“Israeli soldiers do not see it as their job or mandate to protect Palestinians. They have the capacity to do so, but lack the willingness,” said Jessica Montell, the director of B’Tselem.
Israeli soldiers often become complicit in the acts of settler violence, added Pauline Nunu, an officer with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel. Videos from the southern West Bank city of Hebron show Israeli soldiers standing by as Jewish youths throw rocks at Palestinian children who are walking to school.
In the B’Tselem video shot outside Nablus, soldiers are seen urging the settlers to return to the direction of the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar after the shooting.
Witnesses in both areas who spoke to McClatchy verified the scenes captured on video and described them as a regular occurrence. Earlier this year in the Old City of Hebron, McClatchy witnessed several young Israeli settlers throwing garbage and small rocks at shuttered Palestinian homes. The Israeli soldiers who were escorting the settlers at the time didn’t stop or chastise them.
Around Nablus, similar scenes unfolded in May. On several occasions, masked young settlers pelted Palestinians with rocks in full view of Israeli soldiers.
Montell said there were “predictable” areas – such as Hebron and the Nablus hills – in which violence was more likely to occur. Those areas are home to some founders of the “price tag” movement, which promotes attacks on Palestinian sites in retribution for moves that aim to harm or limit the settlements.
“If there was a will on the part of authorities, they could order a presence in those areas and stop the clashes from taking place,” she said.
She said there was a direct link between the expansion of settlements and the increase in violent attacks.
“Violence – as a means of expanding settlements by displacing Palestinians – is a very real thing,” Montell said.