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Jenin Massacre: The Ongoing Torment of Palestinian Muslims

The resolution of the Palestinian question and other pressing issues in the world can only be achieved if world leaders agree to prioritize truth and justice over politics.

3 mins read
People carry their belongings on the street after the Israeli army's withdrawal from the Jenin camp in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on July 5, 2023 [Ammar Awad/Reuters]

by Md Mahmudul Hasan

‘Complaining to Iqbal: Dialogue with the Dead’ (also titled ‘SMS to Sir Muhammad Iqbal’) is a poem written by the late Malaysian poet and public intellectual Mohd Kamal Hassan (1942–2023). Inspired by his trip to Spain, the poem provides a concise account of the challenges within the international order that he refers to as ‘the New World Disorder.’ It reflects upon the struggles faced by various global communities, including the Palestinians, leading up to its publication in 2002.

Concerning the issue of Palestine, Kamal Hassan utilizes the literary technique of apostrophe to address the poet-philosopher Muhammad Iqbal (1877–1938) in the following manner:

‘O Iqbal!
I wish you had heard the sounds
of Israel’s guns,
the cries from Deir Yassin, Shabra, Shatilla,
and Jenin,
the brutal rumblings of Sharon’s tanks,
the heartless bulldozers tearing
into Palestinian homes.’

The list of Palestinian locations that have witnessed the cruelty and brutality of the Israeli state continues to grow; very few places have been left untouched. The magnitude of Israeli oppression and their callous disregard for human life is no longer an isolated occurrence. It is striving to achieve unprecedented levels of persecution, while the narrative of Palestinian suffering and loss becomes lengthier and bloodier.

Kamal Hassan alludes to the Israeli massacre of the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, which took place from April 1–11, 2002. During this period, Israeli forces killed approximately 52 Palestinians, including the elderly, women, and children. Ariel Sharon (1928–2014) was the Prime Minister of Israel at that time, hence Kamal Hassan’s reference to ‘Sharon’s tanks.’ Sharon’s senseless use of bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes earned him the notorious nickname of ‘Ariel “the bulldozer” Sharon.’

After numerous episodes of massacres in other Palestinian neighborhoods, the densely populated and overcrowded Jenin refugee camp faced another assault by marauding Israeli tanks on July 3, 2023. These deadly tanks were accompanied by airstrikes. Following a 48-hour campaign of cowardice against the relatively defenseless Palestinians, the Israeli forces claimed the lives of 12 refugees from the Jenin camp.

Although the Israeli forces have withdrawn from Jenin for now, Palestinians continue to live in fear because Israel has enjoyed unrestricted liberty to wage war and satisfy its thirst for their blood for decades. Jenin, along with any other part of Palestine, can be a target of Israeli violence at any time.

We must not forget that the Jenin camp houses approximately 18,000 displaced and dispossessed Palestinian refugees. It stands as one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Therefore, bombings in Jenin are unlikely to spare human casualties.

The inhabitants of the Jenin refugee camp were uprooted from their homes by foreign Israeli settlers, thanks to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 on Arab lands. Palestinians have been turned into refugees within their own land, only to be periodically killed and displaced through land and air raids, as well as massacres. Now, they have been forced to flee the Jenin refugee camp in search of shelter, with uncertain destinations.

The cries for justice are falling on deaf ears. Those with the power to stop these gross human rights violations and injustices either deny them or become complicit with the oppressive Israeli government. In April 2002, when the world was appalled by Israeli atrocities, the then US Secretary of State Colin Powell (1937–2021) made a mockery of justice by stating to a US Senate committee, ‘Right now, I’ve seen no evidence of mass graves and I’ve seen no evidence that would suggest a massacre took place.’ This time, the Biden administration backed the massacre of Jenin. We leave the case of the oppressed Palestinians and other vulnerable groups to God.

However, I want to address the blatant hypocrisy of those in power and the media. The Israeli regime used the euphemism ‘Operation Home and Garden’ to disguise the atrocities committed by its forces in Jenin. Mainstream media outlets were either silent or downplayed this brutality. Needless to say, if a comparable atrocity were committed by Russia in Ukraine, it would likely elicit a different media reaction, especially in the West.

Some media organizations employ sophisticated language like ‘major military operation’ to justify Israeli atrocities or lend them a semblance of legitimacy. Conversely, the same media outlets use terms like ‘terrorist acts’ to describe the desperate defensive measures taken by the defenseless Palestinians.

I believe that media personnel, especially in the West, possess firsthand knowledge of Israel’s colonial and apartheid treatment of the Palestinians. However, they are compelled to hide the truth and compromise their conscience in order to comply with the editorial policies of their employers. In a way, they and their conscience are also victims of the Israeli state’s powerful influence. I empathize with them equally.

Lastly, the United States’ one-sided and unconditional support for Israel sets off a chain reaction. It grants undue legitimacy to other global actors to commit aggression within their own countries and beyond. Similarly, the mainstream media’s complicity in Israel’s human rights abuses in Palestine is a burden too heavy to bear.

The resolution of the Palestinian question and other pressing issues in the world can only be achieved if world leaders agree to prioritize truth and justice over politics.

Dr Md Mahmudul Hasan is a teacher at International Islamic University Malaysia and editor-in-chief of the Asiatic: IIUM Journal of English Language and Literature.The article originally appeared in The New Age, Bangladesh

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