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Sensing an opportunity, Israel targets UNRWA and the Palestinian right of return

Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the dismantling of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The call was unprecedented in terms of Israeli policy to date, and also marked an escalation in anti-UN rhetoric and steps by Israeli government officials.

Netanyahu, speaking at a weekly cabinet meeting, revealed that he had discussed the need to dismantle UNRWA with US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley: “I told her it was time the United Nations re-examine UNRWA’s existence”, he said. Read more

The peace process industry keeps the Israeli-Palestinian conflict running

At an April conference in Washington DC held by the Middle East Policy Council, University of Pennsylvania-based political scientist Professor Ian Lustick had some strong criticism for what he described as “the continuous merry-go-round of American-orchestrated negotiations”.

After analysing the interests and roles played by, respectively, the Israeli government, the US government, and the Palestinian Authority, Lustick turned his attention to a “fourth player” – what he called “the peace process industry”. Read more

Demographics and Democrats: Brand Israel’s big problems ahead

When David Friedman was sworn in two weeks ago as US ambassador to Israel, all went smoothly. The afternoon event was a straightforward affair; children and grandchildren were in attendance, and US Vice President Mike Pence hailed the bankruptcy lawyer as “literally … born for this job”.

But the bonhomie and ceremonial formalities could not mask the fact that this had been no ordinary nomination or ambassadorial appointment. In fact, Friedman’s Senate confirmation hearing was both an unprecedented affair and a microcosm of trends that spell big trouble for “brand Israel”. Read more

Fact-checking Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev

Israel’s Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, places a premium on speaking at university campuses. The context? Israel’s uphill struggle to assuage a growing sense of frustration and anger at a Benjamin Netanyahu-led government seen as a serial violator of international law and human rights.

In October, Regev addressed Cambridge University students at its famous Debating Union. The event was recently uploaded onto YouTube, and of particular interest is the Q&A (beginning 27 minutes in). The questions are predominantly critical, or sceptical, and Regev has to shoot from the hip.

So here are three claims that the Israeli ambassador made in response to students’ questions – and an analysis of their accuracy. Read more

Israel’s false narrative on land swaps

When Israeli opposition leader and Labour Party chairman Isaac Herzog published a plan for kick-starting the peace process last month, one of his stated goals was to “save the settlement blocs” – areas of the West Bank where Israel has built clusters of settlements, including larger towns.

Settlement blocs are often referred to by politicians and pundits alike, but there is no common understanding about precisely what the term means. Read more

UN report: Israel has established an ‘apartheid regime’

Update (17/3//17): since this article was first published, ESCWA has been forced to remove the report from its website. It can be viewed/downloaded here: UN ESCWA Israel Apartheid Report

A new United Nations report accuses Israel of having established “an apartheid regime that oppresses and dominates the Palestinian people as a whole”.

The publication comes amid renewed debate about whether, through its settlement policy and rejection of Palestinian self-determination, the Israeli government is creating – or even has already created – a de facto “one-state”, which critics warn would constitute a form of apartheid. Read more

Israeli Apartheid Week: How campus activism is being shut down by false charges of ‘anti-Semitism’

Earlier this week, the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) cancelled an event planned as part of “Israeli Apartheid Week”, on the grounds that it “contravenes” a controversial definition of anti-Semitism recently endorsed by the UK government.

The panel event, “Debunking misconceptions on Palestine and the importance of BDS”, was organised by the UCLan Friends of Palestine society. I was one of the speakers scheduled to speak.

There are three particularly disturbing aspects to this decision by the UCLan authorities. Read more

Trump and Palestine – so what now?

Before Donald Trump’s inauguration, it was a safe bet to assume that his administration’s approach to Israel and the Palestinians would either be one of relative neglect, or serve as a boost to the far-right Israeli nationalists who seek annexation of all or parts of the West Bank.

Either, of course, would spell trouble for the Palestinians. So far, and particularly after Trump’s meeting this week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it would appear to be a combination of the two. Read more

Israeli torture of Palestinian children ‘institutional’

A recent article published by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz has confirmed the extent to which Shin Bet interrogators subject their prisoners to torture.

Methods include slapping the head “to hurt sensitive organs like the nose, ears, brow and lips”, forcing a handcuffed individual to squat against a wall for long periods of time, and placing the suspect bent backwards over a chair with his arms and legs cuffed. Read more

News agencies still whitewashing Israeli forces’ lethal violence

Many media outlets are continuing to repeat important mistakes when it comes to covering the killing of Palestinians by Israeli forces, errors that result in a whitewashing of the routine violence of Israel’s occupation, and ultimately, biased coverage.

When I wrote about this issue last year (see here, here, and here), I focused on the output of news agencies like Reuters and The Associated Press (AP), on the basis that their reports go global, and that their coverage – perhaps more than other outlets – is perceived as objective (or striving to be).

Unfortunately, the flaws that have characterised the reporting of events since autumn 2015 have persisted into 2017 – as the following examples demonstrate. Read more