By Ramzy Baroud
There is a reason why Israel insists on linking the series of attacks carried out by Palestinians recently to a specific location – the the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank. By doing so, the embattled government of Naftali Bennett can simply order another deadly military operation in Jenin to reassure its citizens that the situation is under control. Indeed, on 9 April, the Israeli army stormed the Jenin refugee camp, killing a Palestinian and wounding ten others. However, Israel’s problem is much bigger than Jenin.
If we examine the events starting with the March 22 stabbing attack in the southern city of Beersheba (Bir Al Saba’) – which resulted in the death of four people – and ending with the killing of three Israelis in Tel Aviv – including two army officers – we easily reach an obvious conclusion: these attacks must have been, to some extent, coordinated.
Spontaneous Palestinian retaliation to the violence of the Israeli occupation rarely follows this pattern in terms of timing or style. All the attacks, with the exception of Beersheba, were carried out using firearms. The shooters, as indicated by the amateur videos of some of the events and statements by Israeli eyewitnesses, were well-trained and acted with great composure. One example was the 27 March Hadera event, carried out by two cousins, Ayman and Ibrahim Ighbariah, from the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm, a Palestinian town inside Israel. Israeli media reported on the unmistakable skills of the attackers who were armed with weapons that, according to the Israeli news agency, Tazpit Press Service, cost more than $30 000.
Unlike Palestinian attacks carried out during the Second Palestinian Intifada (2000-2005) in response to Israeli violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the latest attacks are generally more precisely targeted, seek out police and military personnel, and are clearly aimed at shaking Israel’s false sense of security and undermining the state’s intelligence services. In the Bnei Brak attack, on 29 March, for example, an Israeli woman who was an eyewitness at the scene told reporters, ‘The militant asked us to move away from the place because he did not want to target women or children.’
While Israeli intelligence reports recently warned of a ‘wave of terrorism’ ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, they clearly had little conception of what type of violence to expect, or where and how Palestinians would strike.
Following the Beersheba attack, Israeli officials attributed it to the Islamic State group, which was a convenient claim considering that IS also claimed responsibility for it. That theory was, however, quickly dismissed, as it became obvious that the other Palestinian attackers had political affiliations to other Palestinian groups or, as in the Bnei Brak case, no known affiliation at all.
The confusion and misinformation continued for days. Shortly after the Tel Aviv attack, Israeli media, citing official Israeli sources, mentioned two attackers, alleging that one had been trapped in a nearby building. This proved to be untrue; there was only one attacker, who was later killed, though hours after his attack and in a different city.
A number of Palestinian workers were quickly rounded up in Tel Aviv on suspicion of being the attackers simply because they looked Arab, providing more evidence of the chaotic and confused Israeli approach. Indeed, after each of these Palestinian attacks, total mayhem ensued, with large mobs of armed Israelis taking to the streets looking for anyone with Arab features to apprehend or to beat senseless. Israeli officials – wittingly or unwittingly – contributed to the frenzy, with far-right politicians such as the extremist Itamar Ben Gvir leading hordes of other Jewish Israeli extremists in rampages across occupied Jerusalem.
Instead of urging calm and displaying confidence, Israel’s prime minister on 30 March called on Israeli civilians to arm themselves. ‘Whoever has a gun licence, this is the time to carry it,” he said in a video statement, clearly inciting violence against Palestinians. However, if Israel’s solution to any form of Palestinian resistance is to carry more guns, Palestinians would have been pacified a long time ago.
To placate angry Israelis, the Israeli military raided Jenin city and the Jenin refugee camp on many occasions, each time leaving behind several dead and wounded Palestinians, including many civilians. Among the dead were the child Imad Hashash, 15, killed on 24 August while filming the invasion of the refugee camp with his cellphone. The same scenario had played out on 9 April.
Nevertheless, from the Israeli perspective, this was an exercise in futility; it was, after all, Israeli violence in Jenin throughout the years that had led to the organised armed resistance that continues to emanate from the camp. Palestinians, whether in Jenin or elsewhere, resist and fight back because they are denied basic human rights, have no political horizon, live in extreme poverty, have no true leadership and feel abandoned by the so-called international community.
The Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas seems to be entirely removed from the masses and their experience of occupation and resistance. Abbas’s statements reflect his detachment from the reality of Israeli violence, military occupation and apartheid throughout Palestine. True to form, Abbas quickly condemned the Tel Aviv attack, as he had one with previous ones, referring each time to the need to maintain ‘stability’ and to prevent ‘further deterioration of the situation’, according to the official Wafa news agency. One would be forgiven for asking what stability Abbas was referring to, when Palestinian lives have not been stable for more than seven decades and when Palestinian suffering has been compounded by growing settler violence, illegal settlement expansion, land theft, and, thanks to recent international events, food insecurity as well.
Israeli officials and media are, again, conveniently placing the blame largely on Jenin, a tiny stretch of an overpopulated area. By doing so, Israel wants to give the impression that the new phenomenon of Palestinian retaliatory attacks is confined to a single place, one that is adjacent to the Israeli border and one that can easily be ‘dealt with’.
An Israeli military operation in the camp may serve Bennett’s political agenda, convey a sense of strength, and win back some in his disenchanted political constituency, but it is a temporary fix – if any kind of fix at all. Attacking Jenin now will make no difference in the long run. After all, the camp rose from the ashes of its near-total destruction by the Israeli military in April 2002. And attacking Jerusalem and the Mosque of Al-Aqsa, as Israeli troops did on 15 April, will increase rather than reduce Palestinian resistance.
The renewed Palestinian attacks speak of a much wider geography: Naqab, Umm Al Fahm, the West Bank – with a clear shift towards more actions within Israel. The seeds of this territorial connectivity are linked to the Israeli war of May 2021 and the subsequent Palestinian rebellion, which erupted in every part of Palestine, including Palestinian communities inside Israel.
Israel’s problem is its insistence on providing short-term military solutions to a long-term problem, itself resulting from these very ‘military solutions’. If Israel continues to subjugate the Palestinian people under the current system of military occupation, deepening apartheid and expansive colonisation, Palestinians will surely continue to respond until their oppressive reality is changed. No amount of Israeli violence can alter this truth.
* Dr Ramzy Baroud is a Non-Rsident Senior Research Fellow at the Afro-Middle East Centre, a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out.