Scant data on Israeli settler violence helps fuel right-wing denial

The United Nations recorded 450 attacks by Israelis against Palestinians as of December 6 of this year, compared to 358 in all of 2020 and 335 in 2019.

 Settlers attack Palestinians in Homesh. (photo credit: YESH DIN)
Settlers attack Palestinians in Homesh.
(photo credit: YESH DIN)

The absence of concrete data on the phenomenon of Jewish extremist and settler violence has helped fuel a narrative of denial about the phenomenon.

“You’re confused,” Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked tweeted upon hearing that Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev had spoken about settler violence with a top US official this week.

It would be hard not to be confused in an atmosphere where security forces and the Israeli government easily provide data on Palestinian violence against Israelis but cannot provide the same information on Jewish violence.

Bar Lev might have spoken emphatically on Twitter about how concerned the internationally community is on this issue. But he himself made it to the Judea and Samaria police headquarters only on Tuesday, a day after his tweet on the subject.

Bar Lev was given a PowerPoint presentation about settler violence, but those data have not been released.

The Higher Planning Council is set to advance West Bank settler housing projects Sunday, including in Itamar. Picture taken June 15, 2020. (credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)The Higher Planning Council is set to advance West Bank settler housing projects Sunday, including in Itamar. Picture taken June 15, 2020. (credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)

The Foreign Ministry has long had a database of Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorism, including West Bank victims Yehuda Guetta, 19, killed this year at the Tapuah junction, and Esther Horgan, 52, killed last year near the Tal Menashe settlement.

The army has not yet collated data for this year on Palestinian violence against Israelis in the West Bank that has not led to fatalities.

In 2020 it recorded 1,769 such incidents, out of which 1,500 involved stoning, 229 Molotov cocktails, 31 shootings and nine stabbings.

In 2019 there were 1,790 incidents, of which 1,469 involved stoning, 290 Molotov cocktails, 19 shootings, and 12 stabbings.

On average, it would amount to more than four attacks a day.

It does not have that same data on Jewish extremist violence. The Israel Police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) have not put out that information. Nor has Bar Lev’s office, despite the storm his comments caused.

The United Nations, however, keeps a public database that it updates on a regular basis. Information on the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs shows that attacks by Israeli extremists or settlers against Palestinians have risen this year.

The UN recorded 450 attacks as of December 6 of this year, compared to 358 in all of 2020 and 335 in 2019.

Out of those, 118 of the attacks in 2021 involved casualties, as did 84 of the incidents in 2020 and 76 in 2019.

Effectively, this would mean that there would be on average one attack a day against Palestinians by Jewish extremists or settlers.  

The UN, however, includes Jerusalem, which this year saw a significant rise in violence in the spring around the Gaza war in May and in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

From November 16 to December 6 alone, there were 25 incidents, according to the UN. The incidents involved stone-throwing at Palestinian homes and cars in the area of Ramallah, Nablus and Hebron. It also included vandalism of over 130 trees and saplings, severing water lines, and attacks on Palestinian herders and cows.

Two Palestinians, including one child, were injured, the UN said, adding that three cows were killed. In Sheikh Jarrah, 13 cars were vandalized.

The UN also recorded that 160 Israeli civilians were injured by Palestinians in the Palestinian territories in the last year, including 17 from November 16 to December 6.

During that time period, Palestinians threw stones at 35 vehicles in the West Bank and torched the vehicle of two Israelis who entered Ramallah, the UN reported.

Both the NGOs Peace Now and B’Tselem have put out reports this year linking the violence to land battles in the West Bank, charging that attacks were an attempt by settlers to push Palestinians off their land.

Settlers, in turn, have argued that the violent attacks against them are similarly attempts to terrorize them into leaving.

The left-wing NGO Yesh Din reported that it had followed 540 cases of settler violence from 2018 through June of this year, out of which the majority of those cases, 53%, involved property damage and 45% involved physical violence.

Yesh Din also stated that out of all those incidents, Palestinians filed only 238 police reports. Indictments were issued in only 12 of those cases, according to Yesh Din.

Another 53 are under investigation, and the remaining 173 cases were closed.