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Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
August 2023

The Washington Post (July 8, 2023) reported that, “The recent spate of settler  
attacks on Palestinian villages in the West Bank is deepening fissures in  
Israel’s right-wing government, with hardline ministers pushing back on calls by  
military and security chiefs for a crackdown on Jewish extremists.”  
“These attacks contradict every moral and Jewish value,” read a rare joint  
statement by Herzi Halevi, chief of staff for the Israel Defense Forces; Ronen  
Bar, director of the Israel Security Agency; and Yaakov Shabtai, the national  
police commission-er. “they constitute, in every way, nationalist terrorism, and  
we are obliged to fight them.”  
According to the Post, “The public feud highlights the potential instability of  
Netanyahu’s government, a coalition that owes its four-seat parliamentary  
majority to far-right nationalist parties…In March, Finance Minister Bezalel  
Smotrich, a settler leader who leads the Religious Zionist Party…defended a  
settler rampage through the West Bank town of Huwara, an attack characterized by  
an Israeli general as an attempted ‘pogrom.’ Smotrich said Israel should ‘wipe  
out’ the community. Smotrich gained additional authority last month when the  
cabinet voted to give him control of the Defense Ministry’s West Bank civil  
affairs division, in charge of settlement planning and construction.”  
Human rights monitors accused the Israeli military of standing by during some of  
the settler attacks on Palestinian civilians. According to the Post, “Amid the  
violence, Netanyahu angered governments in Washington and Europe by announcing  
the approval of 1,000 new housing units in Eli, which would double the size of  
the settlement….The State Department said it was ‘deeply troubled’ by the move as  
an impediment to peace.’”  
In his Sabbath message to Tzedek Chicago Congregation (July 8, 2023), Rabbi Brant  
Rosen declared: “Make no mistake: Israel’s assault on Jenin is about the ethnic  
cleansing of Palestinians in service of widespread Jewish settlement. We are  
witnessing nothing short of an ongoing Nakba—-the continuation of a story that  
began 75 years ago and shows no signs of stopping. We are witnessing the logical  
consequences of a colonial movement that seeks to establish a state on the backs  
of an-other people. If there is anything new it is that Israel has government  
leaders who are willing to say as much out loud when will we take them at their  
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman (July 12, 2023) warns that the Biden  
administration is reassessing its ties with the Netanyahu government amid growing  
American alarm over the actions of the far-right coalition. In Friedman’s view,  
the Israeli government is using the judicial overhaul push as a smokescreen “to  
engage in unprecedented radical behavior that is undermining our shared  
interests…and the shared fiction about the status of the West Bank that has kept  
peace hopes there just barely alive.” Friedman says there has been “a breakdown  
in shared values between the U.S. and Israel.” Israeli leaders cavalierly  
dismissing U.S. officials who criticize the growing extremism are, Friedman  
argues, showing that the idea of “shared values” may indeed be a myth. He  
describes Israeli policy in the West Bank as “some sort of apartheid.”  
Prior to the visit to Washington on July 18 of Israeli President Isaac Herzog,  
Rep. Pamila Jayapal (D-WA) said that Israel “is a racist state.” She walked back  
this comment after criticism from House Democratic leaders. But she declared, “I  
do not believe the idea of Israel as a nation is racist,” but added that Prime  
Minister Netanyahu’s “extreme right-wing government has engaged in discriminatory  
and outright racist policies.” A number of progressive Democrats boycotted the  
Israeli President’s address to Congress, as did Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.  
On July 18, the House overwhelmingly passed a resolution pledging unfailing  
support for Israel and declaring that the country is neither racist nor an  
apartheid state. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) challenged Democrats to  
punish critics of Israel.  
A report issued in July by Francesca Albanese, United Nations Special Rapporteur  
on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since  
1967, to the Human Rights Council, declared: “Israeli military occupation has  
morphed the entire occupied Palestinian territory into an open-air prison, where  
Palestinians are constantly confined, surveilled and disciplined.” **

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