CJPME: Israel’s Attack on Jenin Refugee Camp Amounts to Collective Punishment, a War Crime

Montreal, July 6, 2023 — Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) is calling on Canada to implement a series of concrete measures in response to Israel’s devastating and vindictive acts of collective punishment against the Jenin refugee camp earlier this week. Scenes from the camp following Israel’s violent invasion and siege suggest that Israel’s intent was to destroy the civilian public infrastructure of the camp on a colossal scale. CJPME warns that Israel’s withdrawal from the camp therefore does not signify the end of the crisis for residents, as a humanitarian catastrophe remains. CJPME notes that under the Rome Statute, “extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly,” is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and thus amounts to a war crime. 

Among other measures, CJPME calls on Canada to:

  • Forcefully condemn Israel’s reckless and illegal attack on the Jenin refugee camp, its civilians (including journalists, health care workers, and children), and its civilian infrastructure;
  • Push for a sustained and visible international presence in the occupied Palestinian territories to protect the Palestinian population from future Israeli attacks;
  • Work with the international community to investigate and prosecute Israeli officials who authorized the illegal attack on the refugee camp; and
  • Immediately suspend all military trade with Israel.

“Despite whatever other justifications Israel might’ve concocted for its brutal invasion of the camp, international law does not sanction the widespread and gratuitous destruction of civilian infrastructure like roads, communications and electrical infrastructure, water and sewer systems,” said Thomas Woodley, president of CJPME. Following Israel’s attack, Palestinians from the camp describe the roads as appearing as if they were “ploughed” by Israeli army bulldozers. UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, says that the camp sustained “significant damage” and reported today that “the streets are full of rubble; electricity and water are cut in most parts of the camp and many houses have been destroyed.”

CJPME points out that, lacking any military necessity, such attacks by Israeli forces amount to collective punishment under Art. 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. In addition to this criminal assault on civilian infrastructure, Israel’s invasion also resulted in the deaths of 12 Palestinians (including 4 children) and injuries to 120 others. Videos and eyewitness accounts show that Israeli forces deliberately fired on medics, hospitals, and journalists. Earlier this week, CJPME urged the Canadian government to condemn Israel’s attack on the camp, arguing that Israel’s actions amounted to a significant escalation of violence. To date, however, Canada has not made a statement about Israel’s attack.  “If Canada truly believes in a negotiated solution to the conflict, it would condemn such wanton, state-sponsored brutality,” added Woodley.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has suggested that this week’s attack was just a foretaste of the violence and destruction it was willing to pursue, stating, “This is just a first step. It’s not, by no means, the last action that we will take.” Francesca Albanese, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, however, stated that “[Israel’s] attacks constitute collective punishment of the Palestinian population, who have been labelled a ‘collective security threat’ in the eyes of Israeli authorities.” In addition to this condemnation, Albanese called for an end to Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank. “The impunity that Israel has enjoyed for its acts of violence over decades only fuel and intensify the recurring cycle of violence,” she added.