Settlers - Introduction

Currently, more than 550,000 Israeli colonial settlers live in about 200 illegal colonial settlements and outposts throughout the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Though the settlements several United Nations resolutions  and are illegal under international law, namely the Fourth Geneva Convention,  the government of Israel supports them through providing infrastructure and utility services, government-subsidized mortgage loans, free school for children after age 3, as well as Jewish-only by-pass roads between settlements and main metropolitan areas, according to a report on settlements by the Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem.

Settlements take up almost nearly 45 percent of the West Bank; they’ve pushed the indigenous Palestinian population into isolated cantons. Israel nourishes the settlements because – through their annexation – Israel will gain greater amounts of Palestinian land. Some experts have suggested that the network of settlements has so carved up the West Bank that the idea of a two-state solution is no longer possible because Palestinians will not have contiguous territory from which to make a state.

Aside from losing their land, Palestinians often have to contend with violent attacks perpetrated by the settlers – especially the fervent, ultra-Orthodox residents who will stop at nothing to grab the land they claim is theirs by divine right.

Settler violence that includes torching farm fields and orchards, beating, stoning and shooting at Palestinians – especially children who must walk by settlements on their way to school – is on the rise.

From a UNICEF report: “In the first 10 months of 2008, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs  recorded 290 settler-related incidents targeting Palestinians and their property, surpassing the previous two years (182 and 243 in 2006 and 2007, respectively). Similarly, Palestinian deaths and injuries resulting from settler-related incidents in 2008 exceed the number of Palestinian casualties in each of the previous two years (131 in 2008, compared to 74 in 2006 and 92 in 2007). A significant majority of settler incidents recorded by OCHA are carried out by groups of Israeli settlers, rather than lone individuals. Approximately half of all Palestinian injuries from settler violence each year since 2006 have been made up of children, women, and the elderly.”

The colonial settlers tend to attack in groups and weapons vary from guard dogs to automatic assault rifles, the UNOCHA reports. 

But these attacks aren’t new. In 1994, Baruch Goldstein, an American Jew who was living in the Kiryat Arba settlement, opened fire in the Al Ibrahimi mosque in Khalil (Hebron), killing 29 Muslims worshipers. A statute in Goldstein’s honor was erected and to this day, Israelis celebrate him as a hero.

Palestinians attacked by Israeli settlers usually find no relief in Israel’s judicial system. An Israeli human rights group, Yesh Din, found in 2005 that a full 90 percent of the cases brought by Palestinians against Jewish settlers were closed without any charges being brought against the attackers.

- American Muslims for Palestine 2010