Between Monday and Wednesday of this week, Israel carried out a large-scale military operation against the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank, the most brutal since the battle that took place there in 2002, during the second Palestinian intifada (2000-2005). The operation ended with 12 Palestinians killed, all young people under the age of 25, and one Israeli soldier, as well as nearly 150 wounded and 120 detained on the Palestinian side.
The UN condemns Israel’s “excessive use of force” in the offensive against Jenin
On June 19, another incursion by the Israeli Army into that camp killed several Palestinians, including a minor. The American historian Rashid Khalidi (New York, 1948) is a professor at Columbia University in New York, editor of the Journal of Palestinian Studies and author of numerous books, the latest, ‘Palestine: One Hundred Years of Colonialism and Resistance’ (2020). Now answer the questions from elDiario.es about the escalation of violence in the West Bank, where at least 148 Palestinians have died between January and May, including more than twenty minors, and 18 Israelis, four of them minors, according to data from the Israeli NGO B’TSelem.
After this week’s Israeli offensive against the Jenin camp, will there be an escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
We have to put the Jenin operation in the context of the Israeli occupation. We pay a lot of attention to the Russian occupation of Ukraine and the Ukrainian resistance. I think we have to see what is happening in Jenin or Nablus as resistance: it is the inevitable result of a long and harsh military occupation, which has been going on for two or three generations.”
We have a generation that is the third to have grown up under the occupation, it is a generation of young people who know that they have no future, that they will not be able to decide for themselves, that they do not have the chance to live a normal life, they are subject to a military government (…) and they are willing to risk death because they know they have no other options.
Is this generation leading a new intifada or uprising, even if it has not been defined as such?
To be sure, last year and this year there has been a significant increase in Palestinian civilian and militia casualties, and Israeli soldiers, settlers and civilians killed. There has been a significant increase in violence and resistance to the occupation, attacks on Israelis and vicious Israeli attacks on Palestinians.
Israel has half a million settlers in the occupied West Bank, who are stealing land and water, cutting down trees, burning crop fields, attacking villages, and although we can say they are civilians, they are illegal settlers, some extremely violent. And as a result, there is an increase in both resistance and violence from the settlers and attacks by the Israeli Army trying to crush it.
The numbers of people killed last year and this year are the highest since 2002 or 2003. [Según un informe, más de 200 palestinos murieron a manos del Ejército israelí en 2022, en torno al 70% de ellos en Cisjordania. Yenín fue la localidad donde se produjeron más víctimas (55), seguida por Nablus].
What are the differences between the current wave of violence and the second intifada?
We cannot compare this with the second intifada. In the early 2000s, a well-organized political group carried out most of the resistance, be it Hamas, Islamic Jihad or Al Fatah, and the level of violence was higher than we have seen in these two years. And the Israeli response was also superior with the aim of reoccupying West Bank cities such as Ramallah, Jenin, Nablus and Hebron.
The difference is that now there is a much younger generation, mostly unorganized, they are individuals who come together at the local level but they are not coordinated, they are not organized and they are not well trained: they are guys with guns, who are killed in high percentages because they are not trained . During the second intifada, the number of Israeli casualties was much higher.
The current situation is different because it is the accumulation of frustration, anger and humiliation among young people, who are expressing themselves spontaneously. The level of anger and frustration is so high that it will probably continue, but it is impossible to know if it will develop in a more organized way.
Young people do not have a safe place to receive training in the West Bank, they cannot go anywhere else, they are locked up, so it is very difficult for there to be a level of organization similar to that of the second intifada. Many of the (Palestinian) militants are learning in jail to be more militant. Guys who are 20 or 25 years old have already been to jail two or three times, but it’s just a revolving door, because sooner or later they will get out of prison, and most of them will continue to resist.
In the short term, will there continue to be occasional spikes in violence, as in recent months, or will open conflict break out?
The history of the occupation shows that repression never ends resistance. There is no political horizon, Israel wants to annex and absorb the occupied territories and keep the Palestinians subjugated and without rights, this government and previous ones have said so. if perspective [para los palestinos] is permanent subjugation, domination and humiliation in the future, the resistance will continue.
If all Israel offers is the military option, repression cannot succeed: it can stop this wave [de violencia]but there will be another You cannot subjugate the Palestinians indefinitely, you can expel or kill them all, but not suppress them forever.
What is necessary for there to be a change in Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians?
There can be no change until the countries that support Israel, that is, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain… decide that enough is enough. There is nothing that can stop Israel, there is no resistance in the Arab world or in the international community, apart from cynical, hypocritical and nonsensical statements about “concern” by foreign ministries. They must impose sanctions on Israel, stop the sale of weapons or the purchase of goods produced in the occupied territories, it is that simple.
Europe and the United States are not only accomplices, but actively participate in the repression of the Palestinians. The Israelis are going to keep going until something stops them: you can’t stop the bulldozers with a statement from the Foreign Ministry.
So, a change can only come from outside?
Israel is completely dependent on Europe and the United States, even if it is a very powerful and sophisticated country, it has a very high GDP per capita and advanced technology, but its dependence on the West means that it can be pressured in many ways. It receives 3.8 billion dollars (more than 3.4 billion euros) in US weapons each year. Europe is Israel’s main trading partner.
Israeli values are neo-fascist, supremacist, racist, and these are not European or American values, at most they can be from the most conservative wing, from countries like Poland or Hungary, but they do not agree with the values of the European Union or the United States . And this contradiction is increasingly evident, especially with an extremist government in Israel.
Despite the fact that Israel has many friends in Europe and the United States, it is facing an increasingly critical public opinion, and this is unprecedented, at least not in the United States since the Balfour declaration. [la que dio lugar a la fundación de Israel].
There is growing popular discontent, public opinion is changing, but politicians are not changing their position. In the Arab world it is even clearer: public opinion has always been in favor of the Palestinians and, in the past, the rulers feared that public opinion and pretended to support the Palestinians. They don’t even pretend anymore! They are dictators, they are not afraid because they have sophisticated forms of repression and they have the support of the West, they are close friends of Paris, London, Madrid or Washington.
The silence or active support of Europe and the United States emboldens Israel, as does the silence of the Arab regimes.
Do the Palestinians feel abandoned?
This is not new to the Palestinians. The Palestinians have fought against the governments of Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iraq… The Palestinians have been treated like this by the Arabs for generations [ríe]. It’s not new, but now it’s more open.
The Palestinians can develop a new leadership, they can consider how to deal with a repressive, authoritarian and undemocratic system that has been imposed on them, whether by Hamas [que gobierna la franja de Gaza]Al Fatah or the Palestinian Authority [alineada con Al Fatah y que controla parcialmente Cisjordania]. They can develop a clear schedule for release, which they don’t currently have.
In the days of the Palestine Liberation Organization there was a unified national movement and there was a clear strategy, good or bad, but everyone was clear about what they wanted: in the first stage, a secular and democratic state; in a second stage, a Palestinian State next to the Israeli State. What do the Palestinians want now?
It is very important that you develop a unified national movement and get rid of these old, authoritarian and incompetent leaders. And it’s something very difficult to achieve, they can take a long time.