Debunking The Statistics of Israeli Settler Violence

A closer look raises questions about an alleged spike in settler violence against Palestinians.

Written by Jack Elbaum

Last week, Upward News wrote that eight Palestinian civilians have been killed by Israeli settlers since October 7. However, new reporting has raised questions about the reliability of those statistics.

What’s happening: The main source for data concerning Israeli settler violence against Palestinian civilians was revealed to systematically overcount incidents and deaths. Questions were initially raised in a Tablet Magazine report by Liel Leibovitz.

The details: Numbers originating from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and then used by the U.S. security coordinator to Israel and the Palestinian Authority — a trusted three-star general — count as a civilian "whoever is neither a member of security forces (including police) nor fulfills a combat function within an armed group.”

  • The problem: People who are not formally part of the police or armed wing of a terrorist group are counted as civilians even if they carry out lone-wolf terrorist attacks and are killed in self-defense.

Consequences: Before October 7, the office said eight Palestinians had been fatal victims of settler violence in 2023. However, the far-left NGO B’tzelem provides specifics on each of those incidents, which paints a different picture.

  • What happened: Four Palestinians were killed either before or while they were committing stabbing attacks; one was killed after murdering four Israelis at a gas station; and one was killed while trying to trespass into a settlement with explosives. Two were killed in “clashes” instigated by settlers.

Important caveat: B’tzelem stopped updating the details of such deaths after October 7. While there are problems with the data and many of the pre-October 7 “attacks” turned out to be self-defense, we do not know definitively if this is the case for the Palestinians killed after October 7.

Why it matters: President Biden’s decision to sanction allegedly violent settlers was based on questionable data revealing a spike in attacks on Palestinians in the wake of October 7.

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