This week’s Israeli incursion into Jenin showed the violence of occupation and blatant disregard for Palestinian rights. At least 133 Palestinians have been killed by Israel since the start of this year alone.

A Palestinian waves national flags amid burning tires near the border fence with Israel, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on July 4, 2023, during a protest against an Israeli military raid on the West Bank city of Jenin. (Yousef Masoud / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images)

A cool morning breeze became suffocating as black smoke filled the air and tear gas blanketed Jenin camp on Monday, July 3. Ten Israeli air strikes targeted the densely populated West Bank area, followed by a brigade of two thousand soldiers. Armored bulldozers and heavy military vehicles also pushed into the camp.

The Israeli military’s large-scale operation in the refugee camp filled residents with fear. Health crews’ mobility to rescue those stranded under fire were hindered by Israeli checkpoints at the camp’s entrance. Two days later on Wednesday morning, the Israeli army finally announced the withdrawal of its forces, ending a two-day raid that killed twelve Palestinians and left over a hundred others injured.

The raid has raised the death toll of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces to 133 since the beginning of the year, in an increasing pattern of persistent attacks on the West Bank. For so long, the Jenin refugee camp has been a symbol of Palestinian resistance and social steadfastness. Israel’s portrayal of the invasion as “targeting terrorism” dismisses Palestine’s century-long struggle for freedom and obscures the broader context of resistance in Jenin and across the occupied West Bank. The use of “security” as a pretext has become a tool for the Israeli military to carry out violent acts against Palestinian civilians.

Despite the army’s statements, the assault was not about Israel’s security — it is collective punishment for the Palestinian people at large. There is no strategic reason to use heavy equipment to destroy civilian infrastructure other than to inflict collective punishment.

Israel invaded Jenin to eradicate the efforts of Palestinian fighters and, ironically, create what they call “stability” in the occupied West Bank. Yet achieving stability under military rule and occupying power will remain elusive. Even if the Palestinian fighters in Jenin were killed or detained, the uprising will continue until the occupation ends.

The word “resist” terrifies Israel, but for Palestinians, it is a matter of survival. It is a refusal to be subjected to physical, psychological, economic, social, and political violence and abuse. Expelling people from their homes and silencing their voices as they fight against discrimination and apartheid in the West Bank will not lead to peace, stability, or calm. Israel, for seven decades, has failed to acknowledge that the Palestinian people’s legitimate right to self-defense is not a crime.

Beyond the tactical news in Jenin surfaced the fact that Israel’s attempts to uproot the indigenous population of the camp, the West Bank, and all of Palestine have failed. If anything, these attempts have further deepened the attachment of subsequent generations to their land. For Palestinians, Jenin and Palestine as a whole are not mere plots of land; they are home, identity, and a testament to their struggle, deeply rooted in their ancestral heritage.

Monday’s raid was the largest attack on Palestinian territory in years. It unveiled a high level of intensification of the Israeli assaults against a Palestinian refugee population in Jenin. Scores of Palestinian families expelled from the camp marked a striking observation that the Nakba is an ongoing tragedy, echoing the forced displacement experienced in 1948. Jenin, already housing refugees from the 1948 Nakba, witnessed a repetition of history, as its residents desperately flee death and terror.

Over the decades, the camp transformed into a thriving community, housing families uprooted from their historic homes. They poured their love, dedication, and sacrifice into this makeshift community, tirelessly striving to create a sense of familiarity amid the unfamiliar.

These people only grew more deeply attached to the land that was taken from them. When the Second Intifada erupted in 2000, they fearlessly stood against the occupation, their unwavering determination etched in their very existence. They refused to back down, even in the face of overwhelming assaults, defending their land and clutching onto their rights until the end.

In Jenin through the passage of time, the great generation found love and formed their own families, weaving the fabric of the camp’s collective identity. Their children, born and raised within these camp’s confines, grew up through the hovering of warplanes and the terror that constantly threatened their lives and the survival of their community.

The people of Jenin stood resolute against the bulldozers that destroyed their homes and shelters during the 2002 siege, known as the “Battle of Jenin.” Their defiance was unwavering. Today, they find themselves embracing a new struggle, fighting to protect their homes and lands in the camp.

For two days, the Israeli military tightened its grip on the people by encircling the camp and sealing off all access points in an attempt to suffocate the fighters’ shelters and armory. The aftermath of this attack reverberated through the lives of thousands of remaining Nakba survivors, forcing them again to abandon their homes and face the painful reality of displacement.

The brave individuals refused to succumb to oppression. They marched forward with unwavering resolve, hoping that their current struggle will eventually resolve in a better future for the generations to come. They carried the weight of history on their shoulders and upheld the legitimacy of resistance they have amplified through the years.

Across Palestine, the suffering in Jenin echoes strength and inspires solidarity among the entire occupied Palestinian population. The brutal raid ultimately failed to achieve Israel’s goals of “security” and was not able to support the Israeli political leadership. Instead, it will likely ignite a fresh wave of unified resistance across Palestine. Reflecting on the failed siege of Jenin in 2002 and many more attacks on the camp since then, it is apparent that enduring solutions have not been found.

As Israeli forces withdrew from the camp, there was fear that Israel — just like it did before — will invade the camp again in the future. But what is vivid on the streets of Jenin is, no matter how many more raids the camp will endure, residents will remain unbroken.

The children who witnessed previous sieges and attacks have now grown up to be today’s fighters. Similarly, the children who lived through the recent siege and raid will sadly be forced to take up arms soon in pursuit of justice and freedom.

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