza expose limit to Biden’s Israel policy (Politico); 6 House Dems, back from Israel, accuse Netanyahu of ‘utter disregard for Palestinian lives’ (JTA)

‘Uncommitted’ campaign opposing Biden’s support for Israel makes a mark in 5 more states (JTA) – “A week after a campaign to show opposition to President Joe Biden’s Israel policies made a mark in the Michigan primary, it garnered substantial results in at least another five states, a sign that the Gaza war could dog his campaign for reelection…Democratic primary voters voting “uncommitted” took substantive portions of the vote Tuesday in North Carolina, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Tennessee and North Carolina…The substantive showings suggested that Michigan, a state with a large Arab American population, was not an anomaly, and that polling showing unhappiness with Biden’s support for Israel in its war against Hamas among younger and minority voters could hurt him in the general election in November.”

Understanding Biden’s Settler Sanctions Strategy (Alex Kane//Jewish Currents) – “The administration’s sanctions on Israeli settlers are an attempt to mollify its disillusioned base without confronting the Israeli government.” See also I met the Israeli settlers Biden placed sanctions on. They’re bad – but part of a rotten system (Zak Witus//Guardian)

AIPAC uncorks $100 million war chest to sink progressive candidates (Politico) – “AIPAC is expected to spend $100 million across its political entities in 2024, taking aim at candidates they deem insufficiently supportive of Israel, according to three people with direct knowledge of the figure, who were granted anonymity to discuss private meetings. The strategy has taken on new urgency this election season from donors animated by the Israel-Hamas war. AIPAC’s biggest targets are members of the so-called Squad of progressive House Democrats who have been openly pressuring the administration to call for a cease-fire. But AIPAC’s ambitions are broader. United Democracy Project, the group’s super PAC, is monitoring 15 to 20 House races and polling in many of those districts, according to a person directly familiar with UDP’s strategy and granted anonymity to discuss the approach.”

Why Does Biden Keep Making the Same Dangerous Comment About Jews? (Sophie Hurwitz//The Nation) – “Over the past few months, President Joe Biden has repeatedly shared a very specific opinion that he holds about Jews and Israel. On October 12, five days after Hamas attacked Israel, the president held a White House meeting on antisemitism. “Were there no Israel, no Jew in the world would be ultimately safe,” Biden said. “It’s the only ultimate guarantee.”…The exact wording of the sentence varies, but the sentiment does not. Biden clearly believes that the existence of the state of Israel is the only thing preventing the annihilation of the world’s 15 million Jews. If you take the slogan at face value, Biden also seems to believe that, were Israel to disappear, he would be powerless to protect the 6 million Jews living in the United States—the country whose government he currently leads. Apparently, it’s a foreign nation’s job to ensure the safety of American Jews, not Joe Biden’s…American Jews are being told they will never be safe at home unless the Israeli military’s violence remains well-funded abroad. American Muslims are being told that they will only be safe at home if Muslims are not safe abroad. In this equation, neither community wins. It’s no wonder that many are refusing these terms.”

Long Reads/Perspectives

Opinion | For Palestinians, the ‘Day After’ the Gaza War Will Have to Include Hamas (Huda Abuarquob//Haaretz) – “From a Palestinian perspective, the “Day After” will need a concrete roadmap to be able to accept it, and central to it will be a transitional leadership that includes Hamas in it. Yes, Hamas. Hamas is not going anywhere, despite Netanyahu and his government’s declarations. This war was started strategically by Hamas to put both themselves as political players and the Palestinian cause on the map again.”

Raised in the West Bank, Shot in Vermont (NYT) – “Three months after an attack, its victims grapple with what it means to be Palestinian in America.”

Unilateral Actions (Amjad Iraqi//NYRB) – “The impending invasion of Rafah—where over 1.4 million Palestinians are trapped—shows how far Israel has pushed its ambitions in Gaza.”

The Myth of Israel’s “Moral Army” (Avner Gvaryahu//Foreign Affairs) – “In truth, Israel…has waged a brutal campaign in Gaza, only loosely upholding the protocols its armed forces are supposed to follow to minimize civilian deaths. But even those guidelines are insufficient: an investigation of prior campaigns in Gaza reveals the inadequacy of Israeli targeting guidelines, which do not truly curb civilian casualties. In the latest round of fighting in Gaza, Israel has failed to follow even those restrictions—leading to untold devastation and making a resolution to the conflict even harder to reach…Past wars help pierce the fog of the present one. At the Israeli veterans’ group Breaking the Silence, we have spent years studying soldiers’ testimonies from previous military campaigns in Gaza, in 2008–9, 2012, 2014, and 2021. In those instances, Israel claimed that it was doing its best to avoid civilian casualties. This claim was based on three assertions: that Israel attacks only legitimate military targets, not civilian ones; that Israel operates with highly reliable intelligence, which enables it to avoid harm to civilians; and that Israel executes its attacks with precision, limiting harm to civilians. Our investigation of past wars revealed many reasons to doubt each of these claims.”

Israeli peace activists are more anguished than ever − in a movement that has always been diverse and divided, with differing visions of ‘peace’ (Atalia Omer//The Conversation) – “Even within this larger camp, however, there are divergent perceptions of justice, shaped by how people understand the root causes of the conflict. Did it truly start in 1917, when a British lord promised a home for Jews? In 1948, with Israel’s War of Independence – which Palestinians experienced as the Nakba, their “catastrophe”? Or is the most important date 1967, when Israel occupied the Golan Heights, east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip?…For the most part, this “peace camp” believes “Israel proper” consists of land within the “Green Line,” set by the armistice agreements at the end of the 1948 war. The Green Line does not include the territories Israel has occupied since the end of the 1967 war, which most of the peace camp considers a morally wrong occupation. More broadly, their vision is grounded in preserving Israel as a democracy with a Jewish majority. This necessitates the creation of a sovereign Palestinian nation-state in the occupied territories…Ever since the early days of Zionism, however, other Jews have challenged the movement’s basic objective of creating a Jewish-majority state, given the reality that other groups of people, in addition to Jews, already lived in historic Palestine.”