Are Israel’s enemies becoming more “Jihadist”?

This year again as every year, Israel was under attack. Only this time, a new type of assailant committed the atrocities. Some of the attacks earlier this year were inspired by ISIS, which is picking ground within the West Bank and the Israeli Arab community. Most of the lone attackers were known to the Israeli intelligence services for their support of ISIS and even tried to reach Syria as fighters.

ISIS kept Israel out of its enemies’ list during its actions in the region and this is the first time it claimed to attack inside Israel. This might be a new challenge to Israel and its intelligence services who are used to the more secular PA dissidents and a much changing Hamas who is getting away from the concept of “Jihad” and focusing on their social role in the Gaza strip.

Both Hamas and Iran’s proxy, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, have been using the concept of Jihad within their political agenda. Using “Jihad” in a political context, helped them amass large followers, not just in Gaza and the West Bank, but also in the Muslim world. But is there an existing link between Islam, Jihad, and Palestine?

Jerusalem and especially Al Masjid Al Aqsa is central to the Islamic faith and a special place for Muslims as it was used as the first Qibla (Direction of Prayers) and was the site of the miraculous night whereby the Prophet travelled from Makkah to Al Masjid Al Aqsa in a single night. This explains its use by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a battle cry starting in the first Intifada. 

Hamas’ organization and ideologies can be traced back to the Muslim Brotherhood movement that was started in Egypt. At its inception, its main cornerstone was social impact by helping the needy and poor. The Muslim Brotherhood did not have any nationalist endeavours, nor was it interested in opposing Israel. Everything changed after the 1967 war when the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood were taken over by Ahmed Yassin’s Mujama Al Islamya. It later joined the first intifada as Hamas. During and after the intifada Hamas maintained a large social base and became popular among the Palestinians to help them with their daily struggles.

On the other hand, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad which started in the mid-80s, was also part of the Muslim Brotherhood but with a different stance. It did not focus particularly on the needs of the Palestinians as a society but on conducting violent resistance against Israel and spreading religious ideologies among the population. The main keystone of Islamic Jihad is that it stands for the Islamic ideology of holy war or jihad against the infidels. According to them, the only way to resolve the Israel-Palestine issue is thru direct violent confrontations.

Other than violence, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad blends its beliefs from other Palestinian nationalist movements, the Muslim Brotherhood and the teachings of Ayatollah Al Khomaini, the leader of the Iranian revolution. Jihad for them is an eternal battle not just against Israel but against the western world which is being seen as the instigator of the conflict. They also see Palestine as a base to take over other Muslim lands by Westerners.

The latest rocket attacks by PIJ on Israel after the arrest of one of their commanders show the rise of the organization which also impacts Hamas’ status as a security stabilizer in the Gaza strip and its reach to a potential adaptation with Israel.

Hamas thinks twice about using violent confrontations and sees Islamic Jihad’s growing influence as a provocation which takes “Jihad” from their resistance and weakens them in the eyes of their followers. This might be a positive point for Israel if the Palestinian Authority would agree on taking control of the Gaza strip, but this does not seem to be happening anytime soon.

The involvement of Egypt’s intelligence services in the latest negotiations after the attacks on Israel, attests to the PIJ’s rising status and the concern that the tensions between Iran and Israel will play out within Egypt’s borders.

Israel is now being attacked by a different kind of enemy that does not believe in peace but only in violence and helps Iran create chaos in the region.

Image Credit: AP Photo/Fatima Shbair