The Israeli military incursion in Jenin is by no means over, marking both a victory for Palestinian resistance as well as the further promise of colonial violence from Israel’s occupation forces against Palestinians. Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant claimed victory, yet his words indicate otherwise, including an assertion that further rounds will be required to annihilate the Palestinian resistance.
Downplaying the tenacity of the new resistance, Gallant stated, “At the moment of truth, the terrorists [sic] in Jenin chose to hide or flee… These are gunmen fighting for money or to show their friends that they’re heroes. Most left, and those who stayed hid within the civilian population, including in hospitals and places with children. I think this testifies most of all to their cowardice.”
Jenin, however, is synonymous with Palestinian resistance. Its refugee population holds a strong collective memory of the 1948 Nakba and their camp has been a source of major concern for Israel for decades. This concern has grown in recent months as Palestinians employ new resistance tactics.
In any case, Gallant’s words ring hollow. Those Palestinians who fled, did so as a result of Israeli violence, being rendered refugees once again as Israel repeats the cycle of the ongoing Nakba. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), mass arrests occurred in the refugee camp, with the Israeli occupation forces detaining around 120 Palestinians at an unknown location.
Gallant’s comment thus speaks more of Israeli failure than it does of any purported Palestinian cowardice. Israel’s failure to eradicate the Palestinian resistance from the camps was exacerbated by the fact that the resistance has changed, and the traditional political and resistance factions are no longer in the foreground, as in previous years. There is nothing cowardly about changing tactics, or in the Palestinians altering their legitimate anti-colonial struggle to better withstand Israel’s colonial violence. On the contrary, the change indicates a departure from the Palestinian Authority’s domination in Ramallah, and that Israel has still not got to grips with it.
In some ways, the selectivity with which Jenin was targeted mirrors that of Gaza. Yet this selective targeting, while isolating, can also be perceived as unifying. For decades, the occupied West Bank was promoted as the image of economic prosperity and relative security as a result of donor funding propping up the PA. With the PA losing credibility fast, and Israel targeting Jenin in a bid to quash the new Palestinian resistance, Palestinians across the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories will ultimately discover more commonalities to connect and unite them.
Despite the territorial and political divisions, Israel’s military incursions in Jenin will bring Palestinians closer in terms of shared exposure to extreme violence on the ground and aerial bombardment. Gaza no longer stands isolated. And while Jenin may incur further isolation in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian resistance still gains more common ground. Cowardice is not a Palestinian trait, no matter what Gallant proclaims. Palestinians have resisted decades of colonial violence and Jenin is yet another manifestation of their resilience. Israel may, indeed, have boosted the reasons for resistance against colonialism and occupation — resistance which is entirely legitimate under international law — to be the only option on the table for Palestinians.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.