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Open Letter Concerning the Increase in Settler Violence against Palestinians in the OPT
Ref.: 290/2011
19، Sept 2011

Dear High Contracting Parties of the Four Geneva Conventions and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy,

As organisations dedicated to the protection and promotion of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), the Palestinian Council of Human Rights Organisations (PCHRO) would like to raise concerns about the recent escalation in violent attacks

by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Since 12 August 2011, field researchers from Al-Haq monitored and documented 24 incidents of settler attacks against Palestinians and their property, most of them in Nablus governorate. In the first week of September alone, 15 cases of settler violence were documented, many involving settlers throwing stones at Palestinian cars, causing injury and property damage.

The nature of the attacks vary, but consistently include incidents of stone-throwing at Palestinian cars, arson of mosques and vehicles, uprooting of olive trees and damage to Palestinian private property and agricultural lands. In addition, settler attacks have been increasingly accompanied by offensive graffiti warning of further violence. Some of these actions are organised by extremist settler groups and clearly bear the mark of the ‘Price Tag policy’, which advocates for violence against Palestinians in response to the limited actions the Israeli government implements to restrict settlement construction in the OPT.

From the beginning of 2011, incidents of settler violence have intensified in their nature and scope. This is evident by the increased gravity of the injuries suffered by Palestinian victims and the damage to property that has resulted from attacks documented this year. We are deeply concerned that incidents are likely to rise in the next month because of the commencement of the olive harvest season and the upcoming Palestinian initiative for membership at the United Nations (UN).

In this regard, recent news reports affirm that the Israeli authorities are finalising preparations for what they have termed ‘Operation Summer Seeds’. The main purpose of this operation is to prepare the Israeli military for the possibility of confrontations with Palestinian protestors related to the UN membership initiative. It has been reported that the Israeli army has already conducted training sessions for the chief security officers of settlements and is expected to provide settlers with means for dispersing demonstrations, including tear gas canisters and stun grenades, as an integral part of Israel’s defense operation. The Israeli military confirmed the existence of an ongoing dialogue with settlement leaders and security personnel in an attempt to prepare and instruct them on the modalities to adopt in case Palestinian protests reach the settlements.

Also of concern is the organisation of a solidarity mission to Israel by a Jewish right-wing extremist group in France, which is recruiting Jews with extensive military experience to assist in defending Jewish settlements in the West Bank. This group is reported to be the French branch of the Jewish Defense League, an extremist organisation that has been deemed a right-wing terrorist group by the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation. Its sister movement - Kach – has been outlawed by the Israeli authorities since 1994, as it is considered to pose a threat to State security.    Ahead of possible demonstrations by Palestinians in support of the Palestinian initiatives at the UN, Israel is capitalising on perceived threats to the security of its settlers to legitimise excessive use of force and to arm private individuals. Israel’s right to protect its own civilian population, whose presence in the OPT is illegal under international humanitarian law, should be provided for by appropriate law enforcement agencies.

As an Occupying Power, Israel’s primary duty is to effectively protect the Palestinian population by adopting measures aimed at preventing settler attacks. Israel’s international obligations include taking effective measures to enforce the law against settlers and to hold them legally accountable for acts of violence committed against Palestinians.Notwithstanding, Israel’s persistent failure in this regard is manifest. Israel continues to grant impunity for settler violence, in blatant violation of its duty of due diligence to repress criminal acts carried out by private actors. By failing to apprehend settlers responsible for alleged crimes, to conduct proper investigations of the incidents and to take adequate measures to punish perpetrators, the Israeli authorities are condoning and encouraging widespread settler violence against Palestinians.

In light of the escalation in settler violence against Palestinian protected persons in the OPT, the undersigned organisations call upon the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions to uphold their obligation to ensure respect for the Conventions as established under Common Article 1, by taking concrete measures to pressure Israel to comply with its obligation as an Occupying Power to protect the Palestinian civilian population.

We further urge the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to use all diplomatic and legal tools at her disposal to pressure the Israeli government to adopt measures aiming at preventing further violence and use of weapons by settlers against the Palestinian civilian population in the West Bank.

Yours sincerely,

The Palestinian Council of Human Rights Organisations


Organisations endorsing the statement:

Sahar Francis
General Director
Addameer Prisoner Support
and Human Rights Association

Khalil Abu Shammala
General Director
Al-Dameer Association for
Human Rights

Shawan Jabarin
General Director

Issam Younis
General Director
Al-Mezan Center for
Human Rights
  Badil Resource Center for
Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights

Rifat Kassis      
General Director      
Defence for Children International
-  Palestine Section

Shawqi Issa
General Director
Ensan Center for Human Rights
and Democracy

Maha Abu Dayieh
General Director
Women’s Centre for
Legal Aid and Counselling

Iyad Barghouti
General Director
Ramallah Center for
Human Rights Studies

Issam Aruri
General Director
Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid
and Human Rights

Statement sent via fax and email to EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and the following Consulates:

  • Belgian Consulate
  • British Consulate
  • French Consulate
  • Greek Consulate
  • Italian Consulate
  • Spanish Consulate
  • Swedish Consulate
  • Turkish Consulate
  • United States Consulate

Statement sent via fax and email to the following Representative Offices:

  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Brazil    
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada    
  • Cyprus    
  • Chile    
  • China (Office of the People’s Republic of China)
  • Czech Republic    
  • Denmark (Royal Danish)    
  • Egypt (Arab Republic of)
  • Finland
  • Germany (Federal Republic of)
  • Hungary
  • India
  • Ireland
  • Japan
  • Ukraine
  • Venezuela
  • Jordan (Hashemite Kingdom)
  • Kingdom of Marocco
  • Korea (The Republic of)
  • Malta
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland (Republic of)
  • Portugal
  • Qatar
  • Romania
  • Russian Federation
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa
  • Sri Lanka
  • Switzerland
  • Tunisia