Jewish settlers deliver the state’s final blow

Maureen Clare Murphy

The Electronic Intifada  /  August 14, 2023

“I’m the government, I’m the state. I’m the police and the military,” an armed Jewish settler asserted while occupying the home of a Palestinian sheep herder earlier this month.

The settler’s claim, however repugnant, reflects the truth: The settlers and the state are one, working hand in hand to colonize Palestinian land.

The state cannot advance its goal of full control between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea without the settlers terrorizing Palestinians until they flee their land.

Days after the aforementioned armed settler walked into Muhammad Hassan Abu al-Kabash’s home, the herding community dismantled their encampment in Al-Qabun, northeast of Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank.

A dozen families lived in Al-Qabun for more than two decades before settlers arrived in February “and started making trouble for us,” Abu al-Kabash said.

Settlers subjected the pastoral community to months of harassment by “walking around their homes, arriving on horseback and in tractors late at night to provoke and intimidate the families,” according to B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group.

“The settlers have also taken over the community’s farm fields and prevented them from grazing their flock on their land,” B’Tselem added.

Forced to leave

Unable to work and fearing for their safety, the community was forced to leave their land, as have several other rural communities in the West Bank in recent months.

Dozens more herding communities are “directly affected by an increase in Jewish settler violence and measures taken by Israeli authorities,” according to the UN monitoring group OCHA.

“In the first six months of 2023, the UN recorded 591 settler-related incidents resulting in Palestinian casualties, property damage, or both,” OCHA stated.

“This is a 39 percent increase in the monthly average when compared with 2022, during which the highest number of settler-related incidents since the UN began recording such data in 2006 was reported.”

The displacement of communities due to a coercive environment amounts to forcible transfer – “a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and thus a war crime,” according to OCHA.

B’Tselem states that Israeli policies “force impossible conditions on local residents in order to push them to leave, thus clearing the way for it to take over their lands and transfer them to Jewish hands.”

Banning Palestinians from building homes and infrastructure, while permitting and financing settlements whose residents attack Palestinians, are policies “aimed at upholding, preserving and empowering Jewish supremacy,” B’Tselem adds.

settler violence surges

Since the beginning of the year, nearly 500 Palestinians – more than half of them children – have been forcibly transferred due to settler violence and lack of access to grazing land, according to OCHA.

Meanwhile, in the first six months of 2023, Israel advanced the approval of nearly 13,000 settlement units in the West Bank – “the highest year on record,” the settlement watchdog Peace Now said in July.

It’s no coincidence that it’s the highest year on record for both the advancement of settlement units and settler attacks against Palestinians and their property.

Some of those attacks have been deadly.

The current Israeli government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu has ramped up the structural violence necessary for the creation and maintenance of a Jewish state in Palestine.

The guiding principles of the government begin with the assertion that “the Jewish people have an exclusive and unquestionable right over all areas of the land of Israel.”

It’s the natural evolution of a state of impunity that allowed for rampant colonization of West Bank land, in clear violation of international law, after the signing of the Oslo accords by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in the mid-1990s.

In the years that followed, the pretense of the so-called peace process gave Israel cover to consolidate its control and make permanent its military occupation under the guise of temporary security measures.

Previous Israeli governments made efforts to maintain the impression that the state was somehow separate from the settlement enterprise in occupied Palestinian and Syrian land when in reality, nearly every facet of the state, including the currently embattled judiciary, is implicated in the colonization project.


The present government, by contrast, is transparent about its maximalist designs on Palestinian land, and its endorsement of the violence by both settlers and the state required to fulfill Israel’s “great purpose,” in the words of Kahanist national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir: “The land of Israel for the people of Israel.”

Earlier this month, Ben-Gvir praised as “heroes” settlers suspected of killing Qusai Jamal Mutan in Burqa, a town near Ramallah, painting the act of violence as self-defense.

Palestinians, meanwhile, are not allowed to defend themselves from the attacks by settlers like those celebrated by Ben-Gvir, who provoke and harass under the guard of the military.

As the Israeli journalist Amira Hass explains, “Palestinians are not allowed to use weapons to defend themselves, or stones or sticks, and they’re also not permitted to rush to the defense of others.”

The ban is imposed and enforced by the military “amid an atmosphere of Jewish supremacy … a complex matrix in which every component is linked to another and holds it in place,” Hass states.

Palestinians like the shepherds in al-Qabun know that there is little to protect them from the settlers and the state, working together to rob them of their land and way of life.

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada