Settler Attacks on Palestinians
by Stephen Lendman
Last February, a Jerusalem Fund/Palestine Center (PC) report titled “When Settlers Attack” discussed data collected from 2004 to 2011. It includes over 3,700 separate incidents. It explains when, how, and why they occur.
PC discovered a disturbing increase in violence. Palestinian civilians are targeted. Northern rural West Bank villages are most affected.
Each year, attacks peak during olive harvest season. Most aren’t “price tag” revenge incidents. They’re structural and systemic. They’re occupation related.
Over 90% of areas experiencing violence are under Israeli security jurisdiction. According to PC’s executive director Yousef Munayyer:
“The dramatic rise in settler violence in the last several years demands investigation and analysis into why this happens.”
“We believe our report is the most comprehensive undertaking regarding settler violence and we hope it can move the general discussion about this important issue forward while also advancing policy formulation aimed at ending settler violence and protecting Palestinian civilians and their property.”
“With a 300 percent+ increase in settler violence of the past five years and nearly 2.7 incidents per day in 2011, settler violence presents a daily challenge to Palestinians.”
Increasing Israeli setter violence directly and consistently threatens Palestinian civilians and their property.
From 2010 – 2011, incidents increased 39%. From 2007 – 2011, it’s up 315%. Over the same period, Palestinian violence decreased 95%.
Geographically dispersed West Bank violence is shifting. Earlier, incidents occurred mostly in southern areas. In recent years, northern locations are increasingly targeted.
Incidents peak seasonally during olive harvest. Working in olive groves makes Palestinians easy targets.
Arson attacks are increasing in numbers and frequency. In 2005, they represented about 6% of attacks. In 2011, they rose to 11%.
The vast majority of settler attacks are structurally related to occupation. Greater number of settlers increase their frequency.
PC’s data comes mainly from Palestine Monitoring Group (PMG) reports. It’s an “inter-agency group of Palestinian civilian ministries and security agencies.”
Established in August 2003, PMG monitors ground conditions in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Catalogued daily, it’s an invaluable resource.
Violence includes “price tag” attacks. Settlers use the term to describe retaliations relating to Israeli government actions limiting their political goals. Palestinians bear their brunt.
From September 2004 – December 2011, 3,700 incidents occurred. They’re catalogued by time, type, location, number of injuries and/or deaths, and settlements of origin. Every West Bank governorate is affected.
Key is that Israeli and Palestinian security forces do little to protect civilians from violence. They’re largely vulnerable on their own. They live in a virtual war zone.
For example, on August 23, Al Haq headlined “Escalation in Settler Violence: Molotov Cocktail Severely Injures Palestinian family,” saying:
Days earlier, “an Israeli settler threw a Molotov cocktail into a Palestinian taxi.” Ghayatha family members were severely injured. Some are in critical condition.
Basem Ghayatha saw an Israeli settler in Orthodox dress walk through nearby bushes. Within two meters of the taxi, he threw the explosive. It set the vehicle ablaze. Basem lost control. He crashed into a roadside safety barrier. Passengers were trapped for several minutes engulfed in flames.
Jamila’s plastic shoes melted to the floor. She struggled to get out. Her daughter Iman followed. A passing car driver called an ambulance. Family members were taken to Jersulem’s Haddasa ‘Ein Karim Hospital.
Everyone suffered severe burns. Ayman is most critical. Hasan’s condition is severe. Six-year old Muhammad sustained burns over 35% of his hands and back. Basem got second degree burns on his face and third degree ones on his hands. Family members are still recovering.
Israeli soldiers protect settlers. They enjoy virtual impunity. Palestinians are vulnerable to everything from routine vandalism to arson and murder. Who can they turn to for help with no willing source. According to Al Haq:
“The consistent failure of the Israeli authorities to act with due diligence has encouraged an increase in settler attacks against Palestinians.”
As occupying power, Israel is responsible for “protect(ing) the occupied Palestinian population.” It “therefore (must) conduct thorough investigations, bring those responsible to justice and punish them if found guilty.”
Israeli authorities scoff at these obligations and ignore them. As a result, Palestinians suffer horrifically from settler attacks alone.
On August 19, the London Guardian headlined “Jewish settler attacks on Palestinians listed as ‘terrorist incidents’ by US,” saying:
For the first time, the State Department classified them this way. Israeli officials also condemned them. In July, EU parliamentarians denounced settler violence. They also demanded “an immediate end to house demolitions, evictions, and forced displacement of Palestinians.”
In mid-August, Maxwell Gaylard, Deputy Special Coordinator for Middle East peace and humanitarian/development activities, expressed concern for the dire humanitarian situation affecting almost 1,000 South Hebron Hills Palestinians.
In all cases, rhetoric substitutes for policy. Culpable settlers aren’t punished. They’re free to commit crimes with impunity. They’ve done it for decades. So have Israeli security forces. Condemnations without teeth are worthless. Palestinians suffer horrendously as a result.
In contrast, their violence on Jews brings severe recrimination, prosecutions and imprisonment. Harsh penalties follow routine incidents. Justice isn’t Israel’s long suit or America’s.
In June, B’Tselem discussed settler violence. It comes in various forms. Land, crops, and other property are damaged or destroyed. Palestinians are harmed and sometimes killed.
B’Tselem documented numerous incidents. They include blocking roads, throwing stones at cars and homes, raiding Palestinian villages and land, torching fields, uprooting trees, damaging other property, and causing injuries or deaths.
Security forces do practically nothing to help. At times, during witnessed incidents, they don’t intervene. They’re slow investigating reported violence. Reports when they’re issued whitewash them.
During one September 2011 period, B’Tselem documented 10 incidents. They included damaging Palestinian property, torching a mosque, and spraying offensive graffiti on walls of two others.
Rather than restricting violent settlers, Israeli security forces “imposed restrictions on Palestinians.”
Israel is obligated to maintain order and protect Palestinian security. Its High Court ruled that “protecting the security and property of the local residents is one of the most important basic obligations placed upon the military commander in the field.”
It added that defense officials must “give clear, unequivocal instructions to the forces that are deployed in the field.” They 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.)”
The ruling fell on deaf ears. Policy didn’t change.
Recent reports like these are commonplace:
Settler runs over Palestinian child. Doctors called her injuries moderate. She could have been killed.
Seventeen-year old Jamal Juliani and three cousins were victimized by dozens of Israeli youths. Onlookers didn’t intervene. Juliani was hospitalized unconscious. Days later, he was well enough to be released.
Settlers attacked elderly Palestinian near Hebron. He was treated at Hebron Hospital. In a separate incident, two settler teens firebombed a car near Hebron. PA official Ghassan Doughlas warned Palestinians to be cautious.
Over half a million settlers live on Occupied Palestinian territory. Most don’t make trouble. Extremist ones look for it. They know they can act with impunity. Institutionalized racism terrorizes Palestinians. They have no place to hide for safety.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.