Valentine’s Day is huge in Gaza, but financial pressures are breaking up families

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What Valentine’s Day means in Gaza, Palestine
UNRWA USA National Committee 7 Feb by Hani Almadhoun, UNRWA USA’s new Director of Philanthropy —  If you grew up in Palestine like I did, you knew it was Valentine’s Day season when the best pop songs are released, when everyone on the streets was wearing red, and when all the locally grown roses were nearly sold out. As a little boy, I wasn’t concerned with buying romantic gifts, but I did enjoy the atmosphere and the energy on the streets of Gaza as people took the time to step away from the harsh reality of our surroundings to focus on romance, beauty, and gratitude. I remember that the weeks around Valentine’s Day were also the time of year when my family’s store would get busier, wives would come by the shop to buy sweet gifts for their husbands, later that day you’d see the same woman’s husband come by to do the same for her. While there was a blockade keeping many goods from coming in, you could not stop international traditions from getting through the border. Made popular by the arrival of satellite TV in Gaza, Valentine’s Day quickly became a phenomenon …  The bookstore two blocks away from our shops, found its place in the Gazan Valentine’s Day market selling plastic roses, teddy bears, and any other gifts a hopeless romantic in Gaza might wish for.
Fast forward to 2020, the situation in Gaza is quite different than my nostalgic childhood memories. How could a Gazan muster the cash to purchase a romantic gift these days when putting food on the table is a serious daily challenge for more than half the population there? How could that same person keep their family together when they are deep in the cycles of poverty and debt following years of crippling blockade, de-development and a worsening humanitarian crisis? It’s tragic but unsurprising to now see high divorce rates in Gaza with the most common reason for spouses splitting being the inability to support the family due to a lack of resources. I say this with sadness and real pain, but the same boy in me that used to wrap presents at my family’s shop also believes that love is a powerful force and always finds a way, despite these terrible odds. Though very difficult, people in Gaza still find creative ways to express their love. Those who can afford to buy small gifts, like roses, strawberries (famous in Gaza), socks, neckties, and any other red-colored items available in the local markets. Restaurants offer Valentine’s Day specials, serving creative dishes or hosting live music performances. Gazans abroad who cannot travel home due to the blockade can now purchase flowers and other gifts remotely and have them delivered by someone local to their loved ones still living there….

PA cuts cause shock in Gaza
EI 10 Feb by Isra Saleh el-Namey — Inam Ibrahim will not soon forget the tiring and disappointing morning she recently endured. The 53-year-old woman waited for five hours inside her bank to receive her regular Palestinian Authority allocation. Instead, a clerk told her that her account was empty and there was no money to take. “I was anxiously following the news on the radio about the Palestinian Authority’s cutbacks and waiting for anything related to the distribution of benefits last December. I managed to go early to the bank to collect the funds allocated for me and my sister,” she told The Electronic Intifada. “But when I learned that there was nothing to take, I broke into tears and went home with a broken heart.” Inam and her sister are both in their fifties, unmarried, and do not have any source of income outside of government support. Every three months, the sisters anticipate a combined $220 allowance to help them meet their financial obligations. The allowance is administered by the Palestinian Authority, which is headquartered in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. “I used to pay for some of my drug treatments for severe back pain from this allowance, and I could visit a doctor frequently,” Inam stated. “My sister Muna, who is 56, takes her share each time to buy what she needs. We also pay grocery debts when we have access to this money.”  “Our parents,” Inam said, “passed away long ago, and our brother lives with his family away from us. He barely can sustain his own family. So, we have nothing but this allowance. We need it back. Poor and hard-pressed people like us must be sheltered from political problems.”
— Shock — Many other people have confronted the same shock regarding allocation cuts. Aziza al-Kahlout, the spokesperson for the Gaza-based social affairs ministry, told The Electronic Intifada more than 1,470 families have endured cuts to their allowances in recent weeks. The ministry has received many complaints and requests from families to investigate the matter. “Families are shocked. We have difficulties when we try to explain the situation to them and that we are exerting tremendous efforts to let officials in Ramallah know about their suffering. At the same time, we continue to coordinate with colleagues in Ramallah in order to work out this problem,” al-Kahlout said….

‘Slow death’: Israeli dams flood Gaza crops ahead of harvest
[with photos] MEE 8 Feb by Maha Hussaini in Gaza Strip — For five months, Palestinian farmers like Naim al-Khaissi had cultivated and irrigated their lands in the besieged Gaza Strip, waiting for the end of January to harvest vegetables from eastern farmlands located close to the separation barrier with Israel. But after all of their hard work, Palestinian farmers woke up to the news that Israeli authorities had emptied out the nearby rainwater storage, effectively flooding Gaza crops only a few days before harvest season. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture, Israel’s opening of the dam’s gates caused more than $500,000 worth of damage to more than 332 hectares of land in January alone. The agricultural lands in the Israel-imposed “buffer zone” near the separation barrier constitute a source of livelihood for hundreds of Palestinian families and serve as Gaza’s main source of fruits and vegetables. The flooding comes amid other measures Palestinians say are being deliberately applied by Israeli forces to affect the impoverished besieged territory’s food supply and push farmers off their lands.
Khaissi, 75, has been a farmer since 1962. He used to own almost 10 hectares of land before 2005, when Israel evacuated settlers from the Gaza Strip. But he saw the vast majority of his land fall out of his reach in the buffer zone … “I planted so many kinds of crops last September, including cabbage, potatoes and onions, and was waiting for the end of January to harvest them. But after Israel opened the rainwater storage four times last month, the crops were completely destroyed.” For Khaissi, the flooding of Palestinian lands was a deliberate move. “Israel intended to flood the farmlands at this time of the year in particular after they made sure we put in all our effort and spent a lot of money on growing our crops and were finally ready to harvest,” he said. Khaissi said he lost more than 10,000 shekels ($2,900) due to the damage caused by the flooding – but he considers himself lucky compared to other farmers. “I lost much less than my neighbours because I currently have only two acre…” …
Shortly after the agricultural lands were flooded, Palestinian farmers say they saw Israeli crop-duster planes spray chemicals believed to be herbicides into Gaza. “We saw Israeli soldiers burn a tyre near the fence to identify the direction of the wind,” said Aref Shamali, a 40-year-old farmer. “When they saw that the smoke blew west, meaning that the chemicals could reach vast areas inside Gaza and cause maximum damage, they sent the crop-duster and sprayed all the crops.” … “The chemicals and herbicides they spray not only damage the farmlands, they also have catastrophic consequences if people eat the sprayed crops,” Shamali told MEE. “A few days ago, representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture rushed to the markets where some farmers sold what were believed to be sprayed crops, and damaged all the products before people could buy them.”….

Defense official: Hamas agrees to halt rockets. balloons; Israel ends sanctions
Times of Israel 13 Feb b Judah Ari Gross — Following weeks of unrest on the Gaza border, fresh ceasefire deal appears to have been struck, following intervention by Egypt, UN — Israel and the Hamas terror group appeared to reach a ceasefire agreement on Thursday night, following weeks of tension and unrest along the Gaza border. An Israeli defense official told reporters that Hamas had “sent messages to Israel that they’d decided unilaterally to stop launching balloons and rocket fire at Israel.” In exchange, Israel would end the retaliatory sanctions it put in place against Palestinians in the Strip, specifically the revocation of some 500 permits allowing businessmen out of Gaza and a restriction of the fishing zone to 10 nautical miles from the usual 15. “Tonight and the coming weekend will serve as a test of stability,” the Israeli defense official said in a statement…

Balloon-borne bomb explodes over Gaza-area school, sending kids to shelters
Times of Israel 13 Feb — A number of balloon-borne incendiary devices exploded Thursday over Israeli communities near the Gaza border, including one that detonated above a school. Students at the elementary school in the southern city of Sderot were rushed to bomb shelters, according to Hebrew-language media. Nobody was physically hurt, but several people were reportedly suffering from anxiety. A second suspected explosive device was found outside another school in Sderot. Also Thursday, an airborne explosive detonated over communities in the Sdot Negev region, which borders the Gaza Strip. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

PM threatens Hamas with dire ‘surprise; Gaza answers with fresh rocket attack
Times of Israel 12 Feb by ToI staff & Judah Ari Gross — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday threatened Hamas leaders with “the surprise of their lives” if a spate of attacks from the Gaza Strip didn’t come to an end. Minutes later, yet another rocket was fired from Gaza at Israel’s south. “I’m telling you as prime minister, I don’t rush to war,” Netanyahu said in an interview with Channel 20 on Tuesday night. “I don’t puff out my chest, bang drums and blow trumpets. But we’re preparing for Hamas the surprise of their lives. I won’t say what it is, but it will be different from anything that came before.” Whether Israel carries out its “surprise,” he added, “is entirely up to them. If they don’t come to their senses with the rockets and don’t stop the balloons, it’s only a matter of time before we deploy it. Remember what I’m telling you,” he said. The last several weeks have seen a marked uptick in rocket and incendiary balloon attacks from the Strip, raising tensions and threatening fragile truce talks. Shortly after Netanyahu finished speaking, the IDF reported a mortar shell had been fired from Gaza and landed in an open area in Israel’s south. No one was hurt in the attack….

PA ambassador in Bosnia says life in Europe does not fulfill migrants’ dreams
MEMO 10 Feb — The Palestinian Authority Ambassador in Bosnia and Herzegovina has warned that tourism companies in Gaza issue very expensive and very fake visas to the country, but life in Europe does not meet fulfil migrants’ dreams, Al Watan Voice has reported. Riziq Al-Namoura said that several migrants from Palestine had arrived in Sarajevo, but were sent back to Turkey and Egypt because of the fake visas. He warned Palestinians not to leave their country even if they live on the streets. “I tell my sons in the Gaza Strip not to surrender yourself to the hasslers. Whoever arrives in Europe will be no more than a vagrant and will not have any work or a future.” Al-Namoura pointed out that whatever dreams migrants might have about Europe are mistaken. “All that you hear about the dignified life in Europe is just propaganda and absolutely wrong. Europe has stopped receiving refugees and the procedures to get asylum are very complicated.” The ambassador noted that his embassy offered one-way travel documents for the Palestinians who arrived illegally in Sarajevo, and added that he is contact with everyone in order to give his advice.

How Israel is ‘bombing Gaza blind’ with old intelligence
The Independent 12 Feb by Bel Trew — Photo: Awad Abu Mismeh, 20, inside the crater of what once was his father’s home after an Israeli airstrike — The Israeli military regularly strikes sites in Gaza using out-of-date intelligence that can be well over a year old, bombing “blind” with no real-time check for civilians causing unnecessary deaths, Air Force personnel have revealed. Instead, Israeli air force members told The Independent “serious structural problems” and a culture of “destroy, destroy, destroy” rewards military personnel for identifying fresh targets on the 25-mile long strip rather than checking the validity of thousands already in the database, known as the “bank”. If those targets run out, as happened during longer campaigns like the 2014 war with Gaza, they said the air force was told to “simply keep dropping bombs”. The servicemen said while moving targets, such as militant commanders, are watched by aircraft prior to the strikes, static ones are usually not. Their allegations cast doubt on statements by the Israeli military (the IDF) that “it does everything it can to prevent unnecessary killings in Gaza”, a besieged strip home to two million people and one of the most densely populated places on earth. Another worry concerns the calculation of “permitted civilian casualties” or so-called collateral damage in major military operations, like 2014’s “Protective Edge”. Over 1,400 Palestinian civilians and six civilians on the Israeli side were killed during the 51-day war, according to the United Nations …
Israeli advocacy groups say this shatters international assumptions that Israel, which has one of the most advanced and well-equipped militaries in the world, is engaged in “clean warfare” in Gaza that aims to mitigate casualties … The revelations come amid mounting pressure on Israel to change its conduct in Gaza, including a possible investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Egypt builds a wall on border with Gaza
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 14 Feb by Rasha Abou Jalal — Maj. Gen. Ahmed Abdel Khalek, the Egyptian intelligence officer in charge of Cairo’s Palestinian portfolio, arrived in the Gaza Strip Feb. 10 as head of an Egyptian security delegation that made a field trip along the Egyptian-Gazan border as part of the new Egyptian preparations to boost border security and prevent extremists from entering the Sinai Peninsula from the Gaza Strip. The delegation also met with Hamas’ leadership in the Gaza Strip. Speaking to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, tribal sources in the northern Sinai Peninsula stated that on Jan. 27 Egyptian armed forces embarked on the first phase of building a 2-kilometer-long barrier on the border with the Gaza Strip, starting from the Kerem Shalom crossing to the Rafah border crossing. Such a step went unannounced by the Egyptian armed forces, the sources added. They explained that the 6-meter-high barrier is made of reinforced concrete and goes 5 meters under the ground. It consists of a second barrier parallel to the old rock barrier built in early 2008 on the border with the Gaza Strip, separated by a distance not exceeding 10 meters. The barrier is designed to block the entry of gunmen from the Gaza Strip into Sinai and shut down the remaining Palestinian cross-border tunnels. The sources said the second and last phase involves building the barrier along unspecified segments of the border that Egyptian armed forces appraise as vulnerable or where underground tunnels are suspected. The sources anticipate completion of the barrier would drag out until mid-2020.

Stuck in limbo: Israel deprives thousands of Palestinians of ID cards
New Arab 12 Feb — For 14 years, Ayman Ghanam, a 43-year-old from the Gaza Strip, has sought to obtain the document that, like an American social security number, governs every aspect of daily life: a Palestinian ID card. But like 23,500 other Palestinians, he has been refused this basic document by the Israeli government because of a rigid refusal to bend the rules. Ghanam’s father had travelled to Egypt when the 1967 six-day war broke out, resulting in the Israeli occupation of Gaza. The Israeli government assumed authority for issuing IDs to its new “subjects,” but since the elder Ghanam was out of Gaza, he (and many others like him) wasn’t assigned one. That means his children, including Ayman, don’t have IDs either. Even though Israel insists it stopped occupying the Gaza Strip when it withdrew its 8,000 settlers in 2005, it continues to retain control over who receives Palestinian IDs – along with many other aspects of daily life, such as travel. Without an ID card, Palestinians cannot qualify for a passport. That means Ayman Ghanam only has Egyptian travel documents (via his father). In 1994, Ayman travelled to Jordan to study, where he married and had a son, Abdullah. His ex-wife (they later divorced) has a Jordanian passport. However, because in Jordan the father determines the status of the son, Abdullah – like Ayman – has no status at all. It was a situation prone to disaster, and that’s just what happened in 2005, when Ayman decided to return to Gaza. “I could no longer extend my residence permit in Jordan and I was always being thrown into custody,” Ayman recalls. “So, I used my Egyptian documents to travel from Jordan to Egypt, where I was seized and held for 45 days before I was allowed to enter Gaza through Rafah crossing,” he tells The New Arab. What he didn’t realise is that he’d never be able to return to Jordan to see his son, and thus his son would be stuck in the same limbo….

Video:  ‘This land is our child’
EI 13 Feb — Khadra Muhammad Hasan al-Zuwaidi, 85, was born in the Palestinian village of Dimra. Dimra was a village in historic Palestine that was ethnically cleansed by Zionist paramilitary forces in 1948 and partially replaced with the Erez Kibbutz, a type of colony. Part of Dimra fell into the perimeter of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, and the other, larger part of the village fell under Israeli control outside the besieged territory, according to al-Zuwaidi. “We left Dimra with gunshots behind us,” al-Zuwaidi told The Electronic Intifada. “We were happy. The Zionists came and inflicted a catastrophe. They left us no land, they left us no gardens or fields.” Al-Zuwaidi married a Palestinian man from Beit Hanoun and stayed there. “The earth used to give us baskets of produce,” she said. “No longer.” In the video, al-Zuwaidi can see her land across the boundaries of the Gaza Strip, but cannot go there. “If we attempt to go now, we’d get shot.” Al-Zuwaidi said villagers mourn the land “the same way we mourn a child in a grave.” Video by Nebal Hijo, Ahmed Abu Kmail, Ibrahim Ramadan, Nour Zakkout and Khalil Abu Shammala.

People in Gaza can hardly afford fish – and Israeli restrictions are making it even harder for farmers
Business Insider 6  Feb by Robert Leslie, Amelia Kosciulek & Mark Abadi Sea bream dishes like this are a favorite here in Gaza. But catching the fish isn’t always easy, despite the region bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Heavy restrictions imposed by Israel affect how far fishermen can go and what kind of fish they can catch. And many fear coming under fire while they’re out at sea. One man has looked inland for answers — and built his own fish farm in 2008 …  [Hassan Mahmoud al-Shaer, Fish Fresh fish farm] decided to open a fish farm at the height of the blockade in 2008, away from the fluctuating fortunes, and dangers, of the open sea. We started with 80,000 [fish] and moved to 200,000, 300,000 and 400,000, and now we stand at 1.5 million, and God willing, this year we will reach 2 million fish.” The fish are incubated for three months before spending a year in large pools where they grow to maturity. Hassan produces 25 to 30 tons of fish a month, mainly sea bream. But he used to produce a third more. With 50% unemployment and high levels of poverty, demand in Gaza has its limits. He feels that if given open borders and access to an export market, he could grow. “I want to expand [my business], hire more workers, and bring bigger facilities and to make a tuna factory but we don’t have the roads, the crossings are closed, we don’t have an airport. We don’t have anything….

Israeli company creating water from air now brings water to Palestinians in Gaza
JERUSALEM, Israel (CBNNEWS.COM) 14 Feb by Emily Jones — Watergen, an Israeli company that produces water from air, is bypassing politics and tackling Gaza’s water crisis through business. The company announced on Thursday that one of its water-producing machines was brought to the Gazan neighborhood of Abasan al-Kabira as part of a pilot program. The machine, entitled “GEN-M” is an atmospheric water generator (AWG) that pulls water from the air and turns it into clean drinking water. The machine can make as much as 800 liters of water per day. GEN-M will provide water to the city’s municipal building and it only needs solar panels to fuel itself. “Responding in accordance with our belief that every human being has a fundamental right to clean drinking water, we are helping some of Israel’s next-door neighbors gain access to fresh water, a resource that is lacking in Gaza,” the company said in a statement. Gaza’s main source of water is its coastal aquifer, but over-extraction is rapidly depleting the resource. Pollution and seawater pollute the aquifer and only four percent of the water is safe to drink. Watergen teamed up with Israel’s Arava Institute for Environmental Studies and the Palestinian NGO Damour for Community Development to bring safe drinking water to Gaza as part of a collaborative pilot project.  The project was funded by the Kennedy Leigh Foundation as part of the Arava Institute’s Track II Environmental Forum….

World Bank adds support to Gaza desal projects
WASHINGTON (OOSKAnews) 12 Feb — The World Bank has announced a $10-15 Million USD grant for desalination in Gaza, Palestine. This funding, announced 10 February, will supplement funds already committed by the Partnership for Infrastructure Development in parallel with financing from the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development. The total project funding now exceeds $115 Million USD. The new project will improve the quality and quantity of water in Gaza where over-pumping of the coastal aquifer has led to lower groundwater levels with consequent intrusion of salinity from seawater … The project will support fresh water needs of approximately 870,000 people in 16 municipalities in the southern and middle governorates through the construction and rehabilitation of necessary infrastructure. The full programme includes interim measures to meet immediate needs through the construction of short-term desalination plants. The longer-term needs will be met via a new 55 MCM per year desalination plant that could also be expanded if necessary. The plans also includes construction of a south water carrier, including storage reservoirs to convey and blend desal water with groundwater sources and fresh water purchased from Israel’s national water company Mekorot….

Qalandiya – West Bank doctors are not coordinated with the Civil Administration, and the patients suffer
Machsom Watch 12 Jan Observes; Tamar Fleishman Translator: Tal H. — Just as in an ever-repeated story, same place, same answers, same result and same heartache. Only the names change, the faces, and the heart too is not what it used to be. The ache grows and grows. Lamar is an ill girl of 4, released not long ago from a West Bank hospital. Lamar and her mother Nadiya, and her grandmother whose name I do not know, came to the DCO at the checkpoint to receive their permits to continue on home to Gaza. But their designated transport, delivering patients and their accompaniers to Gaza, left already half an hour ago – since the hospital staff in the West Bank are not coordinated with the Israeli Civil Administration and not exactly subject to the army’s orders and perhaps do not know what the woman-soldier behind the armored window pane said: everyone knows they should be here by 3 p.m., repeating the phrase: there’s nothing to be done now. Come back tomorrow. Neither Lamar nor her mother Nadiya nor her grandmother whose name I don’t know knew what that soldier was so sure “everyone knows”. I came to the window and told the soldier that there is indeed something to be done – giving permits like the ones issued people who are not ill, like merchants for example who return to the Gaza Strip on their own. –But what if she runs away on the way? Asked the soldier. -Look at her, does she look to you like she’s going to run away? Seriously? –I am here for them. We serve the Palestinians. –What you are doing here is screwing the ones who are most screwed anyway. –When you come to the bank and are told that the bank is closed, you don’t argue. Closed means closed.
When Nadiya, little Lamar’s mother, realized that there were no more chances to get back home that day and that they must look for a place to spend the night in the West Bank, she asked the soldier to be allowed to leave their many bags and belongings at the checkpoint until the following day – and was refused. (The photo shows some of the belongings) -Just as you brought them here now, take them and bring them back tomorrow.
When we turned back, the soldier was approached by a young man asking for a permit to bring his wife to the hospital in East Jerusalem. A few minutes later, as we carried the heavy bags out of the checkpoint, we met the same man, head hanging in anguish: suddenly I’m blacklisted, he said. His wife would not make it to her hospital appointment….

Woman in Gaza recycles electronic devices to create ‘smart hat’
Global Times 9 Feb — A young woman from Gaza city has created a “smart hat” which can work as a small air conditioner for people who wear it.  Doaa Janina, a 36-year-old student at the College of Applied Sciences of Gaza, made a small air conditioner by recycling electronics such as computers and mobiles she collected.  Then she connected the air conditioner to a helmet, usually worn by construction workers. The “smart hat” is controlled through bluetooth on a mobile device. The idea came to Janina when she witnessed a Palestinian young man injured in the head by an Israeli raid that targeted his house in 2008. “The man suffered from a fractured skull, which forced him to stay at home to avoid being exposed to heat or cold,” she explained, adding that “I could not forget that sight and that pushed me to start this project.” Janina believes that cancer patients can also benefit from the hat. “The cancer patient takes chemical treatments that increase the body temperature leading to hair loss, and the helmet can protect the patient from the heat.” Now, Janina hopes that her idea will be picked up by a start-up company that would make mass-production possible.  “Gaza is full of creative, innovative and talented minds but they need to be provided with resources and moral support to ensure their success,” she added….

Podcast: In Gaza, berries under blockade
The Take by Al Jazeera — A set of under-the-radar, indirect talks between the Hamas and Israel has brought some ease to economic restrictions at the border. We hear from a farmer whose livelihood has been soured by the blockade, but whose fruit remains incomparably sweet. Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker and Gaza producer Safwat al-Kahlout guide us through Beit Lahia’s strawberry harvest.  [See also VIDEO: Growing strawberries in Gaza:  Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker reports from Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip, where she speaks with 82-year-old farmer Ahmad Shafai about the difficulties he faces daily.]

Gazans delight in home-produced chocolate goodies
GAZA CITY (AFP) 13 Feb — Off a bumpy dirt road in Gaza city, a group of children stood outside a half-open factory door, desperate to get their hands on what was being made inside. “We want chocolate!” they shouted at a worker as he left the Al-Arees factory, which despite daunting obstacles churns out treats ranging from chocolate-covered biscuits to a Gazan version of a world famous spread, dubbed here ‘Natalia’. Buckling in the face of candy-crazed kids, the man popped behind the door and returned with enough free chocolate to rot their growing teeth. Al-Arees’s products are Gazan but their components are not, as few of the basic raw ingredients are produced in the impoverished Mediterranean coastal strip. The factory relies on chocolate from as far as Argentina, sugar from African countries and dried eggs from the Netherlands, with other essentials imported from Turkey and Israel….

West Bank / Jerusalem

Palestinians denied access to Al-Aqsa, attacked by Israeli soldiers
IMEMC/Agencies 15 Feb — A group of Palestinian worshipers, early Friday morning, were brutally attacked by Israeli occupation soldiers who prevented them from reaching the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque, in occupied Jerusalem. Quds News Network (QNN) reporter said thousands of Palestinian Muslims flooded Jerusalem from all around Palestine as well as some from Israel, to perform the Fajr or early morning prayer, in defiance of the harsh Israeli restrictions. Those who were denied entry to the sacred compound, performed the Fajr prayer between the Hittah and Asbat gates, and then Israeli soldiers pushed the peaceful worshipers out of the old city of Jerusalem, causing elderly worshipers to fall. Meanwhile, the Israeli police imposed fines on those Palestinians distributing hot drinks and snacks to the worshipers.

Israeli soldiers prevent activists from planting olive trees in the village of Yasuf
[with photos] 15 Feb by Ghassan Bannoura — Combatants For Peace (CFP) Activists participated, Friday, in a volunteer day to plant olive trees on the lands owned by Yasuf village farmers, near Salfit in central West Bank. As the activists’ bus from Tel Aviv reached the entrance of Yasuf, the Israeli soldiers closed the street leading to the village and prevented them from entering. After being stopped and questioned by the soldiers for a long time, the activists managed to reach the village, where the residents welcomed them at the Village Council. The activity, which is organized by “Stand Together” and “Rabbis for Human Rights”, and aims at supporting the resilience of Yasuf village farmers who face escalating attacks by illegal colonialist settlers, and the Israeli occupation confiscation of their lands.

Israeli soldiers injure many Palestinians in ‘Aboud and Budrus near Ramallah
IMEMC 15 Feb — Israeli soldiers injured, Friday, many Palestinians, including a young man who was shot with a live round, after the army resorted to the excessive use of force against protesters in the villages of ‘Aboud and Budrus, near Ramallah, in central West Bank. Dozens nonviolently marched in ‘Aboud village, west of Ramallah, protesting the ongoing closure of the village’s main road, and chanted against the ongoing illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine, its colonies and escalating violations. It is worth mentioning that the soldiers installed an iron gate at the main entrance of ‘Aboud more than four days ago, and have since been keeping it shut. Media sources said the soldiers fired many live rounds, rubber-coated steel bullets and concussion grenades at the protesters. They added that a young man was shot with a live round in his leg, and was rushed to Ramallah Governmental Hospital, suffering moderate wounds. Many Palestinians suffered the effects of teargas inhalation. In addition, the soldiers attacked nonviolent protesters in Budrus village, west of Ramallah, and shot four with rubber-coated steel bullets, in addition to causing dozens to suffer the effects of teargas inhalation. It is worth mentioning that a similar procession took place in Ni‘lin village, west of Ramallah, where the locals, Israel and international peace activists marched carrying Palestinian flags and chanting against the so-called “Deal of the Century.”

Army injures many Palestinians in Beit Ummar
IMEMC 15 Feb — Media activist Mohammad Awad said several army jeeps invaded ‘Aseeda area in Beit Ummar, and resorted to the excessive use of force against Palestinian protesters. Awad said the soldiers fired a barrage of gas bombs, concussion grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets at the protesters and many surrounding homes. Dozens of residents, including children, suffered the effects of teargas inhalation, and many others sustained cuts and bruises. The army also sprayed the protesters and homes with wastewater mixed with chemicals. Furthermore, the soldiers were seen choking a young Palestinian man after assaulting him and pinning him under their knees. The soldiers also broke into and ransacked several homes, in addition to occupying their rooftops to use them as firing posts and monitoring towers

Father and son among 15 detained from West Bank
JERUSALEM, Thursday, February 13, 2020 (WAFA) – Israeli forces today overnight detained 15 Palestinians, including a father and his son, in multiple raids across the occupied West Bank, said the Palestine Prisoners’ Society (PPS). PPS confirmed in a press release that Israeli police Wednesday evening rounded up seven Palestinians, including a teen who was injured by police gunfire, from Jerusalem district. In Bethlehem district,  PPS said that Israeli forces detained four Palestinians, including three from Duheisha refugee camp. Among the three were a 50-year-old father and his son. In Ramallah district, Israeli military vehicles stormed the Ramallah city neighborhood of al-Tireh, where soldiers detained a Palestinian, ransacked several houses and seized the recordings of surveillance cameras. Soldiers also conducted separate two raids into Kafr Ein and Beit Sira villages, northwest and west of Ramallah city, resulting in the detention of two teens. In the northern West Bank, a similar predawn raid was conducted in Kafr Qaddum village, east of Qalqilia, resulting in the detention of a Palestinian …  These raids, which take place also in areas under the full control of the Palestinian Authority, are conducted with no need for a search warrant, whenever and wherever the military chooses in keeping with its sweeping arbitrary powers.

Israel has arrested over 30,000 Palestinians in West Bank, Jerusalem since 2015
MEMO 13 Feb — Israeli occupation forces have arrested more than 30,000 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem since 2015, including 496 in January, Arab48 reported yesterday. Among those arrested last month were 67 children and 16 women. The rate of detentions has increased sharply since 2015, reports have revealed. While 16 prisoners have died in Israeli jails, some [were] as a result of torture during interrogation and others due to medical negligence. Since 2015, new laws have been put in place which support the ill treatment of Palestinian prisoners and state terror against them, Palestinian researcher Abdul-Naser Ferwanah explained. He said that these laws permitted the detention of children and approved heavy sentences against them.

Israeli soldier who killed Palestinian teen was not in danger, video suggests
+972 Mag 11 Feb by Ahmad Al-Bazz & Oren Ziv — On Friday last week, Israeli soldiers shot and killed 19-year-old Badr Nafla in the West Bank village of Qaffin, during a protest near the separation barrier. Following the shooting, the Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson claimed that “during a riot, soldiers spotted a Palestinian throwing a molotov cocktail toward them, and fired back in order to counter the threat.” However, video footage of the incident, along with witness testimony, tell a different story. A short clip posted to social media not long after the shooting shows a few dozens Palestinians gathered in the area, throwing stones and burning tires. A military jeep slowly approaches the scene, and shortly after single shots can be heard, followed by cries for help in Arabic. Nafla is then evacuated from the scene by ambulance. According to a Palestinian man present at the demonstration, who spoke with Local Call during Nafla’s funeral the day after the shooting, the soldier who fired the shot was not in danger.  “He was sitting in an armored jeep, and chose to get out in order to open fire,” the man said. He further claimed that this was not the first time Israeli troops had arrived on the scene that day, and that the jeep had passed by the demonstration several times before the shooting … The army’s claim that people were throwing molotov cocktails is incorrect, the man added. “There are security cameras on the fence, they could release the footage if they wanted to.” The video footage seems to confirm this version of events, showing that the soldiers stopped some distance from where the protest was taking place. The claim that soldiers’ lives were in danger — which is made almost every time the military shoots Palestinians — appears not to have been the case….

The IDF Spokesman announces: Continue to shoot Palestinian children
IAK – reposted from Haaretz 9 Feb by Gideon Levy — The dehumanization of Palestinians has reached the IDF spokespeople. Even children no longer rouse human sentiment such as sorrow or mercy, certainly not in the IDF — Israeli soldiers shoot children. Sometimes they wound them and sometimes they kill them. Sometimes the children wind up brain dead, sometimes disabled. Sometimes the children have thrown rocks at the soldiers, sometimes Molotov cocktails. Sometimes by chance they wind up in the middle of a confrontation. They almost never put the soldiers’ lives in danger. Sometimes the soldiers intentionally shoot at the children, sometimes by mistake. Sometimes they aim at the children’s heads or the upper body, and sometimes they shoot in the air and miss, hitting the children in the head. That’s how it goes when a body is small. Sometimes the soldiers shoot with the intent to kill, sometimes to punish. Sometimes they use regular bullets and sometimes rubber-coated bullets, sometimes from a distance, sometimes in an ambush, sometimes at close range. Sometimes they shoot out of fear, anger, frustration and a sense of having no other option, or a loss of control, sometimes in cold blood. The soldiers never see their victims afterward. If they saw what they caused, they might stop shooting. Israeli soldiers are allowed to shoot children. Nobody punishes them for shooting children. When a Palestinian child is shot it’s not a story. There’s no difference between the blood of a small Palestinian child and the blood of a Palestinian adult. They’re both cheap. When a Jewish child is hurt, all of Israel shakes, when a Palestinian child is hurt, Israel yawns. It will always, always find a justification for soldiers shooting Palestinian children. It will never, never find a justification for children throwing stones at soldiers who raid their village.
For six months a boy named Abd el-Rahman Shatawi has been convalescing at the rehabilitation hospital in Beit Jala. For 10 days a relative of his, Mohammed Shatawi, has been at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, in Jerusalem. Both are from the village of Qaddum in the West Bank. Israeli soldiers shot them both in the head. They shot regular bullets from a great distance at Abd el-Rahman as he stood at the entrance to a friend’s home, they shot a rubber-coated bullet at Mohammed from a nearby hilltop as he tried to hide from them down the same hill. The army said he had set a tire on fire….

VIDEO: Inside one of the last olive oil factories in the West Bank
Business Insider Today 12 Feb by Dylan Barth  Mark Abadi — Olive oil soap has been manufactured in the West Bank for centuries — but today, there are just two soap factories still operating. Now, a once thriving industry is struggling to stay afloat. We went inside the Nablus Soap Company to see how traditional Palestinian olive oil soap is made. It’s one of two remaining factories in the West Bank.

Documentary film – ‘Do not despair of losing so often’ – Lea Tsemel, the Israeli lawyer who defends Palestinians
[includes official trailer] The Guardian 10 Feb by Rachel Shabi — She has been called a traitor and the Israeli government tried to block an award-winning new film about her work and spirit. As the BBC screens Advocate, we meet the ‘angry optimist’ — In 2015, during an escalation of violence in Jerusalem, a just-turned-teenage Palestinian boy and his older cousin were involved in a stabbing that left two young Israelis injured – critically in the case of one, a 13-year-old boy. The elder cousin, Hassan, was shot dead by police. The younger, Ahmad, was hit by a car and lay bleeding on the ground as a crowd gathered. They shouted: “Die you motherfucker” and urged police to “put a bullet in his head”. The shockingly young ages of the boys sent the story around the world. For Israeli lawyer Lea Tsemel, who defends Palestinians, it led to one of the most fraught conflicts of her decades-long career. Advocate, an award-winning documentary by Israeli film-makers Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche, chronicles the 75-year-old lawyer’s life and work. The film provides a compelling insight into the uneasy complexities of representing Palestinians in Israeli courts, where the occupiers effectively judge the occupied in a system that can’t escape the bloody conflict raging between the two sides. Early in the film, as the camera sweeps along the rows of battered files that crowd Tsemel’s office, we see the nature of her work spelled out in their headings: possession of a weapon, stone throwing, accessory to murder, suicide bombings. It’s a life spent losing inside courtrooms and facing attacks outside them. The film contains footage of a TV interview with Tsemel in the 1990s, in which she discusses what drives her to defend Palestinians. The presenter says to her: “It’s as if you identify with them!” They also tally all the verbal attacks the lawyer has faced: traitor, leftist, devil’s advocate. At one point the presenter says: “I think that terrorists are no different to rapists and murderers.” Tsemel replies that, instead of “terrorists”, other people in the world might call some Palestinians “freedom fighters”.

Program for rehabilitating ‘hilltop youth’ sees them as dropouts, not criminals
BEIT EL, West Bank (Times of Israel)  14 Feb — They make headlines for “price tag” hate crimes against Palestinians or for clashing with Israeli troops at outpost evacuations. In fact, the so-called “hilltop youth” — who seek to settle every corner of the biblical land of Israel — have long been identified as a national security threat placed under the jurisdiction of the highest levels of law enforcement. But in recent years, some government officials have begun shifting their approach, considering the root causes that have led hundreds of teenagers to abandon their homes for the West Bank hilltops and recognizing that tackling the phenomenon also requires an education-based approach. One of the Education Ministry-backed programs quietly trailblazing this line of thinking is Etgar Beit El, founded in 2015 … “Our thesis is that hilltop youth are essentially at-risk youth,” said Menachem Lev, who chairs the Beit El Local Council’s Education Department overseeing Etgar. “Just like some dropouts end up in Lifta [an abandoned Palestinian village on the outskirts of Jerusalem] or Cats Square in Jerusalem [a downtown hangout], others end up on the [West Bank] hilltops, and they should be treated the same way,” Lev, 59, said, pointing out that many of his students come from troubled homes or have undergone significant traumatic experiences as children.  Nonetheless, hilltop youth are probed “pretty much as terrorists” by the police’s Major Crimes Unit and sometimes even the Shin Bet security service, whereas “typical” at-risk youth are investigated by the lower levels of law enforcement in cooperation with the Welfare and Education ministries, Lev lamented….

Land theft / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements

Israel nixes Jerusalem business centre after settlers’ opposition to ‘mixing populations’
MEMO 12 Feb — Israeli authorities have suspended plans for a commercial centre next to the Palestinian neighbourhood of Umm Tuba in occupied East Jerusalem, “because Jewish residents of the nearby Har Homa [settlement]…objected”, reported Haaretz. According to the paper, the decision by Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin was taken after opponents of the plan argued that the project “would lead to the ‘mixing of populations’ and pose a danger to young women from Har Homa”. One source involved in the project told Haaretz that planners have been ordered to halt work on the project. “It’s terrible. We’ve destroyed an entire neighbourhood’s development capability.” Although the plan had moved through the planning process, at a gathering of Har Homa settlement residents last week, some strongly rejected the proposal. “It’s dangerous for the girls,” said one settler. “We need to live separately. We need to keep [the residents of Umm Tuba] away from us. They would harm our children and we need to build a wall between us and them.”  One said she only wants to see Arabs up close “as shepherds with sheep”, while another settler said: “the State of Israel belongs only to the Jews, and Arabs need to be drawers of water and hewers of wood” (“a reference from the Book of Joshua referring to manual labourers” Haaretz explained).

Jerusalem home begins to collapse due to Israeli excavation
IMEMC/Agencies 13 Feb — A Palestinian-owned house in the Old City district of occupied Jerusalem, today, partially collapsed as a result of ongoing underground excavations by Israeli authorities and illegal settler organizations, the house-owner told WAFA. Mr. Thaher Sharabati said his house sustained minor landslides during the recent low pressure and the accompanying heavy rainfall, which he said were the result of the ongoing Israeli excavations. Sharabati lives in the house together with the rest of his 8-member family. According to the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, the underground digs by Israeli settler organizations in Jerusalem without any consideration for the safety of the Palestinian families living there have posed serious threats to the Palestinian population. Citizens of Jerusalem have long expressed fear that the ongoing excavations by settlers are intentional and tolerated by the municipality and government as a prelude to evacuate the Palestinians from their homes, under the pretext they are not safe to live in to eventually take over their homes and replace them with Jewish settlers

Israel bans Palestinians from working their land, citing British Mandate ruling
MEMO 14 Feb — Israeli occupation authorities banned Palestinian farmers from working their own land last month, on the basis that the area “had been declared an antiquities site during the British Mandate period”. According to the report by Haaretz, the Palestinian landowners in question – residents of Al-Mughayyir village in the occupied West Bank – have been farming the area since the 1950s. Brothers Nader and Rasem Abu Aleiyeh said that Israeli occupation forces “confiscated their tractor indefinitely and without any warning, and that as a result they have lost their source of income”. The Israeli military has now declared that “all agricultural work in the area is banned, based on an order forbidding digging, planting trees and irrigating”. “Everyone knows we work the land and they never told us anything,” Nader said. “Soldiers in the past would come and drink tea with us while we were working the land.” The family believes authorities have “issued the order under pressure from residents of the adjacent illegal settlement outpost, Malachei Hashalom”, founded in 2015 on an abandoned military base. Since the establishment of this outpost, “Palestinian residents of the area have complained of harassment by settlers, including making noise to drive away the shepherds’ flocks, blocking tractors and stealing an archaeological pillar from the site”….

How do settlers take over Palestinian land? One road gives the answer
+972 Mag 12 Feb by Dror Etkes — To connect the enclaves that make up Kedumim, settlers seized control of a central road serving Palestinians and blocked their access to it — …Kedumim was established in 1975 following the infamous “Sebastia compromise,” in which the settlers of Gush Emunim reached an agreement with then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Defense Minister Shimon Peres to found a new settlement in compensation for being moved away from the land they had taken over at Sebastia train station, adjacent to a Palestinian village of the same name in the northern West Bank. Many years before that, though, Nahlah Street was the road used by Kufr Qaddum’s Palestinian residents to access Nablus, their nearest major city. But a 2-kilometer stretch of that road winds between the olive trees and fields of eastern Kufr Qaddum, upon which Kedumim was established 45 years ago. And for the past two decades, that route has been closed to the Palestinian residents of Kufr Qaddum. While the popular struggle has mostly subsided throughout the occupied West Bank, the village is one of the last places to see almost weekly Friday demonstrations, protesting against the road’s closure.
Kufr Qaddum is far from the only Palestinian community in the West Bank to have one of its access points cut off by expanding settlements. The Kiryat Sefer settlement, for example, has swallowed up the Bil‘in-Safa road. The Maale Adumim settlement has taken over the Abu Dis-Old Jericho route. And the Neve Daniel settlement has engulfed a local road that connected several Palestinian villages to Maqam Nabi Daniel. In addition, most of the areas the army has allocated to the settlements are cobbled together from enclaves and non-contiguous territories, including agricultural fields, which the Israeli authorities recognize as private Palestinian land. As such, these areas could not officially fall under the jurisdiction of the settlements to begin with.

Israel builds settler-only road from Nablus to Jordan Valley
MEMO 14 Feb — Israeli occupation authorities have started construction work on a new road that would link the illegal Jewish settlements of Eli and Shilo in the north of the occupied West Bank with the Jordan Valley. Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official in charge of the settlements file in the northern West Bank, told Wafa news agency yesterday that the settler-only road is about eight kilometres long, and passes through fertile agricultural lands in the Palestinian villages of Duma, Telfit, Qaryut and Al-Mughair, south of Nablus all the way to the village of Fasayil in the central Jordan Valley. He stressed that the new road is one of the most dangerous projects implemented by the Israeli government in terms of the size of the land seized to construct it and restrictions imposed on the movement of Palestinians.

Israel seals off cluster of Ramallah-district villages
RAMALLAH, Monday, February 10, 2020 (WAFA) – Israeli forces today sealed off the entrances to a cluster of villages to the northwest of the West Bank city of Ramallah. Witnesses confirmed that Israeli troops closed the metal gates at the entrances of Aboud, Deir Nidham, Deir Abu Mashaal and Shuqba villages, forcing residents to take long difficult detours in order to get out of the villages and reach their destinations. In the north of the West Bank, the Israeli army blocked with large boulders the main access road to the village of Bazaria, north of Nablus city, thus curtailing movement of vehicles in and out of the village. Bazaria is located on the main road between the cities of Tulkarm and Jenin in the north of the occupied West Bank and is considered vital for commuters on that road.

Netanyahu: Israel drawing up map for West Bank annexations
Reuters 9 Feb — Israel has begun to draw up maps of land in the West Bank that will be annexed in accordance with U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposed peace plan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday. “We are already at the height of the process of mapping the area that, according to the Trump plan, will become part of the State of Israel. It won’t take too long,” Netanyahu said at an election campaign rally in the Ma’ale Adumim settlement. Netanyahu said the area would include all Israeli settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, an area that Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, which Palestinians want for their future state….

Israeli forces demolish a Palestinian home in occupied Jerusalem
IMEMC/Agencies 14 Feb — The Israeli municipality of Jerusalem demolished, on Thursday, a house belonging to a Palestinian citizen in the occupied Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, under the pretext of being built without an Israeli permit, the homeowner said. Homeowner Iyad Shweiki told WAFA that two days ago, the crews of the Israeli municipality handed him the demolition order, which stated that the family must evacuate the house where his family of six were living. The family of six have become homeless due to the Israeli policy of denying building permits to Palestinian citizens, and demolishing of Palestinian homes, while allowing illegal settlements to expand, in violation of International Law.
Also, on Thursday, the Israeli army demolished a caravan in Hebron in which a family of seven Palestinian lived, who are now homeless.

Israel forces Palestinian family to demolish its home in Jerusalem
IMEMC 9 Feb — A Palestinian family from Jabal al-Mokabber village, in occupied East Jerusalem, was forced to demolish its own home in, Sunday, after the City Council claimed that the land where the property is built is “state land” where constructions are prohibited. The owner of the property, Maha ad-Dibis, said she and her family had to demolish their own home, after receiving a demolition order several days ago, informing them that they have twelve days to destroy the property or face very high fines and fees, in addition to the cost of the demolition if the city uses its workers and machines. Ad-Dibis added the home was built four years ago on land that has been owned by the family for many generations and added that the City Council is alleging the land has been confiscated and is considered a state-owned property. She also said she has all needed deeds and legal documents, and that the city even imposed an additional 45.000 Shekels fine that the family has been paying over the last three years, in addition to paying legal costs to the attorney and the courts.  The property was inhabited by five family members.

Turkey hands Palestinians Ottoman land archive
MEMO 10 Feb — The Turkish government has handed over electronic copies of the deeds of Palestinian lands from the Othman archive, Palestinian media reported today, noting that this would help Palestinians counter illegal Israeli settlement. According to Quds Net News, the archives consist of 36,000 pages which include details about the ownership of the Palestinian land during the five-century Ottoman rule of Palestine. The registers are kept by the Palestinian Heritage and Islamic Research Organisation (Mithaq) in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Abu Dis. Israeli occupation forces have stolen wide swathes of Palestinian lands to build illegal settlements which host nearly 500,000 settlers in the occupied West Bank and 220,000 in the occupied Jerusalem.

Opinion: The West Bank as Israel’s waste destination / Carmit Lubanov, Mossi Raz
JPost 10 Feb — October 10, 2019, will be remembered as the date on which the Israeli government made a decision that threatens to turn the West Bank into “the garbage bin of Israel.”  Although operating as an interim government while the political system is on hold in anticipation of a third election within a few short months, the Environmental Protection and the Finance ministries took advantage of the High Holidays lull to publish the preliminary phase of an international tender for the planning, financing, construction and operation of Israel’s first waste-to-energy plant. What may at first glance seem like a positive development is actually a matter of great concern – as the facility is going to be built in the West Bank.
Although this is not a case of settlement expansion per se and the plan does not involve additional land expropriation, the plan appears to be based on the Circular Economy model with a cynical twist: exporting the municipal waste of Jerusalem to an area that is considered occupied territory under international law for treatment and separation of waste, including incineration, and then transferring the residual materials back to Israel for burial in accordance with the Cradle-to-Grave model, thereby giving a nod to international law, which prohibits Israel from burying the residuals in the West Bank territory. …  Behind the new ambitious targets of Israel’s waste strategy lie the failures of the Environmental Protection Ministry. Israel is ranked at the bottom of national municipal waste recycling rates internationally compared to developed countries. Most of the municipal waste in Israel is currently transferred to landfills (80%)….

Clean energy, dirty dealing: Syrian Druze resist greenwashing of Golan occupation
+972 Mag 6 Feb by Ellie Stern — An Israeli wind farm slated for construction on Syrian Druze agricultural land in the occupied Golan Heights has been met with profound resistance from residents — On Thursday last week, the Israeli government approved plans for a commercial wind farm that would see at least 25 turbines built in the occupied Golan Heights. The decision came less than a week after thousands of Golan Heights residents protested the project in Majdal Shams. In response, a popular committee representing Majdal Shams, Mas’ade, Ein Qinyye, and Buq’ata — the four Syrian-Druze communities in the Golan Heights — announced it would exhaust “all available means” to resist the project, beginning with a general strike on Sunday. The protest is not against green energy, which residents told +972 Magazine they fully support. Rather, the objections are arising in the context of a long history of division between Israeli policies in the Golan Heights, which Israel has occupied since the 1967 Six-Day War, and an enduring local resistance to “Israelization.” Energix, the Israeli green energy firm developing the project, welcomed the government’s approval and said it is working on fulfilling final requirements for construction of the wind farm outside Majdal Shams. Energix’s website describes its facilities as “established in cooperation with the local communities and empowering minorities,” mentioning the “Druze community” in the “north of the country.” … Residents who did not sign contracts — almost everyone — raised concerns that 200 meter-high turbines planted amongst the apple, cherry, and almond orchards would affect anyone with land in proximity. Those who spoke to +972 Magazine explained that their agricultural lands are more than just a source of income….

Israel prosecutes leaders from Golan for opposing wind turbines
MEMO 13 Feb — The Israeli Magistrates Court in Nazareth held trial Tuesday evening of well-respected leaders from the occupied Golan, who opposed the Israeli project to install wind turbines to produce energy over large areas, estimated at thousands of dunums of the Golan lands. Hundreds of people from the villages of the occupied Golan headed to the Israeli Magistrate Court to support the prosecuted leaders. Sheikh Fouad Qassem Al-Shaer, from Majdal Shams village, said: “There are foul intentions behind the trial of the Sheikhs and leaders, who opposed a project that is going to affect more than 300 farmers in the villages of Golan. The project is going seize about 4500 dunums of agricultural land.” Al-Shaer stressed that “countering the project will be possible through raising awareness of the risks of this settlement project, which claims the implementation of green energy production, and its impact on the lives of people.” In this context, Emil Masoud, coordinator of the solidarity campaign with Sheikh Salman Ahmed Awad and Tawfiq Kinj Abu Saleh, said that they were brought to trial without committing any violation, except for opposing to the wind power project. Masoud, from Masade village, asserted: “The aim of this trial is to intimidate and scare people, so that the company can implement 25 turbines, to be built on an area of 4316 dunums as a first stage.” After hearing the allegations of the parties, the court asked them to sit together to reach a settlement or an agreement.

Prisoners / Court decisions

Report: Israel used ‘police dog’ to bite Palestinian’s genitals
MEMO 10 Feb — Israeli security staff are alleged to have tortured Palestinian suspects raising further concerns over what rights group have described as the “systematic use of torture and ill-treatment at Israeli interrogation centres.” Three Palestinians standing trial for carrying out an attack in which 17-year-old Rina Shnerb was killed in the occupied West Bank in August, displayed signs of torture. According to the Times of Israel, one of the men was hospitalised with kidney failure and 11 broken ribs. Another was nearly unrecognisable to his wife when he was wheeled into a courtroom. A third was stitched up after being attacked by a security dog. Lawyers and family members of the three main suspects are reported saying that they were tortured to the point of being hospitalised. Several other Palestinians swept up by the Shin Bet internal security service said they were threatened, beaten, forced into painful stress positions and denied sleep. Forty-four-year-old Samer Arbeed, believed by Israeli officials to be the mastermind of the attack, was beaten and interrogated for 36 hours. He was left with kidney failure and 11 broken ribs. The Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency, attempted to downplay Arbeed’s injury saying that he “did not feel well” during interrogation and was taken to a hospital. They provided no further detail. The wife of a second suspect, Walid Hanatsheh, said she was unable to recognise her 51-year-old husband when she saw him 60 days after his arrest. “He was brought into court in a wheelchair,” she said. “He looked very old, his beard was plucked from several places and his eyes were deep inside his head. He was not himself,” she said. The third suspect, 22-year-old Qassem Barghouti, was bitten in his genitals by a security dog when authorities raided his home near the West Bank city of Ramallah …  Israeli human rights group have also voiced their concerns. Rachel Stroumsa, the executive director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, described the allegations of torture as being “very credible” and line up with the testimony her group has gathered from other detainees over the years.

‘The occupation broke her once. Now Israel is trying to break her again’
+972 Mag 7 Feb by Jackynn Ashly — Israeli soldiers arrested Birzeit student Mais Abu Ghosh and reportedly tortured her for weeks over political activities on her university campus ––  Mohammed Abu Ghosh’s voice fluctuates between pride and sinking worry as he speaks about his daughter Mais, a fourth-year media student at Birzeit University in the Ramallah district of the occupied West Bank. Mais excelled in her studies, Abu Gosh says, and was applying for scholarships to study in France. But her ambitions were cut short when Mais, along with dozens of Palestinian students at the same university, were rounded up by Israeli security forces a few months ago, in a heightened crackdown on students across the occupied West Bank. Mais was detained on Aug. 29, 2019. According to the prisoners’ rights group Addameer, heavily armed Israeli forces escorted by security dogs raided the family’s home. The forces, members of the Border Police counterterrorism unit, ransacked the place, damaged the family’s belongings, and confiscated laptops and cellphones before dragging the 23-year-old student from her home into an army jeep. According to a Addameer report published earlier this month, soldiers “cursed Mais, humiliated her, and threatened her with rape” while they transferred her through the Qalandiya military checkpoint. During interrogations by the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, at Jerusalem’s Russian Compound, Mais was subjected to “severe physical and psychological torture and ill-treatment” for about a month, Addameer also stated. She was banned from accessing legal counsel for more than two weeks said Sahar Francis, the general director of Addameer who is also Mais’ lawyer. Mais has since been transferred to Damon prison in northern Israel and charged with membership in an illegal organization, referring to the left-wing student group Qutub. She is also charged with organizing a summer camp for the group and preparing two Molotov cocktails during demonstrations. Israel alleges Qutub is affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which Israel considers, together with other Palestinian parties in the West Bank, as a terrorist organization. The students deny this allegation….

Israel sentences Islamic Movement leader Raed Saleh to 28 months
Al Jazeera 10 Feb — Palestinian leader Sheikh Raed Salah has denounced the charges against him of ‘inciting to terror’ as false — An Israeli court on Monday sentenced the head of the outlawed northern branch of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Raed Salah, to 28 months in prison for “inciting to terror” in a series of speeches he made after a Palestinian attack in July 2017 killed two Israeli policemen at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem. Salah has denounced the charges against him as false and said following his sentencing that all the proceedings in the case were “far from the truth.” Israeli judge Shlomo Banjo said in his verdict statement that Salah is “dangerous”. “In light of Sheikh Raed Salah’s previous violations and his clear ideological motives, his activities have worsened with time,” Banjo said. “Today, as in the past, he uses troubling speech to incite terrorism.” Salah’s defence team issued a statement declaring that “since 2017, restrictions have been imposed on the Sheikh by preventing him from communicating with the public and the media because the occupation is fully aware that every word that comes out of it has significant implications and impact.” The summer of 2017 saw a spontaneous Palestinian uprising involving two weeks of civil disobedience and protests to pressure Israel to remove restrictive measures, including cameras and metal detectors, at the entrances to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which had been installed following the attack on the Israeli policeman at the holy site …
The Islamic Movement in Israel, which Salah founded in 1971, has an estimated 20,000 members and has been outlawed by the Israeli authorities since 2015. It has broad support among Palestinian citizens of Israel and has also gained popularity by running a network of charities, kindergartens, health clinics and social services – a model that has been established elsewhere in the Middle East and beyond by the Muslim Brotherhood group, which has been banned in several Arab countries.  Members of Israel’s Palestinian minority, who make up about 20 percent of the population, have citizenship but face widespread discrimination in terms of housing, social services and employment opportunities.

Court orders release of Jewish suspect in arson attack on Jerusalem mosque
Times of Isreal 12 Feb by Jacob Magid — The Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday ordered the release of a Jewish suspect who allegedly participated in an arson attack against a Jerusalem mosque last month. The judge ordered the 20-year-old resident of the Ariel city-settlement in the northern West Bank placed under house arrest until an appeal hearing is held on Thursday, after which the restrictions on his release will be further lifted if the state’s appeal is denied. Police arrested the suspect ten days ago, and during that time he was barred from meeting with an attorney — a tactic sometimes employed by law enforcement while probing what it says are urgent security cases … The suspect — whose name is barred from publication — is alleged to have been involved in torching a mosque in the Sharafat neighborhood of East Jerusalem on January 24.  Fire services were dispatched to the East Jerusalem mosque and managed to put out the blaze before serious damage could be caused. Police opened an investigation into the attack and distributed photos from the scene, showing that the vandals had spray-painted in Hebrew “Destroy [the property of] Jews? Kumi Ori destroys [the property of] enemies!” before fleeing….

In about-face, Bennett order Jewish terror suspect be freed
Times of Israel 11 Feb by Jacob Magid — Following far-right outcry, defense minister agrees to release 19-year-old Eliya Ben David, hours after signing off on administrative detention — Defense Minister Naftali Bennett ordered that a Jewish terror suspect be released from administrative detention on Tuesday, canceling the extraordinary measure that he had signed off on less than 24 hours earlier following an outcry by far-right lawmakers and activists. A statement from his office said Bennett had ordered a review of the case after being made privy to the initial court decision to release 19-year-old Eliya Ben David on Monday. “After thorough scrutiny, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett will reduce the administrative detention order against Ben David to [an order] restricting entry to Judea and Samaria [West Bank] only, pending approval from the head of the IDF’s Central Command” the statement added, leaving final say on the matter with Major General Nadav Padan.
Ben David was first arrested nine days ago on suspicions that he had hurled a rock at an oncoming vehicle, which struck a Palestinian man in the head, moderately injuring him. But on Monday, the Lod District Court ordered Ben David released due to lack of evidence against him. Ben David did not manage to make it out of the courtroom before Shin Bet officers arrived with an administrative detention order signed by Bennett in hand to place him back into custody. The measure has rarely been used against Jewish suspects, and the Honenu legal aid organization representing the 19-year-old said their client is the only Jewish Israeli currently in administrative detention. The practice is far more common with Palestinians, with 464 of them behind bars without due process as of January 2020, according to the B’Tselem rights group….

Palestinian refugees – Jordan

Video: Palestinian refugee crisis: Longing for ‘right of return’
Al Jazeera 7 Feb by Natasha Ghoneim — Most Palestinian refugees in Jordan live below the poverty line and outside camps — They are sometimes described as the people of a forgotten war. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees are either living in Syria or have sought refuge in Lebanon or Jordan since the Syrian war began in 2011. And the so-called “right of return” of Palestinians to their homeland remains as far from reach as ever. Al Jazeera’s Natasha Ghoneim reports from Jordan’s capital, Amman.


UN publishes list of firms profiting from Israeli war crimes
EI 12Feb by Ali Abunimah — The United Nations on Wednesday finally released its database of companies involved in Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Syria’s Golan Heights. The release of the database comes after years of unexplained delays, which prompted human rights organizations to express concern that the UN was succumbing to political pressure to suppress the information … The report released by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights lists 112 companies involved in certain activities in the settlements, including the supply of equipment and materials for construction or home demolitions, surveillance and security, transport and maintenance, pollution and dumping of waste, and use of natural resources including water and land. The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, the steering group for the Palestinian-led BDS campaign, welcomed the release of the database, which came “despite bullying by [President Donald] Trump and Israel’s far-right government.” …
Israel reacted to the publication of the list with rage. Gilad Erdan, the country’s minister of strategic affairs, claimed that it “proves once again the UN’s consistent anti-Semitism and Israel-hatred.” Unable to defend its violations of international law, Israel now routinely smears even the mildest critics as anti-Semites …
The database includes Israeli firms and well-known international brands such as travel companies Airbnb, and TripAdvisor, construction equipment maker JCB, real estate company Re/Max, train maker Alstom, US food giant General Mills and electronics firm Motorola. General Mills owns dozens of familiar supermarket brands including Häagen-Dazs, Yoplait and Cheerios. Also on the list is Mayer’s Cars and Trucks, the Israeli agent for Sweden-based equipment maker Volvo. But Volvo itself is not listed. Volvo provides equipment for destroying Palestinian property, trucks to transport waste to illegal dumps and armored buses for settlements. Also notably absent from the list is Caterpillar, long a target of campaigners for selling construction equipment used by Israel to build settlements and destroy Palestinian homes. Its Israeli agent, Israel Tractors and Equipment, also does not appear on the list despite Caterpillar’s documented role in settlement expansion and providing the Israeli army with bulldozers that are used as weapons. The BDS National Committee pointed to other major omissions: G4S, Hewlett-Packard companies, Hyundai Heavy Industries, HeidelbergCement, Cemex and Israeli arms maker Elbit Systems….

Palestinian Authority says it will ‘pursue’ companies on UN settlements list
Times of Israel/AFP 12 Feb — The Palestinian Authority said on Wednesday that it will go after companies that are included on the UN Human Rights Council’s list of firms active in West Bank settlements. Hailing the publication of the list, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called for companies to shutter their operations in the settlements. “We will pursue the companies listed in the report legally through international legal institutions and through the courts in their countries for their role in violating human rights,” Shtayyeh was quoted as saying by the PA’s official Wafa news agency. He called for companies operating in the West Bank to immediately close their offices and branches there, saying they violated international law and UN resolutions. “We will demand compensation for illegally using our occupied lands and for engaging in economic activity in our lands without submitting to Palestinian laws and paying taxes,” he added. Shtayyeh also suggested the companies could move to areas controlled by the PA to avoid potential retribution.
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat welcomed the release of the list, calling it a boon to the credibility of the council “in the face of the fierce attack and the intense pressure that the Trump administration places on these institutions.” “While this list does not include all the companies profiting from Israel’s illegal colonial-settlement enterprise in occupied Palestine, it’s a crucial first step to restore hope in multilateralism and international law,” Erekat said in a statement …
Israel reacted angrily to the publication of the blacklist, with politicians from across the political spectrum denouncing the UN body responsible for compiling it and vowing to protect Israeli financial interests.The Foreign Ministry announced it was suspending its ties with the High Commissioner for Human Rights …
The database’s publication this week marks a major setback for Israel’s settlement movement, coming only three months after the European Court of Justice ruled that the labeling regime for Israeli products from the West Bank is legally binding. The Yesha Council umbrella group issued a statement Wednesday accusing the Human Rights Council of anti-Semitism and urging Israeli citizens to make special efforts to purchase goods made in the settlements.

Civil rights groups sue over US state’s ‘Israel boycott law’
Al Jazeera 10 Feb — United States civil rights groups announced on Monday that they filed a lawsuit against a public university in the US state of Georgia, after the school cancelled a speaking engagement of a journalist who refused to sign a pledge to not boycott the Israeli governmen.  In a news conference, officials from the Georgia Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Georgia), the CAIR Legal Defense Fund and the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund said they filed a free speech lawsuit after Georgia Southern University canceled a talk by Abby Martin, a journalist and rights activist, over her refusal to sign an oath that she would not “engage in a boycott of Israel”. Martin says she was invited as a keynote speaker at a media conference in Georgia Southern University on February 28. “As the conference date approached I was told that I must sign a contract pledging to not participate in boycotts against Israel,” Martin said during Monday’s news conference. “Knowing that this was a violation against my constitutional right to free speech and right to protest, I informed them that I could not sign such a contract. I was then cancelled as the speaker from the conference,” she said. Martin said that although she has been a vocal advocate of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for years, it was not the topic of her speech …
In 2016, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed into law a bill requiring any person or company entering with the state of Georgia into a contract worth $1,000 or more to sign a pledge not to engage in political boycott of the Israeli government. Similar measures have been enacted in at least 28 other states across the US, according to Palestine Legal, a US-based legal aid group….

Palestinians thank Chicago rapper ‘Noname’ for her solidarity and courage
IMEMC/Agencies 12 Feb — The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) warmly thanks Noname for her meaningful solidarity and moral courage. Despite the best efforts of Israel lobby groups like “Creative Community for Peace”, thousands of artists worldwide have publicly endorsed the cultural boycott of apartheid Israel. Many more quietly refuse engagements in Tel Aviv, just as they once refused to play Sun City in apartheid South Africa, recognising their ethical responsibility to do no harm to peaceful struggles for justice …  The right side of history always welcomes conscientious artists who regret crossing the Palestinian picket line.
Noname had this to say on Twitter: worst thing I did in my careet was perform in Israel … i needed the money and got caught in the rhetoric of “music is hearing, use your voice to spread love”.  Still embarrassed by this level of ignorance. Free Palestine.

Other news

Poll: 94% of Palestinians oppose US peace plan
Times of Israel 11 Feb by Adam Rasgon — Palestinian support for two states is lowest since the signing of the Oslo Accords, survey says; 64% say US proposal should be met with violent Palestinian uprising — Palestinians overwhelmingly oppose US President Donald Trump’s plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a survey published on Tuesday. Ninety-four percent of Palestinians are against the US initiative and 4% support it, a poll conducted by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) found … PCPSR surveyed 1,270 Palestinians in 127 randomly selected locations between February 5 and 8 — just a few days after the US launched its plan. The survey found that 58% are of the opinion that if the Palestinians accept the plan there is no chance that it would lead to the end of Israeli military rule over Palestinians and the establishment of a Palestinian state. It also indicated that some 21% think there is less than a 50% chance it would achieve those ends and 7% hold there is greater than a 50% possibility.

PA’s Mahmoud Abbas says Trump plan offers ‘Swiss cheese’ state
Al Jazeera 11 Feb — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has reiterated the Palestinians’ rejection of United States President Donald Trump’s so-called Middle East plan, telling the United Nations Security Council that the recently unveiled proposal would bring neither peace nor stability and would leave Palestinians with a state resembling “Swiss cheese”. “I have come to you today to reaffirm the Palestinian position that rejects the Israeli-American proposal,” Abbas said in his address on Tuesday, noting that this stance had also been supported by the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the African Union. Abbas called on Trump to return to negotiations based on existing UN resolutions that call for a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders, and urged the council to hold an international conference to seek a settlement for the long-running conflict. Abbas said the rejection of the plan, which Trump unveiled alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late last month, is the result of its “unilateral steps that violate international legitimacy and the Arab peace initiative”. “It annuls the legitimacy of the Palestinian rights, our rights to self-determination, freedom, and independence, in our own state,” he said. “It legitimised what is illegal – settlements and confiscation and annexation of Palestinian land,” he said, referring to Israel’s illegal settlement expansion project in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem….

Palestine’s Grand Mufti’s fatwa prohibits working with US ‘peace deal’
MEMO 11 Feb — The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem issued a fatwa prohibiting dealing with US President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” and its promoters, Ma’an News Agency reported. Sheikh Mohammed Hussein released a bold statement today declaring whoever negotiates with the deal a traitor to God and His Messenger (pbuh), and to the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem and Palestine. He stated that Trump’s so-called “peace plan”, which flagrantly violates international law, robs Jerusalem of its rightful owners, and deprives Muslims of their third most important holy site and the path of their Prophet … The “deal of the century” unilaterally annuls previous UN resolutions on the Palestinian issue and suggests giving Israel almost everything it has been demanding. Hussein stressed that the deal also came to nullify the right of the Palestinian people to live on their land in dignity, tightens the hand of the oppressors and supports them, as well as giving Israel most of the Palestinian land “scented with the blood of the noble martyrs”….

US warning on West Bank forces Israel to backpedal
JERUSALEM (WAtoday) 10 Feb by Dan Williams — A US has envoy warned Israel not to declare sovereignty over West Bank land without Washington’s consent, pushing back against calls for immediate action by ultra-nationalists within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition. US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, unveiled on January 28, envisages Israel keeping key swathes of the occupied territory where Palestinians seek statehood. But the question of timing has opened up a rare rift between the allies. Netanyahu initially pledged a speedy “application of Israeli law” – de facto annexation – to Jewish settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley, delighting his religious-rightist base ahead of Israel’s March 2 election, where he hopes to win a fifth term. But he was forced to backpedal after the White House made clear on Sunday it wanted a US-Israeli mapping process – likely to take weeks or more – completed first.

Video: Trump’s ‘peace plan’ is apartheid, says South Africa’s president
EI 12 Feb by Ali Abunimah — On Tuesday I appeared on The Heat, on China’s CGTN television, to discuss the so-called Deal of the Century – the “peace” plan recently released by the Trump administration. Kicking off the discussion, I cited South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, who slammed the plan at a meeting of the African Union, just before the body rejected it. “It brought to mind the chronicled history that we as South Africans went through,” Ramaphosa said. “The apartheid regime once imposed the bantustan system on the people of South Africa without consulting them and with all the oppressive elements which that plan had.” Ramaphosa added that the Trump plan “sounds like a bantustan type of construct.” Bantustans were a series of impoverished reservations where South Africa’s white supremacist government tried to force millions of Black people to live. The racist rulers hoped that the world would accept these reservations as “independent states,” and take pressure off the apartheid regime to grant full, equal rights to Black people. Other participants in the program were Newsweek’s Jonathan Broder, Graeme Bannerman, a former analyst for the US State Department, and Matthew RJ Brodsky, a strong defender of the Trump plan.

Op-Ed: Annexations in Israel and India would threaten the very idea of international law / David N. Myers
Los Angeles Times 10 Feb — Here we go again. We’ve moved on to a new chapter in the playbook used by the global club of illiberal democrats. It started with the inflammatory rhetoric against those deemed undesirables, be they immigrants, members of minority groups or just political enemies. Then it was transformed into policy, as Donald Trump made clear when he announced his infamous Muslim ban just a few days after assuming office in 2017. Trump’s friends in the world saw fit to translate their own exclusionary words into exclusionary policy. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel took this step in July 2018 when his government passed the Nation-State Law in the Knesset, effectively enshrining in law the supremacy of Jews over Arabs in Israel. In December 2019, Narendra Modi of India pushed through the Citizenship Amendment Act, granting a path for citizenship to migrants who had fled religious persecution in other countries, but not for Muslims, against whom Modi’s BJP party routinely discriminates. Those two legislative acts are not mere hot air. They are of a piece with more dramatic acts of territorial realignment — basically, land grabs in defiance of international law …  What is so brazen about these steps in India and Israel, aside from violating the two countries’ self-declared democratic and pluralist origins, is their total disregard for international law …  Now, as most of the world looks on with dismay, the Trump administration has decided to overturn decades of U.S. foreign policy — and the preponderance of international legal opinion — to encourage and condone the actions of the Netanyahu regime. He has done the same with Modi, who has moved toward de facto annexation of Kashmir …  It is easy to treat each of these cases in isolation, but in fact they are part of a larger scheme fomented by the world’s current crop of illiberal leaders to undo the foundations of international law. For them, the enemy of their form of chauvinistic ethno-nationalism is the international legal order….

Trump budget holds Palestinian aid hostage to progress on peace plan
Al-Monitor 10 Feb — The Donald Trump administration is using Palestinian security aid as leverage in a gambit to convince Congress to fund its recently unveiled Middle East peace plan. The State Department’s 2021 budget request, released today, would zero out all aid for the West Bank and Gaza for the first time since President Trump took office. Trump first eliminated Palestinian economic and humanitarian aid in 2018, but the 2021 budget request would condition the remaining security assistance on $200 million in funding for his Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative, dubbed the Diplomatic Progress Fund. Instead of directly funding Palestinian security aid, the budget designates $25 million within the Diplomatic Progress Fund as security assistance. The document notes that the security aid can be used “to support critical diplomatic efforts that may emerge in the future, such as progress on a plan for Middle East peace.”….

Hebrew University to give students credit for volunteering with notorious right-wing activists
MEMO 14 Feb — Hebrew University is set to award academic credits to students “who volunteer for the right-wing group Im Tirtzu”, reported Haaretz, “although the university regulations state that such credits are not to be given for work with political groups”. Since its founding in 2006, Im Tirtzu has become notorious for its right-wing activism and intimidation of academics and organisations it deems to be “left-wing” and “unpatriotic”. The organisation itself says it merely seeks to promote “the values of Zionism in Israel”. Im Tirtzu now operates 15 branches in “different academic institutions throughout the country”, reported Haaretz, and since 2017, has “operated a phone line to take reports about lecturers”. Last year, Im Tirtzu started a website “that posted the names and contact information of dozens of lecturers who had expressed left-wing opinions”. In addition, the organisation’s activists often protest against human rights NGOs, and have attacked Breaking the Silence – a group publishing first-person testimonies of veterans of the Israeli army – as “foreign moles who protect terrorists”.

PFLP mourns lifelong internationalist fighter for Palestine, Comrade Richard Reilly
12 Feb The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine mourns the internationalist comrade, Richard Reilly, one of the most consistent, committed defenders of the Palestinian cause. In the name of our General Secretary, Comrade Ahmad Sa‘adat, and all the comrades of the Front inside Palestine and in exile, to the Palestinian people, the international movement in solidarity with our cause, and all of the strugglers for justice in the world, the PFLP mourns the Irish American comrade and freedom fighter Richard Reilly, who passed away today in Chicago after a long struggle with illness … We know that Palestine has lost one of the most deeply committed voices that has always stood with the Palestinian people in the most difficult of stages, a comrade who always struggled on the front lines, a fighter for oppressed communities and Black and indigenous liberation movements …  In 1988, during the first Intifada, he led a solidarity delegation that joined a march in Ramallah organized by Palestinian women’s organizations on the anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre. After that protest, the Zionist occupation forces deported him from Palestine and prevented him from returning ever since….

Israel blocks Palestinian agricultural exports via Jordan
Al Jazeera 9 Feb — Israel escalates trade war with the Palestinians by stopping their agricultural exports amid fears of renewed violence — The Israeli military has blocked Palestinian agricultural exports through Jordan in the latest escalation of a months-long trade war that comes amid fears of renewed violence in the region over a controversial Middle East plan backed by the United States. Following Defense Minister Naftali Bennett’s instruction, the Israeli military said it would not allow the Palestinians to transfer their products through their land crossing to Jordan, the occupied West Bank‘s only direct export route to the outside world. The Western-backed Palestinian Authority said Israeli forces at checkpoints blocked vegetable shipments that were on their way to be exported abroad. The deputy Palestinian economic minister, Tariq Abu Laban, told the Palestinian news agency, WAFA, that the decision to ban the export of Palestinian goods was in response to the Palestinian government’s decision to ban the import of Israeli calves….

Palestinians seek international support to end Israel’s export ban
MEMO 11 Feb — Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh revealed yesterday that his government was launching a diplomatic offensive to pressure Israel to “reverse its decision to ban Palestinian agricultural exports through Jordan”, reported the Times of Israel. On Sunday, Israeli officials announced that Defence Minister Naftali Bennett had ordered a halt to the export of Palestinian agricultural goods via the Allenby Bridge crossing (King Hussein Bridge) between the occupied West Bank and Jordan, “because of the PA’s decision to boycott cattle for slaughter from Israel”. Shtayyeh also said that the PA has sent letters to member states of the World Trade Organisation as well as filing complaints in international courts….

PA does not want Israeli partner to develop gas field off Gaza coast
MEMO 12 Feb — The Chairman of the Palestinian Authority’s Investment Fund, Mohammed Mustafa, said on Tuesday that there is no plan to develop a gas field off the coast of Gaza in cooperation with an Israeli partner, Anadolu has reported. Mustafa said that an Israeli partner had been proposed for years, but was rejected as the PA prefers an international partner. He pointed out that Israel, as the occupying power, controls the security of Palestinian territorial waters to “facilitate” the development of the gas plant, known as Gaza Marine. Israel thus has to allow the equipment needed for developing Gaza Marine into the Gaza Strip or into the Palestinian waters in the eastern Mediterranean. According to Mustafa, the PA has an international company involved to make sure that the gas reserves are still there. “We are sure that they are still there.” Israeli Minister of Energy Yuval Steinitz said last month, during an energy summit in Cairo, that there were discussions between his government and the Palestinians in order to supply what they need from natural gas sources, as well as to develop Gaza Marine….

This Tu BiShvat, don’t plant a tree in Israel
Times of Israel blog 10 Feb — It’s the Jewish New Year for Trees, Tu BiShvat, a holiday celebrated by many Israelis and throughout the Jewish world and a reminder of spring’s renewal in the middle of winter. Lately, it also reminds us, if we are paying attention, of the need to live in harmony with nature. One of the four “new years” mentioned in the Mishna, Tu BiShvat was first celebrated by medieval Kabbalists with mystical seders of fruits and nuts, and today has been adopted by Jewish environmentalists as a day of general ecological awareness. The ritual most associated with the holiday these days is tree-planting in Israel, which, alas, is actually harming Israel’s environment and biodiversity. As Israeli environmentalists have been warning for decades, we’ve been planting the wrong trees, the wrong way, in the wrong places for a long time. Twice in recent years, my organization, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, has succeeded in court to stop such ecologically harmful practices. Now, SPNI’s new study concludes unequivocally that, from an ecological perspective, the KKL-JNF’s traditional pine forests have done more harm than good …  The negative ecological impacts of planted forests are not restricted to the planted area; the forest has harmful effects on nearby natural areas, including spread of toxic pine needles, invasive plants, and species into areas where they don’t belong….

Official survey says unemployment in West Bank, Gaza rises 25%
RAMALLAH (Asharq Al-Awsat)14 Feb — Unemployment in the Palestinian labor force rose 25 percent in 2019, revealed an official report by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics on Thursday. The number of unemployed was 343,800 in 2019, with 215,100 in the Gaza Strip and 128,700 in the West Bank. The unemployment rate in Gaza reached 45% compared to 15% in the West Bank, while unemployment among males was 21% compared to 41% for females. Total labor under-utilization stood at 487,400 people, including 73,100 discouraged jobseekers and 20,500 in time-related underemployment. The Bethlehem governorate in the West Bank and Deir al-Balah governorate in the Gaza Strip registered the highest unemployment rate in 2019.

Israel’s propaganda war waged through TV shows
Al Jazeera 12 Feb by Yara Hawari — Netflix’s The Messiah is the latest popular TV show supporting Israel in its propaganda war against the Palestinians Israel‘s latest propaganda war is being waged through slick tv shows on various media service providers such as Netflix and HBO. While racist depictions of Arabs and the glorification of Israel is not new in the film and TV industry, there has recently been a surge in programmes venerating the Israeli secret services while demonising Palestinians as threats to global security and erasing their history.  The most well-known is the Israeli Netflix series Fauda (meaning chaos in Arabic) which has been a global hit. The series follows an undercover Israeli special forces unit known as the “musta‘ribim”, who disguise themselves as Palestinians to infiltrate Palestinian towns, villages and protests. They are particularly known for blending into protests dressed as young Palestinian men and kidnapping protesters. Fauda has been heavily criticised for dehumanising Palestinians and completely erasing the military occupation by failing to show any of the massive and visible infrastructure built across the West Bank and Gaza to keep Palestinians contained …
The latest addition to the list of TV shows supporting Israel in its propaganda war against the Palestinians is Netflix’s The Messiah. In the show, a messiah-like figure from the Middle East causes concern for the CIA and the Shin Bet. In the first episode, he is seen to lead a group of Palestinian-Syrian refugees to Syria’s border with presumably the occupied Golan Heights. A fictional CNN reporter declares that “as displaced Palestinians they claim they are entitled passage into the West Bank as rightful citizens”. Yet Palestinian refugees in Syria come from historic Palestine, now recognised as Israel, and they do not demand to become citizens of the West Bank. Rather they demand their right to return to their villages and towns of origin from which they were displaced in 1948 – a right that is inalienable and enshrined in international law….

Israel summons Belgian envoy over UN invite to children rights activist 12 Feb by Alexandra Brzozowski — Israel has summoned a top Belgian diplomat for a “very harsh” rebuke after it invited activist Brad Parker to address the UN Security Council on Tuesday (11 February). Parker represents the NGO Defence for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), which describes itself as working to protect “the human rights of Palestinian children” but is seen by Tel Aviv as biased against the Jewish state. Israel, meanwhile, claims the NGO’s board includes people affiliated with the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, considered a terrorist organisation by the EU, the US and Israel … Belgium holds the UN Security Council’s rotating presidency and has the privilege to invite speakers in front of the body.

Amazon forcing Palestinians to list themselves as Israeli for free shipping
MEMO 14 Feb — Global ecommerce company Amazon has been accused of discriminating against Palestinians by offering free shipping to illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank but not to Palestinians living in the same area. In findings released in an investigation by the Financial Times, the newspaper discovered that by taking all of the illegal settlement addresses and entering them into Amazon’s delivery portal, the company extends its website’s offer of free shipping “if your shipping address is in Israel, your items are eligible, and your total order meets the minimum free shipping threshold of $49”. However, customers who list their address as “the Palestinian Territories” are forced to pay shipping and handling fees starting from $24. Amazon spokesman Nick Caplin told the paper that Palestinians can only circumvent the issue “if a customer within the Palestinian Territories enters their address and selects Israel as the country, they can receive free shipping through the same promotion.” All the company’s deliveries have to pass through Israel in order to reach the occupied West Bank, causing long delays. International human rights lawyer Michael Sfard, however, cited such a reason as insufficient and called Amazon’s policy “blatant discrimination between potential customers on the basis of their nationality” within the same area of operation….

AIPAC is a ‘hate group’. says congresswoman
EI 13 Feb by Michael F. Brown — Betty McCollum this week issued one of the hardest hitting criticisms of AIPAC from a sitting member of Congress in recent memory, perhaps ever. Her statement provided the extraordinary sight of a US elected representative telling the anti-Palestinian organization enough is enough. She pushed back – and hard. McCollum denounced as “hate speech” the recent AIPAC Facebook ads that she said are “weaponizing anti-Semitism to incite followers by attacking me, my colleagues, and my work promoting human rights for Palestinian children detained in Israeli military prisons.” Terming the organization a “hate group,” she declared that “the struggle to advance human rights and promote human dignity inevitably results in confronting entrenched forces determined to dehumanize, debase and demonize individuals or entire populations to maintain dominance and an unjust status quo.” McCollum – who has introduced legislation aimed at preventing US tax dollars from being used by Israel to harm Palestinian children – has not been reticent in criticizing discriminatory Israeli law previously. In 2018 she termed the Israeli nation-state law “apartheid.” Such language is simply not employed by members of Congress, who in general would far rather speak nicely to AIPAC’s annual conference than raise the least concern about decades of Israeli subjugation of Palestinians. The Minnesota congresswoman took particular exception to an AIPAC petition connected to the ad which claimed: “It’s critical that we protect our Israeli allies especially as they face threats from Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS and – maybe more sinister – right here in the US Congress.” She rightly termed the language “incitement.” Particularly revealing in the episode was that McCollum’s comments came five days after AIPAC issued an apology for the ad. She has rejected that apology …  Backers of Palestinian rights across the country highlighted and cheered her words … The question from here as Democrats such as presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren begin to skip the March AIPAC conference is how many members of Congress will criticize AIPAC’s vicious attack on their colleagues. How many will also challenge the routine Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights? AIPAC works assiduously to convince Congress that these violations are acceptable and relatively benign because they serve the (falsely) perceived greater good of Israeli dominance over the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip….

Billboards calling for ending support to Israel launched in New Hampshire
IMEMC/Agencies 11 Feb — Palestine Advocacy Project has launched two billboard ads calling upon American voters and the next President of the United States to end U.S. funding for Israeli human rights violations, and restore humanitarian aid to Palestine, the Palestine News Network reported. In 2015, the United Nations warned that Gaza could become “uninhabitable” by 2020 as a result of Israel’s blockade of and periodic wars on Gaza, which are in flagrant violation of international human rights and humanitarian law. 2020 has arrived, and Gaza’s approximately 1.8 million inhabitants sit on the brink of systemic collapse without adequate medical supplies, clean water, or electricity. “As Americans and people of conscience, we cannot accept our government’s ongoing attacks against Palestinian human rights and basic liberties. That’s why we demand the Democratic Party and its nominee for President take a stand for Palestinian rights and reverse decades of inhumane policy that have culminated in the horrors of the Trump presidency.” — Clare Maxwell, board member of Palestine Advocacy Project