Jenin incursion

Published July 7, 2023

ANOTHER day, another massacre. This is the violent reality that perpetually confronts the Palestinian people. While the Israeli war machine usually reserves its barbaric wrath for the impoverished coastal enclave of Gaza, this time it was the West Bank city of Jenin that was subjected to state-sponsored violence. Trouble had been brewing since last month, when Tel Aviv had dispatched helicopter gunships to the West Bank in a brazen escalation of tensions. But on Monday, the Israelis launched a brutal two-day assault targeting the Jenin refugee camp, ostensibly to hunt down Palestinian fighters. What ensued is typical of the one-sided violence that has marked this decades-old conflict, with Arab civilians facing the unrestrained cruelty of Israel’s military.

Perhaps it should be a relief that ‘only’ 12 Palestinians were killed — including several children — as over 1,000 Israeli troops descended upon Jenin. Hundreds of homes have been damaged or destroyed, while Jenin’s infrastructure, including water, electricity and sewerage networks, lies in ruins. According to the UN, intentional attacks directed at civilians not taking part in hostilities come under the ambit of war crimes. Unfortunately, the UN’s human rights chief issued a tepid statement, meekly urging Israel to “minimise” the use of lethal force. Washington’s reaction to the blitz was expected, with a spokesperson defending Tel Aviv’s “right to defend its people”. Clearly, for those who trumpet the sanctity of the international ‘rules-based order’, there are different rules for different situations. When geopolitical enemies indulge in atrocities, there are howls of protest and sanctimonious calls to sanction and punish the perpetrators. But when friends, such as Israel, butcher civilians and flatten residential areas, the ‘right’ of these comrades to defend themselves is underscored.

Israel is mistaken if it thinks such brutal actions will dim the Palestinian spirit of resistance. In fact, each time Tel Aviv strikes, Arab fighters vow to strike back, and often deliver on their promises, thus perpetuating the circle of violence. The two-state solution, or whatever remains of it, has little chance of success when the Israeli establishment considers Palestinians as subhuman, worthy of extermination and collective punishment. Shockingly, Israel’s extremist national security minister was quoted as saying recently that ‘terrorists’ (his ugly euphemism for Palestinians) must be ‘eliminated’ “if necessary even [in the] thousands”. This ominous threat sounds like a plan for a mass anti-Arab pogrom. The international community apparently lost interest in a viable Palestinian state a long time ago. Yet, can those with a conscience globally at least speak up for the Palestinians’ right to life and dignity? To be recognised as human beings and not be subjected to wanton Israeli violence? Or will Palestinian civilians continue to be endlessly killed and maimed in Israel’s elusive quest for ‘security’, as they remain silent?

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2023

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