News Roundup for July 16, 2020

July 16, 2020

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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

In Washington, a debate over conditioning US aid to Israel heats up, Times of Israel
“Last week, Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen introduced an amendment to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to block US funds from going toward the prime minister’s planned annexation of roughly 30 percent of the West Bank […] ‘It’s a mainstream idea now being actively discussed in the United States Senate, in the heart of the Democratic Party, that in light of contemplated Israeli actions, there has to be some set of restrictions in the way American assistance is shaped,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder and president of the liberal Mideast advocacy organization J Street. ‘People who want to cut aid generally don’t want to see the full check of $3.8 billion actually delivered,’ Ben-Ami told The Times of Israel. ‘People who want to restrict aid are perfectly comfortable with the $3.8 billion, but it just shouldn’t be used for the following purposes.’ […] For Ben-Ami, whose organization has been leading a campaign against annexation in Washington, the amendment’s support among leading and more moderate Democrats such as Van Hollen marks a fundamental shift in how the party views the nature of American aid to Israel. ‘I think the bigger argument is really over the question of whether it’s appropriate to have restrictions [on funding], period,’ Ben-Ami said. ‘One can quibble here or there about a word and change the meaning of the exact drafting, but I think the principle is what Senator Van Hollen and his co-sponsors have established here: US assistance cannot be and should not be a blank check.’”

DNC advances the 2020 platform, including a pro-Israel plank, by unanimous consent, Jewish Insider
“An individual with knowledge of the internal process told JI that while the committee discussed including a reference to ‘occupation’ — a proposal backed by Sanders allies and J Street — the panel drafted language that more closely mirrors the views expressed by the Biden campaign in recent weeks […] A J Street spokesperson told JI that the group was ‘very pleased’ to see the platform articulately ‘expressing support for Palestinian rights alongside affirmation of support for Israel’s security, and opposition to settlement expansion and unilateral annexation.’ At the same time, J Street said, ‘we’re very concerned that the draft apparently makes no reference to Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian territory. Until the Trump administration, it has been bipartisan U.S. government policy to recognize (and oppose) the occupation since it began in 1967. It should not be at all controversial for the Democratic party to recognize it in 2020.’ J Street said it will continue to advocate for the inclusion of the word ‘occupation’ before the platform is approved by the full committee.”

Frustrating progressives, first draft of 2020 DNC platform leaves out occupation, Times of Israel
“‘The Israeli right wing and, unfortunately, their US supporters, have long sought to erase the occupation,’ said Josh Orton, a senior adviser for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. ‘We shouldn’t help them. And a growing and just movement within our party believes that US aid should not be used to facilitate annexation and violate Palestinian rights.’ In his remarks, Orton argued that ‘ending the occupation is an issue of racial justice,’ saying the social unrest America has experienced since the police killing of George Floyd should galvanize Democrats to advocate for Palestinian human rights […] The liberal Mideast advocacy group J Street said it was ‘pleased’ that the first 2020 draft called for the establishment of a Palestinian state, but also expressed ‘concern’ that it made no mention of occupation.”

Top News and Analysis

As Israel’s economy sags, Netanyahu offers aid to families, AP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday announced a plan to distribute hundreds of dollars in grants to every Israeli in order to stimulate the country’s sagging economy, days after thousands of people took to the streets to protest his handling of the coronavirus crisis. In a nationally televised news conference, Netanyahu lashed out at violent tactics used by some protesters and said his decision was not connected with the unrest. Instead, he said he was aiming to jump-start the economy when the country is in the midst of a global crisis. “I hear your distress. You’re not alone,” he said.

As coronavirus cases peak, Netanyahu convenes emergency meeting, The Jerusalem Post
The number of people infected with the novel coronavirus in one day hit a new peak on Wednesday: 1,898, the Health Ministry reported Thursday morning.

Israel said to compile roster of officials who could face arrest over ICC probe, Times of Israel
Israeli authorities have reportedly compiled an internal list of hundreds of military officers and defense officials who are at risk of being prosecuted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The list thus far consists of some 200-300 people who could be arrested abroad for alleged war crimes, as the International Criminal Court moves toward possibly opening a war crimes probe against Israelis over actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Haaretz reported Thursday.


EU builds for Palestinians in Area C, FMs speak against annexation, The Jerusalem Post
In a statement on the construction plan’s announcement, EU representative to Ramallah Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff said: “The EU considers Area C an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territories… We will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by both sides, and we do not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied since 1967.”

Israel to limit class sizes, keep older students home in second attempt at reopening schools, JTA
Israeli elementary schools will open in the fall, but with no more than 18 students per class, and older students will learn at home all but one day a week.

Gantz demands more authority for the Defense Ministry in pandemic response, Times of Israel
Defense Minister Benny Gantz called for his office to be given more authority in the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic during a primetime Wednesday interview.

Nick Cannon apologizes to Jewish community for hurtful words, AP
Nick Cannon apologized to the Jewish community late Wednesday for his “hurtful and divisive” words, a day after ViacomCBS severed ties with him for the remarks made on a podcast. The Anti-Defamation league and some Jewish leaders had condemned what they called anti-Semitic theories expressed by Cannon and demanded the apology.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jemele Hill call out anti-Semitism in the Black community, JTA
In the wake of a string of high-profile controversies involving the likes of rapper Ice Cube and NFL player DeSean Jackson, two more prominent Black commentators have called out anti-Semitism in the Black community this week: NBA Hall of Famer-turned columnist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and sports journalist Jemele Hill.

Gaza Residents Abroad Faced Uphill Battle to Return Home. Coronavirus Robbed Them Even of That, Haaretz
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, residents of the Gaza Strip faced an arduous process in order to travel abroad. Now, many Gazans are unable to return home as the result of the virus and the Palestinian Authority’s decision to end coordination with Israel over plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

Soldiers summoned by settlers fire at Palestinian family harvesting clover near Turmusaya, B’Tselem
At around 10:00, a settler drove up in a white jeep. He drove into the field and came to a halt about 30 meters away from the family. The settler got out along with three soldiers, who went over to the family with their weapons drawn and ordered them to kneel. The terrified family dropped their sickles and obeyed. When ‘Imad Abu ‘Alia (39) tried to inquire what the soldiers were after, one of them pepper-sprayed him in the face. Immediately afterwards, two of the soldiers opened fire indiscriminately, hitting ‘Imad in the left thigh and Murad in the waist.

Opinion and Analysis

When Hope Dies: Why So Many Young Palestinians in Gaza Are Committing Suicide, Haaretz
Muhammad Shehada writes, “Nearly everyone I know in Gaza has contemplated suicide more than once. Despite the deep taboo, 2020 is heading toward a record spike in suicides, and most are young, unemployed and suffocated by despair.”

Has Israel been sabotaging Iran? Here’s what we know, Washington Post
Dalia Dassa Kaye writes, “Over the last few weeks, Iran has been hit by a series of unusual explosions at such sensitive facilities as its nuclear enrichment complex, factories and gas pipelines. Many analysts and diplomats suspect sabotage by Israel, the United States or some other outside force.”

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Leader Who Can’t Take Responsibility, Haaretz
The Editorial Board writes, “When it became apparent that a second wave has erupted, that the infection rate is surging, that the return to normalcy flopped and restrictions that were lifted have to be reimposed, that the odds of another full lockdown are increasing daily and that Israel has fallen into an unprecedented economic crisis, Netanyahu stopped seeing himself as the sole person responsible for managing the coronavirus.”

A pat on the back for condemning anti-Arab racism, +972 Mag
Edo Konrad writes, “Israel saw its own spectacle of racism over the weekend after a video surfaced of Roy Oz, a popular Israeli children’s entertainer who goes by his stage name ‘Roy Boy,’ treating Bedouin children as if they were zoo animals while on a family trip. The video, filmed from Oz’s point of view, shows him turning to his own children sitting in the backseat of his car, holding up a cookie to the camera, and asking if they want to feed two Bedouin boys standing next to the vehicle.”