News Roundup for July 20, 2021

July 20, 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 the Jewish world is responding to Ben & Jerry’s decision to exit Israeli settlements, JTA
“Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the left-leaning Israel advocacy group J Street, said that Ben & Jerry’s was drawing ‘​​a principled and rational distinction between commercial transactions in the State of Israel & those in the territory it occupies,’ and said the term ‘antisemitism’ didn’t apply to the company’s actions.”

PM vows ‘vigorous’ response to Ben & Jerry’s settlement ban in Unilever call, Times of Israel
“Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke with the head of Unilever, which owns Ben & Jerry’s, and protested the conglomerate’s decision to no longer sell ice cream in Israeli settlements, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement Tuesday. […] However, Nadav Tamir, executive director of J Street, a pro-Israel lobby group that opposes West Bank settlements, told Army Radio that Israel’s response only encourages more BDS activity. ‘I am a little disappointed in the response by Foreign Minister Lapid,’ he told the station. ‘The legislation against BDS is seized upon by liberals in the US as the silencing of voices, damaging freedom of speech, and as anti-democratic.’”

Top News and Analysis

Where Netanyahu Went, NSO Followed: How Israel Pushed Cyberweapon Sales, Haaretz
The countries in which journalists were targeted through NSO’s technology that were revealed in Project Pegasus include Saudi Arabia, Hungary, Azerbaijan, the United Arab Emirates, Rwanda, Morocco, India and Mexico. This list might ring a bell with anyone who follows the news in Israel, since it mirrors the list of countries with which Israel improved its diplomatic relations in recent years, under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Pegasus project turns spotlight on spyware firm NSO’s ties to Israeli state, The Guardian
It is common for governments to help companies export their products. NSO, after all, employs former Israeli cyber-intelligence officials and retains links to the defence ministry. But revelations about how repressive states such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Azerbaijan and others have used NSO’s technology to target human rights lawyers, activists and journalists raise questions for Israel and have put the issue under fresh scrutiny.

Israel’s New Government Hoped to Freeze the Palestinian Issue. Ben & Jerry’s Had Other Plans, Haaretz
Alon Pinkas writes, “Whatever euphemisms the new Israeli government comes up with, such as ‘Narrowing the conflict,’ it will not be able to ignore the Palestinian issue – especially with the Palestinian Authority in such a weak state”


Bipartisan bill aims to assert Congress’s power over arms sales, emergencies and military operations, Washington Post
A bipartisan group of senators is unveiling legislation Tuesday to give Congress a more active role in approving arms sales, authorizing the use of military force and declaring national emergencies, in an across-the-board effort to claw back national security power from the executive branch. […] The issue came to prominence earlier this year after lawmakers were alerted to a $735 million sale of munitions to Israel in the midst of its bombing campaign in Gaza. Sanders was one of the leading voices raising an alarm — but because the notification requirements were minimal, it came too late to do anything about it.

UN Rights Chief to Haaretz: ‘I Am Concerned by Israel’s Mass Arrests of Palestinians From the Arab Minority’, Haaretz
Rampant racism, violations of international law in conflict zones, the dangers of big tech – Michelle Bachelet, groundbreaking ex-president of Chile and current UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, weighs in on the world’s crises in an interview with Haaretz

2 Rockets Fired at Israel From Lebanon, Setting Off Sirens in North, New York Times
Two rockets were fired from Lebanon toward northern Israel early Tuesday morning, setting off sirens in the country’s north, the Israeli military said. One of the rockets was shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome aerial defense system and the other landed in an open area, causing no damage, the military said.

Israel Wants U.S. to Enforce anti-BDS Laws Against Ben & Jerry’s. Will It Work?, Haaretz
Among the widespread Israeli condemnations of Ben & Jerry’s for moving to end sales of its ice cream in the occupied Palestinian territories, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid vowed to urge U.S. states with legislation aimed at the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement to take punitive action against the Vermont-based company. […] Of those states with anti-boycott legislation either pending or in effect, the question is whether those laws can actually be enforced punitively against Ben & Jerry’s.

Naftali Bennett’s office clarifies that he did not mean to endorse ‘freedom of worship’ for Jews on Temple Mount, JTA
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office backtracked on his statement claiming that Jews had “freedom of worship” on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Allowing Jews freedom of worship there would be a major change at a contested holy site that has been the origin of wider outbreaks of violence.

Opinion and Analysis

Why Did Israel’s Judiciary Become an Enemy of the People?, The New Republic
Deirdre Scheindlin writes, “The Trumpian anti-judiciary sentiment surely reflected Netanyahu’s desperation to stay in power. But those screeds were just the top layer of a long-term, multipronged assault on the legitimacy of Israel’s judiciary. The effort represents a confluence of right-wing interests and helps advance a far-right nationalist agenda. And the image peddled by the right of the judiciary as an enemy of the people has been effective in part because its roots go back to the start of statehood.”

Israeli — not Chinese — firm caught exporting its ‘authoritarian model’, Responsible Statecraft
Ethan Paul writes, “Politicians and pundits in Washington have long warned that China is seeking to erode global democracy and ‘export its authoritarian model,’ but the culprit behind explosive spy revelations this week appears to be America’s closest military ally in the Middle East. A private Israeli surveillance firm has been selling spyware to several governments for use in terrorism and criminal investigations, but some have turned it on journalists, activists, business executives, and politicians, an investigation by a consortium of 17 media organizations revealed on Sunday.”

Pegasus Scandal Should Be a Wake-Up Call for U.S., Bloomberg
Mihir Sharma writes, “Both the Hungarian and Indian governments deny using Pegasus to spy on dissidents and the opposition. Yet surveillance technology could easily be deployed in such countries to shrink the space available for liberal democratic politics. U.S. President Joe Biden has made the defense of democratic institutions a cornerstone of his foreign policy. If he’s serious, then his administration must start asking a few questions.”

Iran and Israel’s Naval War Is Expanding, Foreign Policy
Anchal Vohra writes, “For years, Iran and Israel have engaged in tit-for-tat attacks on each other’s ships in, and beyond, the Mediterranean. The conflict has mostly concentrated on Iranian oil tankers bound for oil-starved Syria. Now it seems the fight is spreading to involve a Lebanon that increasingly seems on the verge of economic collapse.”