Settler Violence in Palestine
Perhaps nothing better symbolizes the Palestinian commitment to hold fast to the land than the olive tree. Its ancient roots and strong foundation a metaphor for the Palestinians’ unbroken presence and resilience. And for Israeli settlers guided by the fervent belief that Palestinians are squatters on land ordained by God for the Jewish people, the olive tree is a prime target.  According to a report on settler violence by The Palestine Center, “the period of the olive harvest annually brings a peak in violent settler activity.”  While the report notes that “the presence of Palestinian civilians in olive groves…is the main reason why this occurs,” the fact that a ruined harvest would economically devastate a family and may compel them to relocate is not lost on covetous settlers.  At the start of the recent harvest season, settlers from the religious-nationalist settlement of Yitzhar set on fire 100 olive trees near the city of Nablus on 22 October 2014.  “Over 7,500 olive trees belonging to Palestinians were damaged or destroyed by Israeli settlers between January and mid October 2012,” reports the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  “If the Olive Trees knew the hands that planted them, Their Oil would become Tears,” is a solemn saying attributed to the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.
Settler violence is not confined to the groves. In one of the most infamous acts of violence, American-born settler Baruch Goldstein entered Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque on 25 February 1994 and opened fire on worshippers. All told, 29 Palestinians were killed, 125 were wounded, and Goldstein was tackled and beaten to death.  While most Israeli settlers are lured by the promise of subsidized housing (incentivized by their own state into law-breaking; all settlements are illegal under international law, a consensus disputed solely by Israel), a large faction of the over 500,000 settlers are messianic religious-nationalists animated by an unassailable dogma that the land between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea is the exclusive preserve of the Jewish people.  Many settlers are willing to employ violence to advance this world view. From 2007 to 2011, there was a 315% increase in settler violence against Palestinians (over the same period there was a 95% decrease in Palestinian violence in the West Bank).  Settler violence may fluctuate, but is “structural and symptomatic of occupation” and 90% of Palestinians villages under Israeli security jurisdiction in the West Bank have suffered recurring acts of settler violence. 
That last statistic is indicative of the Israeli state’s response, or lack thereof, toward settler violence. After the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre, the Israeli government arrested a few extremist settlers, but in the end it was the Palestinians who paid the price for their own victimization. Instead of restricting the movement of violent settlers, the Israeli authorities banned Palestinians from several streets in their own city, most notably the al Shuhada Street where Palestinian homes and shops were welded shut. To this day, several streets in Hebron are the exclusive pathways of settlers.  While international law mandates that occupying powers protect the local population, a Canadian-Israel journalist observed that “the [Israeli] security [in Hebron] are there to protect the settlers, regardless of how brutal or inflammatory the latter’s acts may be, and regardless of the fact that, as Goldstein’s homicidal cowardice makes clear, it is the Palestinians who often need protection against settlers….” 
More often than not, settlers enjoy impunity at the hands of Israeli authorities. A 1981 committee report headed by the Israeli deputy attorney general Judith Karp found systematic violence against Palestinian lives and property and an attendant complicity by Israeli forces who rarely investigated let alone prosecuted settlers and were far more likely to protect them, and thus effectively offering settlers a citadel from which to strike Palestinians. In its delicate language, the Karp Report concluded “that the inquiry team’s findings point to definite deficiencies in police performance in investigating events growing out of neighborly relations between Israelis and local residents [i.e. Palestinians] in Judea and Samaria [i.e. the occupied West Bank], and complaints of local residents against Israelis.”  As if to further illustrate the point, the committee faced obstacles from the Israel Defense Forces, Israeli police and settlers, and was kept classified by the Israeli government until 1984.
As part of our Special Focus on Settler Violence in Palestine, the Institute for Palestine Studies has made available a series of articles* on settlements – their history, expansion, and corollary of dispossession and violence. We would also like to remind readers about our Settlement Monitor as part of our unparalleled Resources – the most comprehensive source on Israeli settlements that is updated quarterly on our website and published in the Journal of Palestine Studies. The Institute for Palestine Studies was one of the first institutions to translate The Karp Report: An Israeli Government Inquiry into Settler Violence Against Palestinians on the West Bank (1984) into English and we’re pleased to announce it is available for purchase in our Bookstore.
*Articles that were only made available as part of our monthly Special Focus have since been removed and may be purchased at our co-publisher's website, the University of California Press. Removed articles will automatically take you to the respective article at UCP's website.
Author: Lorenzo Veracini
Source: Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 42, No. 2 (Winter 2013), pp. 26-42
Author: Tamara Neuman
Source: Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Winter 2004), pp. 51-70
Author: Anita Vitullo
Source: Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 33, No. 1 (Fall 2003), pp. 68-83
Author: Donald Neff
Source: Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 23, No. 3 (Spring, 1994), pp. 53-69
Author: Peter Shaw-Smith
Source: Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 23, No. 3 (Spring, 1994), pp. 99-109
Author: Michael Dumper
Source: Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 21, No. 4 (Summer, 1992), pp. 32-53
Author: Janet Abu-Lughod
Source: Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Winter, 1982), pp. 16-54
Author: Ibrahim Matar
Source: Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 11, No. 1, 10th Anniversary Issue: Palestinians under Occupation (Autumn, 1981), pp. 93-110
Author: Abdul-Ilah Abu Ayyash
Source: Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 11, No. 1, 10th Anniversary Issue: Palestinians under Occupation (Autumn, 1981), pp. 111-123
Author: Ann M. Lesch
Source: Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Autumn, 1978), pp. 100-119
Author: Ann Mosely Lesch
Source: Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 7, No. 1 (Autumn, 1977), pp. 26-47
This book contains the entire text of the report of the committee formed in 1981 by the Israeli attorney general and headed by his deputy Judith Karp to investigate Israeli settler practices towards the Palestinians in the West Bank. The Committee was formed in response to a petition protesting these practices signed by 14 professors of law in Israeli universities. Numerous obstacles were put in the committee's way by the army, police, and settlers. After publication of the report, the government ignored it, eventually leading to the resignation of the head of the committee. The report was finally published as a result of intense pressure in 1984 exposing numerous acts of violence carried out by Jewish settlers against Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank, including assaults, destruction of property, armed threats, shootings, blocking access to places of employment, and attacks on schoolchildren.
 “Settlers accused of torching olive groves.” CNN.Atlanta, GA: CNN, October 31, 2013.
 Munayyer, Yousef. When Settlers Attack.Washington, D.C.: The Palestine Center, 2012.
 According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the olive oil harvest accounts for 14% of the agrarian economy in the occupied Palestinian territories and supports the livelihoods of roughly 80,000 Palestinian families. Olive Harvest Factsheet: October 2012. East Jerusalem: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Occupied Palestinian Territory, 2012.
 “As harvest season begins, Israeli settlers burn 100 Palestinian olive trees,” Al Akhbar English, accessed February 10, 2015, http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/22143
 Olive Harvest Factsheet: October 2012. East Jerusalem: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Occupied Palestinian Territory, 2012.
 Rich Wiles. “Remembering the Ibrahimi Mosque,” al Jazeera English, accessed February 10, 2015, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2014/02/remembering-ibrahimi-mosque-ma-2014223105915230233.html
 For data on the settler population, see Statistics on Settlements and Settler Population. Jerusalem: B’Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, 2013.
 Munayyer, Yousef.
 Munayyer, Yousef. Israel maintains full civil and security control over 60% of the West Bank (Area C), joint security control with the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 22% of the occupied territory (Area B), and the PA is afforded security control in the residual 18% (Area A). Although this is the letter of the 1993 Oslo Agreement, in reality Israeli troops exercise control wherever their commanders direct them, including in Area A where nighttime incursions are routine.
 Einat Fishbain. “A city of devastation: Hebron 20 years after the massacre,” +972 mag, accessed February 10, 2015, http://972mag.com/a-city-of-devastation-hebron-20-years-after-the-massacre/87714/ See also, “PHOTOS: 20 years since the Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre,” +972 mag, accessed February 10, 2015, http://972mag.com/photos-20-years-since-cave-of-the-patriarchs-massacre/87599/
 Waldman, Ayelet.”The Shame of Shuhada Street.” The Atlantic, June 2014.
 The Karp Report: An Israeli Government inquiry into settler violence against Palestinians on the West Bank (Washington, D.C.: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1984), 46.
1) “Gas the Arabs! JDL [Jewish Defense League]” spray-painted on the wall of a Palestinian school near Shuhada Street. Baruch Goldstein was a member of the JDL. (Activestills.org)
2) Steel and concrete barriers were erected to seal off Shuhada Street, originally one of Hebron’s main thoroughfares. Over 500 Palestinian businesses were forced to close their doors. (Activestills.org)