It is both strange and somewhat unbelievable that Palestinian Authority security services have “invaded” Jenin refugee camp, which is known for its steadfastness in the face of Israeli aggression in 2002 and has been likened to Stalingrad’s famous resistance against the Nazis in World War II. The camp held firm in the face of an Israeli assault for 2 weeks in April 2002, until the 200 fighters ran out of ammunition and were surrounded by Israeli Special Forces. According to military sources, there were 5,000 Israeli soldiers involved in the operation, backed up by 400 tanks, 125 bulldozers and 50 aircraft bombing the camp night and day.
Now we learn that the heroic camp was raided by the PA forces in late October last year. Storming the camp at 1am, the PA Intelligence, Preventive Security and Presidential Guard deployed 200 patrols of highly-trained personnel. All entrances to the camp were blocked.
The PA was less than totally honest when it tried to justify the raid; it was, it claimed, to round-up corrupt individuals and outlaws. While some of the camp’s residents may well be so described, it is wrong to say that all of them are, and to treat them as if they are. The collective nature of the raid was actually intended to terrorise all of the residents. It is odd that such a show of force has never been attempt against the illegal Jewish settlers across the occupied West Bank.
The raid was carried out to arrest members of the resistance in order to prevent any action against the Israeli occupation. It is hard to believe, but difficult to avoid, the conclusion that Israel and the PA shared then, and still share today, a common goal. The residents of Jenin refugee camp were resolute in their rejection of the PA’s action and only 70 people were able to be arrested, allegedly for criminal activities, including direct attacks against the PA administration in the Jenin City Hall.
The invading forces also stormed the home of the leader of Islamic Jihad, Sheikh Bassam Saadi, who was wanted by the Israelis. His home was ransacked in the operation, possessions were destroyed and his computer was confiscated. They also raided his brother’s house and arrested two of his sons. It is worth noting that Sheikh Bassam Saadi is the father of two martyrs, an uncle of a martyr, a son of a martyr and the husband of a detainee in an Israeli prison. The camp is known for its perseverance in the face of Israeli invasions, the latest of which was in 2011. Now, unfortunately, we can add this raid by the PA to the list of ignoble operations against the largely civilian population as part of the infamous security cooperation between the Israelis and the PA, instigated, trained and overseen by US General Keith Dayton.
Since Mahmoud Abbas has been in office, his prime concern has been eliminating resistance activists; indeed, resistance is now viewed by the PA president as “terrorism”. He has designated Palestinian resistance groups as “illegal organisations”. His security agencies have arrested and imprisoned many members of resistance groups. Abbas called on the resistance groups to hand over their arms in exchange for not being arrested and a guarantee that they would not be pursued by the Israelis. What followed is that some handed over their weapons and were then arrested by the PA, while other groups were pursued by Israel and the groups were dissolved. In Abbas’s opinion, resistance to the Israeli occupation is now “unjustified violence”; the PA says that the only acceptable method of resistance is the “popular” variety, and unarmed, otherwise it too will be unacceptable. Abbas has said repeatedly that he will not allow a new Intifada, which was why, it is claimed, that he ordered the Jenin raid.
It is no coincidence that the camps in Palestine and neighbouring countries are now targets for official and quasi-official violence. The purpose appears to be to drive young Palestinians to leave the arena. The sad fact is that this strategy is succeeding to some extent, with many would-be Palestinian migrants to Europe drowning in the attempt to get away from the violence.
Refugee camps are a clear manifestation of Palestinian suffering and the historical injustice to which they have been subjected for decades or even longer. That they should be raided by the Palestinian Authority is unforgivable at a time when the Israelis are working hard to build illegal settlements on 95 per cent of historic Palestine. Negotiations should be abandoned while this is still the case; anything else is unacceptable.
The author is a Palestinian writer. This is a translation of the Arabic text published by Al- Sharq Newspaper on 7 November, 2013
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.