[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
The apartheid system under which Israel operates inside the occupied territory, however, could not be better displayed than in the case of the COVID-19 vaccine — who gets the vaccine, and who doesn’t, is a simple matter of nationality. “Firstly we have to be very clear: with military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza effectively under Israeli control, Israel is legally obliged by international law to provide for their [Palestinians’] healthcare,” Dr. Yara Hawari, Senior Analyst at Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, told Mondoweiss. “Israel is legally required to provide that vaccine to Palestinians under occupation. We know they [Israel] have not done that,” she said, adding that Israel puts that responsibility on the PA as the service provider for Palestinians.
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) on Tuesday overnight carried out a wide raid and arrest campaign in areas all over the West Bank, arresting at least 21 Palestinians, mostly from Ramallah and Al-Bireh cities. The Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) said that (12) citizens at least were arrested from several parts and towns in Ramallah and Al-Bireh, most of them former prisoners who spent years in the occupation prisons, among others.
A pregnant woman and a paramedic were injured by rubber-coated metal bullets, as the Israeli occupation forces stormed the Palestine Medical Complex governmental hospital in Ramallah city. The Ministry of Health stated in a press release today, Sunday, that the occupation forces stormed the vicinity of the Palestine Medical Complex at dawn, and began firing bullets and tear gas canisters at the compound, which led to the injury of a pregnant woman with a rubber bullet in her shoulder, and a paramedic with a rubber bullet in his hand inside the compound, in addition to Cases of suffocation and panic among the patients, especially children. As for property, the glass of an ambulance vehicle belonging to the compound was damaged.
Israeli occupation forces (IOF) on Tuesday stormed the towns of Marada and Burqin in the Salfit Governorate, searched a number of homes, and took their measurements. The head of the Marada Council, Bassam Ibdah, said that the occupation forces stormed the town at dawn, and raided the house of Fahim Muhammad Ibdah, located near the northeastern entrance to the town, and took his measurements. Ibdah pointed out that the occupation forces took all the family members to the open in the bitter cold for several hours.
Israeli occupation authorities on Sunday handed over five residents from the village of Ta’nak, west of Jenin, notices to demolish four homes and a greenhouse. Local sources reported that the occupation authorities had notified the demolition of the house of Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud Qdaila, who had been haunted two years ago, the homes of Mahmoud Ahmed Qdaila, Riad Muhammad Dawasa, and Deeb Nimer Shbaibo, which are under construction, and a greenhouse for citizen Mahmoud Jamil Abu Qdaila. Sources also indicated that the occupation authorities claim that these buildings are based on archaeological and unlicensed areas.
Over the last week cases declined in the West Bank but the leveling off has not extended to Gaza where new cases continue to surge. On Tuesday and Wednesday Gaza saw its highest death rate since the start of the pandemic, with 24 dying over the course of 48 hours. In total, there are 304 confirmed COVID-19 related deaths in Gaza. As we’ve reported previously in this newsletter, experts believe the official count belies a wider outbreak that is likely far-reaching, yet undetected. For the last month Gaza’s positivity rate on COVID-19 tests has been over 30%, which indicates far too few tests are being administered, according to the WHO’s latest situation report. In the last week an average of 2,194 tests were administered in Gaza per day. This comes on the heels of tests running out for at least a third time since the pandemic began, and the WHO says Gaza will likely run out once more in the next week: “Health authorities reported enough COVID-19 tests for 15 days until 3 January, as of 23 December.”
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have held their first joint military drills in an effort to coordinate defence capabilities in the face of any future Israeli strike. In a press conference, a spokesperson for the operation said that the drills also aimed to promote the abilities of the Palestinian fighters and to prepare them to fight at any moment. The spokesperson stressed that the military wings of the Palestinian factions, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other PLO members "are ready to defend the Palestinians against any Israeli aggression." "We will not accept that the Israeli enemy bullies our people," the spokesperson said. "Our arms are in hand and we are ready with a united decision and a united leadership." He added: "The Israeli leadership has to recognise that thinking of any adventure in Gaza will cost it very much due to the unlimited number of surprises."
Instead of insisting on fundamental rights and following the example of South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, which mobilised international civil society around the idea of one person, one vote and the establishment of a secular democratic, non-racial, non-sectarian state, the Palestinian political leadership reduced the Palestinian people to only those living in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. This resulted in the formation of a Palestinian Bantustan of incongruous territories, where Palestinians live under the constant terror of a military occupation and where the Palestinian Authority does not actually exercise full authority.
The Deputy Consul, Ms. Sofia Ruiz del Árbol, and the Head of Cooperation, Ms. Eva Suárez Leonardo, of the Consulate General of Spain in Jerusalem, met with Mr. Marc Lassouaoui, the Acting Director for Partnerships of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). At the meeting, the Spanish officials confirmed the recent announcement of an additional contribution of EUR 5 million from the Government of Spain in support of Palestine refugees, bringing Spain’s total contribution to UNRWA to approximately EUR 12 million in 2020. This additional contribution comes at a time when UNRWA operates amidst dire financial conditions and will help UNRWA continue to deliver core services to Palestine refugees throughout the region, including education, health care and relief and social services.
In 2019, under the guise of combating racism and bigotry, Canada adopted the highly problematic definition of antisemitism promulgated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which conflates political criticism of the state of Israel with anti-Jewish bigotry. Under this working definition, legitimate critiques of Israel and its policies, such as “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” may be condemned as antisemitic. Many critics have rightly warned that these provisions threaten the free speech rights of Canadians and will likely be used to silence criticism of Israel.
This worsening pattern of Israeli forces becoming more trigger-prone with live ammunition did not emerge in a vacuum. Since 2013, Israeli authorities have issued indictments against Israeli soldiers in only three out of 155 killings of Palestinian children. And while public pressure calling for Israeli authorities to conduct investigations into killings of Palestinian children are important, we know that Israeli investigations are rarely independent or impartial. This near-complete lack of accountability — such that systemic impunity for Israeli crimes is the norm for Palestinian children — has directly fostered the violent conditions we see on the ground.
Once, the Arab League united states against Israel. When governments began attacking their people in 2011, those countries began turning on one another. In this new constellation, Israel has become another factor in the fine fabric of alliances and rivalries in the Arab world. “Israel integrated into the Arab fabric not just via those normalisation agreements but as an active player in the intricate labyrinth of contradictory interests of countries of the Middle East,” he told MEE. “A long time ago, the late Shimon Peres dreamt of Israel as member of the Arab League; what he did not dream of is a broken region with a practically non-existent League.”
Settlers and Illegal Settlements
The Israeli Minister of Settlement, Tzachi Hanegbi has declared his government will move forward with implementing the vision based on bringing more than a million Jews to settlements in the West Bank after the law was passed in the first reading at the Knesset on the legalization of outposts. In an implementation of this vision to bring in a million settlers, the Israeli Minister of Transportation, Miri Regev, approved the construction of a huge settlement bypass road ‘the Laban bypass road’ in the northern West Bank, which confiscates thousands of agricultural dunums.
Israeli police have also warned they are "losing control" of the situation surrounding Hilltop Youth. On Wednesday, 36 settlers were arrested by Israeli forces in various areas of the West Bank. A Palestinian from the village of Ras Karkar was reportedly injured after stones were thrown at his car near Beit El settlement, close to the city of Ramallah. Hilltop Youth has launched several attacks on Palestinian properties and villages in recent years, setting fire to crops and homes, slashing car tyres and spraying racist graffiti. The group sees the West Bank as the biblical kingdoms of Judea and Samaria, which belong to them and must be purged of Palestinians.
Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Movement
2020 was surely a year like no other. Yet despite the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a successful year for the global Palestinian rights movement. There were plenty of direct actions, court victories and significant calls to sanction Israel over its violations of international law. This year saw achievements by activists, students, civil rights defenders and lawmakers to uphold the right to boycott Israel – even as lawmakers, Israel lobby groups and the Israeli government itself attempted to derail, smear, attack and imprison organizers. “Despite its massive investment of financial, political, diplomatic, propaganda and intelligence resources in its war against the BDS movement, Israel has failed, as some of its own lobby groups today admit,” says the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the steering group for the Palestinian-led BDS campaign. What a fitting way to mark 15 years of the BDS campaign.
The French multinational insurance company AXA is being called out today as part of an online international day of action over the company’s complicity in Israel’s illegal occupation and settlement enterprise. Campaigners in Europe and around the world are asking people to sign a pledge and join the campaign “to boycott AXA by refusing to buy its insurance products “until AXA ends its support for Israeli apartheid against the Palestinian people.” A growing coalition of groups in Europe and worldwide has been campaigning since 2018 for AXA to divest from Israeli banks financing Israel’s illegal settlements and from Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems. The online action opposing AXA’s complicity comes as Israel, emboldened by Trump’s support, is accelerating its seizure of Palestinian land and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian communities, and moving forward with construction of record numbers of illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land.
On 28 December 2020, Al-Haq sent letters to the High Representative of the European Commission, the Executive Vice President, and European Union (EU) Commissioner for Trade, and the EU Member States with diplomatic representatives in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), welcoming and calling on them to support the principled initiative of the 46 MEPs, representing most of the European Parliament’s political groups, to ban trade with, and support for, illegal settlements established in occupied territories.
Despite the challenges of online/remote learning, campus activism has not stopped over the past year. National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) is currently planning their 2021 conference, celebrating 10 years of this annual reunion of SJP chapters from around the nation. And many student chapters have passed significant resolutions around some major issues, from censorship, to the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, to divestment and, most recently, the training of campus police by the Israeli military. As we wrap up 2020, here is a representative sample of campus activism since the beginning of the 2020-2021 academic year, pointing to what can be expected in 2021.
Law & Prisons
Happiness was apparent on the face of Zeyad Sawafta, a Palestinian farmer who, for the first time in 46 years, was finally able to enter the farm of his grandfather at al-Qa’oun valley in northern Jordan Valley in the West Bank. “I can’t describe my feelings while entering our farm for the first time after 46 years of being banned by the Israeli occupation,” Sawafta told Xinhua, with tears in eyes. Israel took control of al-Qa’oun valley after it occupied the West Bank in 1967, and in 1974, it built up an electronic fence that surrounded the area and banned entry of Palestinian land owners. In 2015, the Palestinian National Commission to Resist the Wall and Settlement filed a case in the Israeli court to recover the land. Two years later, it obtained a final verdict allowing the Palestinian owners to take back their land in al-Qa’oun valley. However, the verdict failed to be implemented because Israeli settlers lived in the area.
Environment, Economy, and Other
Palestinian Airlines will be closing its carrier service after 25 years, the Palestinian Transport and Communications Ministry announced. This comes after the airline offered its two remaining Fokker 50 aircraft, which were donated by the Netherlands, for sale in September. Established in 1995, the company became operational in 1997, flying across the Middle East from Yasser Arafat International Airport in the Gaza Strip. However, the airport was destroyed by Israel in 2001 during the Second Intifada. The airline moved to Egypt's Al-Arish airport near the Gaza border but was forced to lease its aircraft and halted most of its activity by 2017.
Very rarely can one event unite people from across different cultures and backgrounds and seemingly create one collective experience, defined by lockdowns, masks, social distancing, and no clear vision of what the future might hold. In Palestine, like many other countries, life has continued on despite the pandemic. COVID-19 did not stop the occupation, and in many cases exacerbated the devastating effects of 53 years under Israeli military rule. Palestinians continued to face regional and global threats to their sovereignty and right to self determination throughout 2020, as the Trump administration continued to wreak havoc on the Palestinian cause, in keeping with the past four years of pro-Israel policies and strategy.
“Dear liberal Zionist friends, We’ve been friends for a while in a cordial but wary way, and as this tumultuous year ends, I wanted to appeal to you to change your stance. While your attitudes are well-meaning and and even idealistic, you have done nothing to change Israel’s conduct in some 40 years now; and the fact that you have not altered your messaging beyond Frustrated Wheedling with some Anger thrown in now and then is deeply disappointing to me. The sad truth is that: You have no program at all for ending the occupation, you just hope Israel will change. The absence of any vision tells me that all your liberal messaging is just lip service to Palestinian human rights. In the end what you really care about is “the right of the Jewish people to a state” in historic Palestine; and you’ve got that, and nothing must be done that would risk that project one iota.”
The procession of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, arrived this afternoon, Thursday, to Bethlehem from Jerusalem, to preside over the midnight mass in the Church of Saint Catherine, adjacent to the Church of the Nativity. Nativity Square witnessed the summit of celebrations with the arrival of the procession of Patriarch Pierre Battista Pizzaba, where peace was directed to him by official figures according to the protocol without overcrowding, gathering or jostling.
Culture & Art
The following is a piece of fiction published as part of +972’s New Futures project. In this series, writers, thinkers, and activists share how they visualize Israel-Palestine the day after the pandemic, as a way of transforming this dystopian moment into an exercise in radical imagination of rethinking through the past, present, and future of this region, and envisioning a different reality for all those living between the river and the sea. “Since liberation, people have been coming to Gaza from all over — wealthy Palestinian families from Bethlehem, Egyptians who blare their music just like in Cairo. I have never seen anything like it. The elders say it is just like the old days.”
The following is an essay published as part of +972’s New Futures project. In this series, writers, thinkers, and activists share how they visualize Israel-Palestine the day after the pandemic, as a way of transforming this dystopian moment into an exercise in radical imagination of rethinking through the past, present, and future of this region, and envisioning a different reality for all those living between the river and the sea. “It is the Palestinian refugee who reminds us, as we reckon with our altered reality, that yearning for what we once knew is hardly an act of obstinacy. It is what sustains us. And for many, the cost of abandoning this self-consolation is just too high.”
The Socialist left in the United States has historically offered a dissenting voice to the drumbeat of U.S. state-sanctioned support for Israel, to the apartheid Israeli state, and to liberal Zionism. Sumaya Awad and brian bean’s Palestine: A Socialist Introduction is a strong reminder of that tradition, and an urgent bulletin to socialists everywhere seeking to analyze, understand and organize for Palestinian liberation. The book rejuvenates awareness of how solidarity with Palestinian self-determination and the end of Israeli occupation remain crucial building blocks for slowing U.S. imperialism in the Middle East, reviving traditions of Arab nationalism and Socialism globally, and building a stronger revolutionary Left within the U.S. Significantly, too, the book dares to chart a semi-optimistic path forward in what appear to be dark times.