On September 28, 2000, the Second Palestinian Intifada began. An estimated 4,228 Palestinians were killed during the uprising, according to the United Nations, with the most infamous massacre occurring in the Jenin refugee camp in 2002. To mark the anniversary of the Second Intifada, red. media spoke with Ali Samoudi, a highly acclaimed Palestinian journalist who lived through the uprising and reported on the 2002 Jenin camp invasion from the ground.
How did the Second Intifada begin, and how did the uprising take shape?
Due to challenges and restrictions imposed by the Israeli government’s occupation of the Palestinians, the desired outcomes of the peace process—which aimed to achieve international peace, end the occupation, and bring about positive political, social, and economic changes—faced obstacles. In reality, Israeli occupation policies have undermined these goals, evident through actions such as arrests, killings, land confiscation, and economic barriers. These actions have gradually eroded the hope among Palestinians for achieving these aspirations.
Israel has actively worked to undermine agreements it made with the Palestinian Authority, aiming for a peaceful resolution to provide Palestinians with a stable and prosperous life. Israeli actions, including demolitions and aggressive actions in Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque area, have violated religious, national, and political sensitivities, intensifying tensions.
Before the Al-Aqsa Intifada, there were uprisings such as the First Intifada. Ariel Sharon’s entry into the Aqsa Mosque was the pinnacle of violations and aggression for the Palestinians. This breach of all red lines led Palestinians to believe that the Israeli government, particularly under Sharon, was undermining the peace process. This belief contributed to the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, which evolved from a simple protest into broader and more significant resistance due to Israeli actions.
The uprising evolved into an armed resistance, involving military wings within Palestinian factions like Fatah, the Popular Front (PFLP), Hamas, and Islamic Jihad (PIJ). The cause of the Intifada lies in the policies and practices of the Israeli occupation, which directly oppose the rights of the Palestinians and undermine agreements made through the peace process. This led to the widespread eruption and escalation of the Al-Aqsa Intifada across Palestinian territories under occupation.
The Israelis claimed to have been seeking a return to the peace process; is this true?
Successive Israeli governments have not adhered to the agreements they signed. They violated boundaries outlined in the Oslo Accords, obstructed Palestinian efforts, and reneged on commitments. These actions demonstrate that Israel was not genuinely pursuing peace, but instead hindering progress by the Palestinian Authority. President Arafat felt compelled to support the Palestinians’ right to resist the occupation, leading to an escalation in the uprising.
Despite the Intifada, there were continuous attempts to find solutions, but Israel’s intent to dismantle the Palestinian Authority was evident. Thus, the Second Intifada emerged as a popular uprising uniting the Palestinian people in their pursuit of justice.
What forms did the Second Intifada’s resistance take?
Certainly, when the intifada began, there was a form of grassroots resistance was taking place on the streets. People used stones and obstacles to symbolize their challenge against the occupation and to confront it directly. However, the response from the occupation and its forces was even more severe. They escalated the situation by carrying out actions like targeted killings, creating a sense of humiliation within the territories, invading areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, launching airstrikes, imposing blockades, cutting off vital resources, and destruction of essential infrastructure. These actions, in turn, led to a further intensification of the uprising.
As the resistance continued, it transcended the boundaries of the territories occupied by Palestinians (the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem). It expanded to include places where Palestinians encountered Israelis. This expansion was a direct result of the occupation’s policies, which inadvertently fueled the growth and progression of the intifada. The overarching goal of this uprising was to attain freedom, independence, and liberation from Israeli occupation. Additionally, it aimed to prevent the Israeli occupation from dismantling the fundamental elements of the Palestinian people and eradicating the Palestinian Authority.
The driving force behind the uprising was the aspiration for freedom, independence, and liberation from occupation. It sought to exert pressure on the international community to compel Israel to adhere to withdrawal agreements, terminate the occupation, and establish a self-governing Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its designated capital.
The most well-known massacre of the Second Intifada was in Jenin; why?
The Palestinian Territories Network in Jenin took part in the intifada, but what set Jenin apart was its resilient and determined spirit of resistance. This wasn’t limited to just marches or stone-throwing confrontations. Instead, groups of young individuals made a significant decision to resist the occupation through military actions. As a result, armed commando groups were formed, representing various factions like Fatah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad.
These groups embarked on commando operations against the occupation, leading to a consistent exchange of gunfire as a form of resistance. Additionally, they carried out operations within their own areas. This rresistance persisted so long as the Israeli occupation continued its invasion of Palestinian Authority territories, conducting assassinations, and causing havoc. Israel targeted and eliminated numerous Palestinian leaders, such as Abu Ali Mustafa of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas.
Resistance remains [for the younger generation] a valid and compelling choice. Resistance manifests in diverse ways, ranging from peaceful marches protesting settlements to armed opposition to the occupation.
These military wings decided to intensify their efforts, expanding their operations and commando actions against the Israeli occupation. While such activities extended to other parts of the West Bank, Jenin played a pivotal and more prominent role, which Israel considered particularly dangerous. he Jenin camp was likened to a hornet’s nest, symbolizing the strong resistance present there.
Despite Israel’s attempts to suppress the resistance—including imposing sieges, constructing the apartheid wall, employing airstrikes, making arrests, and more—the resistance persisted. The decision seemed to be made by Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to eradicate the resistance and, in doing so, weaken the Palestinian National Authority. This led to Operation Defensive Shield, where Israel aimed to occupy Palestinian Authority lands, dismantle its headquarters, and take control, with Jenin being a primary target.
Although Israel tried to encircle Jenin with tanks and barriers, resistance activities continued. On April 9, 2002, Sharon sent tanks and elite units to the Jenin camp, as well as to other areas in the West Bank, with the goal of reoccupying Palestinian Authority territories that had been previously damaged.
Before that, the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters had been destroyed, and this occupation took place within the Jenin camp, encountering fierce resistance. Israel’s invasion of Jenin wasn’t simply a local affair; it was met with determined and intense resistance efforts.
Can you describe what happened and what you saw when Israel invaded Jenin?
When Israeli forces initially entered the Jenin refugee camp, they immediately began causing significant damage. They targeted crucial infrastructure including electricity generators, water sources, and communication systems. This led to a complete disruption of water, electricity, and communication services not only within the camp but also in the wider area of Jenin. Even water storage tanks were shot at from planes, cutting off access to the water supply. The camp was surrounded, and all entrances were sealed off. Although the hospital was situated adjacent to the camp, medical personnel were not allowed to enter, while journalists and others were also denied access.
Israeli tanks tried to enter but encountered fierce resistance, leading to the bombing of houses. Tragically, civilians, including innocent individuals not involved in the conflict, lost their lives due to these actions. As the assault continued, massive American bulldozers were employed to raze houses. This escalated into a genocidal campaign resulting in a horrific massacre. Many Palestinians from the camp recounted how their homes were attacked, often with people still inside them. Families were subjected to intense violence, and some individuals were tortured by the invading forces.
Survivors provided harrowing accounts. Families were trapped within confined spaces without access to food, water, or help. The wounded were left bleeding in the streets as ambulances were prevented from reaching them. Reports describe instances where civilians were killed without justification, and even young children were traumatized by the horrifying events they witnessed.
Residents of the Jenin camp did not opt to travel to places like Afula or Tel Aviv to confront the occupation; rather, the occupation reached their doorstep intending subjugation.
In the aftermath, Palestinian refugees, who had previously been displaced during the Nakba, faced further oppression. They were coerced into leaving their homes and pushed to seek refuge in neighboring countries. Some were detained and investigated for years. The situation was dire, with people deprived of basic necessities like food, water, and medical care. The scene in the camp was chaotic, with journalists and others entering under siege and pressure, facing snipers scattered throughout the area.
Upon entering the camp, the destruction was staggering. Dead bodies, body parts, and disturbing scenes were everywhere. The massacre orchestrated by Israel in the Jenin camp resulted in the loss of numerous lives, with an estimated 63 Palestinians killed. Tragically, a significant portion of those casualties were women, children, and male civilians, leaving others in a state of mental distress.
Did these events have an impact on the young people resisting in Jenin today?
Naturally, the substantial impact of the massacre, executed by Israel within the camp, resulted in the assassination of numerous resistance movement leaders. Despite this grave setback, the spirit of resistance quickly rekindled, and efforts to oppose the occupation persisted. Even though the resistance suffered losses, including the destruction of infrastructure and loss of leaders, it managed to rebound, amplifying its efforts against the occupation.
Following the massacre at the Jenin camp, commando operations momentarily ceased. However, in the years that followed, there were renewed attempts to reestablish the peace process, rebuild the camp, and restore some semblance of normalcy to the lives of the Palestinian people. Nonetheless, Israeli policies remained consistently unfavorable and did not reflect any intention to bring about genuine peace, stability, or freedom for the Palestinians.
Residents of the Jenin camp did not opt to travel to places like Afula or Tel Aviv to confront the occupation; rather, the occupation reached their doorstep intending subjugation. Israeli actions included elimination, arrests, liquidations, torture, and denial of necessities.
After the massacre, there were notable endeavors to revive the peace process and seek a resolution. However, Israeli policies remained unchanged, and it became increasingly evident that the leadership in Israel lacked a genuine desire for peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians.
This relentless cycle of adversity has profoundly impacted the younger generations born during or after the massacre at the camp. Their prospects are grim due to the closure of opportunities, lack of employment, uncertain futures, and the pervasive presence of the Israeli occupation. The occupation continues to exert control, conducting raids and imposing sieges, which in turn result in casualties and martyrs.
In this context, resistance remains a valid and compelling choice. Resistance manifests in diverse ways, ranging from peaceful marches protesting settlements to armed opposition to the occupation. The younger generation, having grown up in these challenging circumstances, find themselves compelled to resist the oppressive occupation. They believe that through resistance, they can either bring about a better life for themselves or challenge the occupation’s attempts to control their lives.
The challenge involves discerning the true agents of resistance and understanding the degree to which these actions stem from a sense of urgency. It is an ongoing struggle that illustrates the persistence and determination of the Palestinian people in their quest for liberation from the Israeli occupation.