Within the last two days two right-wing Jewish settlers committed heinous crimes, stabbing and wounding six participants at a gay pride march in Jerusalem and another burning a Palestinian home in the West Bank in which a toddler was killed.
These attacks are not set apart as some fluke occurrence, but instead are part of a widespread campaign by extremist settlers against Palestinians in protest of restrictions on settler expansion.
In the embroiled fight for land between Israel and Palestine, violence between the two peoples is endless and escalating. Neither group is innocent here, but while Palestinian youths are accused of throwing stones, Israeli settlers are guilty of far more destruction and terror — that goes unjustified.
After the brutal arson attack, the Palestinian Liberation Organization released data showing 369 attacks by settlers have occurred since 2015 to July 27 that include harassment, mass uprooting of olive trees (a vital resource for Palestinian livelihood and economic stability), assault, vandalism and shooting sprees at people and property.
I am shocked by the murder of Ali Dawabshe. This is a reprehensible and horrific act of terrorism in every respect. pic.twitter.com/m9JXsk7YHg— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) July 31, 2015
While Israel says they are going to crack down on the settler violence, history has shown that the government’s response is subpar and the perpetrators experience nothing more than a light slap on the wrist.
@JeffreyGoldberg How can Netanyahu really crack down when he and his own gov't place settlers above the law, and use dog-whistle racsm?— Daniel Seidemann (@DanielSeidemann) July 31, 2015
Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem released a statement today noting that "in the past three years since August 2012, Israeli civilians set fire to nine Palestinian homes in the West Bank. Additionally, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a Palestinian taxi, severely burning the family on board. No one was charged in any of these cases.”
B’Tselem remains skeptical punitive action will actually be taken to stop this horrific stream of violence.
“In recent years, Israeli civilians set fire to dozens of Palestinian homes, mosques, businesses, agricultural land and vehicles in the West Bank. The vast majority of these cases were never solved, and in many of them the Israeli Police did not even bother take elementary investigative actions…
In light of this, official condemnations of this attack are empty rhetoric as long as politicians continue their policy of avoiding enforcement of the law on Israelis who harm Palestinians, and do not deal with the public climate and the incitement which serve is backdrop to these acts.”
Both Palestinians and Israelis carry out attacks against each other, but the prosecution and treatment of these perpetrators is drastically different.
The Guardian reports that Palestinian attacks are often followed by military incursions into Palestinian villages that can lead to the destruction of Palestinian homes.
“Palestinian youths are often detained at night, sometimes interrogated without lawyers or family members present, subject to physical and verbal abuse, forced to sign 'confessions' written in Hebrew – a language that few can read, shackled and handcuffed during court appearances, rarely given bail, and serve sentences in prisons far from home with relatives needing elusive permits for infrequent visits.”
Israel has even passed a law that imposes an up to 20-year jail sentence for stone-throwers.
Yet Israeli settlers do not face the same egregious standards of punishment.
Not only do these perpetrators receive fair legal representation and their cases dealt with under Israeli law while Palestinians face military prosecution, but a May 2015 report done by volunteer human rights organization Yesh Din found that only 7.4 percent of complaints made by Palestinians against Israeli settlers ended in indictments of those individuals. The report which examined law enforcement’s handling and treatment of Israeli settlers who harm Palestinians noted that a complaint submitted by a Palestinian to Israeli police only had a 1.9 percent chance of leading to an investigation.
Without the occupation, they would not be able to murder and attack Palestinian civilians in the West Bank. They are enabled by it.— Daniel Wickham (@DanielWickham93) July 31, 2015
While settler violence has been condemned by Israeli officials, the truth remains that this violence and consistent terror is not just a right-wing fringe gone out of control but rather reinforced because of Israeli policies that threaten and occupy, making settler violence appear almost valid, tolerated and going relatively unnoticed by Israelis.