News Roundup for January 26, 2021

January 26, 2021

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J Street in the News

Thirty-nine words about antisemitism are splitting the Jewish community, The Forward
“The Jewish community is pushing this because they see it as a tool that they want to use to stop certain speech they don’t like,’ said Ken Stern, director of the Bard Center for the Study of Hate, who helped draft the language on which the IHRA definition is based […] ’The people who suffer first from these types of measures tend to be Palestinians and Palestinian-Americans,’ noted Logan Bayroff, a J Street spokesman. ‘But it doesn’t necessarily stop there.’ […] Critics, including Stern, say that the definition is now being weaponized to shut down legitimate criticism of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and treatment of Palestinians, while doing little to stop the actual threats facing American Jews.”

Top News and Analysis

Reform movement: IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is helpful but should not be codified into law, JTA
A common and increasingly controversial definition of anti-Semitism is helpful but should not be given the force of law. That’s what the Reform movement, America’s largest Jewish religious denomination, had to say in a statement published Monday about the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism. The definition includes 11 examples of how anti-Semitism can manifest, mostly involving speech about Israel. A growing number of countries and organizations have adopted the definition, which has become a lighting rod for debate over if and when criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. Its defenders, including many Jewish organizations, say it singles out criticism of the Jewish state only when it crosses a line into hate speech. Critics of the definition, like pro-Palestinian activists and human rights groups, worry that it could criminalize legitimate criticism of Israeli policy. The Reform statement, by four organizations in the movement, aims to stake out a middle ground — endorsing the definition but opposing its codification in law. The statement also cautions that the IHRA definition’s examples could divert attention from the threat of far-right anti-Semitism.

Iran: Biden won’t have infinite time to rejoin nuclear deal, AP
Iran warned the Biden administration on Tuesday that it will not have an indefinite time period to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. Iran also said it expects Washington to swiftly lift crippling economic sanctions that former President Donald Trump imposed on the country after pulling America out of the atomic accord in 2018, as part of what he called maximum pressure against Iran.

Overcrowded and Overwhelmed: Why Israel’s Current COVID-19 Wave Is the ‘Worst Yet’, Haaretz
Doctors agree that this wave of the virus is more aggressive than its predecessors. More patients are seriously ill, their symptoms are worse, and their condition deteriorates to the point of needing ventilators more quickly. Moreover, many are in their forties, fifties and sixties, and not all of them have underlying health conditions.


Balad faction elects new leader as future of Joint List hangs in balance, Times of Israel
His election as leader of the Balad faction comes as the Joint List faces possible dissolution ahead of March’s election. The four Arab parties who comprise the Joint List have been sharply divided in recent weeks and are planning to hold their first four-way meeting of faction heads since the announcement of elections this week.

Israeli Arab Slate Joint List Likely to Break Up Ahead of Election, Sources Say, Haaretz
A day after the meeting between the heads of the four parties that make up the Joint List, the rift seems to be getting worse. Despite efforts at reconciliation, the four party leaders are not holding out much hope for bridging the gaps and running together.

Senior PA health official: We’re hesitant about using Russian vaccine, Times of Israel
Sputnik V and Sinopharm have both been controversial due to the lack of transparency in their testing processes, with some health experts initially expressing skepticism about their safety and effectiveness. Both vaccines have been approved independently by several other countries for emergency use.

How Germany’s Far-right Party Is Luring Jewish Voters in This Year’s Election, Haaretz
Officially, the Jewish branch of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) political party has just 24 members. Its co-chair, Artur Abramovych, has a surprising message for Haaretz, though: “You have to know that there are many Jews who vote for the AfD.”

IDF: Palestinian attempts to stab troops near Ariel, is shot dead, Times of Israel
According to the military, the suspect attacked a female soldier and her commander as they were guarding the Giti Evyashar junction near the Ariel settlement.

More wanton shooting: two Palestinian teens injured in head by crowd control weapons, B’Tselem
Throughout November 2020, B’Tselem documented two incidents in which Israeli security forces injured Palestinian minors by firing crowd control weapons. Bashar Hamad (15) lost an eye during a Border Police and Special Patrol Unit (Yasam) raid on Qalandia Refugee Camp, when crowd control measures were fired in a crowded living area. Yusef Taha (17) was hit in the head by a rubber-coated metal bullet during a protest in Kafr Qadum.

Opinion and Analysis

Biden Has a Model for Dealing With Regional Fears of Iranian Missiles and Proxies, Foreign Policy
Hanna Notte writes, “Many commentators insist that President Joe Biden must also address Iran’s regional policies and missiles in addition to the original deal. The Biden team need not start from scratch to launch such a parallel effort. Thirty years ago, the United States led the first comprehensive attempt to address regional security by creating the Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) working group in the wake of the 1991 Madrid peace conference. The talks foundered amid the breakdown of the Israeli-Arab peace process, but they offer important lessons.”

Arab States Ending Qatar Blockade Is Really About Biden, Haaretz
Ziv Bar’el writes, “Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey intend to present the U.S. leader with a new diplomatic map of the Middle East and create a protective wall against any pro-Iranian slide.”

Among the Unanticipated Outcomes of the U.S. Election: A Palestinian One, Foreign Policy
Joshua Mitnick writes, “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose term officially ran out more than a decade ago, has for years faced pressure from both allies and rivals to hold new elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He finally agreed to do so this month, but it wasn’t the domestic nudging that prompted the decision; it was the administration change in Washington, according to analysts.”

Why Biden Must Not Boycott Hamas, Haaretz
Muhammad Shehada writes, “If Hamas wins significant representation in the May elections, the international community, including Israel and the Biden administration, must prioritize the welfare of Palestinians – by engaging with them.”

When police kill a settler, settlers rain terror on Palestinians, +972 Mag
Orly Noy writes, “Since an Israeli teen was killed in a police chase in the West Bank last month, settlers have been taking out their fury by attacking and evicting Palestinians.”

Cogs in the Israel Settlement Defense Forces, Haaretz
Amira Hass writes, “A pillowcase. That’s what soldiers put over the head of Ayman Abu Alia from the village of Mughayir during his arrest, 40 days after other soldiers (or who knows, maybe it was the same ones) killed his 15-year-old son Ali. I choked up at this particular detail, which Nihad, the bereaved mother, remembered as if it were an afterthought. A pillowcase. What is more domestic than that? An item from the bedroom, which soldiers entered with the nonchalance of victors, and brimming with self-indulgent suzerainty, put the pillowcase over the head of a man in cuffs to disorient and humiliate him.”