As Israel’s military intensifies its operation at the Jenin Refugee Camp in the northern West Bank, Americans for Peace Now (APN) is dismayed at the rapid escalation of violence in the West Bank. APN is alarmed at the harm caused to Palestinian civilians and calls on Israel to exercise extra care in protecting noncombatants. Using bulldozers and armed drones in such a small, cramped area multiplies the risk to noncombatants and to civilian infrastructure.
Any operation in a densely-populated area such as the Jenin Refugee Camp (more than 11,000 people living in 0.16 square miles) is bound to put civilians at risk. But under any law (international, American, or Israeli) that risk must be minimized. At the moment, many of the Camp’s residents lack running water and electricity. The IDF’s cutting of water and power, on its face, is collective punishment of the local civilian population.
Israel has legitimate security concerns. Many of the recent terrorist attacks against soldiers and West Bank settlers originated in the Jenin area. In addition, Israel is concerned that Palestinian terrorists in and around Jenin are striving to develop rocket capability to target Israelis inside the Green Line. In its searches today, the IDF reportedly found large quantities of weapons and explosives.
However, as past experience has shown, military operations that serve the goal of solidifying and perpetuating Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, are counterproductive. As our colleagues at Israel’s Peace Now movement said today, “there is no viability to a military operation without a political vision.”
Past experience has also shown that what happens in the West Bank often does not stay there. Military escalation in the West Bank tends to spill over. Retaliation often comes from the Gaza Strip or Lebanon in the form of rockets. Diplomatic reactions to such operations further erode Israel’s standing with its allies.
APN’s President and CEO Hadar Susskind said: “The use of military force may capture or kill some Palestinian militants, but it also further radicalizes their younger brothers, who will take their place with greater motivation for liberation and vengeance. Counterterrorism efforts without a political horizon of hope are an exercise in futility. The more burdensome and permanent the Occupation is, the more motivated Palestinians will be to resist it. Resolving Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians is not a military task but rather a political challenge to be accomplished through diplomacy.”