Jenin and Balata
I try to restrain myself from commenting on Israel and Palestine. I really do. Really. But sometimes I cannot. The current Israeli incursions on Palestinian refugee camps are surreal, and I don’t think the media is describing them vividly enough.
Just for starters, people seem to be glossing over the fact that these are refugee camps in the first place. The Balata refugee camp was established in 1950 as a tent city for people displaced after Israel gained independence. It’s still there, and it’s still a refugee camp. The other camp is Jenin, which was created in 1953. The residents of these camps are in the care of UN agencies, not the Palestinian Authority. We’re talking about two entire generations of people who grew up in the squalor of refugee camps at this point.
Secondly, the Israeli army has moved into the camps in force, with tanks. The Balata camp is 252 dunums, which is about 63 acres (to compare, a square mile covers 640 acres), and has around 20,000 residents. The Jenin camp covers an area of about 90 acres and has about 13,000 residents. These conditions make for urban warfare at its worst. Israeli troops are blowing holes in the walls of residences in the camps and moving from building to building that way so as to travelling on the street and exposing themselves to gunfire.
Is it any surprise that Israeli reservists are refusing to serve in the occupied territories at this point? I condemn the Palestinians who support terrorism and the killing of innocents, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. These people are crammed onto miserable little plots of land that aren’t even large enough to support a decent farm, much less an entire town. The vast majority of them have no jobs and no state services, and now the IDF has invaded the camps, in hopes of arresting militants, siezing weapons, and destroying bomb-making facilities. What the Palestinians do have is guns and plenty of time on their hands. Should it surprise anyone that the Palestinians are fighting back tooth and nail? What would you do?
And the most grotesque point here is that the even as the Israeli government rightfully condemns terrorism, the IDF is engaged in actions that inevitably result in the deaths of civilians and inevitably fail to accomplish any positive outcome as well. If they captured every militant who they believe is hiding in the refugee camps, would it put an end to the suicide bombings? Would it even reduce their frequency? I think we can all predict the long term effects of living in miserable conditions and being the subject of repeated military assaults by an occupying force.
A non-randomly selected group of news stories on the refugee camp invasion:
- Jerusalem Post: Soldier, 15 Palestinians killed as IDF enters refugee camps
- Ha’Aretz Daily: W. Bank Soldier killed, another injured during IDF raid
- BBC: Israeli raids take heavy toll
- ArabicNews.com: Some 12 Palestinians killed, 150 wounded by Israel
One thing I find interesting in reading the conservative Israeli press is that they talk about what wretched hives of scum and villainy the refugee camps are, but fail to examine the conditions that lead to their current state. I have no doubt that many terrorists operate out of the camps, but perhaps an alternate solution would be to change things so that the camps are no longer needed.