Trump is hanging Israel and Netanyahu out to dry

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Trump is hanging Israel and Netanyahu out to dry

David A. Andelman, executive director of The RedLines Project, is a contributor to CNN, where his columns won the Deadline Club Award for Best Opinion Writing. Author of “A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today,” he was formerly a foreign correspondent for The New York Times and CBS News. Follow him on Twitter @DavidAndelman. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.

(CNN)With a single stroke, President Donald Trump has effectively brought a newly resurgent and potent triad—Syria, Russia and Iran—to the very doorstep of their declared enemy, Israel, and given aid and comfort to Israel’s longtime and persistent foe, Hezbollah, in Lebanon.

David Andelman

The ceasefire and agreement with Turkey that Trump vaunted Thursday as “a great day for civilization,” had already been demonstrated to be a potentially epic challenge to one corner of the world—Israel. It was a reality only highlighted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo breaking off from Vice President Pence’s group in Ankara and taking a plane directly to Jerusalem to reassure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday morning.
Suddenly, with not even a token American force remaining to monitor or check military activities of Russia, Iran or the Syrian army main force of President Bashar al-Assad, the entire map of the Middle East was being redrawn, and Israel left with few viable defenders. When the United States had even a minimal military presence in Syria, it was able to act as some restraint on aid that Iran was seeking to channel to this terrorist forcewhich continues to operate out of Lebanon, targeting Israel at every opportunity.
In late August, anti-tank rocket attacks launched from Lebanon into northern Israel by Hezbollah led to the Israeli army responding with attacks on targets in southern Lebanon. Such effective shadow-boxing had been held in check by the apparent ability of Israel to interdict Iranian efforts to supply Hezbollah with arms and munitions through Syria. Now, with Syria reclaiming a large swath of the northeastern stretch of its country that had been held by the Kurds and their American allies, and with Russian forces moving as a backstop into the vacuum left by the US departure, Israeli efforts could become exponentially more complicated.
At the same time, there is ever more leeway now for Syria, Russia and Iran to work their malevolence on a Lebanese government that is striving desperately to carve a middle road in the region. Hezbollah and Iran share a common religion—Shiite Islam—which has only opened up a host of problems for Hezbollah’s principal host, Lebanon, as it tries to remain reasonably neutral in the Middle East and avoid a return to the decades of bloodshed during its civil wars of the 1980s. Hezbollah would like nothing better than a destabilized Lebanon bordering Israel’s northern frontier.
“Americans can’t be trusted at all since they break promise with anyone who depends on them,” said Seyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah, in a speech to his followers in Beirut on Wednesday, adding that the Kurds’ “fate awaits anyone who trusts Washington.”
Trump’s new bond with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan—”a tough guy who deserves respect” and “my friend” as Trump described him after Wednesday’s truce talks in Ankara, is also likely to have done little to reassure Israel.
Turkey, which has moved into northern Syria with some impunity has demonstrated that it is no friend of Israel. Erdogan, accusing Israel of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, has called it “a terrorist state.” Until now, it has been possible for Israel largely to ignore Turkey’s impact on the Middle East, and its efforts of rapprochement with both Russia and Iran. But that may no longer be possible. On Tuesday, Erdogan is planning to travel to the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The American withdrawal and Wednesday’s ceasefire can have few positive results for Israel, where Trump’s actions “have stirred discomfort within Netanyahu’s conservative cabinet,” according to Israeli media reports. Amos Harel, military correspondent for the liberal Haaretz daily, said Trump’s moves have “forced Israel to rethink its Middle East strategy.” After his session with Pompeo, Netanyahu was only somewhat more circumspect. “We hope things will turn out for the best,” he told reporters. Indeed, Netanyahu is facing a Wednesday deadline to cobble together a new coalition government after the recent national elections and has still not managed to do so.
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In short, any number of nations in the region are beginning a frantic reassessment of just what this new map of the Middle East promises—beyond the immediate prospects of a new round of chaos and destruction, with the United States on the sidelines. Somehow Washington must find a way to channel to players like Israel and Lebanon military aid and diplomatic reassurance that can help neutralize an increasingly dangerous situation.

Israel: Settlement Group Calls for Dividing Al-Aqsa between Jews, Muslims

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Settlement Group Calls for Dividing Al-Aqsa between Jews, Muslims

Thursday, 17 October, 2019 – 10:00
The Al Aqsa mosque compound and the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. Reuters
Tel Aviv – Asharq Al-Awsat
Extremist Jewish settler groups distributed a statement to Jewish worshipers coming to the Buraq Square, adjacent to the walls of Jerusalem surrounding the Al-Aqsa Mosque, calling on them not to just pray in this courtyard, which is considered sacred to Jews as it is near the Western Wall, but to flock into the Jerusalem Mosque’s squares to perform their prayers.

An organization called the “Temple Groups”, called for a gathering on Saturday in Al-Aqsa courtyards, to raise their demand to equally allocate prayer times for Jews and Muslims under the slogan of “equality and non-discrimination against Jews.”

A wave of settlers stormed the yards of Al-Aqsa Mosque on Tuesday, under strict security measures by the Israeli occupation forces. The raid came in response to calls by Jewish organizations to intensify “visits” to the place in celebration of the Jewish Throne Day.

According to the Islamic Waqf, the total number of Jewish settlers who entered Al-Aqsa on Wednesday reached 906, including 295 in the morning and 611 in the afternoon. Israeli occupation authorities also arrested the preacher of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Dr. Ismail Nawahda, and conducted a lengthy investigation with him, and then released him in the evening.

The number of settlers entering the mosque is expected to increase in the coming days. Israeli ministers and officials participated in some of these incursions, creating further tension with the Palestinians.

Israel: Netanyahu Unable To Form A Coalition Government Returns Mandate To Rivlin

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BLOOMBERG NEWS)

 

Netanyahu Will Return Mandate to Rivlin, Jerusalem Post Says

Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin NetanyahuPhotographer: Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will “return his mandate” to President Reuven Rivlin after being unable to form a government, according to a tweet by the Jerusalem Post’s chief political correspondent.

Gil Hoffman said in a post that he’ll make the move “barring a change of heart” by Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party on letting Netanyahu start as prime minister and bring allies with him into the coalition.

Gil Hoffman@Gil_Hoffman

Breaking: @netanyahu will return his mandate to form a government to @PresidentRuvi already tomorrow, barring a change of heart by @Kachollavan19 on letting Netanyahu start off as PM and bring allies with him into the coalition.

72 people are talking about this

Netanyahu was tapped last week to form Israel’s next government with no clear indication he’d be able to pull that off and end weeks of political stalemate.

The decision late Wednesday by President Reuven Rivlin to hand Netanyahu first crack at building a coalition in parliament granted the Israeli leader a political lifeline a week before he faces a crucial hearing on the corruption allegations that have clouded the last three years of his tenure.

Reuven Rivlin

Reuven Rivlin

Photographer: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Blue and White, which won the most seats in elections earlier this month, rejected demands from Netanyahu to form a unity government under his leadership with his right-wing and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies, according to the AP.

Gantz has not ruled out an alliance with Likud in but said he would not do so with Netanyahu facing indictment.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday tapped Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu


(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

Israel: Wounded Netanyahu in desperate battle for political survival after poll blow

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LONDON GUARDIAN)

 

Israel: Wounded Netanyahu in desperate battle for political survival after poll blow

Israel’s president to meet PM and opposition leader Benny Gantz in bid to resolve election stalemate
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and President Reuven Rivlin
 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and President Reuven Rivlin. Photograph: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP/Getty Images

Israel’s president is set to begin two days of consultations with political parties after a deadlocked election last week plunged the country into uncertainty over who will lead the next government.

Near-final results from Tuesday’s poll showed the opposition chief, Benny Gantz, marginally ahead of the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, with his Blue and White party taking 33 seats out of parliament’s 120. The ruling Likud party has 31.

Critically, neither side appeared able to forge a majority government, even with support from allies in smaller parties.

On Sunday afternoon President Reuven Rivlin will meet both leaders in an attempt to break the stalemate or face the possibility of a potential third round of elections in less than a year. Rivlin holds a largely ceremonial post but is also responsible for choosing the candidate he believes has the best chance of forming a government. Usually, the decision is clear, and often goes to the leader of the largest party, but the muddied result has created an impasse.

Despite being Israel’s longest-serving leader and having a reputation for political sorcery, Netanyahu is fighting a tough battle. On Thursday he acknowledged his plan had failed. “During the elections, I called for the establishment of a rightwing government,” Netanyahu said in a video message. “But unfortunately the election results show that this is not possible.”

After leading the country for 10 consecutive years, Israeli media has questioned whether his era was over. His biographer, Anshel Pfeffer, wrote that, while he may still cling on, “the Netanyahu magic has been broken”.

Fearing defeat, the prime minister has called for his opponent to join him in a unity government, hinting that he might be willing to accept a power-sharing arrangement with Gantz. There is a precedent in Israel for political rivals to serve together after Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres rotated the role of prime minister in the mid-1980s. However, Gantz, a former military chief, swiftly rejected Netanyahu’s offer and said he should lead because his alliance won the most seats. “We will not be dictated to,” he warned.

Israel has held two elections in five months after Netanyahu failed to cobble together a coalition following a similar result in April. Rather than give the opposition a chance to do so, he instead pushed to dissolve the Knesset, triggering repeat elections and giving himself another opportunity.

The gamble has left him in an apparently worse position and the stakes are much higher. In two weeks’ time he will face pre-trial hearings for three corruption cases against him. A majority in the Knesset could give Netanyahu – who denies any wrongdoing – immunity from prosecution.

Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the Israeli secular nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party
Pinterest
 Avigdor Lieberman, whose party took eight seats, could emerge as kingmaker. Photograph: Jalaa Marey/AFP/Getty Images

At the centre of the impasse, and the man with the key to ending it, is Israel’s apparent kingmaker – the far-right ultra-nationalist Avigdor Lieberman. The staunch secularist took eight seats, but his refusal to join a government with Jewish religious groups has added further blocks.

Politicians from an alliance of the country’s minority Arab population could also play a role, after they became the third-largest bloc in the Knesset. Ayman Odeh, the head of the group, has said that he may back Gantz, but even that would not give the opposition figure a majority.

If Sunday’s talks prove fruitless, Rivlin’s office said he might invite Netanyahu and Gantz back for more consultations. The president is obliged by law to choose a candidate by 2 October, who will then have up to six weeks to form a government. If that person fails, the president can task another, but the process could break down and force the holding of a third election.

Rivlin has said he will do everything in his power to avoid such a costly scenario that would paralyse Israeli politics right into 2020. Yet some say it looks increasingly likely.

“These are early days indeed to try to make sense of what government may emerge from the migraine-inducing complexity of Israel’s elections,” wrote David Horovitz, founding editor of the Times of Israel. “But the outcome everybody professes to want to avoid is already starting to loom in the distance.

“If Netanyahu sees it as his last hope, and Gantz thinks he’ll emerge from it stronger, we may yet have to go through this all again.”

German theologian says Israel is part of the holocaust — Tapfer im Nirgendwo

“Western Christianity’s guilt-ridden anti-Judaism and Western anti-Semitism resulted in two catastrophes,” explains Protestant theologian, Ulrich Duchrow. One catastrophe is the murder of six million Jews. So, what was the other catastrophe? The theologian is very specific: “The silence of the West concerning Israel’s efforts, made possible through the United Nations (UN), to divide up Palestine”. […]

via German theologian says Israel is part of the holocaust — Tapfer im Nirgendwo

Russian Envoy Insists on Forming Syria’s Constitutional Committee in September

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Russian Envoy Insists on Forming Syria’s Constitutional Committee in September

Wednesday, 11 September, 2019 – 11:30
Syrian refugee women stand in front of their homes at Azraq refugee camp, near Al Azraq city, Jordan (File photo: Reuters)
Moscow – Raed Jabr
Moscow hopes the formation of the Syrian Constitutional Committee will be completed by the end of September, announced Mikhail Bogdanov, the Russian president’s special envoy for the Middle East and African countries and Deputy Foreign Minister.

Bogdanov said that Moscow discussed with a number of foreign ministers, including the Turkish FM, the committee’s formation.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed confidence that forming the committee will be completed soon, noting that the disagreements were on a “name or two” in the third list that the UN should have submitted.

Lavrov noted that Russia was surprised that the formation of the 150-member committee would be disrupted because of differences on one or two names.

Meanwhile, Moscow announced that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will arrive in Sochi on Thursday to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Last week, Kremlin Aide Yuri Ushakov said Netanyahu’s visit to Russia could take place very soon. The visit is most likely to be held in Sochi, he said.

Russian and Israeli media sources agreed that the discussions will address security coordination in Syria, especially against the backdrop of warnings recently reported by Russian media, regarding Israel’s failure to comply with previous understandings in informing Moscow of the details of military operations in Syrian airspace.

Netanyahu affirmed that he intends to discuss the Iranian presence in Syria, an issue present on the agenda of all Russian-Israeli meetings.

Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry denied reports that Russian aircraft violated the ceasefire by attacking the Idlib de-escalation zone.

“Since the beginning of the cessation of fire regime on August 31 in the Idlib de-escalation zone, Russian Aerospace Forces and Syrian Air Force aircraft have not performed any combat missions to hit targets on the ground,” the Ministry said.

The statement comes after Reuters citing several sources that Russian planes had carried out two raids in the strategic Jabal al-Akrad mountain range near the western Latakia coast.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex a massive part of the West Bank, explained

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF VOX.COM)

 

Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex a massive part of the West Bank, explained

Israel’s prime minister wants to seize the Jordan Valley — a move that would bury the two-state solution for good.

Netanyahu Pledges To Annex Jordan Valley In Occupied West Bank If Re-Elected
Benjamin Netanyahu announces plan to annex the Jordan Valley.
 Amir Levy/Getty Images

In a high-profile speech on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to annex a part of the West Bank called the Jordan Valley if he wins Israel’s upcoming election on September 17.

“If I am elected I commit to annex the Jordan Valley. It is our eastern border, our defense wall,” the prime minister vowed. “Give me the mandate. No previous Israeli prime minister has proposed doing so.”

The annexation is billed as a security measure, an essential move for Israeli to protect its heartland. In practice, though, it would mean seizing land that’s vital to any future Palestinian state’s success — effectively dismantling the peace process. It’s a truly radical pronouncement, a blaring statement that this Israeli government has no interest in a serious negotiated peace with the Palestinians.

Annexation is not inevitable. Netanyahu might lose the election, or he might end up with a parliamentary coalition that would block his move. The speech was clearly designed to shore up Netanyahu’s support in the upcoming elections (particularly with right-wing voters).

But just because the promise is campaign rhetoric doesn’t mean it’s empty. Experts warn that the very act of putting annexation on the table will shift Israeli politics even further to the right, potentially scuppering the peace process for good.

“Instead of a conversation on whether annexation is smart or stupid, bad for Israel or good for Israel, everyone across the Israeli political spectrum will accept this new baseline and annexation becomes normal,” writes Michael Koplow, policy director at the center-left Israel Policy Forum. “As it is, the gap between Israel and the Palestinians is wide and widening by the day. This makes that gap unbridgeable if it becomes the new Israeli baseline position.”

Why annexation is so scary for the peace process

The Jordan Valley runs along the east edge of the West Bank, the heavily Palestinian-populated area taken by Israel in the 1967 war, marking its boundary with neighboring Jordan. It contains both Palestinian population centers, like the city of Jericho, and a number of Israeli settlements.

Netanyahu claimed in his speech that he would not be “annexing even one Palestinian.” To do that, he exempted Jericho and nearby Palestinian villages from the annexation proposal, opting instead to encircle them (the red blob in the map below) with newly taken Israeli land (the much bigger blue chunk):

Raphael Ahren

@RaphaelAhren

Here’s the map of the territory of the Jordan Valley, in the West Bank, that Netanyahu vowed to annex if he wins next week’s election (blue: will be annexed to Israel; orange: will remain under Palestinian control)

View image on Twitter
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The most credible argument for Israel formally seizing control of this land is essentially strategic. Israel has faced invasions from Jordan before, and an IDF military presence in the Jordan Valley is arguably vital to protecting Israel from another hypothetical invasion in the future.

However, there is no imminent risk of such an invasion to justify an immediate land grab. And there are lots of arrangements by which Israel could protect legitimate security interests in the Jordan Valley without outright seizing the land. It could station some troops there with permission from a Palestinian state, for example.

Annexing the Jordan Valley at this particular moment is not a response to an urgent security threat. Rather, it a dagger blow to the idea of a two-state solution, amounting to a declaration that Israel is not interested in creating a Palestinian state but rather simply taking the land that it wants for itself.

“Annexation — taking land while continuing to subjugate the Palestinians on that land — is apartheid and should face the same consequences,” says Diana Buttu, a Ramallah-based political analyst and former adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

This unilateral land grab of a huge chunk of the West Bank would shrink the remaining Palestinian territory to such an extent that most observers believe it would render the very idea of a two-state solution impossible.

“Netanyahu is proposing annexing essentially a third of the West Bank,” writes Raf Sanchez, a Middle East correspondent at the UK’s Telegraph newspaper. “Very hard to see how anyone can say a Palestinian state is still possible if that happens.”

If that’s the case, then Netanyahu’s land grab would force Israel down one of two dangerous one-state paths.

One option would be giving the vote to Palestinians and making them full citizens of Israel, leading to an Arab demographic majority and thus ending Israel’s status as a Jewish state. This is not only a recipe for violence between Muslims and Jews but also unacceptable to the currently ascendant Israeli political right, of which Netanyahu is very much a part. The other option is indefinite Israeli rule over Palestinians without granting them citizenship. There’s a word for keeping an ethnically defined part of your population in permanent second-class citizenship: apartheid.

Annexation isn’t happening tomorrow. But this speech is still really scary.

Before we go down the doomsday road, though, it’s worth noting that annexation is not happening tomorrow — and may not be happening at all.

The polling for the September 17 election is ambiguous. The leading opposition party, centrist Blue and White, is polling ever so slightly ahead of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud, but neither party is projected to come close to a parliamentary majority. Whoever comes out ahead will depend on a coalition agreement with a group of smaller parties, and it’s not at all clear what the most likely coalition will be come next week. It’s possible Netanyahu is out of a job or stuck with some kind of coalition that won’t let him pursue annexation.

What’s more, Netanyahu is currently battling indictment on corruption charges. The amount of attention and energy this fight will consume might, according to some Israeli observers, make it impossible for him to actually take the radical step he just proposed.

“If Netanyahu wins next Tuesday, and that’s a big ‘if,’ he will be spending all his time trying to tailor his immunity from prosecution. Not annexing the Jordan Valley,” writes Anshel Pfeffer, a columnist at Israel’s left-wing Ha’aretz newspaper. “If Netanyahu’s statement proves anything, it’s his contempt for his own right-wing voters’ intelligence. They are expected to believe that after all this time, the ‘historic opportunity’ to annex the Jordan Valley is suddenly just a week before the election.”

But just because annexation may not be imminent doesn’t mean the talk of it isn’t dangerous.

The basic concern here is that Netanyahu is changing the terms of Israeli politics. If he proposes it and gets even tacit permission from the Trump administration — which has yet to condemn the proposal — then expectations of what Israel can get from the Palestinians will be profoundly reset.

“What happens now is that Bibi says he will take a step that is important to Israeli security, probably get Trump administration backing, get most Israeli parties to support — or at least not to oppose — it,” writes Koplow. “This is precisely how the fundamental window on this shifts.”

If this comes to pass, then annexation is likely to happen one way or another. And if it does, the peace process will be well and truly dead.

“Yes you can argue that it’s an electoral ploy,” writes Brent Sasley, an expert on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process at the University of Texas at Arlington. “But he’s been moving the goalposts of annexation every year and an outright public commitment to it is a major step forward.”

Saudi’s: Pressure on Netanyahu to Expand Hebron Settlement

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Pressure on Netanyahu to Expand Hebron Settlement

Wednesday, 4 September, 2019 – 11:45
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on as he arrives to review an honor guard with his Ethiopian counterpart Abiy Ahmed during their meeting in Jerusalem September 1, 2019. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
Tel Aviv – Ramallah- Nazir Magally and Asharq Al-Awsat
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing pressure by settlers to announce an expansion of the Jewish settlement in Hebron, political sources have revealed.

The Palestinian Authority warned of an expected visit by Netanyahu to Hebron, describing this visit as a “colonial” move.

The sources said that Netanyahu is likely to yield to pressure despite the international criticism and strong Palestinian condemnation he would be subjected to.

Netanyahu’s planned visit is “racial and colonial,” the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said, noting that it comes at a time he is seeking to secure more votes from the right-wing.

It pointed out that the visit comes also in line with “Israeli plans to Judaize the old city of Hebron, including the Ibrahimi Mosque.”

The Ministry further deplored policies on settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories, along with the crimes of destroying houses, mosques and institutions.

It also warned of the risks and consequences of the Israeli PM’s visit, especially after the occupation authorities took discriminatory measures against the residents of Tel Rumeida, the Old City and its vicinity in preparation for the visit.

The Ministry called on the international community and international organizations to “assume legal and moral responsibility towards the suffering of the Palestinian people in Hebron.”

Hebron was a prosperous commercial city, until a settler doctor carried out a massacre in 1994 when he entered the Ibrahimi Mosque during fajr prayers and shot the worshipers, killing 29 Palestinians, while the Israeli army killed 20 others.

Yitzhak Rabin’s government was offered the chance to evict settlers from Hebron, but he failed to do so and he protected them militarily with a fence, which was later used to tighten the noose on the city mainly under Netanyahu’s rule.

In first, UN panel calls on Palestinians to halt hate speech against Israelis

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

In first, UN panel calls on Palestinians to halt hate speech against Israelis

United Nations anti-racism committee urges ‘State of Palestine’ to combat anti-Semitism, end incitement and better protect journalists, dissidents

File: The 73rd United Nations General Assembly on September 29, 2018, at the United Nations in New York. (AFP/Don Emmert)

File: The 73rd United Nations General Assembly on September 29, 2018, at the United Nations in New York. (AFP/Don Emmert)

The United Nation’s anti-racism committee criticized Palestinian authorities in a Thursday report, calling on the “State of Palestine” to act against “racist hate speech and hate crimes,” including incitement to violence against Israelis and Jews.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in a report on the Palestinians said it was concerned about “hate speech in certain media outlets, especially those controlled by Hamas, social media, public officials’ statements and school curricula and textbooks, which fuels hatred and may incite violence, particularly hate speech against Israelis, which at times also fuels antisemitism.”

The report marked the first time the panel had criticized Palestinian officials, according to UN Watch, a Geneva-based organization that addressed the session leading to the report.

The committee called on Ramallah to better protect journalists, human rights activists and political dissidents; to act against incitement to violence by public figures, politicians and media officials; and to remove inflammatory and discriminatory images and text from school curricula and textbooks.

An image of a girl smiling as “heretics” are burned in a Palestinian textbook. (IMPACT-se)

The panel also recommended that Palestinian officials ensure that minorities enjoyed full rights and public services, especially Bedouins, and that minorities found adequate representation in politics.

Near the top of the report, titled “Concluding observations on the combined initial and second periodic reports of the State of Palestine,” the committee said that Israel’s presence in the West Bank, its settlements and its blockade of Gaza posed “severe challenges for the State party in fully implementing its obligations under the Convention.”

At the committee’s 99th session, held earlier this month, during a review of the “State of Palestine,” some delegates referred to examples of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish content in Palestinian textbooks and state-owned media outlets.

“What happened this week was unprecedented,” Hillel Neuer, the executive director of UN Watch, said after the session. “Since 1974 when Yasser Arafat and the PLO were welcomed into the United Nations, this is the first time that the world body’s spotlight was officially placed on Palestinian racism, discrimination and anti-Semitism.”

One member of the committee, Brazil’s Deputy Special Secretary for Human Rights, Silvio Albuquerque, asked the Palestinian representatives about “the presence of anti-Semitic and discriminatory contents in textbooks used by children and teenagers in Palestinian schools,” according to a press released issued by NGO Monitor, an Israel-based nonprofit.

Citing information he received from pro-Israel groups at the sidelines of the session, Albuquerque said he was shown “various examples of allegedly racist and anti-Semitic language, content and textbooks.”

Other committee members also asked the Palestinian delegation to respond to similar allegations. The Palestinian delegation, headed by Deputy Foreign Minister for Multilateral Affairs Ammar Hijazi, deflected critical questions, asserting Ramallah’s opposition to racial discrimination.

“The important point is that in the UN, the Palestinians are being forced to deal with their own anti-Semitism, including in their textbooks,” said NGO Monitor President Gerald Steinberg, an Israeli political science professor who addressed this week’s review session.

As opposed to the “usual procedures in the [UN] Human Rights Council,” he added, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination listened to the presentations of pro-Israel groups and used the arguments made to challenge the Palestinians. “This is a major precedent.”

The “State of Palestine” joined the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2004. But although states must file reports on their implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination one year after acceding, and then every two years, the Palestinians submitted their first report only in March 2019.

The 62-page document basically clears the Palestinians of any wrongdoing, while repeatedly accusing Israel of the worst offenses.

“The State of Palestine opposes racism and racial discrimination in all its forms,” it states. At the same time, it claims that leading decision-makers in the “occupation authority” — Israel — “incite racial discrimination and violence against Palestinians without being held to account for their words and deeds.”

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