News Roundup for February 22, 2021

February 22, 2021

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J Street works to promote an open, honest and rigorous conversation about Israel. The opinions reflected in articles posted in the News Roundup do not necessarily reflect J Street’s positions, and their posting does not constitute an endorsement from J Street.

J Street in the News

How did Zionist symbol KKL-JNF become an organization that hurts Israel?, The Jerusalem Post
J Street’s Nadav Tamir writes, “For years, the operations of KKL-JNF, which manages land for Jews only, has been a dangerous anti-democratic anachronism in a country where 20% of the citizenry is non-Jewish. But the new decision by the KKL-JNF’s executive committee to officially appropriate funds in order to purchase land for new settlement expansion in the West Bank is uniquely outrageous and harmful.”

U.S. Jewish Groups Want to Fight Antisemitism, but Struggle to Agree What It Is, Haaretz
“Logan Bayroff, director of communications at the progressive organization J Street, says his group has no issue with the definition being seen as ‘one reference point, a tool in a broader conversation.’ However, what it objects to is ‘the idea of this definition being codified into law or formally into policy at the federal, state or local level in the United States, or even at the university level.’ If the IHRA wording becomes a “speech code” that results in criminal or other penalties if violated, Bayroff believes that would be dangerous. ‘It’s too broad, it’s too vague, it’s too general to be used in that fashion,’ he says. It could get turned into an excuse to crack down on critics of Israel or Palestinian rights activists, he says. ‘However much you might disagree with them, it does not mean they are automatically antisemitic, and it doesn’t mean that the major threat of antisemitism in the world today comes from critics of Israel or Palestinian rights activists,’ Bayroff notes. ‘The greatest threat that we face comes right now in these times from the violent extremists on the far right: they’re the ones who have attacked us and in fact murdered American Jews.’”

Top News and Analysis

US won’t unilaterally lift Trump era sanctions against Iran, The Jerusalem Post
“There’s no plan to take additional steps in advance of having a conversation — a diplomatic conversation,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told a reporter aboard Air Force One on Friday en route to Michigan. She spoke in direct response to a question on the matter.

UN nuclear chief says Iran to grant ‘less access’ to program, AP
Iran will begin to offer United Nations inspectors “less access” to its nuclear program as part of its pressure campaign on the West, though investigators will still be able to monitor Tehran’s work, the U.N. atomic watchdog’s chief said Sunday.

PA says Hamas has committed to peaceful resistance, two states, Times of Israel
The Palestinian Authority has reportedly sent a letter to Washington stating that all Palestinian factions — including Hamas — have committed to a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders with its capital in East Jerusalem, and to peaceful popular resistance against Israel. The letter was allegedly sent as part of a reconciliation process between the vying groups ahead of scheduled Palestinian elections. Hamas, an Islamist terror group which seized control of Gaza in 2007 and avowedly seeks Israel’s destruction, has never publicly withdrawn its commitment to violent resistance against Israel.


As Biden puts Mideast on backburner, US point-man on conflict seeks small gains, Times of Israel
US President Joe Biden’s point-man on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is concentrating on restoring aid to the Palestinians and taking a go-it-slow approach to peace prospects in line with the administration’s stated goal of seeking gradual reform.

Fatah on Verge of Split Ahead of Palestinian Election That Might Still Be Nixed, Haaretz
Nasser al-Kidwa – a longstanding critic of Abbas’ leadership – revealed the open secret of an alternative slate in the works and called on the jailed Marwan Barghouti to join him.

Tough Sanctions, Then a Mysterious Last-Minute Turnabout, New York Times
The Treasury Department slapped sanctions on the Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler in 2017 for corruption in Africa. In Donald Trump’s final days in office, they were rolled back with no explanation.

Poll shows Blue and White failing to enter Knesset, Yamina still power broker, Times of Israel
A poll published Sunday evening indicated that Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party would fail to make into the Knesset after the next elections, while Naftali Bennett’s Yamina continued to hold the balance of power.

Suspected oil spill may be worst in Israel’s history, JTA
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority on Sunday called the suspected spill one of the “greatest ecological disasters to afflict Israel since the founding of the state.” It said that 170 out of 190 kilometers of coastline, or 105 out of 118 miles, have been affected by the spill. The consequences will be felt for years, its statement said.

Likud said in touch with PA, asking help to get Arab Israeli votes for Netanyahu, Times of Israel
A deputy minister from the Likud party held contacts with members of the Palestine Liberation Organization about the possibility of encouraging Arab Israelis to back Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in elections next month, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported Monday.

US sanctions inflicted $1 trillion damage on Iran’s economy: FM, Al Jazeera
Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Sunday after the US takes action to restore Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers through lifting sanctions, Tehran will want to negotiate on the damages it has suffered.

Covid-19 heaps more woes on Palestine’s struggling economy, The National
Palestine’s economy experienced one of the sharpest contractions on record last year and only a modest recovery is expected this year as its under-resourced health sector struggles to control the spread of Covid-19.

Coronavirus in Israel: LGBT-phobic cases spike, 1 reported every 3 hours, The Jerusalem Post
LGBT-phobic cases were reported once every three hours in 2020 in Israel, as 2,696 new incidents of hate and violence against the LGBTQ+ community were reported amid the coronavirus outbreak, a 27% increase compared to 2019, according to an annual report by the Nir Katz Center of the Agudah – The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel.

Opinion and Analysis

Netanyahu, long a supporter of LGBTQ rights, courts homophobes and racists in bid to cling to power, CNN
Sam Kiley writes, “On the smorgasbord of Israeli politics there’s a democratic advantage in offering something for everyone. But when elections here are finely balanced, voters are finding they may have to swallow some of the weird yucky dishes at the end of the table. For the traditional Israeli supporter of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the electoral meal he now offers includes medieval fare — dishes bitter with racism and homophobia.”

How Biden Can Undo Trump’s Dirty Deal With Morocco and Israel Over Western Sahara, Haaretz
Ali El Aallaoui writes, “Trump bartered the Sahrawi people as a kickback to Morocco to normalize its relations with Israel. But Biden can challenge Rabat’s occupation – and help liberate the last colony in Africa.”

Biden Should End U.S. Hypocrisy on Israeli Nukes, Foreign Policy
Henry Sokolski and Victor Gilinsky write, “For decades, U.S. presidents have pledged not to talk about Israel’s nuclear arsenal despite pushing for nonproliferation in the region. It’s time for Washington to end the double standard.”

The US risks pushing Iran towards a nuclear weapon, Responsible Statecraft
Jalil Bayat writes, “President Biden’s hesitation thus far in lifting sanctions imposed on Iran by his predecessor and returning Washington to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, nuclear deal risks a repeat of events between the United States and North Korea more than two decades ago when Pyongyang withdrew from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and began manufacturing nuclear weapons in earnest.”

No, ‘Saturday Night Live’ Isn’t Inciting the Mass Murder of Jews, Haaretz
Joshua Shanes writes, “Pointing out Israeli systemic discrimination against non-Jews is not antisemitic. The fact is, Israel discriminates against Arab citizens in countless ways. No one seriously disputes this, although many people justify it with comparisons to other more repressive regimes. Moreover, this discrimination has been accelerating, most notably with the passage of the famous Jewish Nation State law, which explicitly elevates Jews over others in the state, as its many Zionist and Israeli critics pointed out. Worse, Israel has been accelerating the oppression of millions of Palestinian Arabs who are not allowed to become citizens in the West Bank, let alone Gaza, which they blockade.”