Editorial

Protecting Violent Settlers

There is no lack of evidence of the anti-Palestinian activities of Jewish lawbreakers who are residents of the settlements

A screenshot shows Israeli soldiers standing by while settlers throw stones at the village of Burin, the West Bank, March 12, 2017.
A screenshot shows Israeli soldiers standing by while settlers throw stones at the village of Burin, the West Bank, March 12, 2017. Yesh Din video

The impotence of the State of Israel in the face of the Jewish lawbreakers in the territories has been revealed once again. An investigation by Haaretz found that since April at least nine incidents were documented in which settlers threw stones, and harmed Palestinians, soldiers, and left-wing activists in other ways. Although the incidents were documented or took place in the presence of soldiers, very few suspects were detained, and even those who were detained were quickly released. Needless to say, none of the lawbreakers was prosecuted (Yotam Berger, Haaretz, June 25).

The fact that the Israel Defense Forces and the police turn a blind eye to the crimes of settlers is nothing new. It’s as old as the occupation. Many Palestinians have for years refrained from filing complaints with the police because the outcome is a foregone conclusion. The IDF for its part boasts of the fact that it sends in forces to separate the sides during clashes between settlers and Palestinians, but apparently this intervention, even when it takes place, does not result in prevention or deterrence, and in some cases it is characterized by indifference and even contempt for the task the soldiers were summoned to carry out.

Even more serious, there is documentation of cases in which soldiers are witnesses to violent incidents and do nothing to prevent the attacks, or at least to try to separate the two sides. This happens despite their having the authority to detain the attackers.

Such a disgraceful attitude provides backing for the failures of the police in the territories. Although the IDF is sovereign in the territories, the Shai (Judea and Samaria) District Police is the entity that operates beyond the Green Line (the 1967 borders), and the Samaria, Benjamin and Hebron regions on the West Bank are in its area of jurisdiction.

In other words, the job of the police is to find, question and prosecute the suspects. But repeatedly it turns out that the police quickly close hundreds of files with unreasonable explanations of “lack of public interest” or “lack of evidence.” At least in some of the cases it’s clear the police do so without any acceptable explanation.

There is no lack of evidence of the anti-Palestinian activities of Jewish lawbreakers who are residents of the settlements. These include videos, still photos and testimony of Palestinians, investigators from human rights organizations, and IDF soldiers who were present at the scene of the incident. But despite all that, the police fail. They don’t prevent crimes, don’t find suspects, and certainly don’t question and prosecute them.

Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan and Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich must remind the Shai Police District that its task is not only to protect the settlers with Israeli citizenship who live beyond the Green Line, but – to the same degree – to protect the Palestinian residents.