When Settlers Attack
By Yousef Munayyer
July 25, 2012


Over the duration of the ‘peace process’ the number of Israelis living beyond the Green Line has tripled from about 200,000 in 1990 to well above 650,000 today. Throughout this Israeli expansion into Palestinian territory the usurpation of Palestinian resources continues to be commonplace. However, in recent years the phenomenon of Israeli settler violence against Palestinian civilians has become a primary concern for the safety and security of Palestinian livelihood. While Israeli settler violence is not new, the extent and frequency with which it is perpetrated today is. This undeniable trend, which has been evident for several years now, seems to be the new normal. For this reason, this study aims to better understand where and how settler violence is happening and what causes it in an effort to understand how best to stop it.

Executive Summary

  • Israeli settler violence presents a direct and consistent threat to Palestinian civilians and their property in the occupied West Bank and instances of Israeli settler violence are on the rise.

  • From 2010 to 2011 there was a 39 percent increase in incidents of Israel Settler violence. In the five year period from 2007 through 2011 there has been a 315 percent increase. Conversely, over the same 5-year period, there has been a 95 percent decrease in Palestinian violence in the West Bank.

  • There is a noticeable shift in the proportion of violence as it occurs geographically in the West Bank. In the past, the southern part of the West Bank saw the largest number of instances but in recent years the northern part of the West Bank is becoming increasingly targeted and has overtaken the southern part of the West Bank in terms of number of attacks.

  • The period of the olive harvest annually brings a peak in violent settler activity. The presence of Palestinian civilians in olive groves, where they are easy targets for unrestrained and violent Israeli settlers, is the main reason why this occurs on an annual basis.

  • There is a noticeable increase in the frequency and proportion of arson attacks employed by violent settlers. This suggests that violent settlers are increasingly choosing this method of violence and will continue to do so. The percentage of arson among all attack types in 2005 was 6 percent and has risen to 11 percent in 2011.

  • While minimal variation in Israeli settler violence over time can be explained as a response to Israeli state actions against settlements, like the dismantlement of outposts, the vast majority of Israeli settler violence is not responsorial but rather structural and symptomatic of occupation.

  • Over 90 percent of all Palestinian villages which have experienced multiple instances of Israeli settler violence are in areas which fall under Israeli security jurisdiction.

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