Israeli settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, briefly explained

“Since the Six-Day War of June 1967, the state of Israel has planned and funded Jewish outposts throughout the West Bank; other settlers have moved in without the state’s explicit backing. The settlers believe they have a right to be there, even though most of the international community views the settlements as illegal.

These populations are largely separated by Israel’s complex security infrastructure, including military checkpoints, armed patrols, a separation barrier, and color-coded identification cards and license plates. This system dictates all aspects of daily life for West Bank residents.

Some settlers have for years harassed and attacked the Palestinians living there, often with impunity and occasionally with the support of Israeli soldiers. In the weeks since October 7, however, the rate of violence has significantly increased. It is already the deadliest year since the Second Intifada, and is getting bad enough for the eyes of the world to occasionally leave Gaza and look to the West Bank.

“I continue to be alarmed about extremist settlers attacking Palestinians in the West Bank,” President Joe Biden said in late October, comparing the attacks to “pouring gasoline on fire.”

Meanwhile, popular support for Hamas has surged among Palestinians in the West Bank as faith in the Palestinian Authority plummets.”

“There are ideologically driven settlers who believe that the West Bank is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and that they have every right to build homes and establish Israeli sovereignty in these areas, no less so than Israel had a right to establish settlements in 78 percent of historic Palestine, the borders of Israel prior to 1967. And this is an argument that they make to their detractors in Israeli politics.

The second type of settler is just an ordinary middle-class or upper middle-class person who is moving there because there are financial incentives to do so. You can have a nicer home, a larger home, a less expensive home. And because it has all been set up in a way that makes it painless to live there and gives you the sense that this is really no different than any other suburb, members of the middle class do move there. What happens over time is they often start to shift ideologically after moving there because every human being naturally wants to feel justified in what they’re doing.

The third type are ultra-Orthodox Jews, and they historically had avoided living in settlements. But that changed. And they live in a few settlements, but they’re very large and dense. And those settlements are, for the most part, closer to the edge of the West Bank, closer to the boundary with pre-1967 Israel.”

“The Palestinian and Jewish communities in the West Bank are entirely segregated and the settlements have gates at their entrances and security guards at those gates. Palestinians are not allowed to enter them unless they are coming as pre-approved workers, as cleaners or gardeners or construction workers.”

“settler violence is a broad term that includes everything from settlers going and burning down olive trees of Palestinians who live nearby. It includes raids on Palestinian communities in the middle of the night. It includes activities that Israeli officials even have referred to as pogroms, such as the burning of all kinds of property in the town of Huwara earlier this year or in the town of Turmus Ayya last June.

The Palestinians who are attacked are entirely defenseless in this situation. [Israel points to terror attacks by Hamas, including a November 30 shooting at a bus stop in west Jerusalem, as a reason to maintain security measures.] They know that if they lay a single finger on an armed settler who enters their home, they can be arrested and put in jail and locked up in what is known as administrative detention, which is detention without trial or charge. Israel can do that for six months to somebody, and then extend it indefinitely.

And so when a Palestinian encounters a settler militia, they know that putting their finger on that settler is not putting their hand on an individual. It’s putting their hand on the entire state of Israel, this enormous machine that controls their every movement and that can arrest them and their family members at any moment.”

“When there are cases filed against settlers for attacks on Palestinians, fewer than 10 percent result in an indictment and only 3 percent result in a conviction.”

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