Routine settler violence against Palestinian farmers and the ongoing effort to drive them off of their land is a "major informal tool" deployed by Israel in the continued illegal seizure of territory in the occupied West Bank, B'Tselem said in its latest report.
The Israeli human rights group detailed the violence, intimidation and terror Palestinian farmers are subjected to in Israel's ongoing takeover of Palestine in the publication titled State Business: Israel's misappropriation of land in the West Bank through settler violence. It said that the occupation state legitimates violence against Palestinians and has broken its own pledge to the international community to bring settlers under control.
Israel's portrayal of settler violence as the actions of a rogue group bears no resemblance to the reality, B'Tselem argued. The occupation state typically takeovers over Palestinian territory using "official means" such as issuing military orders, declaring the area "state land," a "firing zone" or a "nature reserve". Settler violence is not counted as one of the "official means."
B'Tselem said that the two tracks appear unrelated: The state takes over land openly, using official methods sanctioned by legal advisors and judges, while the settlers, who are also interested in taking over land to further their agenda, initiate violence against Palestinians for their own reasons.
There is however "only one track" and the violence and terrorising of Palestinians by settlers is part Israeli policy. "Settler violence against Palestinians serves as a major informal tool at the hands of the state to take over more and more West Bank land," said B'Tselem.
The state fully supports and assists these acts of violence, and its agents sometimes participate in them directly. As such, settler violence is a form of government policy, aided and abetted by official state authorities with their active participation.
B'Tselem said the military "does not prevent the attacks, and in some cases, soldiers even participate in them." It says that law enforcement does little to take action against settlers who commit violent acts against Palestinians "and whitewashes the few cases it is called upon to address."
"When the violence occurs with permission and assistance from the Israeli authorities and under its auspices, it is state violence. The settlers are not defying the state; they are doing its bidding," the rights group said in its report.
Settler violence against Palestinians has been on the rise. A video of the kind of terror which Palestinian farmers are subjected to was shared widely on social media over the weekend. Sharing the footage, B'Tselem said: "Attacks with clubs, pepper spray, stones, shooting, siccing dogs, invading homes, expelling shepherds, stoning passing cars, slashing tires, smashing windows, stealing crops, cutting down trees, arson."
Attacks with clubs, pepper spray, stones, shooting, siccing dogs, invading homes, expelling shepherds, stoning passing cars, slashing tires, smashing windows, stealing crops, cutting down trees, arson – pic.twitter.com/G4qdoF3vl1
— B'Tselem בצלם بتسيلم (@btselem) November 14, 2021
Earlier this year B'Tselem branded Israel an "apartheid" state that "promotes and perpetuates Jewish supremacy between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River."