News Roundup for February 8, 2021

February 8, 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

The Impact of the Trump Era on Political Correctness, Freedom of Expression and Everything in Between, Gariwo
J Street’s Nadav Tamir writes, “In the allegations against political correctness, a notable example of the phenomenon of intellectual dishonesty occurred during Barack Obama’s presidency – the Right in the US and Israel criticized him for refusing to treat terrorism as a Muslim phenomenon, while at the same time categorizing criticism of Jewish groups or Israeli policy as anti-Semitic. To Obama’s credit, it must be said that his refusal to generalize the phenomenon of terrorism to Muslims was justified. Muslims throughout the world are more often the victims of these same acts of terrorism, and they should be considered allies because their actions fighting Islamist terrorism may be much more effective. The same people who were happy to condemn Obama for refraining from generalizing about Muslims, were the ones who (rightly) expressed shock at the New York Mayor’s conduct toward the ultra-Orthodox in Brooklyn.”

Top News and Analysis

I.C.C. Rules It Has Jurisdiction to Examine Possible Israel War Crimes, New York Times
The International Criminal Court on Friday determined that it has jurisdiction over the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, despite Israel’s insistence to the contrary, opening the way for an inquiry into allegations of Israeli, and Palestinian, war crimes in the region. The ruling by the I.C.C. in The Hague came six years after the office of the court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, began a preliminary investigation of Israeli actions in the territories, including during the devastating 50-day Gaza war of 2014. The precedent-setting decision, coming more than a year after Ms. Bensouda asked the court to confirm its jurisdiction in the area, was hailed by Palestinian leaders and human rights organizations as a step toward justice for the victims. 

ICC rules it can investigate alleged war crimes in Palestine despite Israeli objections, The Guardian
Bensouda, a Gambian lawyer, has said she would investigate both the Israeli military as well as Palestinian armed groups, including the Gaza-based Hamas faction, which has been accused of “intentionally directing attacks against civilians”, according to her office. The Palestinian Authority, an internationally recognised representative for Palestinians, still wants to pursue the case. It would see the prosecution of Israeli officials or military figures as a significant diplomatic victory. The authority is also a political rival to Hamas. The Israeli government has argued that as Palestine is not a fully fledged state, it should not be allowed to petition the court. However, in a statement released on Friday, ICC judges announced the court did in fact have jurisdiction.

Prosecuting Israeli Officials Could Take Years, but the ICC’s Chilling Effect Will Be Immediate, Haaretz
Anshel Pfeffer writes, “The fear of one day, even in the distant future, being forced to stay at home in Israel’s cramped borders, because of a policy you once made or implemented, will have an intangible effect. There are some who even believe that Bensouda’s statement on the settlements in 2019 played a role in staying Benjamin Netanyahu’s hand when he gave up on annexation last summer. Friday’s ruling could also force him to tone down his attacks on the attorney general and the Supreme Court. After all, one of Israel’s main legal claims against the ICC’s jurisdiction is that all the government’s actions are already subject to domestic judicial scrutiny.”


Netanyahu: An ICC investigation of Israel would be ‘pure anti-Semitism’, Times of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday assailed the International Criminal Court for ruling it has jurisdiction to open a war crimes investigation against Israel, calling such a probe “pure anti-Semitism” and vowing to fight it. “When the ICC investigates Israel for fake war crimes, this is pure anti-Semitism,” Netanyahu said in a forceful English-language video sent out by his office.

Israel will ask allies to pressure ICC prosecutor against opening war crimes investigation, Axios
Israel intends to ask dozens of allies to convey a “discreet message” to Fatou Bensouda, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), tomorrow and urge her to not move forward with an investigation against Israel on alleged war crimes in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, two Israeli officials tell Axios.

Biden Set to Rejoin UN Human Rights Council, Which Trump Left Over ‘anti-Israel Bias’, Haaretz
The Biden administration is moving to “immediately and robustly reengage” with the United Nations Human Rights Council in another reversal of Trump foreign policies. The U.S. withdrew in June 2018 after blaming the international organization of being biased against Israel, amongst other complaints about its role in the international community.

Israel’s Netanyahu walks out on his own corruption trial, Washington Post
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told judges in a Jerusalem court on Monday that he is innocent of corruption charges before abruptly standing, saying “thank you very much” and leaving with his motorcade.

Jerusalem Planning Board Decision Paves Way for Home Demolitions in Palestinian Village, Haaretz
Israel is liable to demolish 38 homes in the West Bank village of Walaja after the Jerusalem District Planning Board rejected a master plan drafted by the village’s residents. The committee ruled that conserving nature and traditional local farming in the area take precedence over developing Walaja, even though the same board approved in the past a significantly larger building plan for Jewish neighborhoods in the same area.

Netanyahu formally denies corruption charges in 2nd court appearance for trial, Times of Israel
Under heavy security and after several delays due to the coronavirus lockdown, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived Monday morning at the Jerusalem District Court for a much-anticipated hearing in his corruption trial, focusing on his and other defendants’ response to the indictments and kicking off the intensified evidentiary phase of the trial.

Ministers to meet on reopening schools, daycares as virus rates remain high, Times of Israel
Ministers were set to meet Monday for further deliberations on reopening the country’s schools and daycares after a month of lockdown, as the deputy health minister warned that infection rates were still too high to take the step.

‘You’re Not Israelis, You’re Arabs’: Settlers and Soldiers Expel Family Having a Picnic, Haaretz
Israeli soldiers ejected an Israeli Arab family from a site near Kafr Jibiya in the Ramallah area of the West Bank on Saturday, where the family was having a picnic. The soldiers arrived on the scene after Israelis from a nearby Jewish settlement outpost, called them to the site.

Opinion and Analysis

The Hague Ruling on Israel Is Cause for Hope, Haaretz
Gideon Levy writes, “Quite a few Israelis in the military and the political establishments will begin to sweat in the months to come. Seasoned lawyers will be hired to defend them. Some of them will be afraid to travel abroad for fear of arrest. That is good news. Perhaps that way they’ll begin to think differently about their actions. Perhaps the fear of prosecution will constrain them in the future. Perhaps in the next election season a ‘centrist’ candidate like Benny Gantz will not stand up and boast about the number of graves in Lebanon for which he is responsible. Perhaps another ‘centrist’ candidate, Moshe Ya’alon, who murdered Khalil al Wazir (Abu Jihad) in his bed and who, as defense minister, conducted Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014, will begin to feel slightly ashamed of his actions.”

Bold steps needed to revitalize Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, The Jerusalem Post
Naif Abo Sharkeia and Dan Rothem write, “The Biden team will likely act decisively to restore ties with the Palestinians and allay their concerns about historic US bias toward Israel. Some steps are self-evident, such as nominating officials who are informed and open-minded; reversing some of Trump’s most destructive policies, including re-establishing ties with the PLO and resuming aid to the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA; and restoring security and civilian coordination between the sides. There are three further steps Biden’s team could take that would greatly enhance their likelihood of success…”

‘Humiliation and Absurdity’: The Israeli Women Bearing Witness to the Occupation, J Street
J Street’s Ben Winsor writes, “As MachsomWatch has grown, so has the scope of its operations. As well as observing checkpoints, volunteers also attend and report on military court proceedings involving West Bank Palestinians, all of whom, as residents of occupied territory, are subject to Israel’s alternate military legal system. Still, despite all their reporting, it’s difficult to cut through. ‘Getting our messages about the occupation across to the Israeli public is probably our biggest challenge,’ says Friedman. ‘Israelis are in deep denial about the Occupation, and it’s easy for them to avoid the subject.’”

In support of Israeli organizations urging their government to provide immediate access to the COVID-19 vaccination in the West Bank and Gaza, RJ
Reconstructing Judaism writes, “At this time, as new and more contagious strains of COVID-19 are spreading, Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association join the call of the many Israeli organizations that are urging their leaders to act quickly and cooperatively with the Palestinian Authority to develop a vaccination plan that will meet the urgent public health needs of everyone living in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Because COVID-19 knows no boundaries, the wellbeing of Palestinians is inextricably connected to that of Israelis. The Israeli organizations advocating that their government change its current policy are brave and determined, and they deserve our support.”

Jews Fear Marjorie Taylor Greene Will Lead America’s ‘Antisemitic Resistance’, Haaretz
Ari Paul writes, “For Jews, there are two contradictory Georgias: a forward-thinking haven, and the deep racist, antisemitic south; Jon Ossoff and Marjorie Taylor Greene. But it’s Greene’s bigotry that seems to have rising value.”

The bad faith behind Zionist activists’ latest try to win the left, The Forward
Jonah Goldman Kay and Sylvie Rosen write, “Rochman represents a new approach: He is part of a growing wave of Zionist activists that aim to appeal to a younger audience by mimicking forms of activism that are already popular in leftist circles. By blending historically leftist language about indigeneity and solidarity with the hasbara of clickbait Zionism, Rochman and his ilk have created a form of activism engineered to appeal to the liberal tendencies of a younger Jewish audience.”

ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I issues its decision on the Prosecutor’s request related to territorial jurisdiction over Palestine, ICC
“In today’s decision, Pre-Trial Chamber I recalled that the ICC is not constitutionally competent to determine matters of statehood that would bind the international community. By ruling on the territorial scope of its jurisdiction, the Chamber is neither adjudicating a border dispute under international law nor prejudging the question of any future borders. The Chamber’s ruling is for the sole purpose of defining the Court’s territorial jurisdiction.”