News Roundup for May 12, 2021

May 12, 2021

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J Street in the News

Violence in Israel Challenges Biden’s ‘Stand Back’ Approach, New York Times
“President Biden took office in January with little interest in pursuing an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, for understandable reasons. […] Other Democrats urged Mr. Biden to exert more pressure on Israel’s government over settlement activity and territorial claims that they say are making the prospects for an agreement with the Palestinians virtually impossible. ‘If you stand back and the process of creeping annexation is allowed to continue unchecked, it is going to result in this kind of moment,’ said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of the liberal pro-Israel advocacy group J Street. ‘You can wish this off your priority list, but this is a conflict with very deep-seated problems, and they need attention. And if you leave it untended, it’s going to catch fire, and people are going to get hurt again,” Mr. Ben-Ami said. “We are inches away from this blowing out of control.’

Israel-Palestine flare-up has caught Biden administration unprepared, The Guardian
“Joe Biden came into office thinking he could put the Israel-Palestine issue on the back burner to focus on other, bigger, issues. That is not working out well. […] ‘Right now, it’s critical that the Biden administration engage proactively in securing an immediate ceasefire and pushing all sides to de-escalate,’ the liberal Jewish American lobby, J Street, said in a statement. ‘With lives on the line, our government can and should be doing more.’”

Israeli and Palestinian violence pulls US focus back to Middle East, despite Biden’s plans, CNN
“Entering office, President Joe Biden hoped to shift US foreign policy away from the Middle East and toward areas he thought of as more modern-day threats: China, Russia and cyberspace. […] ‘The ongoing conflict and occupation cannot be ignored,’ the left-leaning advocacy group J Street said in a statement on Monday. ‘Simply working to reduce tensions when violence boils over is not enough. This conflict demands bold, proactive and continuous diplomatic engagement from the Biden administration and the international community.’”

Progressives pressure Biden on Palestinian human rights, USA Today
“Some Democrats and advocates say the White House should be more engaged in reducing tensions and should push back more aggressively against Israel’s settlement policies. ‘This conflict demands bold, proactive and continuous diplomatic engagement from the Biden administration and the international community,’ the left-leaning Jewish advocacy group J Street said in a statement Monday.”

Frustration Grows in D.C. Over Biden’s Hands-off Approach on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Haaretz
As tensions in Jerusalem and Gaza boil over, there is growing dissatisfaction among former U.S. officials and policy experts regarding the Biden administration’s approach toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. […] J Street has also taken the rare step of publicly holding the Biden administration to task. “The ongoing conflict and occupation cannot be ignored. Simply working to reduce tensions when violence boils over is not enough. This conflict demands bold, proactive and continuous diplomatic engagement from the Biden administration and the international community,” the left-wing, pro-Israel organization said in a statement.

Biden fumbles attempt to please everyone with tepid response to Mideast violence, Times of Israel
“The Biden administration irked quite a few allies on Monday when it blocked the approval of a joint statement from the United Nations Security Council that criticized both sides for the ongoing escalation of violence in Israel and Gaza. […] The dovish Middle East lobby J Street, which endorsed Biden in the presidential race, said Tuesday, ‘It’s critical that the Biden administration engage proactively in securing an immediate ceasefire and pushing all sides to de-escalate. With lives on the line, our government can and should be doing more.’”

J Street Saddened and Horrified by Ongoing Violent Escalation in Israel and Gaza; Urges Biden Admin to Do All in Its Power to De-escalate, J Street
“J Street is deeply saddened and horrified by the ongoing violent escalation taking place in Israel and Gaza, as Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups continue to fire rockets indiscriminately at Israeli cities and the IDF continues to conduct intensive retaliatory strikes in Gaza. According to the latest reports, at least 28 Palestinians and three Israelis have been killed, with many others wounded — including children. In the cities of Southern Israel and beyond to Tel Aviv, civilians are running for cover in shelters, with rockets already having struck an apartment building and a public bus. In Gaza, we’ve seen an entire large building fully demolished by airstrikes. Once again, this horribly familiar violent cycle is causing death, pain, fear and anguish.”

Top News and Analysis

As Israelis and Palestinians Battle, Rockets and Airstrikes Intensify, New York Times
Airstrikes left neighborhoods in Gaza trembling, killing at least two dozen, and rockets rained on cities in Israel, including Tel Aviv, as some of the worst fighting between Israelis and Palestinians in years showed no signs of abating on Tuesday. The immediate trigger was a police raid on an Islamic holy site in Jerusalem the day before, but by Tuesday the conflict had grown far broader, with civilians on both sides of the border paying a heavy cost. In Gaza, at least 26 Palestinians, including nine children, were killed in at least 130 Israeli strikes on Monday and Tuesday, and 122 others were wounded, according to health officials.

Death toll grows to more than 40 as violence escalates between Israel, Hamas, NBC News
In the worst flare-up of violence for seven years, Israel and Palestinian militants launched hundreds of missiles overnight into Wednesday that killed more than 40 people and injured hundreds more, amid rising fears the conflict could spiral into all-out war. What started as weeks of tense clashes in Jerusalem has escalated into violent unrest on the streets of Arab Israeli towns and a deadly aerial conflict — more than 1,000 rockets lighted up the skies of Israeli cities, while high-rise buildings were levelled in the blockaded Gaza Strip, home to 2 million Palestinians.

Biden plans to send envoy as Israel and Hamas escalate toward war, Axios
With Israel and Hamas now engaged in their most destructive fight in seven years, the Biden administration is considering plans to dispatch a State Department official to join the de-escalation efforts, five Israeli officials and Western diplomats tell me.


‘Our children are getting killed’: the human cost of Israel-Gaza violence, The Guardian
The United States on Monday strongly condemned the rocket fire from Gaza toward Israel, describing it as an ‘unacceptable escalation.’ State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the U.S. recognized Israel’s right to defend itself, adding that the U.S. is deeply concerned about the situation on a broader level. ‘The United States will remain fully engaged to promote calm in Jerusalem, and we welcome the steps the Israeli government has taken in recent days aimed at avoiding provocations, including the decision to avoid competitions during the Jerusalem Day commemoration and the delay in a decision regarding the Sheikh Jarrah evictions,’ Price said.

Escalating Mideast violence bears hallmarks of 2014 Gaza war, AP
Israeli airstrikes have leveled two apartment towers in the Gaza Strip, where 2 million Palestinians have lived under a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas took power in 2007. Warning shots have allowed civilians to evacuate the buildings, but the material losses will be immense. Israel faced heavy criticism over the tactic during the 2014 war.

The I.C.C. is monitoring the Israeli-Palestinian violence for possible war crimes., New York Times
The International Criminal Court’s main prosecutor said on Wednesday that she was closely watching Israel and Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, for potential new war crimes in the current conflict. “I note with great concern the escalation of violence in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as in and around Gaza, and the possible commission of crimes under the Rome Statute,” the prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said in a statement. She was referring to the court’s statute on crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Moments before the blast, she ushered her children inside. She wasn’t so lucky herself., Washington Post
Ihsaan al-Zaanin had just returned from buying new clothes for her twin 5-year-olds ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday later this week when the explosion rocked the neighborhood. “When I got back from the market to my father’s house, I saw my children in the street playing with their cousins, and I went outside to bring them inside,” she recalled. But Zaanin, 28, said she lingered outside, chatting with her uncle. “The explosion happened, and I found myself on the ground,” she recounted Tuesday from a hospital bed, her voice faint. “I saw my uncle and my cousins on the ground, and I started screaming until they came and took me to the hospital in a private car.”

Israeli city of Lod descends into ‘civil war’ as violence escalates, The Guardian
A father and daughter have been killed in the Israeli city of Lod after a rocket fired from Gaza hit the courtyard of their home. The 16-year-old girl’s mother was seriously injured in the attack early on Wednesday. The victims were Palestinian citizens of Israel, also known as Israeli Arabs. Lod, a city with both Jewish and Arab residents about 15 miles south of Tel Aviv, has been the scene of serious rioting as violence that started in Jerusalem has escalated. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, declared a state of emergency in the city on Tuesday night as protesters threw rocks at police, who responded with stun grenades.

Israel vows to increase Gaza strikes until there is “total, long-term quiet” amid barrage of Palestinian rocket fire, CBS News
Rockets streamed out of Gaza and Israel pounded the territory with airstrikes early Wednesday as the most severe outbreak of violence since the 2014 war took on many hallmarks of that devastating 50-day conflict. […] And on Wednesday, there was no end in sight. Israel’s Defense Minister said the attacks on armed groups in Gaza were to be stepped up, to bring what he promised to be “total, long term quiet.”

New survey of US Jews reveals worries, strengths, divisions, AP
A comprehensive new survey of Jewish Americans finds them increasingly worried about antisemitism, proud of their cultural heritage and sharply divided about the importance of religious observance in their lives. The survey, released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center, estimated the total Jewish population in the country at 7.5 million — about 2.3% of the national population. The survey of 4,178 Jewish Americans was conducted between November 2019 and June 2020 — long before the current escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, the findings reflected skepticism among U.S. Jews regarding that conflict — only one-third said the Israeli government was sincere in seeking peace; just 12% said Palestinian leaders were sincere in that regard.

Opinion and Analysis

What does it mean to be a liberal Zionist in the era of Sheikh Jarrah?, The Forward
Abe Silberstein writes, “In brief, Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah are being targeted with an unjust and discriminatory legal regime that denies Palestinians the right to make the same claims as Jews. Jerusalem municipal officials, not tied down by unconvincing Foreign Ministry talking points about a simple “real estate dispute,” have said as much in remarkably candid statements to the international press. There is an ineluctable connection between Zionism, a movement I identify with, and the injustice inherent in the eviction efforts in Sheikh Jarrah, which I find loathsome.”

Young people are leading the Palestinian protests in Israel. And they aren’t going away., Washington Post
Dana El-Kurd writes, “The Sheikh Jarrah protests mobilized young Palestinians. Youth from this neighborhood have grown up under the threat of displacement, and have taken the lead in the protest campaign. They used social media to provide around-the-clock reporting of every altercation and act of violence, connecting with Palestinian citizens of Israel to a degree we have not seen in recent years.”

Defiance in the face of Israeli aggression gives Palestinians everywhere hope, The Guardian
Ziad al-Qattan writes, “As a Palestinian watching the scenes unfold in my homeland on social media, I have been consumed by a range of conflicting emotions. I have felt pain and despair at these violent restrictions on basic Palestinian rights and freedoms; but I have also noticed a spirit of care and solidarity among Palestinians that has been inspiring.”

Don’t shoot at Jerusalem’s Palestinians. Talk to them., RNS
Daoud Kuttab writes, “Whenever there is trouble in Israel or the West Bank — as there is now in Israel’s recent attacks on Muslim worshippers at Al-Aqsa, the third-holiest mosque in Islam — politicians, pundits and international officials, in their routine way of attempting to lower tensions, call on the leaders on all sides to denounce violence. But when it comes to Jerusalem, there are no leaders left on any side but the Israeli side.”

The Guardian view on Jerusalem and Gaza: old struggles bring fresh violence, The Guardian
The Guardian’s editorial board writes, “The priority must be de-escalation to protect the lives of civilians, treated with such ruthless and fatal disregard by both the Israeli government and Palestinian militants. The international community must bring its weight to bear. Donald Trump egged Mr Netanyahu on at every turn. There is now an administration in Washington that can address these issues seriously. It has rightly condemned militant attacks. But it must be similarly clear with the Israeli authorities, not only over their military response, but over the actions that predictably led to this latest outburst of violence.”

Child’s Play in Ideological Tussle for Jerusalem Gives Way for Deadly Adult Warfare, Haaretz
Anshel Pfeffer writes, “At some points during the long and tense Jerusalem Day on Monday, it seemed that the Israel-Palestine conflict in the city is now being fought by children. On both sides”