As Israeli violence crescendos, Western media shuts its eyes

As Israeli violence crescendos, Western media shuts its eyes
What is perhaps most alarming as Israeli settler violence reaches unprecedented levels is that this is not only being largely ignored by the US Biden administration, but also by most of the Western media outlets, writes Robert Inlakesh.
6 min read
31 Jan, 2022
A Palestinian vehicle seen vandalized after Jewish settlers spray painted it with slogans, "Red Star of David", 30 January 2022. [Getty]

Israeli settler violence led to what would become an 11-day war between Gaza and Israel in May, resulting in 270 Palestinians and 13 Israelis being killed. Yet, similar settler violence is being ignored in Western media as it threatens to open up another armed escalation in the occupied territories.

On the 25th of December - Christmas Day - 247 Palestinians were reported injured in the villages of Sebastia and Burqa, after Israeli settlers in lynch mob-style groups, protected and accompanied by Israeli occupation forces, attacked. A day prior a similar settler assault on the village of Burqa injured 127 Palestinians, fitting into a wider trend of such attacks in 2021. In response to the incident on Christmas day, 145 Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) urged the United Nations to provide protection to Palestinians from illegal settlers, which has so far received no tangible response.

Although these facts are often forgotten, the 11-day war between Palestinians and Israel's military last May was sparked due to extremist Israeli settler attacks. The violence at the al-Aqsa Mosque on the 8th of May, when Israeli occupation forces stormed the third holiest site for Muslims, resulted in the injury of over 200 Palestinians. These scenes shocked much of the world as videos of armed Israeli forces shooting at worshippers spread like wildfire on social media during Ramadan. 

"Yet, similar settler violence is being ignored in Western media as it threatens to open up another armed escalation in the occupied territories"

However, none of this would have come to such a boiling point without the planned settler extremist marches surrounding Jerusalem's old city in the weeks prior, where settlers - protected by Israeli forces - chanted "Death to Arabs" and threatened to storm the al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

The fact that Israel's political establishment had given a carte blanche to the illegal settlers, allowing far-Right wing, 'Religious Zionism Slate', members of the Knesset to give active support for settler attempts to overrun the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, played perhaps the biggest role in escalating tensions and provoking Palestinian retaliation. It then only took further incursions into al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli occupation forces, coupled with the threat issued by settlers to march onto the site, that saw Hamas give a 6-hour deadline for Israel to stop its attacks before the war would be initiated.

Since the war, settler extremism and the "Death to Arabs" marches have not gone away. Gangs of settlers protesting and assaulting Palestinians, sometimes described as modern-day lynch mobs, have been taking to the streets in the West Bank, Israel and East Jerusalem under the new Israeli administration led by Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett. In November, UN experts expressed alarm at the rising rates of settler attacks, stating that 2021 had "the highest recorded levels of violence in recent years", also adding that "more severe incidents" had occurred last year than in the years prior.

Israeli settlers killed three Palestinians in car rammings in 2021; Azzam Amer, Bilal Bawatneh and most recently 60-year-old Ghadeer Fuqaha. According to Israel's leading Human Rights Organisation, B'Tselem, in September dozens of armed Israeli settlers raided the village of Khirbet al-Mufaqarah, breaking into homes, smashing property, stabbing to death 5 sheep and cracking the skull of 3-year-old Muhammad Hamamdeh with a rock. This is just one example of the types of settler attacks that were documented by human rights organizations. 

Despite much fear-mongering over the prospect for settlement activity under the now-former Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, if he was to stay in power, statistically under the new PM Naftali Bennett Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes have roughly doubled in East Jerusalem. The demolition campaigns in Jerusalem's Silwan and elsewhere have been primarily geared towards allowing the conditions to pave the way to further expansion of illegal Israeli settlements. Naftali Bennet himself believes that the West Bank is rightfully part of Israel's Jewish heartland and should be referred to as its biblical name, "Judea and Sumeria".

In September, Bennett met with prominent Israeli settler leaders in the West Bank affirming his commitment to allow settlement plans to continue. In November the new Israeli government would then announce the plan to build a further 3,130 settler units in the West Bank.

According to Haaretz, Israeli occupation authorities have provided a "permissive atmosphere" which allows the settlers to "blow off steam", meaning that attacks on Palestinians are openly tolerated as a means of not upsetting the settlers by intervening. Not only this but perhaps one of the most extreme Israeli settler communities, based in al-Khalil (Hebron), were paid an honorary visit during Hanukkah by Israel's President Isaac Herzog seemingly showing an alignment between the Israeli Presidents views and those of hardline settlers.

"What is perhaps most alarming is that the violations documented against Palestinians are not only being largely ignored by the likes of the US Biden administration and the media apparatus of Western governments"

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), stated that in the first 10 months of 2021, there had been 410 attacks by settlers against Palestinians. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention's Article 27, Israel as the occupying power is required to protect civilians under its control but is clearly failing to do so. What is perhaps most alarming is that the violations documented against Palestinians are not only being largely ignored by the likes of the US Biden administration and the media apparatus of Western governments, it is also forcing Palestinian to take matters into their own hands in self-defence.

Nearly 80 per cent of Palestinians want Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, to resign according to a recent poll on the matter. With the growing resentment building in the West Bank against the Palestinian Authority as a legitimate representative of its constituents and them seeing the lack of protection they receive under it, many Palestinian youths are forming their own small de-centralised militia groups. 

When an environment of violence exists where there is no accountability for the primary perpetrators of that violence, it is only natural that people will take matters into their own hands. In the context of the Palestine-Israel conflict, this means that paroxysm now awaits the occupied territories and with a lack of adequate reporting on the root cause of the violence here, as well as the system of injustice which feeds it, when an escalation occurs there is no context with which to explain why the country is on fire.

Robert Inlakesh is a political analyst, journalist and documentary filmmaker currently based in London, UK. He has reported from and lived in the occupied Palestinian territories and has worked with RT, Mint Press, MEMO, Quds News, TRT, Al-Mayadeen English and more.

Follow him on Twitter: @falasteen47

Have questions or comments? Email us at:

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.