by Mordechai Kedar
Jihad is mentioned in the Kor’an many times, and Muslims are called to jihad for the sake of Allah “with their property and their lives”, i.e. to sacrifice even that which is most precious to them in order to promote the goals of Islam and to impose them on the infidels “in order that the word of Allah will be uppermost, and the word of the infidel will be beneath.”
Jihad is intended both to defend Islam against foreigners who tirelessly plot against it, and as an offensive operation to spread Islam and impose it by the sword, if needed, upon anyone who does not convert to Islam willingly. Muhammad is quoted thus: “I received a commandment to fight with the people until they testify that there is no G-d but Allah and that Muhammad is his emissary, pray and give zakat [charity] and if they do this, I will spare their blood and their property”. After the death of Muhammad (632 CE), some of the tribes abandoned Islam, and the first caliphs waged bitter battles against them in order to force them to return to the bosom of Islam. Afterwards Bedouin armies burst out of the desert towards the fertile and rich countries of the Levant, conquered them with fury and forced millions of people to convert to Islam by the sword
With the passing of years, and after the consolidation of the Islamic Empire in the conquered territories from Indonesia in the East to Morocco in the West, the emphasis evolved from conquest to management of the country, from the imposition of Islam to economic management. The Muslims needed the services of people of other ethnicities and faiths – Persians, Jews, Christians – for translation and scientific work: architects, engineers, astronomers, economists, chemists, and therefore they abandoned jihad against these people and preferred to leave them be.
The Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Shi’ite Iran stirred up the idea of struggle against heresy in the Sunni world as well. In 1980 an Egyptian named Muhammad ‘abd al-Salam Faraj published a book by the name of “al-Faridah al-Ghaiba“, “The Hidden Commandment”, which everyone avoids implementing. He was referring to the commandment of jihad. In his short but monumental book, the writer proves, according to Islamic sources, that it is incumbent upon each Muslim to live in a perpetual state of jihad against heretics, but not only against them: also against Muslims who serve the actions and even the words of heretics.
One year after the publication of this book the president of Egypt, Anwar al-Sadat, was murdered, and the prosecution attributed to Faraj a significant part of the incitement to murdering the president. In 1982 he was tried, convicted and executed for incitement to murder al-Sadat. The Egyptian government indeed eliminated Faraj, but did not succeed in putting to rest the idea that a Muslim is obligated to live in a state of constant, eternal jihad.
Jihad is a continuous and permanent rebellion against settling into a routine, against surrender to everyday needs, against compromising the goal, even temporarily. The leader of the Egyptian Jihad organization, which was established in order to support this idea, is Ayman al-Zawahiri, the deputy and substitute for Osama Bin Laden. They raised the idea of unending jihad to an international, global level.
The Palestinian Version
The Palestinian organization Islamic Jihad was established in 1980, one year after the Iranian Revolution and seven years before the founding of Hamas, in order to implement Faraj’s idea in Palestine. The battle in this case is against Israel, without any connection to its borders, since, according to the organization, the Jewish State has no right to exist at all. The ultimate goal of the organization is to establish a state according to Islamic law, upon the ruins of Israel, and along with Israel to eliminate all the other organizations, principally the PLO, which has stopped waging battle with Israel and has entered into negotiations with her.
Islamic Jihad even has ideological arguments with Hamas, because Hamas sees its purpose not only as active jihad against Israel but in a wider framework: the building of an Islamic society, education, welfare, Islamization of the public sphere, establishment of government institutions, even the establishment of a state, while the active jihad against Israel and her collaborators can – according to Hamas – wait if it is necessary. Jihad is not willing to accept “state building” in Gaza as a reason to suspend the battle, and this is the focal point of disagreement with the Hamas movement, which weighs the battle with Israel against constraints arising from being a governing movement, since June 2007, when it took control of the Gaza Strip by force
Islamic Jihad also differs with Hamas on political matters: According to Islamic Jihad, because the Oslo Agreements were born in sin against Islam, the PLO and its institutions have no Islamic legitimacy, so they don’t compete for seats in its legislative assembly. On the contrary, the leaders of Hamas decided in 2005, after the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif, that the time was right to pick the political fruit of their battle, in the form of seats in the legislative assembly, so they ran in the elections of January 2006 and won a majority of the seats. Islamic Jihad objects to any activity within the framework of the Palestinian Authority, which was born in the sin of recognition of Israel and signing the Oslo Accords, while Hamas, despite its objection to the Accords, didn’t hesitate to take advantage of the institutions that were established as a result, in order to take control of the Palestinian arena
Hamas weighs the timing of the battle with Israel on the changing balance of its interests: If, during a certain period, it’s important to achieve relaxation with Israel in order to better base the control in Gaza, then the struggle against Israel can wait a little. Islamic Jihad is not willing to consider this, because for them the struggle is fundamental, absolute, existential and continuous, and supercedes everything else
History of the Organization
The Palestinian organization Islamic Jihad was established by Dr. Fathi Shikaki in 1980, inspired by the Egyptian Jihad and the revolution of Khomeini in Iran. The beginning was in Egypt, at the University of the City of Zakazik, which is a center of radical Islamist activity. The founder, Dr. Shikaki, and his friend and later his successor Dr. Ramadan Abdallah Shalah were medical students at the time. It is important to emphasize that they were not poor, not ignorant and not unemployed, and so the founding of the organization and devout adherence to its principle of jihad can not be attributed to poverty, ignorance or unemployment; on the contrary: it is the educated and the doctors who are especially prominent within the organizations of Islamic struggle: Ayman Al-Zawahiri, from the Egyptian Jihad organization, Abd al-‘Aziz al-Rantisi and Mahmud al-Zahhar, Hamas leaders – are all doctors, well-educated, not ignorant and not indigent
After finishing his studies, Shikaki returned to Gaza, and began to establish the organization in order to implement the concept of jihad. The religious personality who gave the organization its “halachic” seal of approval was then Sheikh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ‘Odeh from the Jabaliya refugee camp. It’s important to note that in the beginning of the 1980s Hamas did not yet exist as a militant movement. In Gaza there was an Islamic Charity movement, “al-Majma’ al-Islami” which operated within the population similar to the style of the “Muslim Brotherhood” in order to build a Muslim society “from the bottom up”. In the view of Islamic Jihad, this is a waste of time and resources, for all forces must be dedicated and directed to one sole goal, the ongoing and uncompromising battle with Israel, and any other goal – as important as it may seem, like education and welfare – is nothing but diversion of efforts and resources in the wrong direction
With the breaking out of the Intifada in 1987 the activists of Islamic Jihad placed themselves at the front of the action. The people of “al-Majma'” joined in after a few days and established the “Islamic Resistance Movement – Hamas”, and until today the people of Islmaic Jihad accuse Hamas of being an opportunistic organization which “took a tramp” on the Intifada and took it over, while Islamic Jihad was the group that created it
In 1988 Shikaki was exiled to Lebanon, where he began his connection with the Arab and Islamist interface, Syria and Iran, by means of Hizballah, which was based at the time in Lebanon as part of the battle with Israeli forces, which were deployed at the time in the South of the country
Islamic Jihad copied the example of suicide missions that Hizballah developed, and implemented them in Gaza, Judea and Samaria. Its most prominent action was the double attack at the Sharon Junction in January 1995 in which 21 Israeli soldiers and one civilian were killed. Dr. Shikaki was eliminated in Malta nine months after the attack, and evil tongues claim that Israel was behind the elimination. His successor was Dr. Ramadan Abdallah Shalah, who minimizes his exposure in the world and prefers to take shelter in Damascus
During the second Intifada the organization carried out more than 400 acts of terror which caused more than 140 Israeli fatalities and several hundred wounded. The organization’s main stronghold was in Jenin, and this stronghold acted without interference until operation “Defensive Wall” in April 2002. The main operatives in Samaria were Iyyad Hadran, Wa’il ‘Asaf, Asad Dana, Mahmoud Talba, Thabet Mardawi and ‘Ali al-Safouri. The most prominent attack of the Jihad infrastructure in Samaria was that which Hanadi Jardat carried out at Maxim’s Restaurant situated at the entrance to Haifa, in which 21 Israeli men, women and children were killed
The organization also had a presence in the Hebron area, under the leadership of Mahmoud Sider and Diab Shwiki, who launched suicide attacks mainly in the Jerusalem area. The attack in the “Worshippers’ Path” in Hebron, in which the division commander of Judea, Gen. Dror Weinbreg, was killed (November 2002) was inspired by Mahmud Sider.
The “Palestinian Islamic Jihad” organization caught the attention of radical haters of Israel, principal among them the Iranians. They took advantage of the fact that the organization doesn’t have a social agenda or aspirations to rule, and they used it mainly in order to interfere with the order that the PLO was trying to impose on the territories of the Palestinian Authority. Today Iran is doing the same thing, but against Hamas, which has, in recent years – since it took control of Gaza in 2007 – turned into a ruling movement that has taken a break from jihad in order to fortify the systems of the state that it established in the Gaza Strip
The money, weapons and missiles that Islamic Jihad has accumulated enables them to pose a severe challenge to Hamas: On one hand Islamic Jihad can upset normal life in Gaza by means of uncontrolled shooting into Israel, and while the Hamas government can – if it wants to – defeat the Jihad by vigorous and continuous action, Hamas would then be perceived as an “Israeli Security Organization” and would be subjected to media attacks similar to that which the PLO took, after signing security agreements with Israel. So the leaders of Hamas try to reach agreements with the heads of Islamic Jihad, such that on one hand, Hamas will be able to run the state of “Hamastan” in Gaza, and on the other hand freedom of action will be maintained and Hamas will not be accused of suppressing the “resistance”
Currently, Syria and Iran are desperately searching for ways to distract world attention from the worsening slaughter occurring in Syria, and there’s nothing better than the well-known and recognized front which is Gaza. In recent months there is bad blood between Iran and Hamas because Hamas has refused to publicly support the Syrian regime, which is fighting against its citizenry for its survival. The Egyptian involvement in the Shalit exchange “outed” the regional agents that were stirring the pot – Iran and Turkey – and Hamas proved its capability to free more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners, for which it reaped much approbation, at the expense of all other agents, including the PLO and Islamic Jihad
The desire of the heads of Hamas to abandon Damascus and cross over to Cairo left Islamic Jihad as almost the only organization left available for a coalition with Iran / Hizballah / Syria in the Palestinian area, and so Israel’s front is heating up, because for Israel to hurt Hamas is seen as the most desirable scenario to Iran and its satellites. In this way Iran can hurt Hamas without anyone being able to blame the Ayatollahs and their butcher friend from Damascus.
Israel must be wise in this situation, not only right. True, Hamas is not enthusiastically Zionist, however, in the situation in which Islamic Jihad is driven by the Syrians and Iranians to try to drag Israel into tough reactions that will harm Hamas, Israel must make every attempt to hurt Islamic Jihad instead, and to make it possible for Hamas to establish its Islamist state in Gaza. I’m not trying to give Hamas a “kosher certificate” but we must always consider the alternative: A government in Gaza that is capable of imposing law and order is better, even if it is not pleasant, than to allow factors which Iran and Syria control, to kill Jews in Ashkelon, Ashdod and the area surrounding Gaza, just so that the world will not see the fatalities in Homs, Hama, Latakia and Dar’a
Our choice is not between the good guys and the bad guys, but between the bad guys and the worse guys. Not a simple choice, but that’s how it is in the Middle East: we have to be firm and adjust our expectations to the miserable realities of the troubled area in which we are trying to establish a reasonable and fair country.
(Originally published November 10, 2011)
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