analysisU.S.-Israel Relations

US sanctions Israeli ‘settlers,’ but won’t reveal its sources

U.S blacklisted seven Israelis pursuant to a Feb. 1 Executive Order • Does reveal how it determined they are "undermining peace, security and stability" in Judea and Samaria.

A Jewish settler rides his horse near the outpost of Ramat Migron on Sept. 8, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
A Jewish settler rides his horse near the outpost of Ramat Migron on Sept. 8, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
Josh Hasten

This week, the United States sanctioned another three Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria, accusing them of “undermining peace, security, and stability in the West Bank.”

The new sanctions also apply to the farms owned by two of the three sanctioned men, as the U.S. State Department claims the properties are serving as bases from which the accused are perpetrating “violence against Palestinians.”

The United States has blacklisted a total of seven Israelis pursuant to U.S. President Joe Biden’s Feb. 1 Executive Order 14115, which states that financial sanctions can be applied to individuals in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) who are seen as “undermining stability” and “prospects of peace.”

The U.S. embassy in Jerusalem would not confirm the sources or methodology used to determine who falls under the EO. In response to a query by JNS, an embassy spokesperson said: “We gather information from a variety of carefully vetted partners, on-the-ground reports, and other sources of credible information. We cannot comment on all the specific sources of information used to come to these designations.”

However, while the embassy would not comment on its sources, Israeli investigative journalist Elchanan Groner of the Hakol HaYehudi news site recently told Israel’s Channel 14 news that the sanctions are, in fact, based on statistics compiled by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which is known to gather an immense amount of data on “settler-related violence.”

OCHA says its information “is collected from a variety of sources, including municipal authorities, Palestinian District Coordination Offices (DCO), U.N. agencies, human rights organizations and media reports.”

Among these so-called “human-rights organizations” are extremist E.U.-funded Israeli anti-settler groups such as B’Tselem, Yesh Din and Physicians for Human Rights.

On Nov. 1, OCHA released an article claiming that “Israeli settler violence has increased significantly, from an already high average of three incidents per day in 2023 to seven a day” since Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre. “During this period, OCHA recorded 171 settler attacks against Palestinians,” the report states.

However, a position paper published by the Samaria Regional Council takes OCHA’s research methods to task.

According to the council’s research, “The U.N. falsely generates defamatory ‘settler violence’ content—which mass media and world leaders then mistakenly use as ‘data,'” by:

• Conflating extensive violence against settlers with rare violence by settlers, referring to both together as “settler-related” violence.

• Ignoring the fact that the “vast majority” of Palestinian deaths attributed to “settler violence” were killed by Israeli security forces during counter-terror raids.

• Distributing “settler violence” content without proof—the “handful” of cases in which settlers are accused of killing Palestinians are still under investigation.

OCHA itself actually confirms some of the council’s claims.

In a website section titled “data on casualties” featuring OCHA’s statistics on both Israeli and Palestinian fatalities, the category labeled “Incidents involving Israeli settlers” notes that these include “Palestinians killed or injured during attacks or alleged attacks they perpetrated against Israeli settlers.”

According to OCHA’s figures, from Oct. 7 to Jan. 17, there were nine Palestinian fatalities caused by “settler violence.”

However, according to Naomi Linder-Kahn, director of Israeli NGO Regavim’s International Division, all nine of those deaths occurred in the context of deadly attacks carried out by Arabs against Jews.

“The settler-violence narrative has been years in the making, and fell like ripe fruit into the wrong hands as the United States is in the throes of an election cycle that has been hijacked by extremism,” said Linder-Kahn.

“For years, key [George] Soros-funded anti-Israel groups have established bases of operation in illegal Palestinian outposts in Area C [of Judea and Samaria], and continue to use them to launch provocations against Israeli forces and Jewish communities,” she continued. “They turn on the cameras when those under attack defend themselves and frame the incident as ‘settler violence,’ but a careful read of the U.N.’s data leaves no room for doubt: Israelis acting in self-defense against terrorists are included as ‘settler violence.'”

According to Linder-Kahn, “The ultimate goal of this blood libel is to delegitimize not only the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria, but the moral underpinnings of the Israel Defense Forces and by extension of the entire State of Israel.”

According to data collected by Israel, incidents of settler violence in Judea and Samaria have actually dropped significantly compared to last year.

At a meeting of the Knesset Subcommittee for Judea and Samaria last week, Cmdr. Avishai Mualem of the Judea and Samaria District Police said, “Since Oct. 7, there are statistics showing a 50% decrease in Jewish nationalist crime versus last year—270 from the start of the war until today, versus 527 last year.”

Moreover, Mualem added that while there has been an increase in the number of complaints accusing settlers of violence, many of those complaints were fraudulent.

“Since the start of the war there has been an increase in the number of cases and complaints by Palestinians and anarchists; 191 cases were opened, of which 90 proved to be false complaints, in the southern Hebron hills sector,” he said.

“Most of the complaints are deliberate [actions] by radical left-wing organizations situated in Tel Aviv,” he continued. “In the Jordan Valley sector, we are talking about 70 incidents, of which 50% percent proved to be false complaints.”

‘Time to put an end to this lie’

Knesset member Tzvi Sukkot (Religious Zionism Party), who chairs the subcommittee, told JNS that “the far-left extremist organizations spread false accusations against the heroic settlers, and in the United States, unfortunately, they listen to them and impose sanctions on the settlers. … It is time to put an end to this lie.”

According to investigative journalist Groner, citing OCHA data received by Michael Wolfowicz, a criminologist from the Hebrew University’s School of Law, from 2016-2022 there were 5,656 acts of violence carried out by settlers against Palestinians.

“However,” he said, “when you dive into all of the subcategories and details … you see that Arab attacks against Jews are also counted as settler violence.”

Thirty percent of the events documented by OCHA as “settler violence” didn’t even take place in Judea and Samaria, but rather in Jerusalem, and involved no actual violence, according to Groner. For instance, 1,300 incidents of Israeli Jews or tourists visiting the Temple Mount were labeled “settler violence,” he said.

“Newspapers all over the world are claiming a 300% increase in settler violence, but you have to understand this is another U.N. blood libel, because on the other side of this campaign, this same agency [OCHA] studies acts of violence by Palestinians against Israelis, and there they do the opposite, that is, they reduce [the numbers] tremendously.”

According to Groner, between 2016-2022 OCHA claimed that there were only 1,935 attacks by Arabs against Jews in Judea and Samaria, but according to the IDF in just half that period, from 2019-2022, the true figure was 25,257.

He said that breaking down the figures, there were 20 reported incidents of Jewish violence against Arabs, compared to 1,000 attacks by Arabs against Jews over the same period. Furthermore, only about 35% of the reported incidents of Jewish violence actually describe events involving settlers and violence.

“This is just a blood libel,” he reiterated. “They [OCHA] do the same thing when it comes to the IDF, accusing the IDF of killing [Arab] children.”

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