Jenin is just the start: Did Palestinians finally bury the ghosts of the past?

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Palestinians burn car tires to protest the violence of Israel in Jenin, on July 03, 2023 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]

The deadly Israeli invasion of Jenin on 3 July was not a surprise.

Also, unsurprising is the fact that the killing of 12 Palestinians, wounding of 120 more and the destruction of nearly 80 per cent of the Jenin Refugee Camp’s homes and infrastructure will not make an iota of a difference.

Even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, despite his lofty promises of destroying the “safe haven … of the terrorist enclave in Jenin”, must have known that his bloody exercise was ultimately futile.

Indeed, as the Israeli military machine was toppling homes, smashing cars and harvesting lives, several Palestinian retaliatory attacks were reported, including in Tel Aviv on 4 July and in the Kedumim illegal settlement on 6 July.

In fact, unlike the Israeli response to the Second Palestinian Uprising (Intifada) of 2000, extreme violence will not weaken, but heighten Palestinian resistance and counter attacks.

OPINION: The extraordinary Palestinians of Jenin will not surrender

Back then, the Palestinian Authority had a degree of control over Palestinian groups and managed, although with great difficulties, to contain the Palestinian street.

Now, the PA has no such leverage.

Indeed, when a delegation of PA officials visited Jenin on 5 July to show ‘solidarity’ and to promise help in the recovery efforts, Jenin residents kicked the officials out of their camp.


Thus, neither did Israel manage to regain any kind of control over Jenin, nor did the PA succeed in reinventing itself as the saviour of the people.

So, what was the point of all of this?

Writing in Haaretz, Zvi Bar’el linked the whole Jenin operation, dubbed ‘House and Garden’, to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “loss of political control” over his government; in fact, the whole country.

It was “a showy operation”, Bar’el wrote, and “no sensible person in the army or the Shin Bet security service, or even in the silent circles of the right, actually believed that the operation would eradicate” the armed resistance, not only in Jenin, but anywhere throughout the West Bank.

A ‘showy operation’, indeed, and the best proof of that is the language emanating from official Israeli sources, lead among them Netanyahu himself.

The politically, but also legally embattled right-wing Israeli leader bragged about his army’s “comprehensive action”, carried out in “very systemic way … from the ground, from the air [and] with superb intelligence.”

READ: Cabinet adopts proposal to ‘prevent the collapse of the Palestinian Authority’

He vowed to “return to Jenin” if “Jenin returns to terror”, and this “will happen much faster and with much greater power than what people might imagine.”

Tel Aviv’s Minister of Defence, Yoav Gallant, also spoke about the military’s “success”, in “deal([ing] a heavy blow to the terror organisations in Jenin”, and recording “impressive operational achievements.”

But none of this hyped language is true. What Israel refers to as ‘terror organisations’ in Jenin is part of a much larger phenomenon of armed resistance, itself an outcome of an even larger movement of popular resistance that is felt in every corner of Occupied Palestine.

Quelling the rebellion is not a question of firepower. On the contrary, Israel’s ‘impressive operational achievement’ has simply poured fuel on a raging fire.

To distract from his mounting problems, and to keep his hardline coalitions of far-right politicians and their popular base of illegal Jewish settlers happy, Netanyahu has done the most foolish thing. He has simply turned a potential armed rebellion in Palestine to an imminent West Bank-wide revolution.

Unlike the Second Intifada, neither Israel nor the PA has any leverage over the new generation of Palestinian resisters. They are neither moved by false promises of a state, of jobs, of international funds, nor seem to fear threats of detention, torture or even death.

To the contrary, the greater the violence Israel metes out against Palestinians, the more emboldened they become.

Any examination of the political discourse of this new Palestinian generation, including that of social media, demonstrates a degree of fearlessness that is truly unprecedented.

This courage can be attributed in part to Gaza, whose ongoing resistance, despite the siege and horrific wars in the last two decades have greatly impacted the youth of the West Bank.

And, while PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, and his Palestinian enemies engaged in a protracted charade of ‘national unity talks’ and ‘power sharing’, the new generation operated entirely independent from these superficial and insincere slogans.

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Though they were mostly born or matured after the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, they perceive the political language and culture of that era as alien to them.

It is as if two different Palestines exist – one of Abbas, Fatah, factions, Oslo, donors’ money, ‘peace process’ and dirty politics and another of united resistance on the ground, sumoud (steadfastness), Gaza, Jenin, Nablus, Lions’ Den and more.

Neither Netanyahu and Gallant, nor Abbas and his PA allies seem to understand, nor are they willing to understand this historical shift in political discourses, cultures and language.

They are disinterested in the cultural shift simply because it does not serve the status quo, which has served them well. Netanyahu wants to stay in power as long as possible; Gallant wants to demonstrate his military prowess – for the sake of running for a higher office in the future – and Abbas wants to keep whatever share of power and money allocated to him.

Perhaps, at a deeper level, they all understand that what worked in the past – more violence in the case of Israel and more financial bribes and corruption in the case of the PA, will not work in the present.

Yet, they are likely to stay the course simply because they are weak, desperate and have no long-term visions, let alone real understanding of what is transpiring in Palestine now.

In some ways, it is a generational problem, and a conflict.

As soon as Israel invaded Jenin, all the traditional actors returned to the old script of previous Israeli wars and invasions. They scurried into position, using the ever-predictable language, approving, condemning, applauding and cautioning.

READ: Israel army, settlers carried out 4,073 violations against Palestinians in 2023

For the older generation, time has stood still. But it has not. The new Palestinian generation has buried the ghosts of the past and moved on. And now, they are ready to speak for themselves and to fight for themselves. Jenin is just the start.

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Disclaimer: Jenin is just the start: Did Palestinians finally bury the ghosts of the past? - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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