The Settlements, Settlers and violence | Machsomwatch

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Settlers attacking Palestinians with military backing

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The Settlements and the Settlers

The settlers were not the focus of MaschsomWatch’s activity when we began to monitor the goings-on between the army and the Palestinians at the checkpoints, in 2001.
As the ‘peace process’ collapsed at the beginning of the 21st-century, and the agreement to gradually transfer most of Area C to the Palestinians was frozen, the Jewish settlers project attracted our attention more and more.
Soon we saw how Jewish settlements, illegal outposts and the settlers themselves change the situation on the ground. Many barriers and checkpoints (about 700 according to OCHA in 2018) were erected to ‘defend’ the Jewish settlements, thus sequestering vast Palestinian ground in favor of the settlers and their expansion. This is how the settler movement drags the State of Israel towards their own ideological vision the whole of Eretz Yisrael (from the River to the Sea), intended for one people only.

Vast farm areas were confiscated in Area C (under Israeli total control), intended for the future expansion of the settlements – at times at the expense of the Israeli soldiers’ security considerations.
In numerous places, the Separation Barrier was erected far from the Green Line (1949 armistice line, until 1967 recognized as an international border between Israel and Jordan) and separated thousands of Palestinian farmers from their lands.
As the number of settlements grew, Palestinian communities across the fence became choked enclaves whose inhabitants are forced to move among them in areas and tracks forbidden to Palestinian traffic. This has a severe social and economic effect on the Palestinians of the entire West Bank.

maps of the settlments and palestinian communities

The strengthening of the settlers' project and their proximity to Palestinian communities intensified the hostile and violent friction between the settlers and the Palestinians. Violent settlements are situated in the central and south part of the West Bank and their neighboring Palestinian villages are usually hit the hardest. The village of Burqa has been impacted by the settlers of the illegal outpost Oz Zion; the village of Qusra – by the settlers of the outpost Esh Qodesh; the villages of Bourin, Madame, ‘Urif, and Asira Al Qabaliya suffer at the hands of the settlers of Yitzhar and the outpost Giv’at Ronen (near Bracha Mountain), and there are many more. Not only are the thugs not punished – Israeli soldiers witnessing these pogroms usually do not intervene, and sometimes even cooperate with the attacking settlers. No wonder, then, that the escalating violence reached a peak in the murder of the Dawabsheh family in the village of Duma, on July 31, 2015.

Settlers cut down Palestinians' olive groves
Why should every Israeli citizen condemn the settlers' project?

The settlements project in the West Bank, destroying any possibility of eventual understandings and a peace agreement, places the law-abiding Israeli citizenry in a quandary, a situation most Israelis regard as complicated, complex, and thus – better left to the leadership to handle. Traditionally, as a militarist society, Israel is collectively obedient when it comes to ‘defense’ matters, and Zionism, on the whole, has taught us to see Palestinians exclusively through defensive lenses, best left unseen. 

The governments of Israel sweepingly surrender to the settlers’ demands, and the Israeli soldiers (‘the people’s army’) often solve the moral dilemma by turning a blind eye on the settlers’ harassment of Palestinians, often even arresting the victims.

The maintenance of settlements and checkpoints entails a massive military presence that is in charge of a civilian population and tramples its human rights. Thus, Palestinian motivation for violence and terrorism only grows. And the Jewish settlers' takeover of the conflict demands a steep monetary and human price for Israeli citizens on the whole.

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Sujud, the girl from A-Tawani

June 2021, Impressions from MachsomWatch vigils in the South Hebron Hills   Sujud is now twelve years old. She matter-of-factly speaks to the camera about a man who came threateningly close with his car to her and her schoolmates while they walked to scho
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Settlers – neighbors from hell in the center of the West Bank

We visited Yasouf village, invited by H., head of the local council. He opened our meeting by reporting the cutting down of trunks and branches of 58 olive trees, apparently by settlers from ‘Rechelim’ settler-colony. This crime was perpetrated during the
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Settlers’ false complaints and harassment in the Palestinian Jordan Valley

Najia, from Khalat Makhoul in the Palestinian Jordan Valley, was arrested on Monday, October 18, on the surreal charge of throwing a stone at the car of one of the settlers of the illegal outpost at Umm Zuka. Najia has a 3-month-old baby daughter, and  8
ילדה עם פציעה בראש
Sujud, after being attacked by settlers
Courtesy of the family
One of the rioters on the hills of Umm Rashash harrases a Palestinian shepherd and his flock
Local resident
Long-term ramifications of the settlements' project

The explicit goal of the settlers is to prevent any possibility for political solution, while setting facts on the ground. They contain a certain public that constantly acts to further friction and ignite the area. The situation thus created is then used to expand the settler-colonist project. They are backed up by a strong ruling lobby and robust economy that approves construction plans and expansion of settlements and bypass roads (at the expense of the Palestinians’ transport options), which will lead the settlers to work at the center of Israel fast, daily, with no checkpoints nor contact with Palestinians. The goal is to reach one million settlers by 2030.

According to the Oslo Peace Accords, the West Bank was divided into areas with Palestinian contiguity. When the agreement died, the settlers began to erect outposts and settlements in strategic places, nullifying the possibility of a two-state solution. This takes place by constantly creating a settlements’ buffer zone between the different parts of the West Bank: between its northern, central and southern parts; by creating separate enclaves of the cities Nablus, Ramallah and Jerusalem while crushing the organic connection between then and most parts of the West Bank; and by separating Bethlehem from the southern part of the West Bank. this situation, the Palestinians are forced to take long, potholed tracks bypassing these colonies, crossing numerous internal checkpoints on their way from one bloc to the next, giving up many privately-owned farming lands, and splitting their living environment and their families’ lives among isolated areas.

The long-term result of the settlers’ plan for the Israeli public is the perpetuation of conflict as an unending war. The solutions are becoming harder and harder: a cruel apartheid state that survives solely on its sword and places its young soldiers throughout the West Bank; or the state of all of its citizens, which will involve acute demographic problems and lead to a most violent social reality.

Control areas A B C - Created 169 of separated enclaves
On the unending and illegal expansion of settlements

The settlers do an excellent job at expanding. Over the years, they have learned to do it effectively, to the despair and at the expense of the Palestinians living in the area, and while outrageously disregarding the law and rulings of the Israeli courts. The settlements flourish with far-reaching governmental budgets, and spread out systematically with various excuses – a nature reserve turns into a settlement, an army base turns into a settlement, violent settlers make Palestinian grazing grounds and natural water sources inaccessible, etc. Everything is done in order to prevent Palestinian contiguity and the erection of a contiguous Palestinian entity.

In recent years, the system of illegal outposts has returned, whereby settlers set facts on the ground, create new settlements and the Israeli government allows this and helps them stay and flourish. Thus 40 new outposts have sprouted in the past few years. Some of them are in fact a new variant: farming ranches. Two structures are erected on a hill, a road is paved, sheep, goats, and cattle are brought in, and horses. A drone is flown up every morning, Palestinian flocks are located grazing around. The ranch flock is brought to the site backed up with horses and dogs, and the Palestinian shepherds are forced to flee. Thus, grazing grounds and farmland are taken over. In 2021, the settlement movement “Amana” has bragged that this is an especially economic method. Thus 1,000 dunams have already been ‘occupied’. And there’s more to come.

The pirate outpost in Umm Zuka becomes a one-man estate
Nurith Poper
A pirate outpost in the Jordan Valley receives infrastructure, 15.2.21
The settlers are building a fence - there is no entrance for the Palestinian flock
Rina Zur
The settlers fenced off the spring in Ein Hilweh in the Jordan Valley - for settlers only
Rachel Afek
Differences in basic human rights: Israelis vs. Palestinians in the West Bank

Settlements take over nearby farming areas and annex them: not only does the State of Israel not enable Palestinian farmers to build on their own lands in Area C, lands that are mainly targeted for expanding the settlements. The Palestinian farmers even need to ‘coordinate’ with the Israeli army in order to tend their own lands right next to them. Therefore, a Palestinian needs a special permit to reach his own fields… To avoid friction as it were between settlers and Palestinians. In fact, this ‘coordination’ aims to prevent Palestinians from tending their land, thus losing their property and livelihood. The prohibitions are naturally valid only for Palestinians. The Jewish settlers may build, graze, farm, settle anywhere, and even take the law into their own hands, attack and damage and threaten as they please.

The suffering of West Bank villages does not end with violent harassment and creeping annexation. It also means a massive reduction of water sources versus plenty of water for the settlements. The right to water is perhaps the most vital of all basic human rights. According to the World Health Organization, the minimum allotment of water per person a day is 100 liters. Most of the Palestinian villagers receive much less. In the Palestinian Jordan Valley, the Palestinian communities are allotted a mere few liters. Consequently, Palestinians have had to give up farming and sheep-herding for dairy products and make do with olive trees, that do not need irrigation.

With desperately longing eyes, the natives of the Palestinian West Bank watch their neighbor settlers (some of whom settle right on their lands) playing in their swimming pools alongside blooming decorative gardens, while Palestinians are forced to purchase water at an exorbitant price and transport it in tankers. Just for basic needs.

Settlers are known to have fired at water tanks placed on Palestinian roofs and punctured them. Moreover, sewage and waste flow into Palestinian villages from the settlements placed on the surrounding hilltops.

Basic human rights: Israelis vs. Palestinians in the West Bank