Inspecting the UN's strange numbers on settler violence

Opinion: Looking into the UN's data on settler violence reveals inaccuracies meant to placate the international body's conflict for supporting Israel's war

Amit Segal|
My friend and his children recently visited his sister at her home. "Would you like some chocolate milk?" the aunt asked, and the kids, of course, said yes. "Okay, just so you know, the cocoa powder is a substitute, we use soy milk, and we drink it without sugar."
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This "chocolate-less chocolate milk" came to mind while I was at the UN's data on Israeli settler violence. This was the most significant issue between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea in the eyes of the world and has since moved to second place following the start of the war in Gaza.
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כינוס העצרת הכללית של האו"ם דגלים במטה האו"ם בניו יורק כולל דגל ישראל
כינוס העצרת הכללית של האו"ם דגלים במטה האו"ם בניו יורק כולל דגל ישראל
UN headquarters in New York
(Photo: AFP)
However, when the details on settler violence are examined thoroughly it seems like there isn’t much violence, nor much settlers. Dr. Michael Wolfowicz, a criminology researcher at the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Law, received the data from the UN.
At first glance, it's horrifying: between 2016 and 2022, there were no less than 5,656 incidents of settler violence against Palestinians. But delving into the numbers reveals that 1,600 of them took place in Jerusalem, with almost all of them involving Jews entering the Temple Mount or clashes between the police and Muslims who acted violently in the area.
After further filtering, there were 2,500 incidents that describe property damage or assault, but they include, for example, a terror attack in which a Palestinian terrorist attacked Jews and was neutralized. On April 8, 2018, Mahmoud Abedel Karim Marshoud attempted to stab Israeli civilians near Ma’ale Adumim. He was neutralized and succumbed to his injuries the next day. The UN reported two violent incidents following this: on April 8, a shooting at a Palestinian, and on April 9, a killing.
On July 26, 2018, Yotam Ovadia, 30, was murdered by a 17-year-old Palestinian terrorist who stabbed him. Here too, according to the UN, the fact Ovadia neutralized the terrorists was classified as settler violence. The same goes for a stabbing attack in Mount Hebron, another one in Yitzhar, and an incident where Arab rioters clashed with security forces at Joseph's Tomb.
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היערכות משטרת ישראל בירושלים לקראת חגי תשרי תשפ״ד
היערכות משטרת ישראל בירושלים לקראת חגי תשרי תשפ״ד
Border Police officer in Jerusalem
(Photo: Israel Police)
Even a car accident in which a settler hit a Palestinian was classified as violence. After filtering all of these, we’re left with about 20 violent incidents in a month, most of them being cases of mutual violence, and some reported only by Palestinian sources without being verified.
Even if all of them are accurate, here's a relevant comparison: according to the IDF, in 2019-2022 alone, there were 25,257 incidents of Palestinian attacks against Jewish settlers, a rate of 500 incidents per year. Last year, the number jumped to 763.
The exaggeration of settler violence from a limited phenomenon to a widespread issue is designed to appease the world's conscience, in a strange symmetry, for the assistance it provides Israel in its war against Hamas terrorists.
הכתב עמית סגלAmit Segal
In Israel, this is intended to serve the goal of expelling Jewish settlers from the West Bank and establishing a Palestinian state. This week, a position paper was published on the Jewish Voice news website, representing a thinking tank funded by the New Israel Fund and a German foundation, which operates to demonize settlers in order to revive the idea of Palestinian independence.
  • Amit Segal is a columnist for Ynetnews's sister publication Yedioth Ahronoth
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