News Roundup for April 9, 2018

April 9, 2018

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J Street in the News

Pompeo and Bolton Appointments Raise Alarm Over Ties to Anti-Islam Groups, The New York Times

“Six liberal Jewish organizations last week issued a statement warning that the appointment of Mr. Bolton was ‘dangerous.’ Among their objections: ‘This willingness to support anti-Muslim bigotry violates fundamental Jewish and democratic values of tolerance, equality and respect.’”

Top News and Analysis

7 killed, scores wounded by Israeli fire in Gaza protest, Washington Post

“Thousands of Palestinians protested along Gaza’s sealed border with Israel on Friday, engulfing the volatile area in black smoke from burning tires to try to block the view of Israeli snipers and cheering a Hamas strongman who pledged that the border fence will eventually fall. Israeli troops opened fire from across the border, killing at least seven Palestinians and wounding 293 others — 25 of them seriously — in the second mass border protest in a week, Gaza health officials said. Hundreds more suffered other injuries, including tear gas inhalation, the officials said. The deaths brought to at least 29 the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire since last week.”

Russia Outs Israel, Says Two Israeli Fighter Jets Struck Iranian Base in Syria, Haaretz

“The Russian military said on Monday that two Israeli F-15 war planes carried out airstrikes on a Syrian air base near Homs on Sunday, the Interfax news agency reported. Interfax cited the Russian Defense Ministry as saying the Israeli war planes had carried out the strikes from Lebanese air space. The Russian ministry said that Syrian air defense systems had shot down five of eight missiles fired, while the other three landed in the western part of the base. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that the strike was ‘a dangerous development.’”

Though Deadly, Gaza Protests Draw Attention and Enthusiasm, The New York Times

David Halbfinger reports, “Now, young Gazans are talking about staging a “Flower Friday,” a “Coffin Friday,” and even a “Shoes Friday” at which demonstrators would fling footwear at soldiers to protest Israel’s longstanding blockade of the impoverished territory and its two million residents. Far from being discouraged by the smaller turnout on Friday compared to a week earlier, Palestinians seem energized and enthusiastic about sustaining a generally nonviolent form of protest — even if it is Israel’s harsh response to it and the mounting Palestinian death toll that has put their conflict with Israel back on the international agenda….After the second Friday of protests, the Palestinians appeared unified. Though Hamas effectively managed the demonstrations in many ways, those participating came from the range of Gaza political factions and for the most part displayed only one banner — the Palestinian national flag.”

He was wearing a vest marked ‘PRESS.’ He was shot dead covering a protest in Gaza, Washington Post

Loveday Morris reports, “Yaser Murtaja had often filmed from the sky, but he never lived to fulfill his dream of flying on an airplane through the clouds….Murtaja, who was married and had a 2-year-old son, died Saturday after being shot the day before while covering protests at the edge of the Gaza Strip….Five other journalists were injured by live fire, as well, according to the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate. They were clearly identifiable as journalists, the syndicate said, raising further questions over Israel’s insistence that its use of snipers on the crowds at the border is carefully targeted.”


ICC’s Chief Prosecutor Warns: We Are Closely Watching Gaza Violence, Haaretz

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor warned Sunday that her office was closely monitoring protests near the Gaza-Israel border fence and that “any new alleged crime committed in the context of the situation in Palestine may be subjected to [her] Office’s scrutiny,” following a second weekend of protests that have led to the deaths of over two dozen Palestinians.

IDF orders investigation into military’s response to Gaza border protests, JTA

The IDF General Staff has ordered an investigation into the Israeli military’s response to the Gaza border protests. The Israel Defense Forces announced on Sunday that Brig. Gen. Moti Baruch has been appointed to lead the investigation.  Baruch is a former division commander and current head of the army’s Training and Doctrine Division.

Israel strikes Gaza after explosive devices found on border, Washington Post

Israeli fighter jets struck a Hamas target in the Gaza Strip on Monday in response to two explosive devices found near Israel’s border with the territory, the military said, amid a flare-up in deadly Israeli-Palestinian violence. No injuries were reported in the strike, but it comes amid a wave of mass protests by Palestinians along Israel’s border with Gaza that have drawn Israeli fire.

State said set to tell High Court migrant deportation deal to Uganda still on, Times of Israel

The state will tell the High Court of Justice on Tuesday that its controversial deal to deport thousands of African asylum seekers to Uganda has not been nixed, despite Kampala officials denying that such an agreement exists, Hadashot news reported Sunday. According to the report, a special envoy from the Prime Minister’s Office visited Uganda recently and confirmed in meetings with government officials that the arrangement was still in place.

Hamas official signals that Israeli boosting of Gaza economy could curb protests, Times of Israel

A senior official in the Hamas terrorist group on Sunday demanded that Israel ease some of its economic restrictions on the Gaza Strip and suggested that steps that “immediately improve the economic situation” in the Palestinian enclave would curtail a wave of violent protests on the Israel-Gaza border. The official said the weekly demonstrations near the border will continue and lead to an escalation of hostilities, but that the atmosphere can “change” if Israel takes immediate action to improve the humanitarian situation in the Strip.

Arab-Israeli Lawmaker Calls For West Bank Palestinians To Join Gaza Protests, Forward

Arab-Israeli lawmaker Hanin Zoabi called on West Bank Palestinians to join the protests on the Gaza border. Zoabi, a member of Knesset from the Joint Arab List party also called Israel a “fascist” country and called for an investigation into the deaths of Palestinian protesters during a news conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Defense minister seeks probe into B’tselem for urging soldiers to refuse orders, Times of Israel

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Sunday he had asked the attorney general to investigate the leaders of a left-wing group that called on Israeli soldiers to refuse orders to open fire at Palestinian protesters during clashes on the border with the Gaza Strip. The organization, B’Tselem, lashed out in response, saying Liberman himself was guilty of incitement by demanding that soldiers carry out a manifestly illegal order.

Opinions and Analysis

Israel Is Now Directly Confronting Iran in Syria, Haaretz

Amos Harel observes, “Much of what was decided at the Ankara summit is of concern to Israel. It appears that at the summit, Tehran received backing for a continuation of its efforts to establish a presence in Syria, including in locations near the Israeli border. These are steps that could accelerate Israeli efforts to counter the Iranian presence, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman have been threatening. This is an aggressive approach, supported by the head of the Israeli security services, but it may still have consequences – from an American exit from Syria to an Israeli predicament there. In the north, Israel is now walking an ever-thinning line.”

Gaza Protests Mark Shift in Palestinian National Consciousness, International Crisis Group

In this Q&A, Nathan Thrall, Director of Crisis Group’s Arab-Israeli Project, says the series of planned marches reflect the Palestinians’ determination to take matters into their own hands after losing faith in outside mediation.

Why Hamas is protesting in Gaza — and why it will continue, Washington Post

Imad Aloos writes, “For now, at least, turning its armed wing into nonviolent protesters serves Hamas’s strategy. Hamas is redirecting part of its human capital to serve its political objectives and find a way out of its Gaza straitjacket, while gaining a popular stance as defenders of the Palestinian national interest. It is aware that its major rivals — Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) — are vulnerable to popular muqawama. It believes Israel’s repressive measures will serve only to bolster Hamas’s internal popularity and will invite international support for Palestinians. The PA seems to agree because it has rushed to gain legitimacy from the protests, announcing mourning days for the dead.”

An Honest and Brave Reckoning Must Occur Before the Next Round of Violence Is Upon Us, Haaretz

Avner Gevaryahu writes, “Gaza is the place we always remain silent about. Between one conflict and another, the Gaza Strip is slowly dying and eating up all its resources. In each of these operations, we employ a record-breaking amount of firepower against this densely crowded area, and in between, we ignore the crisis affecting our neighbors. The army itself has stated repeatedly that the humanitarian crisis there is at an extreme level, and that Gaza is on the brink of total collapse. An honest and brave reckoning with this reality must occur before the next round of violence is upon us, and candid criticism is the first step.”