Settler violence in the occupied West Bank is an ongoing violation that has been normalised by the Israeli colonial state. A culture of impunity pervades the dynamics of collaboration between settlers and soldiers, which has resulted in a situation whereby law enforcement is an ineffective charade which provides no protection whatsoever for Palestinians and their land.
Human rights group B’Tselem has documented the violations inflicted upon Palestinians and their territory in a new report titled “Ploughing Season 2018, Ramallah District: Settler violence serves Israel”. The report by the Israeli organisation details the restrictions placed upon Palestinians which hinder their access to the land while allowing illegal Jewish settlers full access.
Palestinians require military permission to go onto their lands, resulting in a situation where their fields are not regularly tended due to the irregularity of such permission being granted. Settlers and soldiers, on the other hand, grant themselves impunity to coordinate attacks on Palestinian agricultural land.
The military permission to access farmland is only given to cultivated land, thus stripping Palestinian owners of the right to access uncultivated areas. Settler violence against Palestinians and their land is part of an oppressive agenda allowed by Israel to annihilate any possibility of Palestinians being able to strengthen their economic and social conditions; it’s a punitive measure inflicted upon the colonised population that facilitates forced displacement. “The removal of Palestinians from more and more of the West Bank makes it easier for the state to take over land and resources,” says B’Tselem.
Testimonies by Palestinians collected by the human rights organisation in March 2018 show that the Israeli military’s coordination with Palestinians to access their land operates as a green light for settler aggression. Stone throwing – regurgitated endlessly in Israeli media as something done exclusively by Palestinians — is used by settlers to injure Palestinians on their farmland, while soldiers take a step back as observers, intervening only to contribute to the violence against the farmers. The coordination described by Palestinians is a collective effort in violence: “The settlers threw stones at us and the soldiers pointed their guns at us,” one agricultural worker told B’Tselem.
Military protection for settlers has also made it difficult for Palestinians to protect each other from settler violence. Another testimony, by Suliman Asfur, recounts how he was held by soldiers while settlers threw stones at him. Asfur, who lost one eye in the attack, was threatened by settlers who threw a firecracker at his face. His questions to the soldiers regarding their purported protection for Palestinians tending their lands was met with threats if he insisted that he was beaten by the settlers.
Another testimony also exposes the dynamics of how soldiers assist settlers in beating up Palestinians. The psychological trauma is increased when, apart from soldiers dismissing Palestinians’ legitimate complaints, they also know that they have no recourse to justice. Akram Na’asan, whose testimony is included in B’Tselem’s report, stated: “I didn’t file a complaint. I don’t believe the court system serves our interests.” Na’asan is also quoted as stating that settler violence and military protection are part of a plan to forcibly displace Palestinians and create more settlement outposts.
The process has been aptly described by B’Tselem as “unseen walls”. Not only does the term stand for the various methods employed by the Israeli state and settlers to preclude Palestinians from their land, but it also provides a succinct description of how Israel has normalised settler violence into routines destined for oblivion.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.