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State Business: Israel’s misappropriation of land in the West Bank through settler violence [EN/AR/HE]

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Settler violence against Palestinians is a daily matter in the West Bank. Instead of taking preventive action, the Israeli authorities aid and abet the settlers in harming Palestinians and using their land. The report shows how settler violence is an unofficial arm of the state violence Israel uses to drive Palestinians off their land. By downplaying it as a fringe phenomenon while keeping up a pretense of law enforcement, Israel enjoys the best of both worlds: maintaining room for “plausible deniability” while taking over more West Bank land.

Summary, November 2021

Israel has built more than 280 settlements in the West Bank, which are home to more than 440,000 settlers. Of these settlements, 138 were officially established and recognized by the state (not including the 12 neighborhoods Israel built in the areas it annexed to Jerusalem), and some 150 are outposts not officially recognized by the state. About a third of the outposts have been built over the past decade, most of them referred to as “farms”.

West Bank settlements dominate hundreds of thousands of dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 square meters] to which Palestinians have limited access or none at all. Israel has taken over some of these areas using official means: issuing military orders, declaring the area “state land,” a “firing zone” or a “nature reserve”, and expropriating land. Other areas have been effectively taken over by settlers through daily acts of violence, including attacks on Palestinians and their property.

The two tracks appear unrelated: The state takes over land openly, using official methods sanctioned by legal advisors and judges, while the settlers, who are also interested in taking over land to further their agenda, initiate violence against Palestinians for their own reasons. Yet in truth, there is only one track: Settler violence against Palestinians serves as a major informal tool at the hands of the state to take over more and more West Bank land. The state fully supports and assists these acts of violence, and its agents sometimes participate in them directly. As such, settler violence is a form of government policy, aided and abetted by official state authorities with their active participation.