Best of AP — Second Winner


Settlers cited for West Bank violence say sanctions against them had nearly no effect 

Israeli settler Yinon Levi speaks on his phone in the kitchen at his farm in the West Bank settlement outpost of Meitarim, Sunday, May 12, 2024. Levi was sanctioned by the United States; he said he had trouble paying bills for weeks but then could access money again. AP PHOTO / MAYA ALLERUZZO

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Through dogged reporting, Sam Mednick, Julia Frankel and Maya Alleruzzo secured first-of-a-kind interviews with two sanctioned settlers who said that U.S. sanctions meant to hurt them have had little effect. They also spoke to Palestinians who said they were affected by settler violence. 

In an unprecedented move this year, the United States sanctioned a handful of Israeli settlers and entities in the West Bank to reduce surging violence against Palestinians since the war erupted on Oct 7. Others — the U.K., Canada and the European Union — swiftly followed suit. 

The sanctions, meant as a deterrent, have been called no more than an “annoyance” by the settlers, as violence and land grabs continue, including by those sanctioned. 

Until The Associated Press investigated the story, there was minimal reporting, if any, on the impact of these sanctions. 

Telling the story in a way that incorporated settler and Palestinian accounts involved difficult sourcing. Mednick and Frankel managed to contact the settlers, a group that typically views the media with suspicion and almost never grants access. 

The settlers are heavily armed and have been accused of violence. At points, the AP team was questioned by armed settlers who were skeptical of our motives for being there. 

The team also worked hard to find Palestinians, not only those impacted by settler violence, but those who had been threatened by settlers after they’d been sanctioned. They used local sources to find families willing to talk in spite of threats, protecting their identities.  

Visuals by photographer Maya Alleruzzo helped tell the story. She and the rest of the team were followed by the settlers, with every one of their movements observed by the settler’s group. 

Top Stories Editor Janelle Cogan helped Mednick and Frankel to tell the tale. 

Few media outlets, if any, have covered the impact and the aftermath of the sanctions. 

The story was circulated widely by think tanks on social media and retweeted to tens of thousands of followers in some cases. It was read by U.S. lawmakers and will be used by lawyers in Israel who are petitioning for an extension of the sanctions. 

The attorneys are seeking new sanctions against Israeli officials like Israel’s far-right finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich. Our reporting showed how Smotrich has directly intervened to soften the financial blow of the sanctions on the settlers. Experts say Smotrich’s actions could put himself at direct risk of being sanctioned. 

For digging more deeply into the effect of sanctions against Israelis in the West Bank accused of violence against Palestinians, Mednick and Frankel early Best of AP — Second Winner.  

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