European Eye on Radicalization
The entire Jenin camp woke up last Thursday 26 January to the occurrence of a large massacre that it had not witnessed before except when it was invaded in Operation Defensive Shield more than two decades ago. Over the course of four hours, the Israeli army carried out a large-scale military operation in the Jenin refugee camp, which left 9 deaths, dozens of wounded, and damage to buildings and property.
In testimonies of Palestinians, residents and officials said that the camp witnessed a “real battle” carried out by the Israeli army, during which live bullets, missiles, drones, and armoured vehicles were used. The Israeli military operation caused damage to the camp’s infrastructure, destroying buildings and vehicles. The Israeli authorities claimed that the major operation against Jenin camp was to prevent a major terrorist operation against “Tel Aviv” planned by a leader of the Islamic Jihad movement.
The day after the Israeli attack of the Jenin camp, seven Jews were massacred and three wounded in Jerusalem, at a synagogue, during a Shabbat service, on Holocaust Memorial Day. The Ateret Avraham synagogue in Neve Yaakov was attacked about 20:15 on 27 January by a 21-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank named Khayri al-Qam, who began shooting at worshippers outside. Before Al-Qam got to the synagogue, he had shot and killed an elderly woman in the street and a man riding a motorcycle.
After the attack, Al-Qam fled to the nearby Bayt Hanina neighbourhood. There were some complaints about the time it took for Israeli security forces to arrive at the synagogue, but the security forces discovered Al-Qam within five minutes. Resisting arrest by shooting at the security forces, Al-Qam was killed. The police announced earlier that 42 people had been arrested in connection with Friday’s attack.
On Friday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the site of the attack, where crowds gathered chanting, “Death to Terrorists” and some held placards reading, “Death to the Arabs.” In this context, the Israeli police renewed the call for those who have permits to carry their weapons with them, while the far-Right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir advocated that more Israelis should obtain permits to carry weapons. On the other hand, the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS), the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood that controls Gaza, praised the attack as a “response” to an Israeli counter-terrorism raid in Jenin two days earlier.
Recent events indicate that we are facing violence and mutual escalation between two sides, both of which have become dependent on extremist rhetoric and violence to achieve their goals. On the one hand, the existence of a right-wing government in Israel and the reliance of some of its members on the rhetoric of extremism, hatred and violence, and on the other hand the presence of extremist Palestinian Islamic factions that respond to this rhetoric with violence and escalation, which fuels the situation. The extremist rhetoric of some members of the Israeli government and the violent Israeli intervention in the Jenin camp led to an escalation and parallel violence on the part of some Palestinian factions and an attempt to take revenge by attacking the synagogue in the city of Jerusalem. Thus, we are facing a cycle of violence, and the continuation of bloodshed and the taking of lives on both sides.
The recent attacks, marking the highest violence levels since the Second Intifada, come amid a dangerous political environment. The Palestinian Authority, despite looking like a state structure, is very weak and does not exercise sovereignty in the full sense of statehood and independence. The unprecedently far-Right government in Israel and the speeches of some of its members, who incite hate and hostility, make it difficult to resume peacebuilding. The extremist far-right will inevitably be confronted with violence on the part of Palestinian extremist factions such as HAMAS and Islamic Jihad. This is explicitly expressed by many Israelis who believe that the extreme right-wing rhetoric will only lead to inflaming the situation and does not serve the peace agenda with the Palestinians, in addition to undermining the process of building a democratic Israeli state.
There are serious concerns that the recent incidents will lead to further escalation. There has been much talk in the last few days, on social media and elsewhere, of a “Third Intifada”. The first two intifadas (“uprisings”) were major sustained series of protests and riots that were motivated by collective Palestinian frustration over Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza strip, the failure of the 2000 camp David Summit, and the Ariel Sharon provocative visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
An element that is new this time around is the international disengagement. Violence is coming in an atmosphere where meaningful diplomacy has ended and that makes this most worrying. Furthermore, the international community is responsible for the situation and must act and be more engaged to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that last long and claimed many innocent lives.
The urgent need is for steps toward de-escalation on both sides. The far-Right speech of some of the leading figures in Israel’s government needs to be checked to avoid needlessly inflaming an already tense situation, and to give extremist Islamic groups a suitable ground for exchanging violence and hate speech. Furthermore, security collaborations between Israel and Palestine, as well as the peacebuilding process, should be resumed to work towards the two-state solution that ensures the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel—two states for two peoples that live in peace and harmony.