Israel’s military authorities have published a video on social media publicising Palestinian attractions in the West Bank, in what looks like a generous promotional stunt to bring tourists to Palestine. Except that is precisely not where the video invites them. Instead it beckons tourists to visit “Judea and Samaria”, the Biblical names Israel uses to justify the illegal Jewish settlements that dominate much of the West Bank.
Filmed testimonies of Palestinians in Jerusalem reveal a growing trend of violent assaults by far-right Jewish activists belonging to Lehava, or Flame in Hebrew. Run by rabbi Ben-Zion Gopstein, Lehava rejects any interaction between Jews and Palestinians. Jerusalem’s streets are littered with fliers in Arabic warning, “Don’t even think about a Jewish girl”, and in Hebrew stating, “Beware the goys – they will defile you”.
Fatah launched its seventh congress this week, amid heated speculation about the future of its leader, Mahmoud Abbas. Among those watching closely as events unfold is the Israeli leadership. The congress – the first since 2009 – will determine the make up of Fatah’s main representative bodies and may offer clues as to whom is best placed to succeed the 81-year-old Abbas.
The forest fires that ravaged Israel over the weekend inadvertently drew attention to the deeper goal of Netanyahu’s “muezzin bill”. For many Israelis, the call to prayer threatens the contrived “European idyll” created after 1948 by a programme of planting thick pine forests – creating a fire hazard – over hundreds of Palestinian villages Israel destroyed after it had expelled their inhabitants.
A former Dutch ambassador planted 1,100 olive trees in the West Bank on Sunday to make amends, he said, for the fact that Israel had exploited his family’s name to “cover up an act of ethnic cleansing”. Erik Ader said the trees were his way of apologising for a similar number of pine trees planted in Israel in the 1960s to honour his father by the Jewish National Fund.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has revived long-standing suspicions that his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, was murdered. Abbas announced last week that he knew the killer’s identity, adding that the world would be “amazed when you know who did it”. Abbas also suggested that a Palestinian commission of inquiry into Arafat’s death may be close to releasing its findings, after years of delays.
Palestinian lawmakers in Israel have found an unexpected ally inside the government against a new bill banning mosques from using loudspeakers to broadcast the call to prayer. A parliamentary vote was delayed after worries from health minister Yaakov Litzman that the bill might apply to synagogues too. The setback, however, is likely to prove short-lived.
Netanyahu was among the first to congratulate Trump by phone. The US president-elect reciprocated by inviting him for talks “at the first opportunity”. And yet Netanyahu is reported to be anxious about a Trump White House. Why? It is certainly not because of Trump’s stated policies on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Israel’s far-right culture minister, Miri Regev, scored a significant victory last month in her self-declared war on the country’s cultural establishment. Israel’s national theatre company, Habima, it was revealed, had agreed to perform for the first time in Kiryat Arba, a notoriously violent settlement next to the Palestinian city of Hebron.
Taking advantage of the renewed quiet at al-Aqsa, Israel allowed record numbers of ultra-nationalists to visit the mosque during its recent high holidays. Parties of Israeli soldiers also entered the site. For Palestinians, Israel’s treatment of this supremely important Islamic holy site symbolises their powerlessness, oppression and routine humiliation.
The top posts in Israel’s national police force are now in the hands of hardline religious settlers who are seeking to make “alarming” changes to policing in both Israel and the occupied territories, critics have warned. The growing influence of the settler movement was highlighted this month with the appointment of Rahamim Brachyahu as the force’s chief rabbi.
The chauvinism implicit in a new Israeli foreign ministry video portraying Jacob and Rachel as the only normal folk, stoicly enduring barbarians butchering each other in their living room, is ugly enough. But it is harder still to take seriously an account in which the Palestinians suddenly appear out of nowhere in 1948, as Britain departs.
As world leaders congregated in Jerusalem to eulogise Shimon Peres as a “great peacemaker”, the peace camp of which he was the figurehead went to war against its main Palestinian partner in Israel. Ayman Odeh, head of the only Jewish-Arab party in the Israeli legislature, enraged the Israeli Jewish public by refusing to attend Peres’ funeral.
Israeli airport staff regularly violate Israeli law by subjecting Arab passengers, including Israel’s own Palestinian citizens, to strip searches and other degrading procedures, says Adalah, a legal rights group. The practices occur at Israel’s international Ben Gurion airport, as well as at many foreign airports where Israeli security officials are entitled to carry out pre-flight checks on behalf of Israeli carriers.
The death of Shimon Peres, aged 93, marks the departure of the last major figure in Israel’s founding generation. Peres spent his long political career in the public spotlight, but his greatest successes – from overseeing the construction of Israel’s nuclear bomb to devising an interminable “peace process” via the Oslo accords – were engineered in the shadows.
Members of one of the main Palestinian parties in the Israeli parliament have accused authorities of seeking to criminalise their political activity following the arrest of more than two dozen party officials. Balad party leader Jamal Zahalka tied the arrests to the outlawing late last year of the popular northern wing of the Islamic Movement, an extra-parliamentary faction led by Sheikh Raed Salah.
The announcement last week by the United States of the largest military aid package in its history – to Israel – was a win for both sides. Benjamin Netanyahu could boast that his lobbying had boosted aid from $3.1 billion to $3.8bn a year. Barack Obama, meanwhile, hoped to stifle critics who insinuate that he is anti-Israel, as well as offer a presidential election fillip to Hillary Clinton. In reality, however, Obama’s aid deal has quietly punished Netanyahu for his misbehaviour.
A new peace movement, Decision at 50, stuffed with former political and security leaders, is demanding the Israeli government hold a referendum next year – to mark the 50th anniversary of the occupation – on whether it is time to leave the territories. Whatever its proponents imply, the referendum is about neither peace nor the Palestinians’ best interests. Its assumption is that yet again Israel should determine unilaterally the Palestinians’ fate.
In Netanyahu’s new video, he claims that a Palestinian demand to dismantle Jewish settlements amounts to the “ethnic cleansing” of 650,000 Jews living illegally in the occupied territories. Netanyahu wants to place another obstacle in the way of Palestinian efforts to seek international backing for statehood, but this time has he scored an own goal?
Israel has agreed to allow the International Criminal Court in The Hague to send a delegation to Israel and the occupied territories, it was revealed at the weekend, in a step that could dramatically increase the risk of Israeli officials being tried for war crimes. The ICC’s move comes as human rights groups have harshly criticised Israel for closing investigations into dozens of allegations that its military broke the laws of war during an attack on Gaza in summer 2014.