“Here live enemies – expel or kill”. This slogan was graffitied on the walls of a home in ‘Urif in June 2018 by Israelis. The village is located near the settlement of Yitzhar (see cover photo). The hate graffiti was sprayed as Yesh Din was preparing this position paper and tragically sums up its main arguments.

The Palestinian villages of Burin (بورين), Huwarah (حوّاره), Madama (مادما), ‘Urif (عوريف), Einabus (عينابوس) and ‘Asirah al-Qibliyah (عصيرة القبلية) are located at the bottom of Jabal (Mount) Salman, south of the city of Nablus. These communities have been continuously settled for hundreds of years, some of them for thousands. Yitzhar – A Case Study focuses on the reality of daily life in these villages, which has been completely transformed by the presence of Israeli settlers and the violence they practice.

The position paper focuses on forty incidents document by Yesh Din between January 2017 and March 2018 in which settlers and other Israeli civilians, arriving from the settlement of Yitzhar and its satellite outposts and the outpost of Giv’at Ronen caused bodily harm or property damage to residents of the six villages. The incidents took place inside homes, on village streets and in farmland surrounding the villages. This case Study puts the spotlight on a relatively small area and what took place there over a short period of time and helps shed light on phenomena that are not unique to Yitzhar but occur, to varying degrees, throughout the West Bank.

Settler violence is meant to produce fear and terror that will, in turn, push Palestinians out of their lands and pave the way for the expansion of Israeli control in the OPT. But, this violence does not take place in a vacuum. Israel’s motivation to increase its hold on Palestinian land in the West Bank, which it has kept under military rule for more than 51 years, matches the settlers’ agenda. The state does not instigate settler violence, but the conduct of its agencies – the government, the military, the police and the prosecution – greenlights it.

Yitzhar – A Case Study shows how the protection Israel gives settlers fuels their continued violence toward Palestinians. The state gives settlers land and infrastructure, retroactively approves illegal construction and unauthorized outposts and works to increase the legitimacy of Israeli presence in the West Bank. The military restricts Palestinians’ access to their own land, fails to prevent attacks on village residents, and often helps the violent settlers whether directly, though soldiers’ actions, or indirectly through the action of the Settlement security coordinators. After the fact, if a complaint is filed, the police and the prosecution give the assailants de-facto immunity and rarely put anyone on trial.

Israel’s conduct, which not only tolerates the violence perpetrated by settlers but, in fact, backs them, leads to the proliferation and expansion of violent actions. This violence is not incidental or banal. It is part of a system, another link in the chain of measures put in place in order to take over Palestinian land. This Israeli policy severely violates the human rights of Palestinians, primarily the rights to life and security of person, as well as rights to property and to freedom of movement. It cripples the daily lives of women, men and children, who are forced to confine themselves to ever shrinking spaces and live in constant fear, even inside their own homes.