Israeli settler violence and terrorism against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories has been on the rise for many years, but the rate at which this violence is perpetuated has seen a significant spike in the past few years. The most egregious incidents often make headlines, such as the settler rampage in the village of Huwara last March or the 2014 fire-bombing in Duma. Yet the vast majority of settler attacks on Palestinians go largely unnoticed in the international and Israeli press. Meanwhile, many of the most violent settlers and settlements maintain extensive organizational and financial ties with actors in the United States and other Western nations.
How pervasive is the problem of Israeli settler violence, and how does it affect the daily lives of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation? What role do Israeli authorities, including the army, play in preventing or encouraging settler violence? How has U.S. policy responded to the growing threat of Israeli settler violence and extremism — and where could Washington do more? To shed light on these and other questions, the Middle East Institute is pleased to invite you to join an expert panel discussion.
- There has been a significant uptick in Israeli settler violence against Palestinians in recent years. Moreover, since the arrival of the current far-right government, we’ve seen an increase in both the scale and frequency of settler attacks, including the Huwara rampage this past March in which hundreds of Israeli settlers descended on the village of Huwara torching dozens of homes, shops and cars and killing one Palestinian. The use of violence is a key feature of the Israeli settlement enterprise in the occupied territories and of the Zionist project more broadly as a means of pushing Palestinians off their lands.
- The Israeli government and state are active participants in settler violence. Although the government does not explicitly encourage violence, it does nothing to disincentivize it, and routinely fails to punish those involved or otherwise hold them accountable. Many settlers are, themselves, in government including as judges, soldiers, and police. As a result, the police do not adequately respond to violence against Palestinians, as was the case in Huwara.
- Further adding to the problem, the Israeli government also funnels large amounts of money to settlers in their efforts to take over Palestinian land, while at the same time providing them with infrastructure and security. External groups independently raise money and many Israeli government ministries siphon money to settler groups and councils. In that sense, Israeli settlers and Israeli authorities are not separate entities but in fact two facets of the same movement.
- The United States has played an outsized role both in the settler movement at large and in terms of settler violence. For example, both Meir Kahane and Baruch Goldstein were Americans. In addition, substantial amounts of money are being funneled from U.S. sources, including tax-exempt nonprofits operating in the United States, directly to support Israeli settlements and even settler violence, including in some cases entities that are designated by the U.S. government as terrorist organizations (although the State Department formally removed Kahanist groups from its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, they and their affiliates remain on the Treasury Department’s list of specially designated terrorist groups). Although the Biden administration is clearly uncomfortable with the presence of the Kahanists and other extremists in the Israeli government, such as Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, the U.S. has so far been reluctant to take direct action against the flow of funds to Israeli extremists and has offered little more than occasional condemnation of settler violence.
Legal Research and Advocacy Officer, Al-Haq
International Advocacy Officer, B'Tselem
Senior Reporter, Jewish Currents
Khaled Elgindy, moderator
Senior Fellow and Director of the Program on Palestine and Palestinian-Israeli Affairs, Middle East Institute
Ahmed Abofoul is an international lawyer and currently serves as the Legal Research and Advocacy Officer at Al-Haq, the largest and oldest human rights organization in Palestine. He is also a Research Fellow on legal mobilization at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam.
Sarit Michaeli is International Advocacy Officer for B'Tselem at the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories and previously served as B’Tselem’s spokesperson from 2004 to 2016. Prior to joining B’Tselem, she worked extensively in journalism, graphic design, and translation in Israel, London, and New York.
Alex Kane is Senior Reporter for Jewish Currents, where he covers the politics of Israel/Palestine in the United States. Prior to joining Jewish Currents, he freelanced widely for numerous publications, including The Nation, The Intercept, VICE, Al Jazeera English, and more.
Khaled Elgindy is the author of the book, Blind Spot: America and the Palestinians, from Balfour to Trump, published by Brookings Institution Press in April 2019. Elgindy previously served as a fellow in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution from 2010 through 2018. Prior to arriving at Brookings, he served as an advisor to the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah on permanent status negotiations with Israel from 2004 to 2009 and was a key participant in the Annapolis negotiations of 2007-08.
Photo by Yousef Masoud/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images