Israeli Attack on the Palestinian City of Jenin—a Sign of More Violence to Come?

JENIN, WEST BANK - JULY 03: A view of the damaged area after Israeli forces conducted airstrikes and raid on the city of Jenin, West Bank on July 03, 2023. ( Issam Rimawi - Anadolu Agency )

On July 3, the state of Israel launched the largest military attack on the West Bank, Palestine, in 20 years. The Israeli military sent over 150 armed vehicles and 1,000 troops to attack the refugee camp, Jenin. At least twelve people have been killed and over a hundred were wounded, and the city itself has suffered massive damage. This attack comes after a year of daily attacks, by both the Israeli military and Israeli settlers. The Israeli government has made it clear that this attack is one of more to come.

The West Bank, including the Jenin refugee camp, is the site of Israeli military occupation that has lasted since 1967. Jenin is also the site of historic resistance to the occupation. In 2002, during the Palestinian uprising known as the Second Intifada, Jenin saw a massive battle in which 50 Palestinians were killed inside the camp.

Today, Jenin continues to be a site of resistance. The young generation of Palestinians who have grown up in the last decades has no faith or confidence in the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority and its ruling party coalition, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), has failed to deliver any relief from military occupation, in spite of ongoing negotiations with Israel. The young generation has lost hope in that process, and many have turned to armed resistance. In the last year, the Israeli military has launched a violent campaign against these resistance groups, often causing indiscriminate injury and death. Just last month, the Israeli military launched helicopter attacks on Jenin, killing five Palestinians and wounding 91 others.

The violence of the Israeli army and the resistance of young Palestinians has been accompanied by a rising tide of attacks by Israeli settlers. The settlers, inspired by their feeling of religious entitlement to the whole land of Palestine, have been engaged in colonization of the West Bank for decades, often with the protection and consent of the Israeli state. The numbers of settlers and the extent of their settlements has expanded dramatically since the 1990s. Their project is an open call to genocide, to kill, drive out, and erase the Palestinian people from the rest of Palestine, and to incorporate the Occupied Territories into the territory of Israel.

The settlers and the far right in Israel have won increasing political power as seen in the formation of the most recent Israeli government in December 2022, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Settlers, with the implicit support of the Netanyahu government, have carried out violent rampages through Palestinian towns. When Palestinian resistance fighters respond with their own attacks on settlers, the cycle of violence escalates. The Israeli government has also retaliated, openly supporting the construction of new illegal settlements. Now the Israeli government has brought the military to bear with its attack on the Jenin refugee camp.

The two sides in this conflict are not equal, and there can be no comparison between their actions. The Palestinian people were turned into refugees and displaced from their land by the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. In 1967, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip fell under military occupation and have remained so for more than half a century. Roughly five million Palestinians live under military occupation with no rights, subject to attacks by settlers or the Israeli military. In addition, Israel itself is home to two million Palestinians, 20 percent of the population, who live as second-class citizens. The Israeli state, with its massive military, carries out regular violent attacks, suppressing any manifestation of Palestinian resistance. It is no surprise whatsoever in these conditions, that young Palestinians take action against violent settlers or Israeli soldiers, using what weapons they can obtain. No one today would condemn the violence of Black people during the time of slavery, when they rose up against those who oppressed them. The same holds true for Palestinians today, faced with a slowly building genocidal expulsion from their homes. They are fighting for their lives, and their dignity as human beings.

There will certainly be more attacks to come. We must condemn the actions of the Israeli state. We must also condemn the U.S. government, which has supported Israel in its actions for decades with total diplomatic support and military aid. The Biden administration is no exception; it has issued a statement of total support for the Israeli attack on Jenin. There can be no solution to the conflict until the military occupation ends, and until Palestinians have the right to live in peace and dignity, with control of their lives and their future. It is the duty of people living in the United States to understand this, and to support the Palestinian people, as Israel carries out its attacks with weapons and equipment marked “Made in the USA.”