A raid by Israeli forces in the Palestinian city of Jenin on 26 January has sparked fear in the occupied West Bank and beyond. Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians, including two children, bringing back traumatic memories of battles, invasions and massacres in the city.
Jenin holds significance for Palestinians as a symbol of resistance against occupation. The memory of anti-colonial resistance leader Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, who fought against the British in the nearby village of Ya’bad, lives on in the present day. However, the city is also remembered for the massacre committed by Israeli forces during the Second Intifada in 2002, in which over 52 Palestinians were killed.
2022 was the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank in two decades, and the raid in Jenin is the latest in a huge escalation of Israeli policies that threaten to ramp up conflict in the West Bank. Are we now entering a new phase of Israel’s apartheid regime?
The coming storm.
In recent weeks, rightwing elements in Israeli society, now part of the government, have escalated their takeover of Palestinian lands. The Israeli government plans to build 18,000 housing units in the West Bank in the coming months, which will lead to the further displacement of Palestinian communities like in Masafer Yatta.
The growing settlement enterprise has also led to an increase in aggression from settlers, who feel supported by the backing of the Israeli state’s military and security apparatus. This violence, displacement, and colonisation has left Palestinians worried for the future. At best, they face living in cramped and surveilled Bantustans surrounded by walls and barbed wire fences, with limited access to basic rights. At worst, Palestinians fear a second Nakba similar to the ethnic cleansing campaign of the late 1940s.
Indeed, this chapter could mark the end of the post-Second Intifada period, characterised by the cynical management of the occupation, disregard for Palestinians’ political rights, and a lack of accountability for Israel’s actions. What’s likely to occur isn’t entirely new in nature, however, but is an expansion in the scope of confrontation and the use of more aggressive tactics. Moreover, the overlap of Ramadan and Passover in April could further exacerbate the conflict, with previous years seeing a growing number of mosque raids, forced evictions and land confiscations. As such, we’re on the brink of events of unparalleled magnitude and ferocity.
Fighting for dignity.
This assault from the Israeli state and settlers will no doubt be met by increased resistance from Palestinians, particularly the youth.
Palestinians have never been passive in their fight for freedom, organising various initiatives to combat the occupation, hold Israel accountable, and warn of the consequences of Israel’s policies. At its core, the Palestinian struggle is centred on resisting the violation of their individual and collective dignity – something no amount of aid, incentives or superficial development can assuage, and something Israel’s proponents appear not to understand.
While global awareness of the Palestinian cause has increased in recent years, Palestinians’ demands have largely been ignored by international bodies, which continue to support the outdated “peace process” and a two-state solution. But while many Palestinians still believe in change from the outside, a growing number amongst the younger generation in the West Bank see the resumption of armed resistance as the only way to win their liberation. As CNN correspondent Sam Kiley has noted, the West Bank is currently experiencing patterns similar to the lead up to the Second Intifada, which began in 2000.
Indeed, despite Israel’s best efforts, Palestinians are already becoming more proactive in their resistance. The collapse of the West Bank, and with it the loss of countless lives and communities, is now not a question of if, but when. In its aftermath, the world will ask what could have been done to prevent this tragedy. Palestinians will reply: ‘We warned you’.
Jehad Abusalim is Education & Policy Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee and a PhD candidate at New York University.