ANOTHER day, another massacre. This is the violent reality that perpetually confronts the Palestinian people. While the Israeli war machine usually reserves its barbaric wrath for the impoverished coastal enclave of Gaza, this time it was the West Bank city of Jenin that was subjected to state-sponsored violence. Trouble had been brewing since last month, when Tel Aviv had dispatched helicopter gunships to the West Bank in a brazen escalation of tensions. But on Monday, the Israelis launched a brutal two-day assault targeting the Jenin refugee camp, ostensibly to hunt down Palestinian fighters. What ensued is typical of the one-sided violence that has marked this decades-old conflict, with Arab civilians facing the unrestrained cruelty of Israel’s military.
Perhaps it should be a relief that ‘only’ 12 Palestinians were killed — including several children — as over 1,000 Israeli troops descended upon Jenin. Hundreds of homes have been damaged or destroyed, while Jenin’s infrastructure, including water, electricity and sewerage networks, lies in ruins. According to the UN, intentional attacks directed at civilians not taking part in hostilities come under the ambit of war crimes. Unfortunately, the UN’s human rights chief issued a tepid statement, meekly urging Israel to “minimise” the use of lethal force. Washington’s reaction to the blitz was expected, with a spokesperson defending Tel Aviv’s “right to defend its people”. Clearly, for those who trumpet the sanctity of the international ‘rules-based order’, there are different rules for different situations. When geopolitical enemies indulge in atrocities, there are howls of protest and sanctimonious calls to sanction and punish the perpetrators. But when friends, such as Israel, butcher civilians and flatten residential areas, the ‘right’ of these comrades to defend themselves is underscored.