The Real Story of Israel’s Operation in Jenin Isn’t What You’ve Read | Opinion

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Newsweek 07.07.2023


The Real Story of Israel’s Operation in Jenin Isn’t What You’ve Read | Opinion


Although Israel’s army left Jenin on Tuesday after two days spent attacking terrorist infrastructure, the cycle of nonsense attacking Israel’s action has just begun.


In fact, Israel’s surgical strike was totally-justified, long-in-the-making – and potentially game-changing.

In Jenin, Israel was cutting out tumors, not “mowing the lawn”—the popular metaphor explaining Israel’s periodic Gaza clashes. While they sometimes recur, lethal growths must be removed. The “tumors ” included hundreds of weapons confiscated, multiple bomb-making factories destroyed, and two terrorist command-and-control centers eradicated. One booby-trapped, cramped, half-mile by half-mile enclave harbored all this firepower, striking distance from Israel’s largest city, Tel Aviv, and its capital, Jerusalem. Americans would never abide terrorist mega-centers in New Haven, Connecticut, 70 miles from New York, or in Richmond, Virginia, 90 miles from Washington, DC.

Despite more than 1,000 soldiers entering that once impenetrable area, only 12 Palestinian militants died in combat. Hundreds fled because hunting them wasn’t the main mission. The Israel Defense Forces wanted to neutralize this killers’ casbah embedded among civilians—one weapons cache was even hidden underneath Jenin’s al-Ansari mosque.

Characteristically, most news sites ran photos of destroyed Palestinian cars, not seized homemade bombs, rifles, and mortars. Similarly, Doctors Without Borders  and others criticized the “Military bulldozers” which “destroyed multiple roads leading to the Jenin refugee camp, making it nearly impossible for ambulances to reach patients.” This spin ignored the eight Israeli soldiers recently injured by a roadside bomb in Jenin. Bulldozing the streets saved lives—while sending the message that these crimes don’t pay.

Perhaps the most glaring omission boosting the “cycle of violence” talk came in “background” stories mischaracterizing Jenin as a perpetual terror center. Reporters skipped back to April 2002, when 23 Israeli soldiers died neutralizing Jenin’s terrorist infrastructure. What they didn’t say was that, freed of those terrorists, Jenin prospered. Thanks to the Palestinian Authority’s security cooperation with Israel, Jenin’s Palestinians enjoyed some calm, while few Jenin-based terrorists menaced Israelis.

As Zina Rakhamilova  wrote in the Jerusalem Post , many Israeli-Arabs shopped in the city and many Jenin residents worked in Israel. By 2018, the Israeli army’s “security evaluation of Jenin” was “relatively benign,” and only one IDF battalion patrolled.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 devastated Jenin’s economy, just as the Palestinian Authority started losing control. Backed by millions of Iranian dollars, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and smaller terrorist groups infiltrated Jenin. After trusting the PA’s security for years, by the time the IDF realized that terrorists had reconquered Jenin, a dramatic raid was necessary.

For more than a year, the IDF has been planning to return to Jenin, eradicate the death factories, and restore some deterrence. That is why, while the conventional wisdom blames this operation on Israel’s “most right wing government ,” Israel’s opposition leader, Yair Lapid, praised this “justified action against terrorist infrastructure.” When a BBC anchor  told former prime minister Naftali Bennett  that “Israeli forces are happy to kill children,” Bennett bristled. “No Israeli mom wants to send their boy into Jenin,” Bennett said. “We do it because we’ve got no choice.” He explained: “We are not targeting civilians. They are only  targeting civilians.” The IDF was already training for this raid when Lapid and Bennett governed. They may detest today’s coalition, but like most Israelis, they understand this need for self-defense.

Such subtleties muddy the one-sided narrative of oppressive Israelis again persecuting helpless, innocent Palestinians. Most outrageously, Palestinian apologists ignore the way Palestinian militants terrorize their fellow Palestinians. Cowering behind civilians and civilized norms, Palestinian thugs recruit teenagers to keep prosecuting their uncompromising war against Israel’s existence by killing civilians—with 28 Israeli victims in 2023 alone.

In short, cycle-of-violence talk makes the Arab-Israeli conflict look unchanging and unsolvable, ignoring Israel’s peace progress with Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco. And it plays into oversimplifications of oppressive Westerners forever oppressing benighted Easterners—while negating Jews’ indigenous ties to their Middle Eastern homeland. We should resist being conned by distortions and caricatures that demonize America’s true ally, Israel, while violating the optimism and nuance so essential to healthy democratic debate.


A Distinguished Scholar in North American History at McGill University currently living in Jerusalem, Gil Troy is an award-winning American presidential historian and a leading Zionist activist. He is, most recently, the editor of the new three-volume set, “Theodor Herzl: Zionist Writings,” the inaugural publication of The Library of the Jewish People ( www.theljp.org )  . Two years ago he co-authored with Natan Sharansky Never Alone: Prison, Politics and  My People,  was published by PublicAffairs of Hachette. Recently designated one of Algemeiner’s J-100, one of the top 100 people “positively influencing Jewish life,” Gil Troy is the author of  The Zionist Ideas , an update and expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology The Zionist Idea, published by the Jewish Publication Society and a 2019 National Jewish Book Award Finalist. 




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Prof Gil Troy · 20 Derech Bet Lechem · Apt 2 · Jerusalem 9310925 · Israel