West Bank Dispatch: The state and its settlers

Mondoweiss Palestine Bureau

Mondoweiss  /  June 5, 2023

The Jewish settler movement and state both work toward the same goal: the colonization of Palestine, and the repression of resistance to that colonization by the native population.

Key Developments (June 1–5)

  • On Monday, June 5, Israeli forces killed Mohammad Tamimi, who was only two years old. Tamimi was fatally shot near his village of Nabi Saleh north of Ramallah two days earlier on Saturday and succumbed to his wounds on Monday. Israeli military forces had ambushed a Palestinian car on Saturday near the military watchtower erected at the entrance of Nabi Saleh, and as Israeli forces chased the vehicle and fired bullets directly at it, they shot the two-year-old in his head and his father in the shoulder as they stood in front of their home near the entrance of the village. Tamimi’s body was withheld by Israeli forces briefly and released later in the afternoon to Palestinian authorities. His final burial in his home village is scheduled for Tuesday, June 6. 
  • Also on Monday, the body of Hatem Abu Nijmeh, killed almost a month and a half ago by an armed Jewish settler in Jerusalem after allegedly carrying out an attack that injured at least eight, was delivered to his family. Abu Nijmeh’s body was returned on the condition that only 25 people attend the funeral and that they must pass an Israeli security background check. Israeli authorities continue to withhold at least 130 Palestinian bodies, including that of the late Khader Adnan, who died inside the Ramleh prison clinic after 86 days on hunger strike.
  • On Saturday, June 3, an Egyptianpolice officer conducted an armed attack on Israeli forces stationed near the Egyptian-Israeli border, killing two Israeli military personnel while fatally wounding a third, who succumbed to wounds hours later. The Egyptian officer was also killed in the exchange of fire.
  • On Thursday, June 1, at around 2:00 a.m., Israeli forces invaded Tulkarem refugee camp, after which armed confrontations between the army and local residents ensued. Israeli forces have continued to conduct nightly raids on Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank. Tulkarem became more active in armed resistance activities earlier this year with the rise of the “Tulkarem Rapid Response Brigade.” 
  • Also on Thursday, Israeli forces arrested more than 20 young men from the town of Taquo’ in Bethlehem and conducted “field interrogations,” releasing several of the men afterward and detaining others. 
  • Hours following the raids on Tulkarem and Bethlehem, Israeli forces also invaded the Aqbat Jabr refugee camp in Jericho with several military vehicles, and additional military forces were deployed on Jerusalem Street in Jericho. Israeli forces have continuously targeted the Aqbat Jabr refugee camp following the rise of the Aqbat Jabr brigade. In January of this year, Israeli forces invaded the camp, destroyed several homes belonging to the families of men affiliated with the brigade, and extra-judicially assassinated five of them.
  • At around the same time as the invasion of the Aqbat Jabr brigade in Jericho, Israeli forces shut down public streets and entrances for Luban Sharqiyyeh located south of Nablus. The military was facilitating ease of access for settlers who wanted to perform prayers on the lands in the area. 
  • Also on June 1, Jewish settlers invaded the Al-Aqsa mosque with the protection of the police. This comes after Israeli incursions on Al-Aqsa and the non-Jewish holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem peaked earlier this year during the Muslim and Christian holidays. This has historically been a strategy and a tactic by settlers to affirm their presence on Palestinian lands, later claiming them as their own by the judicial decree of Israeli authorities and the Supreme Court. 
  • Jewish settlers continue coordinated attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank. On Monday, June 5, a group of settlers burned a Palestinian vehicle and injured one youth in a collective assault on Palestinians near the village of Kufr Thilth east of Qalqilya. Israeli forces on the scene injured at least four Palestinian youths who confronted the invasion. On the same day, settlers set fire to several civilian vehicles in the village of Burqa. Settlers also continued their assault on the Ein Samiya area near the village of Kufr Malek in Ramallah. All this comes weeks after settlers and the military forcibly displaced and dispossessedthe area’s Palestinian Bedouin community on May 24, despite having lived there for nearly three decades.
  • The Palestinian novelist, analyst, and thinker Walid Daqqah, remains imprisoned and denied early release by Israeli prison services as his health deteriorates due to a rare bone marrow cancer. 


The Zionist settler colonial enterprise has always been advanced by two distinct groups: Zionist “pioneers” who have been at the forefront of colonization, and official or semi-official military bodies to enforce it (such as the Haganah before 1948, or the Israeli army after the founding of the state). Not much has changed in that respect during the past century of Zionist colonial presence in Palestine. Jewish settlers continue to colonize what remains of Palestine in the West Bank, establishing outposts on hilltops and asserting their presence in holy sites, while the Israeli army facilitates the colonial project and attempts to put down any resistance to it. It is a division of roles that is as old as Zionism’s early years.

But those roles don’t always remain so neatly divided, as settlers themselves regularly carry out attacks against Palestinian communities, whether unprovoked or in retribution for Palestinian resistance to colonization. In those situations, the settlers are always accompanied by an army escort that ensures their safety, which either does not intervene when the settlers attack Palestinians or actively participates in the lynching. In that way, settlers become the Israeli state’s attack dogs, and the lines become blurred between state and civilian. Neither is this phenomenon isolated to settlers in the West Bank. Every Israeli is a settler living in the Israeli settler colony, but not in the same sense that the U.S. is a settler colony. Rather, Israel is unlike many other contemporary settler colonies in that almost every Israeli citizen serves or has served in the army due to Israel’s mandatory universal conscription. What’s more, most of Israel’s armed forces — the reserve force — are composed of nominal civilians who go about their daily lives but are called in by the army command when needed several times throughout the year. Many began to discover this fairly recently, especially in the case of the Israeli Air Force, when reservist pilots said they would disobey the Netanyahu government’s orders were it to override the judiciary.

All of this blurs the traditional lines between the state and its citizenry. What ends up happening is that the typical Israeli civilian will more than likely either serve in the reserve forces, serve as an active duty soldier, or take up residence in the West Bank countryside or in Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem to serve as the spearhead of the state’s colonial drive.

Last week was as clear an illustration as any of this division and blurring of roles between the state and its settlers. Israeli settlers attacked the al-Aqsa Mosque with the protection of the police, the village of Burqa with the protection of the army, and the village of Kufr Thilth with the army’s active role in shooting at and wounding the Palestinians who attempted to defend themselves from the settler mobs. All the while, the Israeli army continued its deadly campaign of repression of Palestinians in Bethlehem and Nabi Saleh and of the armed resistance groups in Tulkarem and the Aqbat Jabr refugee camp. In many cases, the same soldiers that carry out the arrests and extrajudicial assassinations are also West Bank settlers. They are actively supported by a right-wing Israeli government that has been captured by West Bank settler interests.

But it must also be stressed that much of what has been described above predates the advent of the current right-wing government. Many of the distinctions between this government and previous “moderate” Israeli governments have, in this sense, been exaggerated, not because there aren’t meaningful differences between these governments in terms of short-term dynamics, but because the current state of settler resurgence and military repression, far from being an aberration or the product of a fundamentalist government, is simply furthering Zionism’s century-long historical trajectory.

Key figures

  • Since the beginning of the year, 28 Palestinian children and minors have been killed by Israeli forces, most recently two-year-old Mohammad Haitham al-Tamimi. 
  • In an unprecedented record, 1,083 Palestinians are imprisoned by Israel under the illegal practice of administrative detention