Dozens of masked settlers violently attack Israelis, Palestinians in West Bank

There were 496 attacks by settlers and or Jewish extremists against Palestinians in 2021, of which 126 resulted in physical harm.

Settlers attack activists with clubs, 21/1/2022

Settlers torched a car and beat left-wing activists and Palestinians with batons and shovels in the West Bank on Friday, injuring at least seven in an attack that drew widespread condemnation.

“This shocking violence... should be a warning light to all of us,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid tweeted.

Such incidents “will bring us to an abyss that cannot be bridged,” he wrote. “We need to educate and conduct an in-depth dialogue about neighborly relations, the rule of law and the manner in which we want to live here.”

As of Saturday night, neither Prime Minister Naftali Bennett nor Defense Minister Benny Gantz had spoken out about the violence, but ministers and politicians from the Left and the Right, as well as the Yesha Council, did.

The activists – some affiliated with Rabbis for Human Rights and the Harvest Coalition – had driven to the village of Burin in the Samaria region to help local Palestinians plant trees in honor of the Tu Bishvat holiday.

 Settlers attack activists on 21/1/2022 (credit: Rivka Wittenberg) Settlers attack activists on 21/1/2022 (credit: Rivka Wittenberg)

Harvest Coalition coordinator Yaakov Manor said the attack occurred around 11 a.m., two hours after they arrived.

Activist Daniel Roth said the group had planted a number of trees in one lot and then moved to another when the attack occurred.

The activists sent videos and photos to the media that showed masked settlers running toward them and in some cases beating them.

Two of the vehicles belonging to activists were stoned and one was torched after gas was poured on it, Roth said.

One of the videos showed masked settlers pouring the gas and then lighting the vehicle on fire. It’s possible to hear one of the activists say, “You are going to kill us.”

The left-wing group Yesh Din said that “the settlers dispersed into multiple groups” to go after the activists.

Seven activists were wounded, Manor said.

“They were taken to Beilinson Hospital. Two were diagnosed with limb fractures from the beatings of the settlers’ sticks and several others suffered head injuries,” he said.

The IDF said it had received a report about settlers from the nearby outpost of Givat Ronen, but that the incident was over by the time they arrived.

Police said they were investigating the matter and that it planned to send a forensic team to the area, adding they would deal “harshly” with the perpetrators once they were caught.

Burin has been the scene of a number of attacks by settlers and Jewish extremists that have been caught on video, including incidents in which settlers can be seen throwing stones at homes.

“The Givat Ronen outpost is one of the five outposts where most settler violence takes place,” the left-wing NGO Peace Now said in a statement.

In a rare move, the Yesha Council, which is the political arm of the settlement movement, condemned the attack.

The photos are “shocking,” it stated. “Such behavior is contrary to the values of the people of Israel and harms the settlements.

“This is not our way,” the council said. “We call on the security forces to investigate the incident and bring the rioters to justice.”

According to the UN, there were 496 attacks by settlers or Jewish extremists against Palestinians in 2021, of which 126 resulted in physical harm.

That is an increase of 39% from 2020, when there were 358 such incidents, including 84 in which Palestinians were harmed.

The Israel Police have not published data on such attacks.

Data is published on Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians, however. According to the IDF, there were 2,137 stoning incidents against Israeli civilians in 2021, and 229 incidents involving Molotov cocktails.

That’s an increase from 2020, when there were 1,500 stoning incidents, with the number of Molotov cocktails incidents remaining the same.

Two Israeli citizens were killed in the West Bank by Palestinian terrorists in 2021; one was killed in 2020.

The settler attack outside Burin came just days after Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan downplayed the issue of settler violence to the Security Council, explaining that they were the “exception to the rule.”

When such incidents do occur, he said, they are probed, investigated and condemned.

Activist Elisheva Wittenberg after being attacked by settlers.

But the Left has accused Bennett’s government of failing to speak up and take action on the matter, adding that there has been little enforcement and few arrests.

Last month, Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev (Labor) was rebuked for calling such attackers “sub-human.” Bennett spoke up in defense of the settlers, calling those who were violent as a fringe element.

“Once again we see violent crime on the part of groups of lawbreakers, sitting in illegal outposts,” Bar Lev tweeted on Friday. “This is same violence that is directed almost daily at Palestinian residents.”

MK Mossi Raz, whose Meretz Party is part of the coalition, said that “Settler violence is rampant, and government ministers are not doing enough to stop it. This difficult event will not pass by silently.”

Raz wrote a letter to Bar Lev and his deputy, Yesh Atid MK Yoav Segalovitz, demanding their condemnation of settler violence, as well as stricter law enforcement in the West Bank.

“All violence, whether it is against Israelis or Palestinians, must be highly condemned, and every necessary measure should be taken to stop criminals before they commit the acts of violence,” the letter reads.

Peace Now said that, “When the political leadership backs off and the government bends over, it’s no wonder that violence continues to rage. The Defense Minister [Benny Gantz] must order the evacuation of the illegal outposts that are the center of settler violence.”

Communications Minister MK Yoaz Hendel (New Hope) said that such violence was above politics and should not be tolerated in any sector.

“There must be law and order in every place.”

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.