In August 2020, settlers attacked homes and property in ‘Asirah al-Qibliyah several times, escorted by soldiers who did nothing to protect the Palestinians. Residents of the village, surrounded by settlements, have been suffering from repeated settler assaults for years. Among many occurring throughout the West Bank, these attacks form part of an established Israeli policy that does not deem settler violence against Palestinians as criminal or illegitimate acts. Instead, Israel gives settlers near-full backing, as they serve its purposes.
State-backed settler violence against Palestinians has become a routine part of the occupation. In two cases documented in March and April, settlers not only harmed Palestinians and their property but claimed the victims had been the ones to attack them. Settlers are backed by the military and receive nearly automatic impunity, while Palestinians are guilty until proven innocent. If a settler files a report against a Palestinian, the latter is immediately arrested and given high bail for conditional release – even when there is no evidence.
Since the start of the corona crisis, Israeli settlers have ramped up attacks against Palestinians throughout the West Bank, with full state backing. The attacks have increased despite the movement restrictions, lockdowns and social distancing measures introduced to battle the pandemic. During the first three weeks of this month (through 22 April), B’Tselem documented 23 settler attacks against Palestinians. In all of March, 23 incidents were documented, 11 of them after the severe restrictions on movement and social gatherings were imposed (mid-March).
While millions of people in Israel and the West Bank are under lockdown, state-backed settler violence continues unabated. Settlers are attacking Palestinian shepherds in pastureland and entering villages, attacking residents and destroying their property. Despite the coronavirus crisis, the escalated violence has continued in recent weeks. On 7 March 2020, neighboring villages Burin and Madama, which suffer frequent attacks, were both attacked within one hour.
Blocking roads, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at cars and homes, raiding villages by night, torching houses and fields, uprooting trees, damaging property, physically assaulting and shooting: settler violence against Palestinians has long since become routine, meant to drive Palestinians out of their land and make it clear who is in charge – fully backed by the state. To convey the frequency and severity of these incidents, we decided to start a new blog on B’Tselem’s website, with monthly updates giving voice to people exposed to these acts of violence.
The dispossession and violence that mark Israel’s policy in the West Bank peak during the olive harvest. This major sector of the Palestinian economy, once a celebration of farming and connection to the land, has for years been overshadowed by violence against Palestinian families, damage to trees and theft of olives. This interactive map details incidents of assault, theft, vandalism, threats and holdups involving soldiers and settlers in villages near Ramallah, Nablus, Tulkarm, Qalqiliya and Salfit documented from Sept. to Nov. 2019.
Residents of the souther Hebron neighborhood of al-Harika have suffered incessant soldier and military-backed settler harassment ever since the settlement of Kiryat Arba was built next door in 1972. In five months this year, we documented five such attacks. These and other cases previously documented by B'Tselem illustrate how fragile, exposed and unpredictable life is in the neighborhood. The intolerable living conditions created by Israel’s policy drive Palestinians to abandon homes and businesses in the neighborhood.
A new B’Tselem report released today, Playing the Security Card: Israeli Policy in Hebron as a Means to Effect Forcible Transfer of Local Palestinians, demonstrates how Israel has been using security excuses to implement a policy that has made life unbearable for the Palestinian residents of Hebron’s city center (the Old City), in an effort to drive them from their homes. This policy relies on the extreme regime of separation Israel has been implementing in the city for the past 25 years – ever since the massacre of Palestinians carried out by Baruch Goldstein – so as to enable a small number of settlers to live in the heart of a crowded Palestinian city. This policy violates the prohibition against forcible transfer, which constitutes a war crime.
In June 2019, settlers vandalized Palestinian property in at least 10 West Bank villages, burning some 1,800 trees and acres of grain fields, uprooting some 700 seedlings and damaging at least 55 cars. This army-backed violence is routine, part of state policy aimed at reducing Palestinian farming and gradually transferring abandoned areas to settlers. As part of this policy, crimes go uninvestigated and criminals are unlikely to be punished. Settlers are well aware of this fact, as are Palestinians who remain defenseless.
On Fri. 10 May, Israeli soldiers detained two brothers - Muhammad (17) and ‘Awni (20) Abu Shamsiyeh - following an altercation between them and a settler who harassed them on their way home from grocery shopping. Their family lives in Tel Rumeidah, a neighborhood in the center of Hebron whose residents have been subjected to travel restrictions and harassed by security forces and settlers ever since a settlement bordering the neighborhood was established. This incident shows how untenable life has become for Palestinians who still live in the center of Hebron, where Israel imposes a policy of separation designed to drive out Palestinians, ostensibly of their own volition.
Israel’s regime of occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations. B’Tselem strives to end the occupation, as that is the only way forward to a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all people, both Palestinian and Israeli, living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.