[This is a roundup of news articles and other materials circulating on Palestine and reflects a wide variety of opinions. It does not reflect the views of the Palestine Page co-editors or of Jadaliyya.]
The Occupation Forces
Headers on official papers issued by the Qalandiya local council still bear the icon of an aeroplane, a reminder of the Palestinian dream of one day having their own airport. But Israel is inching closer to building an illegal settlement on the site of what was once known as the Jerusalem International Airport, burying with it Palestinian hopes of claiming it as their own. Israeli media reported last week that Israeli authorities had approved a plan for the settlement of Atarot with 9,000 housing units, which they described as a move deliberately taking place ahead of the inauguration in January of US President-elect Joe Biden, who has expressed his opposition to settlement construction, which violates international law.
For nearly 70 years Yad Vashem, the world-renowned Holocaust museum established in Jerusalem, has bolstered Israel’s claim to act as guardian and interpreter of the lessons of the Nazi genocide that destroyed much of European Jewry during the Second World War. Research by Yad Vashem’s distinguished historians has guided other museums and research institutes around the world in how they understand and present the Holocaust. The museum stages influential conferences for scholars, and produces key texts on the Holocaust. And Yad Vashem plays a critical role in shaping the way the Holocaust is taught in schools in Israel and abroad, as well as to each new intake of Israeli soldiers. All of which helps to explain why there has been uproar in recent weeks from a mix of Holocaust survivors, historians and Jewish organizations at the preferred candidate to head the museum when the post becomes vacant at the end of this month. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has selected a former general turned far-right politician, Effi Eitam, for the role. Eitam, aged 68, lives in an illegal settlement in the Golan and has long advocated the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the occupied territories, as well as the crushing of basic civil rights for non-Jews inside Israel.
Mazen Dweik had been warned multiple times by members of the Israeli settler organization Ateret Cohanim. If he refused to sell his house in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Batan al-Hawa to the settlers, they would make sure he and his family lost everything in court. Last month, that threat became a reality when a Jerusalem district court upheld a ruling in favor of the far-right group to evict all 30 members – including 12 children – of the Dweik residence. Judges rejected the final appeal made by the family in February against a ruling relinquishing full property rights to Ateret Cohanim and ending a more than decade-long legal battle.
The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) demolished a home in the city of Qalenswa, past midnight last night, under the pretext of illegal construction. The Israeli police cordoned off the site of the house from all sides and prevented access to it, while residents of the city arrived and the police prevented them from approaching. The Israeli authorities also demolished two homes in Kafr Qasim, belonging to the family of Aref Freij. The demolition came after the Lod District Court rejected on Sunday the owners’ request to freeze the demolition order.
Attempting to replace conflict resolution with the more appropriate and just process of decolonization, a Palestinian-led initiative has emerged out of Haifa over the past three years. The One Democratic State Campaign (ODSC), though still in its infancy, comprises Palestinians from every major community (citizens of the areas that in 1948 became Israel, the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, the refugee camps and the Diaspora/Exiles), together with their anti-colonial Israeli Jewish allies. It has issued a call for the establishment of a single democratic state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, one that will also witness the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homeland. Building on the work of others, the ODSC has also formulated a 10-point political program that “thinks through” the entire process of decolonizing the settler-colonial entity of Israel through the establishment of a post-colonial polity and political community.
Israel will begin its national vaccination campaign promising to inoculate 60,000 citizens a day, beginning on Saturday when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be among the first to receive a shot, and do so on live television. It’s a big moment that comes as the first set of countries are just starting to vaccinate, and preempts Israel’s own vaccine, which still has two more rounds of clinical trials to go before it can hit the market, according to an update from the Ministry of Defense. We’ve covered the race to secure a vaccine in this newsletter in the past. Israel acquired 6 million doses from Moderna and 8 million doses from Pfizer (both require two doses). It should have enough to cover its 9 million citizens, however, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are seemingly still months away from a vaccine. What’s more at the moment there are only procurement plans to cover 20% of the Palestinian population, with an emphasis on those over 65, healthcare workers, and those with chronic conditions.
The vote in parliament was about prolonging the deadline for passing of the budget – not for 2021, but for 2020. Tonight (Tuesday) at midnight is the point at which new elections will automatically be set, three months ahead– that is, likely the 23rd of March. This point marks a nadir for the attempt of Benny Gantz, the supposedly “liberal” rival to Benjamin Netanyahu’s forever-leadership. A former army chief of staff, Gantz came into politics two years ago, riding on the white horse of having brought Gaza back to the “stone age”, promising more extrajudicial executions if he were elected. The white knight Gantz managed to gather a coalition of “just not Netanyahu” people, a party that was a kind of “Likud-light”, but that also held appeal for many from the Zionist left.
Orthodox Jewish group members protest against Zionism and the state of Israel in Jerusalem
A single slogan can summarize the anti-Netanyahu protests that have been taking place across Israel over the last half year: “It won’t end until Netanyahu goes.” Netanyahu may not have quit, but the Knesset effectively decided to fire him on Tuesday night when it refused to give him more time to pass the annual state budget, thus dissolving itself. New elections — the fourth round in less than two years — will take place on March 23, 2021. And thus, the protest movement won the rare achievement of actually achieving its goal: the overthrow of the Netanyahu-Gantz government.
Over the course of the last ten years, we have witnessed revolutions sweep the Middle East and North Africa, but we have also witnessed the sheer might and terror of counter-revolutionary forces aided and abetted by imperial powers like the US and Russia, who have everything to gain from ensuring the Arab world remains a minefield for exploitation and military endeavors. Looking back at 2010, we asked activists and organizers what lessons we must draw for our current moment–a period of ongoing instability racked by a global pandemic, worsening austerity measures the world over, and an increasingly polarized political order. What must we not forget? Here are some of the responses.
Israel’s new ambassador to the UK stereotyped a Jewish human rights group in anti-Semitic terms, The Electronc Intifada has learned. In a Hebrew YouTube video last year, Tzipi Hotovely mocked Breaking the Silence as being motivated by money. In a gross caricature, the mostly animated video depicts the group’s activists losing their funding then saying: “Oy vey! My German Euros!” Depictions of Jews as greedy are a major theme in the history of anti-Semitic stereotypes. Hotovely released the video to her YouTube channel last year as part of her campaign in the ruling Likud Party’s primary elections.
In the second half of the year, a series of Arab states added to our collective misery by announcing their decision to normalise their relations with Israel. By effectively abandoning their supposed commitment to supporting Palestinian self-determination for money, weapons and a few short-term political gains, they sent us a clear message that our suffering and struggle for the most basic human rights no longer matter to them. One of the most shocking and enraging developments in the fast-paced love affair between the UAE and Israel was the mutual visa waiver agreement – a first between Israel and an Arab country. After the signing of the agreement, Emirati and Israeli airlines were quick to announce direct flights between the two countries. This is it, we thought, the Emiratis are coming!
The first direct commercial flight from Israel to Morocco took off from Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport this morning with outgoing US President Donald Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner on board. The El Al flight was decorated with Moroccan and Israeli flags and the word "peace" in Hebrew, Arabic and English, according to the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation. Israeli Chief of Staff for National Security Meir Ben Shabbat was also aboard the flight. According to local media, the Israeli delegation will sign a series of bilateral agreements during the visit.
Settlers and Illegal Settlements
Ongoing attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians are part of a large campaign aimed at seizing more Palestinian lands and imposing new realities on the ground, B'Tselem warned yesterday. "These attacks are being carried out with full support from the Israeli army and government," Kareem Jubran, director of the field research department at B'Tselem, said, stressing that the Israeli army and government support the extremist stances of the Israeli Jewish settlers.
The e National Bureau for defending land and resisting settlements (NBPRS) stated in its latest weekly report, that under the Deal of the Century, the Knesset approved last week in preliminary reading a draft law to recognize outposts in the West Bank, asking the relevant Israeli occupation ministries to provide electricity, roads, water, telecommunications, transportation and all necessary services to them. Knowing that the successive governments in Israel have financed these outposts either directly and/or indirectly, jointly with the settlement associations, such as, the “Hill 387” group that was established by the “Harroya Ha’ifari Association”, which receives constant funds from the Ministry of Education annually .
An Israeli settler opened fire at a group of Palestinian and Israeli protesters on Friday during a demonstration against an unauthorized outpost near Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank. The soldiers that arrived at the scene did not detain the settler, but rather demanded the protesters leave the area. No one was injured. The incident took place early on Dec. 18, when 30 protesters arrived on a hill near the outpost, where they have protested every Friday for the past several weeks. As the protesters reached the hill, several Israeli settlers drove up in a car, got out and walked toward them, at which point one of the settlers fired a number of direct shots from his pistol just meters from the protest.
Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Movement
Nuseir Yassin, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, has come under fire in recent years for his popular Facebook page Nas Daily. Critics accuse him of whitewashing Israel’s crimes by falsely equating a colonial occupier with its victims and playing native informant while “reifying Zionism’s most toxic fantasies,” as Palestinian American commentator Steven Salaita has put it. Not least, Yassin opposes BDS – the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign – led by Palestinians to help their struggle for liberation. Yassin and his Israeli American partner recently moved to the United Arab Emirates where they are working to boost the country’s image after its normalization deal with Israel. In September, Palestinians called for a boycott of one of Yassin’s latest ventures, The Next Nas Daily. And this month, BDS groups in Arab countries launched one of their largest recent social media campaigns, amplifying that call.
Law & Prisons
The Israel Border Police arrested three Palestinians who infiltrated an Israeli military base and stole ammunition, RT reported on Wednesday. According to Israeli TV Channel 20, RT revealed that the Israel Border Police confiscated motorcycle, mobile, wireless communication equipment and night lamps used by the three Palestinians.
Environment, Economy, and Other
It’s Christmas time in Palestine and all eyes are on Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. People are trickling in and out of the Nativity Church, while others have come to take photos in front of Bethlehem’s Christmas tree. But despite the festive atmosphere, Palestinians in Bethlehem know that this year their Christmas is going to be anything but normal.
Like every year, Christians in Gaza feel their isolation most acutely over the festive period. A nearly decade and a half old Israeli blockade has often left the small community in Gaza bereft during the holidays. But this year is still different. Not only is the Israeli blockade preventing people from visiting families elsewhere in Palestine or holy sites in Bethlehem or Jerusalem; this time there is also a pandemic keeping movement out of Gaza tightly restricted and necessitating a lockdown at home. Christmas in Gaza is effectively canceled this year. Churches are closed and celebrations must of necessity be restrained. It is another blow to an ancient population dating almost as far back as Christianity itself, whose numbers have dwindled over the past decades of Israeli occupation, none more so than in the past 10 years. From around 3,000 in 2010, there are only around 1,000 Christians left in Gaza today.
Culture & Art
The Palestinian town of Bethlehem celebrated Christmas Eve on Thursday with only small numbers attending the traditional events due to COVID-19 restrictions, but town leaders say they are determined to send a message of hope, reported Reuters. Just 12 months ago, Bethlehem, revered as the birthplace of Jesus, was celebrating its busiest festive season for two decades, amid a sustained drop in violence and a corresponding surge in the number of pilgrims and tourists. But now, hotels that were adding new wings in 2019 are shuttered and many festivities will be followed mostly online. Nevertheless, aware that the world's eyes are upon their town at this time of year, Bethlehem's leaders say they want to be a beacon of hope.
The Bethlehem Municipality announced that the Christmas Celebrations for 2020 will be held in accordance with the health and safety measures, saying that the entrances to Manger Square will be strictly guarded. The municipality, in its program sent to the press said that there will be no evening events in Manger Square, and Christmas carols from international choirs from twin cities will be broadcasted live on the municipality’s Facebook page. The statement added that the Midnight Mass will be restricted only to the clergy.
“Unlike the author of this academic biography who never met the Palestinian leader Tawfiq Zayyad and only knew of him through the mainly Zionist Hebrew press, I knew Tawfiq Zayyad and respected him since the Nakba. At that life-changing juncture, he was nearly twice my age of eleven years, someone with literary promise, revolutionary bend of mind, daring, Palestinian nationalism, communist convictions and a booming voice to back it all up in his speeches. Yet this rising star was approachable even to me and my agemates. His harsh-edged voice was difficult to ignore especially with the-then-recent addition of loudspeakers.”