A Knesset committee headed by Meretz Party member Moshe (“Mossi”) Raz recently sounded the alarm—sirens, even—over a supposed rise in settler violence against innocent Palestinians in Judea and Samaria.
The figures provided by Yesh Din, which calls itself a non-governmental organization, do seem alarming. Of course, Yesh Din only deals with violence against Palestinians, not against Israelis.
The organization has counted over 1,400 acts of violence since 2012—416 of them in the first half of this year. However, neither the Knesset “fact-finding” committee nor Yesh Din ever bothers pointing out, let alone comparing, the sheer volume of Palestinian violence committed against Israelis in Judea and Samaria. For every act of violence committed by a settler, there are many more acts of violence committed by Palestinians against Israeli civilians in Judea and Samaria, against Israeli service providers and Israeli security personnel.
The staggering difference is not only quantitative but also and more importantly, qualitative; 70 percent of the settler attacks against Palestinians, according to Yesh Din, involve violence against property. By contrast, nearly all of the violence committed by the Palestinians against Israelis involves attempts to maim and kill, with firearms, knives, vehicles, and, of course, stones (whether hurled by hand or by slingshot).
Palestinians firebombed 3,675 Israeli buses and cars since 2016 (up to and including 2020). In the same period—years of “relative quiet”—there have been 10,620 stonings and 353 shootings, stabbings and vehicular assaults. Occasionally, the victims are Palestinians, mistakenly identified as Israelis or caught in the crossfire.
Yet even these comparisons do not capture the full extent of Palestinian violence.
The major difference between settler and Palestinian violence is that the latter is orchestrated, financed and abetted by the Palestinian Authority, in cooperation with other factions of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and NGOs funded by the European Committee.
At the center of organized Palestinian violence stands the head of the Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission, with the rank of minister in the P.A. He works closely with Fatah, whose salaried district heads are responsible for mobilizing party members and supporters in campaigns of violence against Israelis and Israeli settlements, and coordinating efforts with other factions and the media.
It is often a Fatah professional who leads these campaigns of violence at the local level, with the help of the local Popular Committee in Defense of the Land and the Coordinating Committee of (Palestinian) Factions. In addition to Fatah representatives, local leaders from other PLO factions, such as the Popular and Democratic Fronts for the Liberation of Palestine and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, also participate.
According to the Palestinians, settlement efforts are a bid to isolate and drive them out. Yet it is the P.A. and its organs that aim to drive out Israelis, by harassment and threats. The campaign of violence against Israeli settlement in the area east of Nablus, to prevent the relocation and resettlement of Eviatar, is a good example.
At the epicenter of the campaign stand the considerable resources of the town of Beita, whose inhabitants exceed 20,000 and dwarf the nearby Israeli settlements of Itamar and Yitzhar, with a combined population of around 3,000. The local committees, taking their cue from the Hamas campaign of harassment of Israeli localities in the areas adjacent to Gaza, have organized weekly Friday campaigns of harassment against nearby settlements. This includes rock-throwing and arson against Israeli settlements. These campaigns are meticulously followed and glorified by the P.A.-financed media.
Most of the responses by the settlers are acts of exasperation in the face of endemic, P.A.-orchestrated Palestinian violence.
Palestinian violence is vastly more common than settler violence. Raz would have been more credible were he to address the P.A.’s systemic efforts to promote violence against civilians, 30 years after the PLO committed itself to the peaceful resolution of the conflict.
Hillel Frisch is a professor of political studies and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and an expert on the Arab world at The Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security.
This article was first published by the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies.