West Bank settler violence is terrorism and a form of apartheid - opinion

If Israel is a state of law, then the only conclusion one can reach is that the law of the territories is a form of apartheid.

 PALESTINIANS CONFRONT security forces during a protest against the Evyatar outpost near Nablus earlier this year (photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)
PALESTINIANS CONFRONT security forces during a protest against the Evyatar outpost near Nablus earlier this year
(photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)

Israeli settler violence against Palestinians and Israeli peace and human rights activists is on the rise. Not only are there more incidents of settler violence, the intensity of their attacks against innocent Palestinians and Israeli activists has resulted in death, serious injuries and a lot of damaged property. The violent settlers attack Palestinian shepherds, farmers, olive trees, homes, water wells and cars. They descend from the hilltops of their illegal communities, faces covered with masks, carrying stones, clubs, pepper spray and guns and attack with viciousness and malicious intent to cause pain.

This violence is terrorism and is meant to terrorize the Palestinians all over the West Bank. Settler violence is carried out under the protection of Israeli soldiers. The soldiers stand by and watch and if they intervene, it is against the Palestinian victims and Israeli peace and human rights activists who come to protect the innocent Palestinians. The behavior of soldiers is a clear indication that they are there to protect the Israeli settlers, regardless of their provocations and violent attacks against Palestinians and their property. The behavior of the settlers and the army seems to be a clear expression of Israeli policy – the purpose: to induce Palestinians in area C of the West Bank to leave their homes and property.

On Monday this week, MKs Mossi Raz (Meretz), Ibtisam Mara’ana-Menuhin (Labor) and Osama Saadi (Joint List) convened an important hearing in the Knesset on the rise of settler violence against Palestinians and Israeli human rights and peace activists. The sharp rise in settler violence is clearly documented in three very detailed reports issued by Peace Now, Breaking the Silence and Yesh Din. It is important to remember that the entire settlement enterprise is an expression of violence against the Palestinian people. In fact, the Israeli military occupation which is now 54 years old is state-sponsored violence.

It is also important to remember that Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are illegal under international law; all of the settlements, and not just the ones considered illegal by the Israeli government. The Peace Now report documents that the most extreme settler violence comes from those settlements that even Israeli law considers illegal. Even though they are illegal under Israeli law, they are hooked to Israeli infrastructure such as electricity, roads, and water and most importantly, are protected by the Israeli army. I have witnessed this violence first hand and many friends and fellow activists have been the victims of the settlers’ violence. What seems quite clear is that the violence is not random and not by chance – this is policy. The aim of the policy is to facilitate additional illegal land confiscation in order to expand Israeli settlement control of large areas of the West Bank.

Israel is an occupying power in the West Bank. The legal sovereign according to international law is the commander of Israeli forces in the occupied territory. Under international law, known as the Fourth Geneva Convention (Convention IV relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War – Geneva, 12 August 1949), the occupying power is directly responsible for the security and safety of the occupied people. The Israeli army is supposed to protect the Palestinian civilian non-combatants under international law.

 Israeli settlers clash with Palestinians after throwing stones at houses on the edge of the Palestinian village of Burin, November 6, 2021 (credit: YESH DIN) Israeli settlers clash with Palestinians after throwing stones at houses on the edge of the Palestinian village of Burin, November 6, 2021 (credit: YESH DIN)

THE CONVENTION states:

Article 3 (1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities… shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria. To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) taking of hostages;

(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;

Article 33: No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

Pillage is prohibited.

Article 53: Any destruction by the occupying power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the state, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.

THESE CLAUSES are quite clear and there are many more which determine that the State of Israel is directly responsible to protect the occupied Palestinian people. The illegal settlers are acting on behalf of the Israeli government and are protected by the IDF. This is a clear and direct contravention of international law. Israel does not recognize the illegality of the settlement enterprise but it has documented and recognized that more than 100 settlements are illegal according to Israeli law.

In March 2005 the Justice Ministry issued a report commissioned by prime minister Ariel Sharon. The report was written by Talia Sasson. It states: “An unauthorized outpost is a settlement which does not fulfill at least one of the above-mentioned conditions. And I must emphasize: an unauthorized outpost is not a ‘semi legal’ outpost. Unauthorized is illegal. I mean that if the outpost were authorized, according to the conditions mentioned above, it was legal. Missing an authorization of the kinds mentioned above makes it illegal… The outposts are mostly established by bypassing procedure and violating the law, displaying false pretense towards some of the state authorities, and enjoying the cooperation of other authorities in harsh violation of the law… Another way is establishing outposts by ‘expansions’ and ‘neighborhoods’ in disguise, within an existing outpost. The new outpost is named as the old one, as though it were just a neighborhood, even when it is sometimes kilometers away as the crow flies; on the ground the distance is much greater.”

In the US issued Road Map for peace from April 30, 2003, the government of Israel was instructed to immediately dismantle settlement outposts erected since March 2001. That instruction was never fully implemented and in recent years more illegal outposts have been constructed. The most violent settlers come from the following illegal settlements and outposts: Yitzhar and the surrounding outposts, Havat Maon, Adi Ad, HaGiva shel Ronen, Esh Kodesh and Homesh.

There is a lot of documentation and video of the settler violence. There should be no real problem for the police and army to arrest and prosecute these criminals, but nothing is done and almost no one is brought to justice. If Israel is a state of law, then the only conclusion one can reach is that the law of the territories is a form of apartheid.

The writer is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to the State of Israel and to peace between Israel and her neighbors. He is now directing The Holy Land Investment Bond.