Bloodshed Returns to Jenin

Following fifteen years of relative quiet, Jenin has again become a “focal point for militant organizations competing for status,” write Shany Mor and Joe Truzman. This is in part because of the anticipated demise of the “ill and aged Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.” Mor and Truzman outline the recent history of the city and the particular threat it poses today.

In the world of Palestinian militancy, Jenin is regarded as the bastion of Palestinian “resistance” in the West Bank, both past and present. It serves as a hub for several U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations, including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, along with other Islamist organizations.

During the second intifada, from 2000 to 2005, terrorists used Jenin as a launch point to carry out numerous suicide bombings inside Israeli cities and communities. Due to repeated terrorist attacks originating from the West Bank in 2002, the Israeli government authorized the Israel Defense Force to enter Jenin as a part of a broad military operation to remove the threat.

That battle left its scars on all sides. For the Israelis, it was mostly remembered for the high number of combat losses, including an ambush that killed thirteen reservists, by far the IDF’s biggest setback during the entire 2002 offensive. Indignation and frustration with foreign media and human-rights organizations reporting on a “massacre” that hadn’t actually happened permanently cemented a skepticism about global public opinion that had until then been a province of parts of the [Israeli] right alone.

For Palestinians, the battle left memories of effective resistance.

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Read more at National Interest

More about: Intifada, Israeli Security, Palestinian terror, West Bank

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy