News

January 1995 THE ISLAMIC JIHAD MOVEMENT General ======= 1. The Islamic Jihad movement emerged as an ideological stream within Sunni Islam, primarily from within the Moslem Brotherhood, as a reaction to the weakening of the latter's militant fervor. It continues to espouse militancy and violence as the major tool in the struggle to establish an 'Islamic alternative'. This struggle is directed not only against non-Muslims, but primarily against the Arab regimes which have 'deviated' from Islam and which persecuted the Moslem Brotherhood. Groups belong to the Islamic Jihad have appeared in almost all the Arab states and in some parts of the non-Arab Islamic world under various names. They were influenced by the success of the revolution in Iran, and even more so by the growth of Islamic militancy in Lebanon and in Egypt. Background: =========== The Palestinian factions of the Islamic Jihad are the Palestinian counterpart of the Islamic Jihad movements which appeared in the Sunni part of the Arab world in the 1970s. These movements, which were an outgrowth of the fundamentalism of the Moslem Brotherhood, were characterized by their rejection of the Brotherhood's 'truce' with most of the existing regimes in the Arab world. Thus, the major difference between them and the Moslem Brotherhood was and remains their advocation of violence as the major tool in changing the face of societies and regimes. Unlike the Islamic Jihad movements in Arab countries, the Palestinian factions of the Islamic Jihad view the 'Zionist Jewish entity' embodied in the State of Israel as the foremost enemy and the first target for destruction. This because of the special situation prevailing in 'Palestine', which they view as an integral and fundamental part of the Arab and Moslem world, where Muslims are 'subjected' to foreign rule. Since the regime is foreign an non-Moslem, the methods of resistance to be used are different from those adopted by similar groups operating against Moslem and Arab regimes. The ideology of the Palestinian Jihad factions calls for armed struggle against Israel through guerrilla groups composed of the revolutionary vanguard, which carry out terrorist attacks aimed at weakening Israel and 'its desire to continue its occupation'. They are thus to lay the groundwork for the day when a great Islamic army will be able to destroy Israel in a military confrontation. The Shekaki Faction =================== The Shekaki faction of the Islamic Jihad movement has emerged in recent years, particularly since the signing of the Declaration of Principles between Israel and the PLO, as the dominant faction within this movement, both in terrorist attacks and in the public-political sphere. The faction is today headed by Dr. Fathi Shekaki, who has succeeded in pushing aside the co-founder of the organization, Abed el-Aziz Ouda, considered its spiritual leader (the faction was originally called 'Shekaki/Ouda'). The founders of this faction, which operates primarily in the Gaza district, were influenced by the emergence of similar political groups in Egyptian universities, where some of its leaders studied in the late 1970s and early '80s. Upon their return to Gaza they founded similar groups whose aim was to promote the idea of armed struggle against Israel. With the deportation of its two leaders from Gaza to Lebanon in 1988, the faction underwent a reorganization, resulting in the establishment of a military unit to carry out attacks against Israeli targets, alongside the existing political unit. (Sheikh Abdullah al-Shami is today considered the senior operative in the Gaza Strip.) The movement's ideology is disseminated openly, through the distribution of propaganda material and tapes, with the mosques serving as an influential tool. In addition, a newspaper called 'Al-Istaqlal' has begun to appear in the area under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, edited by Ala Siftawi, which conforms with the political views of the Islamic Jihad. Dr. Shekaki, who resides in Damascus, enjoys freedom of expression. His organization is one of the ten Palestinian opposition factions based in Syria. Shekaki boasts of his close ties with Iran -- which, according to him, were strengthened following his first visit to Teheran in December 1988 (his most recent visit to Iran was apparently in October 1993, following the signing of the DOP) -- and with its Lebanese extension, the Hizbullah. He recently cited his ideological-political ties with Iran -- 'our ties with the Islamic Republic, and its political and spiritual support of the Palestinian people's efforts to continue the jihad and to achieve independence.' According to him, the organization does not receive Iranian military aid and does not have a base in Iran, but notes that Iranian support for his organization and HAMAS amounts to 20 million dollars ('Al-Hayat', 17.12.94; 'Al-Wassat', 12.12.94). The Shekaki faction, which opposes the agreement between the Palestinians and Israel, has intensified the tone of its anti-Israeli statements, especially after the murder of Islamic Jihad activist Hani Abed in Gaza (2.11.94). Shekaki said: 'The continuation of the jihad against the Zionist occupation is our primary concern and the center of our lives' (Radio Nur, 12.11.94); and: 'We shall raise arms against the criminal Israelis wherever they may be in the autonomous territory and outside it. We have a new reason which justifies the continuation of our struggle.' (Iranian TV, 3.11.94). In another statement, he announced the establishment of a group of 70 people prepared to commit suicide 'in order to carry out attacks against the occupation forces in the self-governing areas. Such attacks in the Gaza Strip will cease only when the Israeli settlements in the area will be disbanded... If this will occur, the suicide attacks will be transferred to other areas, because our fight against the occupation will continue' (AP, 18.11.94). Recent Attacks by the Islamic Jihad =================================== 1. May 20, 1994 - Two IDF reserve soldiers were shot to death at the Erez junction. 2. September 4, 1994 - In an attack on an IDF foot patrol at the Morag junction in the Gaza Strip, one IDF soldier was killed. 3. November 11, 1994 - Three IDF officers were killed at the Netzarim junction in the Gaza Strip in a suicide bombing. 4. January 22, 1995 - Two bombs exploded at the Beit Lid junction, killing 18 soldiers and one civilian; 68 were injured. 5. April 8, 1995 - Seven soldiers and one civilian were killed when a bus was hit by an explosives-laden van near Kfar Darom in the Gaza Strip. . ===================================================================== Information Division, Israel Foreign Ministry - Jerusalem Mail all Queries to [email protected] URL: http://www.israel-mfa.gov.il gopher://israel-info.gov.il =====================================================================