Only 4 percent of Israeli settler violence against Palestinians in occupied West Bank pressed

Only 4 percent of Israeli settler violence against Palestinians in occupied West Bank pressed
2 min read
08 February, 2022
Data confirms what Palestinians already know: Settler violence takes place routinely in the occupied Palestinian territories with almost complete impunity.
Hundreds of case of Israeli settler violence against Palestinians have been reported, but few were filed. [MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty]

Less than four percent of criminal cases of violence carried out by Israeli settlers against Palestinians led to charges being filed, the Israeli daily Haaretz has revealed on Monday.

Data provided by the Israeli police to the daily showed that only 10 out of 263 cases opened against Israeli settlers for violence against Palestinians resulted in an indictment.

Two hundred and twenty-one of the cases were closed without any action taken against the settlers. 

The shocking numbers confirmed a fact well-known to Palestinians and human rights activists; that Israeli settlers operate with impunity in Palestinian territories and with the apparent complicity of Israeli security forces.

Hundreds of legal cases have been opened against settlers by Palestinians and legal associations supporting them, a number which does not account for all the violent incidents, which include some that go unreported.

Settlers routinely stone, beat and attack their Palestinian neighbours, shepherds or children on their way to school - sometimes leading to killings. They often uproot Palestinian farmers' trees, vandalise their crops, and destroy their property. 

Settler violence has skyrocketed over the past two months in the occupied West Bank. More than 240 Palestinians were injured in a spate of violence near the city of Nablus in December.

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But the cases lead nowhere due to Israeli police frequently failing to inform victims on their progress, and sometimes closing them without telling the plaintiffs or their lawyers.

Many Palestinians simply ceased to try to press charges, knowing they will get nowhere.

Figures collected by the legal NGO Yesh Din between 2005 and 2021 show that in 65 percent of cases where charges were never pressed by the police.

The reason given was that the perpetrator of crimes are "unknown", meaning the police failed - or didn't try - to identify those responsible.

"The police simply aren't doing anything," Mueen Dameidi, the mayor of the Palestinian town of Hawara - where multiple incidents involving settlers were recorded - told Haaretz.

In some cases, Israeli forces have the license plates of the suspects' cars but fail to follow up.

"They could find [the perpetrators] in a minute. If they were Palestinians they would take them and their mothers and their grandmothers, too," Dameidi said.

In response to the allegations, members of the police told Haaretz they were understaffed and often had to cover large areas with limited means. 

There are approximately 650,000 settlers living in 164 settlements and 116 outposts in the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem.

Under international law, all Israeli settlements in occupied territories are considered illegal.