While Israel Bombards Gaza, Settlers are Stealing Palestinian Land in the West Bank

With the American news cycle focused on Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip, escalating Israeli state and settler violence in the West Bank is going largely unreported. 

Although President Joe Biden has sanctioned individual extremist Israeli settlers, Progressive analysts –  such as Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman – say he has ignored Israel’s support for this violence. Earlier this year, the United States decided against sanctioning the infamous Israeli military unit Netzah Yehuda, which has been accused of human rights abuses by a U.S. State Department probe and other reports. 

The United States has a long history of empty promises when it comes to holding Israel accountable. On June 22, for example, Israeli soldiers shot, beat, and tied a Palestinian man to a military jeep before using him as a human shield against potential retaliation from Palestinian militants. The U.S. State Department condemned this clear human rights violation, but any further action seems unlikely.   

Since October 7, there has been a well-documented increase in settler violence, facilitated by Israel. 

In the latest documented incident, more than twenty Israeli settlers invaded the Palestinian village of Ras al-Ein, located in the southern Jordan Valley. The settlers were accompanied by dozens of Israeli soldiers and police officers.

Nimrod Krieger, an Israeli activist with “Looking the Occupation in the Eyes,” who works to document human rights abuses in the West Bank was present at the scene. He tells The Progressive that, a few hours before this incursion, the mere presence of Zohar Sabah—an infamous Israeli settler known for orchestrating violence against Palestinians—on Palestinian farmland in the village deterred them from farming on their own land. The Israeli army invaded Ras al-Ein on the false pretense that Palestinian villagers attacked Sabah—which ultimately led to the arrest of at least three local Palestinians. 

While the Israeli police requested all three Palestinians be held for eight days, the judge of the Israeli court sentenced them to three. The judge also stated that she had not seen any of the evidence submitted by Krieger, which Krieger told The Progressive he handed over to the police. This is part of a larger trend of Israeli forces facilitating and justifying settler violence in numerous ways.

In a similar incident the following day, Sabah and several other settlers stormed Ras al-Ein. Soldiers launched tear gas and used live fire to force Palestinians to stay back while the settlers entered the Palestinians’ sheep pens. The settlers also threw stones at the Palestinians, who responded to settlers throwing stones by returning their own.

Krieger claims that one officer said, “We arrested three Palestinians and two anarchists.” The title “anarchist”—removed from the political ideology—has become a common insult towards Israeli leftists, most likely in reference to the Israeli activist group Anarchists Against the Wall.

In addition to the latest incident in Ras al-Ein, Ein Samia—a Palestinian village that no longer exists—was ethnically cleansed last month after settlers evicted the last two families who lived there. This comes after a year-long effort to forcibly relocate the village’s population. In April, after a fourteen-year-old settler child named Benjamin Achimeir was found dead outside a settlement near Ramallah, there was a wave of settler violence in al-Mughayyir and other nearby villages.

On the other side of the West Bank, in the South Hebron Hills, which has long been a hotbed of settler violence, the situation is no better. In early October, Zakariah al-Adra, a Palestinian resident of the village At-Tuwani, was shot in the stomach by a settler. The settler, who is from the infamous outpost Havat Ma’on, was not arrested despite clear video evidence of the attack. Al-Adra’s wife’s childhood home was demolished in May. 

Demolitions are a common occurrence in Area C of the West Bank. These demolitions are generally carried out with bulldozers from Caterpillar—an American company based in Illinois that is one of the primary targets of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. 

Late last month, a barrage of demolitions was carried out in the South Hebron Hills village of Umm al-Kheir. One-third of the villagers lost their homes, including more than thirty children.

The settler movement has long featured American citizens leading the pack. With American citizens on the front lines, U.S. military aid funding the weapons that the IDF points at innocent, unarmed civilians, and U.S. companies providing the tools used to violate international law, it is clear that Palestine is a domestic American issue.