[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
Israel’s Civil Administration, the bureaucratic arm of its military occupation, ordered the demolition of Ahmad Amarneh’s small home in the village as he was building it. Amarneh then moved to one of the village’s historic caves, “because it does not require an Israeli permit, or so I thought,” he told The Electronic Intifada. In July, Israeli occupation forces ordered Amarneh to leave the cave. “I had exactly 96 hours to evacuate,” he said. Since he did not do any new construction, Amarneh thought he was safe from Israel’s demolitions. “I didn’t build a villa or a house. I didn’t build anything, not even a tent. I found something that already existed, built by nature, and I lived in it,” Amarneh said. “And now they say it’s not allowed and that they will destroy it. I feel incredibly sad.”
As the world began reeling from the outbreak of COVID-19 in March, Israeli authorities were busy with a string of infrastructural projects across the occupied West Bank. They include installing a new section of the separation wall, building bypass bridges for Israeli settlers, digging tunnels, and approving Palestinian-only separation roads in various locations east and southeast of Jerusalem. In pursuing these initiatives, Israel has been working hard to achieve its future geographic and demographic vision for the West Bank, turning what was once described by many as a “temporary occupation” into a permanent reality of apartheid.
The new year is off to a deadly start in the occupied West Bank where Israeli soldiers reflexively use lethal force against Palestinians. A Palestinian man was shot dead by soldiers at a settlement road junction near the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Tuesday. The military claimed that the slain man, identified as Ahed Abdulrahman Qawqas, 25, had thrown a knife at soldiers. No one besides Qawqas was injured during the incident, as in countless other alleged attacks on Israeli soldiers in which only the accused Palestinian assailant was injured, often fatally. Israeli outlets published photos of a meat cleaver that was reportedly found at the scene where Qawqas was killed. It is not clear whether Qawqas posed a life-threatening danger when he was shot dead. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem found that Israel’s occupation forces had killed Palestinians without justification at least 11 times last year. Human rights groups have long decried Israel’s shoot-to-kill policy that violates Palestinians’ right to life.
“My son Harun is so young, he’s only 24. He had his whole life ahead of him, and now he might die because the soldiers had nothing better to do than shoot him over a generator,” Rasmi Abu Aram tells Mondoweiss. The accusatory nature of the statement from the military after the incident has only confirmed Abu Aram’s suspicions. “They are already trying to blame us for what happened, just like they always do when their soldiers attack and kill Palestinians.” Abu Aram said that he hopes to file a case against the soldier responsible for shooting his son, but for now, is focusing on keeping Harun alive. “Right now we don’t know if he’s going to live or die,” Abu Aram told Mondoweiss. “In November Israeli destroyed my house, and now they have almost killed my son. I don’t know what they will do next, but this is the occupation,” he said. “It feels like my life has gone black. I can build my house again, but I can’t get my son back.”
Israeli forces have attacked hundreds of Palestinian people taking part in protest rallies in the occupied West Bank against the Tel Aviv regime’s land grab policies. On Friday, Israeli forces fired Israeli occupation forces opened fire on a Palestinian young man south of the city of al-Khalil (Hebron) from close range when he tried to prevent them from seizing a generator he and his family uses. The man, who was identified as 24-year-old Haron Rasmi Aboaram, was injured in the neck and transferred to hospital. Reports say he is in critical condition. Also Israeli occupation forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the protesters, who were out on the streets in the village of Deir Jarir, east of Ramallah City, to voice their anger at the construction of a new settlement outpost in the area. One of the protesters was transferred to hospital after he was hit in the head with a rubber bullet and a number of others suffered breathing difficulties due to inhaling tear gas.
Amnesty International today called on Israel to start providing coronavirus vaccine doses to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. In the occupied West Bank, the vaccination drive includes only those living in Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law, and not the Palestinian population. The international organisation called on Israel to "stop ignoring its international obligations as an occupying power and immediately act to ensure that Covid-19 vaccines are equally and fairly provided to Palestinians living under its occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip." Saleh Higazi, deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said: "The Israeli government must uphold its obligations as the occupying power, under international humanitarian law and human rights law, to provide the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health to the population of the OPT without discrimination."
The Israeli occupation forces continue to violate the Palestinian right to life and education in the “C” areas, through the demolition of many schools and other notifications, as happened recently with the Shalal Al-Auja school, north of Jericho, and the Al-Maleh school in the northern Jordan Valley.
Israeli security forces committed “heinous killings” throughout 2020, shooting dead at least 27 Palestinians across occupied Palestinian territories and in Israel, according to Israeli rights group B’Tselem. “Over the course of 2020, Israeli security forces killed 27 Palestinians, seven of them minors: one in the Gaza Strip, 23 in the West Bank [including East Jerusalem] and three inside Israel,” B’Tselem said on Monday.
The head of the political bureau of the Hamas resistance movement says new efforts have been made aimed at resuming national dialog among various Palestinian factions to reach reconciliation for achieving national unity. “National unity is the cornerstone of confronting the Zionist occupation and its plans aimed at liquidating the Palestinian cause and canceling our rights to land, sanctities, and return,” Ismail Haniyeh said in a press statement on Friday, the Palestinian Information Center reported. He added that Hamas was establishing “internal and external contacts” with the Fatah political movement and other national and Islamic factions in a bid to turn the efforts aimed at resuming national dialog into “success” against the Israeli regime. Haniyeh also noted that what has been done is aimed at fulfilling the requirements of unity by rebuilding the Palestinian leadership institutions, whether the Palestine Liberation Organization or the Palestinian Authority, on the basis of partnership and national consensus. “This must be achieved according to the will of the Palestinian people through free and fair elections,” the top Hamas official added.
Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah are expected to meet in Cairo soon to discuss the implementation of the latest agreement which it is hoped will bring an end to internal division, Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported yesterday. Preparations for the meeting are being arranged in Cairo to discuss Hamas' agreement on holding Palestinian elections consecutively. Fatah's Jebril Al-Rajoub and Hamas' Saleh Al-Arouri will head their movements' delegations. The officials have been in contact since September in spite of the Palestinian Authority's decision to resume security coordination with the occupation, sources have revealed. As part of the reconciliation developments, Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas is expected to meet with the head of the elections committee Hanna Naser to discuss holding the polls. Naser is then due to visit Gaza to carry out talks with Hamas. No time has been set for when the elections will be held, the source said, adding that a decree needs to be issued by Abbas and notice gave three months before the chosen date.
After returning to security coordination with Israel just days after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the US presidential election, the Palestinian Authority wasted no time in reassuring the international community that it was ready to resume negotiations with Israel. No criticism was publicly voiced by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas over what such negotiations would entail, after Israel consolidated its position internationally through the lauded normalisation deals with Gulf and Arab states. The next step in Abbas's repertoire – as false as it may sound – was to resort to rhetoric of unity and democratic elections. Wafa news agency reported Abbas's acceptance of a letter from Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, which called upon the PA leader to end the Palestinian division between factions and hold elections "with full proportional representation". Representing what, and who, one may ask?
On November 17, just days after Joe Biden’s victory in the US elections was confirmed, the PA made the sudden announcement that it was restoring suspended relations with Israel and resuming security coordination. It also started accepting again transfers of tax revenue which the Israeli government collects on its behalf. All this was a clear gesture to Washington aimed at winning the goodwill of the next administration. Two days later, local and international media reported the PA had also returned its ambassadors to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain after they were recalled over the summer months to protest normalisation with Israel. Meanwhile, no punitive measures were undertaken against Sudan, which announced the normalisation of ties with Israel in October. In December, the Morocco-Israeli normalisation deal also evoked almost no reaction from the PA.
A report that the United Arab Emirates is secretly colluding with Israel on a potential plan to eliminate the United Nations agency that cares for Palestinian refugees - a move that could prevent those refugees from ever returning home - should be taken seriously. According to the French daily Le Monde, Israeli and Emirati officials have forged a “strategic axis” in which they are considering “a plan of action aimed at making UNRWA progressively disappear, without conditioning this on any resolution of the [Palestinian] refugee problem”. The UAE’s foreign minister did not respond to Le Monde’s request for comment on the matter.
The new chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee plans to back major policy reversals, including the resumption of humanitarian aid to Palestinians and the return of a Palestinian diplomatic presence in Washington. Representative Gregory Meeks, in an interview with the AFP news agency on Tuesday, said the moves would be part of a greater push by President-elect Joe Biden for a two-state solution. Meeks said he supported the return of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) office in Washington, which was shuttered by outgoing President Donald Trump in 2018. "I'm a firm believer in the two-state solution, providing both parties with self-determination, because that's the only way I believe that we can ensure a Jewish state of Israel that is viable and a peaceful Palestinian state, where they end up becoming interdependent in trade and other mechanisms," Meeks said during the interview.
In December, the US Congress allocated $700m in aid to Sudan, which will be dispensed until September 2022. It also authorised a $120m payment to the International Monetary Fund to pay outstanding debt on behalf of Khartoum, as well as $111m in relief from bilateral debt. The US Congress has passed legislation reinstating Sudan's sovereign immunity, a step that would shield Khartoum from being sued in American courts for past terror attacks and removes a major hurdle to investments in the African country, and formally removed it from State Sponsor of Terrorism (SST) list after 27 years.
When US President Donald Trump leaves office in three weeks' time, he will have laid the foundations for a further downgrading of the Palestinian struggle for freedom. It is, perhaps, little wonder that the Palestinian Authority was so eager to resume the illusion of "normal" in preparation for improved relations with the incoming Biden administration. As a result of the normalisation agreements reached between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, the latter is following in America's footsteps in halting its donations to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). UAE officials reportedly stated that the intention is for UNRWA to "gradually disappear". If that happens, of course, the status of Palestinian refugees will also be history. UNRWA and Palestinian refugees, it seems, are the next targets of normalisation deals with Israel.
Settlers and Illegal Settlements
Illegally transferred settlers from the Yitzhar settlement are notorious for their frequent violent attacks, and acts of harassment and intimidation against Palestinians, including by the targeting of livestock, agricultural lands and trees, homes, cars, and properties belonging to Palestinians residing in the surrounding villages. Such attacks include beatings, throwing stones, shooting at villagers with live ammunition, torching agricultural lands, trees, and cars, uprooting trees, confiscating and pillaging natural resources, including land and water, attacking and suppressing peaceful assemblies, denying access to the property and to sources of livelihood, and spray-painting hate speech on cars, walls, and other Palestinian properties. Most of these attacks happen under the watchful eye of the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF), if not actively encouraged by them. The security guard of the Yitzhar settlement, Isaac Levy known as ‘Yaqoub’, is particularly infamous for his role in organizing frequent attacks on the six villages and for giving orders to the IOF during the attacks.
Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Movement
The Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem has sparked outrage over newly revealed plans to sell around 27 acres of church property to two Israeli companies seeking to connect a Bethlehem-area settlement to Jerusalem. The Orthodox Central Council in Palestine (OCCP), a Palestinian Christian grassroots group, slammed the decision during a news conference on Tuesday, which also happens to mark the Orthodox church's Christmas Eve. The OCCP said the Jerusalem patriarch - one of the nine patriarchs in the Eastern Orthodox church - is set to sell the church property to two Israeli companies which allegedly plan to use it for tourism and housing projects. The Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem has made extensive land deals in the past, including a rent-contract in 1951 of church-owned land in West Jerusalem to the Jewish National Fund for a period of 99 years. Today, the land houses most Israeli state institutions, including the Israeli Knesset. Meanwhile, the Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, is expected to arrive in Bethlehem on Thursday to celebrate the Christmas mid-night mass according to the Eastern calendar, a visit the OCCP and Palestinian church-based scout groups have called to boycott.
Law & Prisons
Despite the vaunted success of Israel’s vaccine rollout, as usual in the country, benefits are delivered differently to different ethnic communities. Nearly 30 percent of those getting the vaccine within Israel proper are Jewish, while only 15 percent are Palestinian. Healthcare in general is inferior in Palestinian communities, and Palestinians place less trust in official government programmes, which have historically been of little or no benefit to them. Of 300,000 vaccine doses administered by Israel’s largest health service organisation, Clalit, only five percent were set aside for Palestinian communities, and just 10 of its 145 vaccination sites are located in Palestinian areas. The government has also refused to inoculate Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails. They get no protection at all.
The Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners Affairs Authority said that the prisoners in “Etzion” detention center, south of Bethlehem, are suffering from severe cold, deprived of food, and relieving themselves in empty water containers. In a statement today, Tuesday, the commission quoted its lawyer, Jacqueline Fararja, who visited the prisoners in “Etzion” yesterday, that the conditions in which the detainees are being held are a disgrace to the concept of humanity, as 22 prisoners suffer from lack of hygiene and freezing cold that eats their bodies, in addition to depriving them of food.
13 new cases of Coronavirus were recorded among prisoners in Section 3 of the “Negev Desert” prison have been recorded, bringing the number of cases in the section since the end of last week to 44. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) in a statement today said that the continued registration of injuries among the prisoners warns of what is more dangerous, especially with the prison administration continuing to monopolize the novel of the epidemic, in terms of sample results, as well as the health conditions of the injured prisoners.
The Minister of Health, Mai Al-Kailah, warned of the danger of the Coronavirus among among the prisoners in the Israeli occupation prisons, especially in light of the overcrowding in the prisons, and the presence of hundreds of sick and elderly prisoners. Al-Kaila explained in a press release today, Sunday, that all the prisons of the occupation are subjected to be hot-spots of the epidemic, which means that all prisoners are highly vulnerable to infection with the virus, which puts their lives in danger, especially those who are sick. The Minister of Health held the occupation authorities fully responsible for the fate and lives of the prisoners in the “Negev” prison, especially as it contains more than 1,200 prisoners, including elderly and sick people.
Environment, Economy, and Other
The Christian denominations which follow the Eastern (Julian) calendar celebrated the Christmas celebration on Wednesday morning, with the arrival of the parade of Patriarch Theophilos III, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, to Manger Square at about 2:00 PM from the city of Jerusalem, amid strict measures, due to measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, in addition to some scouting teams announcing boycott him after the announcement of new real estate deals with Israel.
In the final analysis, the PA, which in any case hardly enjoyed much respect among Palestinians, has lost whatever trust it still commanded among its rivals. Abbas seemed to be using the unity talks as a tool to warn Washington and Tel Aviv that he still possessed some political cards. However, while the Palestinian leadership has in the past succeeded in playing the waiting game which guaranteed the flow of foreign money since its creation in 1994, that strategy is now coming to an end. US priorities in the Middle East have obviously changed, and even the PA's European allies hardly see Abbas and his authority as a priority. A European Union weakened by the departure of Britain and the devastating economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, has pushed Palestine to the bottom of Western agendas. If 2021 is to bring about any positive change in the trajectory of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, new strategies have to be introduced. Thinking should shift completely towards a whole new political landscape.
Culture & Art
Welcome to the inaugural reading of the Mondoweiss Book Club. As we teased, our first selection we will read this month is Susan Abulhawa’s third novel, “Against the Loveless World.” It’s a tense fictional account of a Palestinian protagonist, Nahr, reflecting back on her life from inside of a prison cell. Readers are introduced to Nahr at the start of the book in a layered conversation with a journalist rife with memories from Kuwait, a past lover, and secret messages surreptitiously delivered by the translator. Below is an excerpt of the first chapter reprinted here with permission from the publisher.