Yousef Munayyer writes: The recent drama in Israeli politics surrounding the fate of the Ulpana neighbourhood of the illegal Beit El settlement in the occupied West Bank includes a great degree of political theatre, but the climax of this particular play is yet to be seen.
Yes, a decision has been made to remove a very small number of houses from one settlement (and build 850 more in other areas), and the “evacuation” that will take place will likely be a contentious event. Still, it is the theatrics that follow the evacuation that I will be focused on – which might tell us everything we need to know about the Israeli government. At that moment, it will be Israeli settler violence that is at centre stage, along with the Israeli government’s non-response.
For several years I have been studying Israeli settler violence against Palestinians and their property throughout the occupied territories. The upcoming moment of evacuation from Ulpana sets an all-too-familiar sequence of events into motion. Israeli settlers who sought to deter government actions that limit settler objectives, such as demolitions or evacuations, have maintained a “price tag” policy. This is the use of violence, overwhelmingly against Palestinians, to “exact a price” for any settlement homes from which occupants have been removed.
Over the course of studying settler violence and amassing a database of violent settler incidents, my colleagues and I have been able to study several trends and factors which lead to settler violence, including the nature of “price tag” attacks. We parsed Israeli government announcements from Israeli government actions; the former being announcements by state organs of decisions to evacuate settlement homes, for example, and the latter being the actual carrying out of those orders. It is important to note that actual dismantlement of settlements by the Israeli state are extremely rare, but nonetheless what we found was that Israeli government actions were the single positively correlated factor leading to settler violence.
In short, this means that the evacuation of homes in Ulpana is more or less guaranteed to trigger settler violence. So this then begs the question: what is the Israeli government going to do to protect Palestinian civilians, whom we know will be in harm’s way? In the past, the Israeli government has done next to nothing and, more often than not, looked the other way as settlers attacked Palestinian civilians. [Continue reading…]