Background on violence by settlers

Published: 
1 Jan 2011
Updated: 
3 Jun 2012

Image from video footage. Photo: Muna a-Nawaj’ah, a volunteer in B’Tselem’s camera project.

Israeli civilians have perpetrated various forms of violence against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, damaging their lands, their persons and their property. In recent years, settlers have carried out violent acts under the slogan “price tag.” These are acts of violence aimed at the Palestinian population and Israeli security forces. They generally follow actions by Israeli authorities that are perceived as harming the settlement enterprise, or follow Palestinian violence against settlers. B'Tselem has documented many such acts including the blocking of roads, throwing stones at cars and houses, making incursions into Palestinian villages and land, torching fields, uprooting trees, and other damage to property.

The term "price tag," was coined by settlers and they explained its meaning in media interviews. For example, on 24 July 2008, after Israeli security forces removed a bus that had been placed in the Adey Ad outpost, the head of the settlers' struggle headquarters in Yitzhar was quoted in Ha'aretz as saying, "the police have to understand that there will be a very high price tag for any incident of this kind." He described the harm to Palestinians as "a display of good citizenship that was intended to help the police enforce the planning and building laws in the area on Palestinians." On 15 Nov. 2008, after the Federman Farm outpost was evacuated, Eliezer Melamed, the rabbi of the Har Bracha settlement, was quoted on the NRG website as saying, "the price tag policy appears to be very effective and the security establishment is doing everything it can to break it."

Security forces do not always deploy in advance to protect Palestinians from settler violence, even when such violence could be anticipated. On the “day of rage” declared by settlers on 3 March 2011, a large contingent of security forces was deployed to prevent acts of violence. However, in other cases, such as following the demolition of structures in the Migron outpost, on 5 September 2011, security forces did not prevent violence as was required of them. B'Tselem documented ten incidents during the week after the demolition, in which settlers had damaged Palestinian property, including the torching of a mosque in the village of Qusra and the spraying of offensive graffiti on the walls of two other mosques.

In some cases, rather than restricting violent settlers, Israeli security forces impose restrictions on the Palestinians. In April 2011, for example, settlers threw stones at Palestinian vehicles on Route 60 after Palestinian policemen killed Ben Yosef Livnat at Joseph’s Tomb, in Nablus. In response, the military forbade Palestinians from traveling on the section of the road between the Huwara intersection and Jit.

As the occupying power in the West Bank, Israel is obligated to maintain public order and ensure the safety of the Palestinians in the West Bank, who are classified a protected population in international law . In a ruling regarding the ability of the security forces to enable the olive harvest to be carried out undisturbed, the Supreme Court ruled that "protecting the security and property of the local residents is one of the most basic obligations placed upon the military commander in the field." The judges added that the defense establishment must "give clear, unequivocal instructions to the forces that are deployed in the field" and must also "allocate forces to protect the property of the Palestinian residents" (HCJ 9593/04 Murar et al. v. IDF Commander for Judea and Samaria et al.).