During recent years, there has been a rise of violence towards Palestinians from Jewish settlers who reside illegally in Israel’s occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Now with the new Israeli government headed by Naftali Bennett who was sworn in as Prime Minister on 13th June, incidences of settler violence have intensified. Bennett is a hard-line religious nationalist, whose own party Yamina represents religious settlers therefore it is unlikely that he will repress settler violence. In addition, it is a known fact that Jewish settlers are protected by the Israeli army, and they are rarely prosecuted by Israeli authorities for the crimes that they commit. ICAHD states that this is all part of Israel’s settler colonial policy to erase the indigenous Palestinian population from as much of historic Palestine as possible.
A few examples of settler violence over recent weeks include:
On 26th May, the Nasser family whose home Tent of Nations located between Bethlehem and Hebron and known to many ICAHD supporters, was again threatened. Several acres were set on fire destroying hundreds of fruit and olive trees. This is an assumed deliberate act of settlers who covet their land and follows previous invasions onto Tent of Nations property. In addition, the Israeli military proceeded to confiscate part of their land claiming that it is State land.
On 22nd June, following a night of settler violence in Shiekh Jarrah, Jewish settlers, backed by Israeli police and accompanied by Bezalel Smotrich, a Member of the Knesset from the Religious Zionism party, stormed the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah and threatened three Palestinian families, with forcible eviction from their homes within one month. Smotrich attempted to enter the home of young Palestinian activists Mohammed and Mona al-Kurd, who have gained global fame for their resistance to Israeli settlers taking over homes in Sheikh Jarrah. Mohammed and Mona Al-Kurd have each have also been arrested and detained for a few hours because their involvement with international media and Palestine support organisations. Note that Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah continue to be subjected to regular harassment by settlers as well as other Israeli extremists.
On 25th June, Jewish settlers set dozens of Palestinian-owned olive and fig trees on fire near the town of Salfit. Other settlers have established the unauthorized outpost of Evyatar, now home to 50 Jewish settler families. Four Palestinians have been killed with some injured when demonstrating against the settler confiscation of their land in Beita near Nablus.
On 26th June, settlers from Havat Ma’on set fire to a Palestinian building in the village of At-Tuwani, South Hebron Hills. Settlers also attacked locals with stones and bats. One of the victims of the settlers’ direct attacks is Fouad al Amour, the local coordinator for the Protection and Sumud Committee in Masafer Yatta. As usual, the Israeli army was present, but nothing was done to stop the attack.
Israel’s attempt to harass Palestinians living in Khan al Ahmar, one of the Bedouin communities in E1 due to be demolished by July but now very much under the watchful eye of the international community, has instead switched attention to the South Hebron Hills because it gets less public attention. Israeli policy threatens the existence of the 4000 residents who reside in the 30 Palestinian villages who mainly subsist on farming and shepherding. For years extreme religious settlers from the Hebron district have violently attacked Palestinians, including children and human rights defenders such as members of the Christian Peacemakers Team (CPT). Extreme religious settlers living in Hebron continue to terrorise Palestinian who live in Hebron’s Old City and the Tel Rumeida community adjacent to the Ibrahimi Mosque. ICAHD’s monthly Demolition and Displacement reports illustrate Israel’s frequent demolitions of homes, water pipes, cisterns, and animal structures in the Hebron district. Israeli governmental authorities as well as the settlers seek to make life so difficult for Palestinians that they leave.
(Summary prepared from reports prepared by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Foundation for Middle East Peace, Good Shepherd Collective, The Palestine Chronicle, the New Arab and B’Tselem.)