Peace Now Co-sponsors Knesset Conference on Settler Violence

Israel’s Knesset hosted a rare conference on Monday, November 22, to discuss the surge in violent anti-Palestinian attacks by West Bank Israeli settlers.  The conference was organized by MKs Mossi Raz (Meretz), Osama Saadi (Joint List) and Ibtisam Mara’ana (Labor) as well as the nongovernmental organizations Peace Now, Breaking the Silence and Yesh Din.

MK Saadi opened the conference by noting that there has been a 150% increase in complaints by Palestinians, despite the fact that only a small minority of victims of settler violence actually lodge complaints.

An unscheduled “speaker” at the conference was Knesset Member Itamar Ben Gvir, a far-right disciple of racist Rabbi Meir Kahane, who verbally attacked the participants. Regarding this outburst, MK Raz commented: “settler violence is in this very room.” Ben Gvir had to be ushered out of the meeting hall.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz of Meretz criticized right-wing Knesset members for not attending the event and for being unwilling to even learn about the topic and discuss it. The topic, he said, should be a matter of consensus: all Members of the Knesset must take it seriously. He invited all MKs to visit Palestinian communities in Area C of the West Bank to witness the results of settler terrorism and to hear testimonies from Palestinian victims. Horowitz charged that the politicians’ silence in the face of this phenomenon “is tantamount to endorsement and encouragement of continued violence.”

Members of anti-occupation Israeli organizations presented data and analysis of settler violence. Peace Now Executive Director Shaqued Morag noted that “we are not talking of a few bad apples.” The settler movement fails to condemn these actions, she said, and Israeli authorities continuously fail to bring the perpetrators to justice. The problem of settler violence is systemic, Morag said.

Among the speakers were Palestinian victims of settler violence, as well as an Israeli Jewish peace activist, a mother of three, who was badly beaten by settlers last week while helping Palestinians harvest olives in the West Bank.

At the conference, Peace Now unveiled a new report which shows that settler violence emanates chiefly from illegal outposts, unauthorized settlements built in violation of Israeli law, but often with the tacit support of Israel’s government. Peace Now’s Shaqued Morag noted that violence is often utilized by outpost settlers to illegally appropriate more land from Palestinians. According to the report, 63% of settler violence takes place near illegal outposts, even though the residents of these outposts constitute only 5% of the overall West Bank settler population.