Travelling across the West Bank in the last few days has made me realise that the words 'settlement' and 'settler' are too benign to describe the occupying colonies and their inhabitants which Israel plants across the West Bank.
Every settlement steals land and resources from Palestinians. Palestinians have to buy back their own water at high prices when it is taken by a settlement. Hills, farmland and roads are all taken for the settlers exclusive use. There are cases of waste from settlements polluting Palestinian villages and farmland. In places like Hebron and Jerusalem settlers take over Palestinian homes, the evictions backed up by Israeli police and soldiers.
The fanaticism of the settlers varies - but all settlements serve the same purpose. Some settlers are lured by the attraction of cheap housing. Most are religious fanatics who refuse to see the Palestinians as equal human beings. They believe that Palestinians must be expelled from the land or enslaved. There is a bloody history of settler violence against Palestinians, including massacres in mosques and universities.
It may be that the words 'settlement' and 'settler' have to be used as they are most commonly recognised in the public discourse on Palestine. But it should be stressed that 'settlements' are colonies and the 'settlers' are occupying colonists.
Hebron market, now largely deserted after years of settler intimidation and violence. Hebron has suffered particularly from settler violence, in 1983 settlers entered Hebron university and shot dead three students, in 1994 a settler entered the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron and massacred 29 worshipers with a machine gun.
A hill top settlement opposite the Palestinian village of Assawiya. The land below the settlement is full of olive trees and used to belong to the village. Now it belongs to the settlement. Three farmers from the village have been injured by settlers after trying to harvest their olives.
Rows of olive tree stumps as seen from the road to Ramallah. They were cut down after the land was seized by a settlement. Olive trees are an important source of income for Palestinians.