How Israel obstructs COVID-19 care in East Jerusalem
Tamara Nassar, Electronic Intifada, Jul 23 2020

Palestinians and Israelis protest the imminent forcible displacement of a Palestinian family
from their home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem on Apr 3 2020.
Photo: Sharona Weiss/APA

The COVID-19 pandemic is not an equalizer. Rather, it has exposed systems of inequality in seemingly modern health-care systems and brought already worn-down ones to the brink of collapse. The case of occupied East Jerusalem is particularly revealing. The pandemic unmasked and exacerbated the horrors of Israeli military occupation in the city, according to a new report by the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, the UK-based charity Medical Aid for Palestinians and the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center. Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 and formally annexed it in 1980. Israel has specific obligations under international law to guarantee health and other basic services to Palestinians living under its military rule. Far from respecting its obligations, Israel’s systemic neglect and continuous violence in East Jerusalem became increasingly evident during the pandemic. Israel took a business as usual approach when it came to oppressing Palestinians. The Israeli authorities failed to set up COVID-19 testing facilities in a timely manner, failed to provide accurate and reliable data to track the spread of the virus, harassed and arrested Palestinian health activists, and hindered the procurement of essential equipment by hospitals. The report states:

Palestinians have become ill-equipped to deal with any public health crisis, let alone the outbreak of a pandemic such as COVID-19.

It took more than one month from the first confirmed coronavirus case in Israel for it to set up a testing facility in East Jerusalem. The drive-through facility was installed in the Jabal al-Mukabbir neighborhood, which lies outside Israel’s annexation wall, following legal pressure from Palestinian human rights groups. It was nearly two months later that Israel set up testing centers beyond the wall, and it was only done after Adalah, a human rights group, filed a petition with Israel’s high court. The delays in carrying out testing for Palestinians were discriminatory by nature as they “sharply contrast with the urgency and speed in reacting to the needs of the Israeli-Jewish population.” The “discriminatory” delays were arguably what “most powerfully articulates” Israel’s neglect in containment efforts. But delays were not the only problems. the report states:

Eligibility to be tested in these facilities is conditioned upon membership in a private Israeli health maintenance organization, which a significant portion of Palestinians lack.

Israel gives free health care to official Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, who account for only 40% of its population. When Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, it only counted Palestinians who were physically present in the city. Those who were abroad for any reason, including work and study, were not counted and they were “arbitrarily stripped of their residency rights in Jerusalem.” Until this day, Palestinians must prove that their “center of life” is in Jerusalem in order to live in the city where they were born.

Tracking the number of confirmed cases in East Jerusalem has been an inconsistent and unreliable process. Due to the nature of Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, Israel’s health ministry is the only body that has access to figures on Palestinians infected by the virus in the city. In the absence of disaggregated data, according to the report, three different bodies count the number of confirmed cases: Israel’s health ministry, the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem municipality and groups within the Jerusalem Alliance to Confront the Coronavirus Pandemic. This has created a disparity in numbers, and so neither the Palesitnian Authority’s health ministry nor the WHO has a clear outlook on the scale of the outbreak in East Jerusalem. The effects of Israel’s chronic neglect and weakening of Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem became evident during the pandemic. Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza depend on hospitals in East Jerusalem for care they cannot receive elsewhere. Three hospitals in East Jerusalem have been designated for coronavirus care: al-Makassed Hospital, Augusta Victoria Hospital and Saint Joseph Hospital. The report states:

The pandemic hit at a time when all of these hospitals were already facing exceptionally dire economic conditions and chronic underfunding.

In 2018, the Trump administration slashed more than $25m in approved aid for six hospitals in East Jerusalem. Combined, the three hospitals designated for COVID-19 care only have 22 ventilators and 62 beds for coronavirus patients. While Palestinians can seek medical treatment in Israeli hospitals, the report says:

The availability of Israeli hospitals also does not absolve the Israeli occupying authorities from responsibility for the deliberate weakening, de-development and systematic neglect of Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem.

Israeli forces persisted in their attacks on health activists during the pandemic. Israel systematically targeted and arrested activists distributing informative leaflets around the city, and detained Palestinians volunteering to disinfect public spaces, such as mosques. Israeli forces even raided a testing facility in the Silwan area, initially arguing that it was run by unlicensed doctors and then claiming the pretext of the closure was that the facility’s activities were overseen by the PA. In fact, the doctor administering the facility was licensed by Israel, he confirmed to the human rights groups who compiled the new report.

Regardless of the pretext, the very fact that Palestinians were forced to set up a testing center on their own, and the subsequent closure of the center by the occupying power, is a testament to Israel’s consistent failure to meet its obligations to uphold the rights to health and life of Palestinians without discrimination.

There are currently almost 12k confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the occupied West Bank. This includes more than 2.1k in East Jerusalem. There are 75 confirmed cases in the Gaza Strip. So far, 70 Palestinians have died of the disease. By denying basic health-care to Palestinians and worse, attacking their health-care facilities, Israel has made it inevitable that the death toll will rise.

Demagogs pushing against Biden confront ossified views
Michael F Brown, Electronic Intifada, Jul 23 2020

Joe Biden and his national security adviser Tony Blinken.
Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

On Jul 17, the AP finally called New York’s 16th congressional district primary in favor of Jamaal Bowman over long-time incumbent and staunch Israel supporter Eliot Engel. Bowman is overwhelmingly expected to win the general election in November.

Bowman, formerly a middle school principal, stands with Justice Demagogs and is a harbinger of change in the Demagog Party. He has been open about his support for Palestinian rights. His victory has put anti-Palestinian racists such as Newsweek op-ed editor Josh Hammer on notice.

Bowman, for his part, wrote recently of his concern for Palestinian rights, stating:

The uprising we’re witnessing across the country against police violence also makes me empathize with the everyday experience and fear that comes with living under occupation. Just as the police force is a violent intimidating force in so many Black communities, I can connect to what it feels like for Palestinians to feel the presence of the military in their daily lives in the West Bank.

The DNC’s platform drafting committee, however, does not share Bowman’s courage. Its first platform draft didn’t even note the Israeli occupation. The draft seen by The Electronic Intifada on Tuesday still omits that word. The entire platform can be seen here, including the final three paragraphs where Israeli and Palestinian concerns are raised. There’s a generational and racial chasm between Bowman, a Pindo-African previously subjected to police brutality, and Biden, some 30 years his senior. By comparison, Biden was instrumental in writing the 1994 crime law and so delighted in its becoming law that he boasted Demagogs were now for “60 new death penalties,” “70 enhanced penalties,” “100k cops” and “125k new state prison cells.” Biden is a career politician who has been in politics for decades and has provided military aid and excuses for Israel for nearly as long. He is also a white man with frequent words of praise for his experiences working with white segregationist leaders. But today Biden is leading a Demagog Party that is rapidly changing around him. He seems unwilling to keep up when it comes to holding Israel accountable for denying Palestinians their freedom and rights.

During a CODEPINK webinar on Tuesday, James Zogby, president of the Pindo-Arab Institute, expressed frustration at the Demagogs’ failure to employ the word occupation and to put limits on Israeli actions. Zogby worked on the 2016 platform and was a member of the executive committee of the DNC from 2001-2017. The draft supports a two-state solution and opposes Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank. Yet it refuses to take any concrete action against annexation by failing to touch the $3.8b in annual Pindo military aid to Israel. The draft document states:

Our commitment to Israel’s security, its qualitative military edge, its right to defend itself and the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding is ironclad.

It rejects the BDS movement save as a free speech right. In the words of the draft:

We oppose any effort to unfairly single out and delegitimize Israel, including at the UN or through the BDS Movement, while protecting the Constitutional right of our citizens to free speech.

The free speech protection is an improvement over the 2016 platform. Much like 2016, when Zogby and public intellectual Cornel West raised profound concerns about Israeli actions on behalf of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, this time it fell to Sanders’ senior adviser Josh Orton to voice objections. Biden and his platform accomplices are, for the most part, trying to drag the party backwards, or at least prevent a progressive plank from being passed. Orton noted:

The Israeli right wing, and unfortunately their Pindo supporters, have long sought to erase the occupation. We shouldn’t help them. And a growing and just movement within our party believes that Pindo aid should not be used to facilitate annexation and violate Palestinian rights. At a time when hundreds of thousands of Pindos have been marching in our streets for equality and civil rights, it is absolutely necessary for the Demagog Party to speak truthfully to the Palestinians’ efforts to secure those same rights.

Last week over 200 Demagog delegates pushed back with a letter voicing their concerns, saying:

We fully support efforts to withhold $3.8b in military aid to Israel as it unilaterally annexes the Israeli-occupied Jordan Valley.

That annexation has not yet occurred, but has been repeatedly threatened. Notably, they also urged support for the efforts of Congresswomen Pramila Jayapal, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and other members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who have written:

That theft is routine, as it is in Jerusalem, and is sure to continue whether or not annexation occurs. California DNC delegate Sam Hindi, who helped draft the letter, said:

We felt that some in the Demagog Party leadership have been out of step with Demagog voters on this issue for some time. With potential annexation looming, it is past time for the Party to reaffirm the position of Demagog voters and support human rights and self-determination for Palestinians.

Huwaida Arraf, a Pindo-Palestinian human rights attorney and a national delegate to the DNC, told The Electronic Intifada that “the language reflects an intent to continue uncritical support of Israel” as it refuses “to hold Israel accountable for its rampant human rights violations and abuses.” She noted it also opposes the “efforts of others to hold Israel accountable.” Demagog Majority for Israel has presented its own recent polling which flies in the face of Demagog trendlines and Hindi’s view by suggesting that Demagogs overwhelmingly support a strong pro-Israel platform. In fact, a staggering 81% of Demagogs and 70% of independents say if a two-state solution is not an option:

I favor Israel’s democracy more than its Jewishness. I support a single democratic state in which Arabs and Jews are equal even if that means Israel would no longer be a politically Jewish state.

Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development and Director of the Critical Issues Poll at the University of Maryland, also noted that in an Oct poll, 66% of Demagogs “back sanctions or stronger measures against Israeli settlements,” while in a March poll 81% of Demagogs agreed it’s “acceptable” or even the “duty” of Congress critturs to “question the Pindo-Israeli relationship.” But Biden’s Demagog Party is stuck in antiquated views of the rights of Palestinians. Tony Blinken, Biden’s foreign policy adviser, in May told a DMFI online audience:

Biden would not tie military assistance to Israel to any political decisions that it makes, period, full stop.

While over 500 Palestinian children, including four boys playing on a beach six years ago this month, were being killed during Israel’s 2014 military onslaught on Gaza, Blinken viewed the matter through the prism of Israeli military concerns, and continues to do so.

In Blinken’s view and Biden’s, Palestinians and Palestinian rights are very much a secondary consideration. They promote wording that “ensures Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state,” which by definition makes Palestinian citizens of Israel second-class citizens. Biden is willing to concede that annexation is a problem, but he’s unwilling to take meaningful measures against it. Likewise, he’s willing to concede that Pindo activists have a free speech right to pursue BDS, but he’s unprepared to recognize that Israel’s actions to destroy the two-state solution require moving on to a campaign for equal rights for all between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea. Biden and Blinken are living in the past and lack the courage to take meaningful actions in the present. If victorious against the vicious but inept Donald Trump in the midst of a raging pandemic that has overwhelmed the president and his incompetent subordinates in the White House, Demagogs should anticipate that Biden will reject unilateral Israeli actions in the West Bank (minus occupied East Jerusalem). But he can be expected to back the Israeli military vigorously in its subjugation of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. That means more pain and death for Palestinians subjected to the might of the Pindo-funded Israeli military. Trump’s actions on Jerusalem will not be reversed.

Finally, Biden will fight the BDS movement while demanding that Palestinians display an inexhaustible reserve of patience in the face of oppression, inequality and occupation. Sadly, confronting racism for the ascendent part of Biden’s Demagog Party is less a matter of justice and more a response to the power of constituents as a voting bloc. Biden is changing now on racial equity issues because it’s the surest route to the White House, not because he has a strong history on such matters. This does, however, suggest that grassroots Demagogs active on Palestine should fight him at every turn and pressure him to be responsive. He’s not going to do the right thing simply on merit. He might if grassroots realities force his hand. And as Zeina Ashrawi Hutchison, a human rights activist and a national delegate to the DNC, stressed to The Electronic Intifada:

The Biden campaign still has time before the convention and the November elections to show that they value Palestinian human rights substantively. The platform should include accountability for Israel and equality for both peoples. I look forward to seeing improvements reflected in the DNC platform and in Biden’s foreign policy.

Hutchison is right to hope and push for change. A political party that claims to be seized with racial justice issues can hardly be taken seriously if it refuses even to name an occupation. The Demagogs assert they oppose annexation of Palestinian territory, but what’s the use if they won’t go on record threatening to cut the military funding to the power already illegally settling the Jordan Valley and elsewhere?

Emirates firm strikes deal with Israeli arms giants
Tamara Nassar, Electronic Intifada, Jul 22 2020

Israel used weapons manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries
in its assaults on the Gaza Strip.

A UAE company reached an agreement with two of the biggest Israeli arms firms supposedly to cooperate on research to counter the coronavirus pandemic. Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence company Group 42 announced it has signed two agreements with state-owned weapons manufacturers Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. The spox of Israel’s foreign ministry Lior Haiat applauded the effort.

The deal between Group 42 and the Israeli firms was announced by Netanyahu and Emirati officials in June, but the companies were not named at that time. Details of the collaboration remain vague. Peng Xiao, CEO of Group 42, stated:

We are privileged to follow the lead and share our resources and expertise with Rafael and IAI for such a significant cause.

Both Israeli firms are leading suppliers of weapons used in Israel’s attacks on Palestinians. This includes Israel’s major offensive against Gaza in the summer of 2014, a subject of the ICC’s impending investigation into war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It is unclear how two weapons manufacturers implicated in war crimes could help fight the pandemic. The links between the Emirati firm and the country’s cyber-security industry paint a curious picture. According to by Bill Marczak, a senior researcher at the Canadian cyber-security organization Citizen Lab, Group 42 is linked to Dark Matter Group, a cyber-security company with close ties to the Emirati government. Dark Matter recruits veterans of Unit 8200, a high-tech spy branch of the Israeli military, seen as the Israeli equivalent of the Pindo NSA. Dark Matter has also previously employed former Pindo intelligence personnel. Xiao, the current CEO of Group 42, was previously the CEO of Pegasus LLC, a former subsidiary of DarkMatter. Pegasus LLC has been renamed to PAX AI and is now a division of Group 42.

The groups are linked to Tahnoun bin Mohammed al-Nahyan, the current National Security Adviser of the UAE and the son of the country’s founder, according to Marczak’s findings. Notably, Dark Matter recruited developers from Israeli spy firm NSO Group, luring them with big paychecks. The UAE used malware produced by NSO Group in attempts to spy on Qatari and Toad leaders in the past. The investigation by Marczak found that Group 42 was involved in creating the messaging app ToTok. Google and Apple removed ToTok from their stores last December amid concerns that the app’s users were vulnerable to monitoring of their messages and conversations by the UAE government. ToTok was popular in the Emirates because it served as a free alternative to global messaging apps FaceTime, WhatsApp and Skype, which are restricted by the government and do not allow calls.

The initial announcement of the Group 42 deal with the Israeli arms firms came just two weeks after the Emirati ambassador to Washington Yousef Al Otaiba warned that Israeli annexation of West Bank land would set back the normalization of ties. But that “warning” came laced with enticements and offers to Israel of further normalization. Informal relations between Israel and the UAE date back to the 1990s and include military and intelligencecooperation. Covert ties have been coming into the limelight in recent years. The UAE was set to host an Israeli delegation at its Expo 2020 event this year, but that has been postponed due to the pandemic. DarkMatter is supposed to oversee cybersecurity at the event. Despite seemingly critical protests from friendly regional governments against Israel’s annexation plans, so far Israel has seen no repercussions. Meanwhile, a Toad scholar published a paper in Kesher, a journal of the Shalom Rosenfeld Institute for Research of Jewish Media and Communication, at Tel Aviv University. Mohammed Ibrahim Alghbban, head of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and Hebrew Studies at King Saud University in Riyadh, published the article in Hebrew.

Tel Aviv University lauded this new sign of normalization between the two countries as “a historic moment for Israel-Toad relations.”

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