Israel-Palestine News Update: 16th April 2021

Hello and welcome to this edition of the SNS Israel-Palestine News Update! We’re always striving to improve our resources to ensure that you’re getting the most out of them so you might notice that things look a little bit different this week. We’d love to hear your feedback on the new design so if you have any suggestions or comments then please do get in touch by emailing
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The SNS Team

The main story this week: 
Israel comes together in remembrance

People in Jerusalem stand to observe a minute of silence on Memorial Day. Credit: Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

What happened?

At 8pm on Tuesday evening, accompanied by the sounds of sirens echoing out across the nation, Israelis came together in a minute’s silence to mark the beginning of Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s day of memorial for those who’ve lost their lives serving their country. As is customary after the first siren sounds, Israel entered into a 24-hour period of remembrance where all places of public entertainment are closed and television and radio stations only broadcast memorial programs and tributes to fallen soldiers. On Wednesday, bereaved families visited cemeteries to honour those they had lost, and memorial ceremonies were held across the country throughout the day. As the sun set on Wednesday evening and Memorial Day came to a close, the mood shifted from one of sombre reflection to an atmosphere of celebration as Israel transitioned into commemorating its 73rd Independence Day.

Why is it important?

Both Memorial Day and Independence Day are incredibly important events for Israelis and it’s highly significant that they are observed together. Many thousands of Israelis were killed in the struggle to establish Israel in 1948 and many thousands more have died from conflict since. This year, the country mourns the total loss of 23,928 soldiers and another 3,100 civilians who have been killed in militant attacks. According to the Israeli Defence Ministry, 43 soldiers and civilians have been killed since the last Memorial Day.
For Israelis, then, the observation of Memorial Day prior to Independence Day serves as a reminder of the sacrifice that so many people have made to ensure the continued existence of an independent state for Jewish people. The knowledge of this sacrifice, along with the grief that accompanies losing so many, is a deeply felt part of the national consciousness and most, if not all Israelis, will have some kind of personal experience of the trauma that has accompanied the Jewish struggle for a homeland. The Israeli author David Grossman has written a powerful piece in Haaretz this week about the loss of his own son, reflecting on how so many families have to endure the pain of this grief and this trauma every day.

What to watch

The tragic news that an IDF soldier who had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder had set fire to himself on the eve of Memorial Day has given this year's observances an even greater poignancy. The soldier, 26-year-old Itzik Saidian who is a veteran of the 2014 Gaza War, is currently in hospital in critical condition after he self-immolated in front of a Defense Minsitry rehabilitation clinic. This has sparked a major conversation about whether the government gives enough support to its veterans and there have been demonstrations held by other veterans against the Defense Ministry since. 
What's the media saying?
Each week we provide you with reporting on our main headline from an international, Hebrew and Arab source to help you get the full story. As you read each source you should consider if there is anything about the language, the way the story is presented, or who the story is coming from that suggests a bias or an interest in persuading you to think about the story in a particular way. 
Times of Israel: Israel comes to a standstill to remember 23,928 fallen
  • Israelis paid tribute to the country’s 23,928 fallen soldiers and terror victims starting on Tuesday evening, bowing their heads for a minute of silence as sirens sounded around the country to mark the start of Memorial Day. The one-minute siren at 8 p.m. was immediately followed by the state ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. On Tuesday night, additional public memorials will be held, including at Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park and in the Knesset in Jerusalem.| Read more

ABC News: On Memorial Day, Israel mourns, reflects on vets' trauma
  • Israel marked its national Memorial Day for fallen soldiers on Wednesday, in a year when national attention has been focused on the plight of veterans suffering from psychological trauma. Memorial Day is the most solemn day on Israel's national calendar. Bereaved families visit cemeteries and attend memorial ceremonies, and television and radio shift programming to somber music, broadcasts of memorials services and documentaries about slain soldiers. | Read more

Albawaba: Israel Shuts Off West Bank, Gaza For Three Days
  • Israel will seal off the occupied Palestinian territories for three days as of Tuesday, according to the Israeli military on Sunday. A military statement said the measure includes a complete lockdown of the West Bank and the closure of crossing points with the Gaza Strip. [...] The lockdown comes as Israel marks its Memorial Day, which is observed for all military personnel killed during Israeli military operations. | Read more
SNS Partners Update -
The 16th Joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day
Since 2006, two of our partners in the region, Combatants for Peace and the Parent’s Circle, have collaborated with one another to hold a joint memorial ceremony for both Israelis and Palestinians.  This year’s ceremony (which was conducted online due to the coronavirus restrictions) was held on Tuesday evening and featured moving speeches made by bereaved Israelis and Palestinians, as well as a video message from the actor Richard Gere. According to the Parent’s Circle, the purpose of the ceremony is to “sow the seeds of hope among the two sides, and to bring to an end wars that have taken the lives of our cherished loved oneswith the choice to hold it on Israel’s Memorial Day a way to “relay a message to both sides, calling them to recognize the joint pain and hope, and to try and prevent the next victims from this fate.”
If you’d like to watch the ceremony you then just click this link here to go to the Combatants for Peace Facebook page.

Recommended Reading

Palestinian boy, 14, loses eye after being hit by Israeli rubber bullet | Akram al-Waara, Middle East Eye
It was a typical Friday afternoon for 14-year-old Izz al-Din al-Batsh. Friday prayers were finished and he was done with his homework for the weekend. As he normally did on non-school days, he left his home in the Old City of Hebron, an occupied city in the southern West Bank, and made his way to the vegetable shop where he worked with his cousin Karim. | Read more
Outgoing IDF liaison: PA’s Abbas a partner, we should have behaved differently | Times of Israel
Israel’s outgoing military liaison to the Palestinians said Sunday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has worked well with Israel and should have been treated differently. Abbas “is a partner. He has proven himself over a period of time that he is against violence,” Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories head Kamil Abu Rukun said in an interview with Kan news. | Read more
Palestine condemns Boris Johnson for opposing ICC Israel investigation | Oliver Holmes, The Guardian
Palestine has said relations with Britain have reached a “low point” after Boris Johnson announced that he opposed an international criminal court investigation into alleged war crimes in the Israeli-occupied territories. The prime minister’s comments, made in a letter to the Conservative Friends of Israel lobby group in the UK, said that while his government had “respect [for] the independence” of the court, it opposed this particular inquiry into Israel. | Read more
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