Israeli authorities have created a “permissive atmosphere” allowing settlers to “let off steam”
Hebrew graffiti in the village of Deir Estya, which translates as ‘village of terrorists’, in an apparent ‘price tag’ attack by Jewish settlers, 18 June 2019 (AFP)
Israeli settler attacks on Palestinian villages and properties in the occupied West Bank have more than doubled in the first half of 2021, compared with the same statistics over the past two years, Haaretz reported on Sunday.
The spike may be linked to a change in tactics from authorities following the death of teenage settler Ahuvia Sandak, who died in a car crash fleeing Israeli police, and the killing of 52-year-old mother Esther Horgan by Palestinians in December 2020.
To avoid confrontation, Israeli authorities created what officials described as a “permissive atmosphere”, including allowing settlers to “let off steam”, according to the Israeli newspaper.
In 2019, 363 settler attacks were reported, while in 2020, that number was 507.
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In the first half of 2021 alone, however, there have been 416 anti-Palestinian attacks, according to Haaretz, more than double the same figure in 2019 and 2020.
Of these, 139 involved vandalism of Palestinian properties, stone-throwing and so-called “price tag” incidents, which include spraying racist graffiti, slashing tyres and uprooting trees.
A number of attacks were carried out by prominent settler groups Price Tag and Hilltop Youth, some of whose members are students at religious schools in the illegal settlements of the West Bank.
Twenty-three Palestinians have been wounded so far in 2021, compared with eight in 2020 and seven in 2019, as physical attacks on Palestinians have risen.
Settler attacks on Palestinian villages have remained on the rise throughout the three lockdowns Israel has imposed to help curb the spread of Covid-19. Most took place in the Palestinian cities of Hebron, Ramallah, and Nablus and its environs.
Israeli settler attacks are not exclusive to the West Bank, however. Palestinian citizens of Israel and those living in occupied East Jerusalem have had property vandalised over the years.
In December 2020, Palestinian residents in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Shuafat woke up to find dozens of their cars and properties had been vandalised by settlers. In January 2021, Israeli settlers torched a mosque in the East Jerusalem suburb of Sharafat village.
Racist slogans about Arabs and Muslims were sprayed onto the walls of a mosque in Jish, a Palestinian town in the north of Israel, in February 2020, while scores of cars were targeted.
Some of these attacks resulted in Palestinian deaths, such as the Dawabshedh family in the Palestinian town of Duma, and the kidnapping and killing of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdier in East Jerusalem’s Shuafat in 2014.