For over 54 years Israel has exercised control over the West Bank through military occupation. According to international law, Israel is obligated to protect the residents of the occupied territory. Monitoring Israeli authorities’ treatment of offenses committed by Israelis against Palestinians in the West Bank is uniquely significant because these offenses are perpetrated by citizens of the occupying country against the population living under occupation.
The data sheet addresses police investigations opened into offenses perpetrated by Israeli civilians against Palestinians between 2005 and June 2021. Once a police investigation is concluded, the police and the State Attorney’s Office decide whether to file an indictment or close the investigation file.
Acts of violence and damage to property are usually perpetrated in areas where Israeli civilians seek to take over land and dispossess Palestinians of their land. Israeli settler violence also seeks to terrorize and spread fear, oppress, and disrupt Palestinians’ daily lives. In this way, separate offenses committed by individuals combined form a system of ideological crime that is designed to expand Israeli control in the West Bank.
Yesh Din’s long-term monitoring demonstrates that Israel’s law enforcement authorities systemically and pervasively fail to uphold its duty under international law to protect Palestinians from settler violence. Failure to enforce the law allows ideological crime in the West Bank to persist and by doing so, Israel is normalizing and extending its support for such violence.
Yesh Din has monitored investigations and reviewed materials in 1,395 investigation files opened by the Samaria and Judea District Police following complaints made by Palestinian victims of offenses since 2005 and which have been concluded. 1,279 cases (92% of cases) were closed at the end of an investigation without filing an indictment, and in just 116 cases (8% of cases), indictments were filed.
Analyzing the circumstances in which investigation files are closed reveals that the police have failed in the investigation of 81% of files opened since 2005 which have since concluded and the results of which are known This high failure rate reflects longstanding and systemic failure in law enforcement responses to ideologically motivated crime against Palestinians in the West Bank. In total, since 2005 approximately 3% of investigation files (52 files) opened following ideologically motivated offenses Israelis committed against Palestinians in the West Bank led to convictions.
Data the Israel Police provided to Yesh Din show that 732 cases were opened in the Samaria and Judea District Police in 2018-2020 concerning “Israelis creating disturbances and Jewish nationalist crime.”18 In approximately half of these cases (369 investigation files), victims of the offenses were Palestinian, and in the remaining half (363 investigation files) the victims were not Palestinian. When victims of offenses were not Palestinians, offenses were primarily directed against Israeli security forces personnel; very few cases involved violations of administrative orders and harming Israelis and foreigners (activists).
In incidents in which the victim of the offense was Palestinian, 11 indictments were filed (3% of all cases), while in incidents in which the victim was not Palestinian, 70 indictments were filed (19%). Therefore, the chance that Israeli law enforcement authorities will file an indictment against an Israeli who harmed a non-Palestinian in the West Bank (Israeli security personnel and others) is six times higher than the chance they will file an indictment against an Israeli who harmed a Palestinian.
The data expose law enforcement authorities’ discrimination in the occupied territories. When an Israeli commits a crime against a non-Palestinian, meaning Israeli security forces personnel or others, it is often followed by effective investigations by police and indictments filed. In contrast, when violence is directed at Palestinians, Israeli law enforcement agencies are negligent at best in their treatment and fail to prosecute offenders.
Lack of enforcement or deterrence against ideologically motivated crime perpetrated by Israelis against Palestinians allows additional crimes to be committed against a defenseless population. Israel’s law enforcement policy in cases of settler violence precludes any possibility of deterring offenders and demonstrates that Israel is party to violence against Palestinians and bears responsibility for it.