Group leaks EU report on Israeli settler violence suppressed by Dutch government

A European Union report on Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians, that was suppressed at the insistence of Dutch foreign minister Uri Rosenthal, has been published today by a nongovernmental group.

The Rights Forum, an organization headed by outspoken former Dutch Prime Minister Dries van Agt, released the EU report on its website.

The documents made available by The Rights Forum include a “Cover Note” from the EU Heads of Mission in Israeli-occupied Ramallah and an “EU Note on Settler Violence” dated February 2012.

The second document contains a note at the bottom that “NL [The Netherlands] places a general reserve on the document.”

The cover note states at the outset:

Settler activity is a leading cause of violence against Palestinian civilians, destruction of Palestinian property and the abuse of Palestinian rights under international law. Discriminatory protections and privileges for settlers further compound these abuses and create an environment in which settlers can act with apparent impunity.

This atmosphere of impunity is contributing to the persistence of, and indeed an increase in violent attacks by settlers on Palestinians.

The note goes on to detail some of these increases based on UN statistics and notes that, “92% of the 600 cases related to settler violence monitored by Israeli NGO Yesh Din between 2005 and April 2010 were closed by Israeli authorities without resolution.”

It states that “Settler violence occurs throughout the year, yet with particular increases in property and land damage observed during periods of intensive agricultural activity.”

The cover note outlines several specific cases of killings:

In May 2010 a 15 year old Palestinian was shot and killed by a settler after the Palestinian threw stones at his car driving near Ramallah. In Sep 2010, one Palestinian was killed in Silwan by a private security guard, employed by the settler organisation Elad. One young Palestinian was shot dead by settlers on 27 Jan 2011 near Nablus and another one the following day near Hebron.

International law

The cover note emphasizes the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Israel’s responsibility – and complete failure – as the “occupying power” to protect the Palestinian population. It also reiterates that all the settlements in the West Bank including East Jerusalem are illegal under international law.

In the recommendations section, the cover note calls for a slightly more active EU role in raising the issue of settler violence with Israeli authorities, but the only actual, and rather limited sanction proposed is that the EU “consider including violent settler leaders and those calling for violent acts against Palestinians on travel watch lists.”

Given the gravity of the situation the documents reveal, this is less than the minimum action one should reasonably expect and it reflects no break from the timidity, passivity and complicity of EU policymakers in sustaining the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian land.

The suppressed report

The second document released by The Rights Forum is a straightforward and factual account of the large increase in settler violence, based largely on UN statistics.

Citing UN OCHA the document details:

  • In 2011 there were 411 settler attacks resulting in Palestinian casualties and property damage compared to 266 attacks in 2010, an increase of more than 50%. Comparted to 132 attacks in 2009, the number has more than tripled.
  • In 2011, three Palestinians were killed and 183 injured by Israeli settlers.
  • During the same period, eight settlers were killed (in three difference incidents including the murder of a family of five in Itamar) and 37 injured by Palestinians.
  • Nearly 10,000 Palestinian-owned trees (primarily olive trees), have been damaged or destroyed by settlers in 2011.
  • Over 90% of monitored complaints regarding settler violence filed by Palestinians with the Israeli police in recent years have been closed without indictment.

It is unclear why the Dutch government attempted to suppress this report, however it is in line with the extreme and consistent pro-Israel policies of the Dutch government in recent years.

In January, a Dutch legislator from the far-right Freedom Party, which though not a participant in it supports the Dutch coalition goverment in parliament, called on Israel to build more settlements on occupied Palestinian land.