Israel has aspired to take over land in the West Bank since it conquered this territory over 54 years ago. Israel’s colonialist expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) has thus far has relied largely on settlements and unauthorized outposts. During the past several years Israel has been promoting shepherding outposts consisting of goat and sheep farms.

Between 2017-2021 Israelis built over 50 new single-family settlements in the West Bank, at least 35 of which are shepherding outposts. This report focuses on settler shepherding outposts, whose explicit aim is to seize control of hundreds of thousands of dunams of land in the oPt. The State of Israel is party to establishing these shepherding outposts and is accountable for the outcomes of these actions.

Israeli shepherding outposts in the oPt were built without an official Israeli resolution and in breach of the government’s declared policy. As all Israeli settlements and outposts in the West Bank, they violate international law. And yet, Israel supports the settler shepherding farms by providing them exclusive allocations of pastureland, financial grants and assistance with infrastructure. This support is administered directly by government offices and by various bodies who receive public funds, among other sources.

Most of these outposts are settled by one young family, consisting of just a few individuals and volunteers. By building structures, grazing flocks in vast areas, taking over water resources and oftentimes perpetrating violence against the Palestinian residents, the settlers are able to take control of large swaths of land.

Settlers in shepherding outposts carry weapons and employ attack dogs, some ride on ATVs or on horseback and use drones. They assault Palestinians, intimidate them and even invade their private homes. They kill and injure livestock, destroy property, damage crops and take over water sources.

As is the case throughout the West Bank, Israeli law enforcement agencies make no effective effort to end the continuous violation of the law by settlers in shepherding outposts. Nor do Israeli soldiers prevent Israelis’ violence against Palestinians, and at times they even aid such violence. The Civil Administration ignores illegal settler construction, and the police and State Attorney’s office do not prosecute Israelis who break the law and harm Palestinians and their property. Lack of law enforcement on the part of Israeli authorities precludes any possibility of deterring offenders and lends support for further offenses by Israeli settlers.

This report presents the Israeli perspective that West Bank land where settlers herd their flocks is the property of Jews and confronts this perspective with the legal framework that applies to the oPt. The report describes the settlers’ modus operandi in shepherding outposts: establishing, expanding, invading and perpetrating violence as means for driving Palestinian shepherds and farmers off of their land. It also analyzes how and why these practices are illegal and gravely infringe upon Palestinians’ human rights.

The last part of this report reveals that 40 years ago, the government of Israel used allocation of grazing lands as a preliminary step to building settlements in the oPt. We compare archival documents published here for the first time with updated maps, exposing Israel’s plans from the early 1980s and their concrete results. Analysis of the maps reveals that building shepherding outposts is a first step towards extensive takeover of land in order to expand the Israeli settlement enterprise in the oPt.

This report proves that through shepherding outposts, Israel seeks to implement significant and long-term change to the map of Israeli settlement in the occupied Palestinian territories. This policy infringes severely and extensively on Palestinians’ human rights and could lead to ethnic-based expulsion of many Palestinian communities from their land.

Israel continues to expand its colonialist and illegal settlement in the West Bank 54 years after it captured this territory. Yesh Din calls on the international community to intervene and stop Israel from building and supporting settler shepherding outposts, which inherently infringe upon Palestinians’ human rights like all settlements and outposts. The international community must guarantee Israel fulfils its obligation to protect the Palestinian population in the territories under its military occupation as required by Israeli and international law.