Canada sanctions Israeli settlers as attacks on Palestinians skyrocket

Western countries tout support for a two-state solution but exert little pressure over expanding settlements.

Illegal Israeli settlers walk with batons and axes along a street during clashes in which Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian residents and shops in the town of Huwara in the occupied West Bank on October 13, 2022. (Photo by Oren ZIV / AFP)
Israeli settlers walk with batons and axes along a street as Israeli settlers attack Palestinian residents and shops in the town of Huwara in the occupied West Bank [File: Oren Ziv/AFP]

The Canadian government has announced it will impose sanctions on four Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank as settler violence against Palestinians surges during Israel’s war in Gaza.

In a press release on Thursday, Canada’s Global Affairs ministry said it was sanctioning Israeli settlers for the first time over “violent and destabilizing” actions against Palestinians.

“Attacks by extremist Israeli settlers – a long-standing source of tension and conflict in the region – have escalated alarmingly in recent months,” the ministry said. “This has undermined the human rights of Palestinians, prospects for a 2-state solution and posed significant risks to regional security.”

The settlers targeted are David Chai Chasdai, Yinon Levi, Zvi Bar Yosef and Moshe Sharvit. The ministry said all four have engaged directly or indirectly in violence against Palestinian civilians and property.

The sanctions were announced as impatience with Israel’s refusal to curb settler attacks grows among Western countries that have long touted their support for a two-state solution but imposed few consequences for the constant expansion of Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land in the West Bank. Those settlements are illegal under international law.

In February, the United States announced that it would sanction a handful of Israeli settlers, including Chasdai and Levi, over attacks on Palestinians.

The move allowed for the possibility of a wider US campaign to exert pressure on the settler movement, but President Joe Biden’s administration has kept the sanctions narrowly focused on a handful of individuals for the time being.

The US has resisted calls to sanction far-right Israeli ministers, such as National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, but even more limited sanctions against settlers have been met with ire from Israeli officials.

Since the beginning of Israel’s war on Gaza, settler attacks against Palestinians have surged to new heights, often under the gaze of Israeli forces who have taken few steps against the perpetrators.

This week, a group of Israeli settlers attacked a Palestinian truck driver in the West Bank under the mistaken assumption that he was delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza.

According to the Israeli human rights group B’tselem, which has said Israel’s policies in the occupied territory constitute the crime of apartheid, only 3 percent of investigations into attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians – many of which go unreported – have resulted in convictions.

That apathy is unsurprising to Palestinians, who see right-wing settlers and Israeli state policies as two iterations of a shared enterprise of displacing Palestinians and promoting Jewish settlement in the occupied territory.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies