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Islamic Jihad Definition

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Islamic Jihad -The Palestine Islamic Jihad group originated among militant Palestinians in the Gaza Strip during the 1970s. Committed to the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel through holy war. Specializes in suicide bombings.

Islamic Jihad (Al-Jihad al-Islami) is thought to have emerged as a nationalist splinter from the Muslim Brotherhood in 70s or 80s, arguing that the struggle against occupation had to precede spreading religious values in society. IJ saw Israel (not the leftists) as the main opponent, and supported the Iranian revolution, which Mujama could not later support due to their funding links with Saudi Arabia. It was led by Sheikh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ‘Awda until his deportation (1988); then by Fathi Shiqaqi until his murder in Malta (October 1995). It is generally thought to be a number of different activist and revolutionary groups, mostly with good links to Fatah, who may have encouraged IJ to draw support from the Ikhwan. All groups have as a priority the ending of Israeli occupation, seen as a prerequisite for Islamic ascendancy, and for appropriating nationalist sentiment. They place a high value on the sacrifice of life, with first attempts on suicide car bombs, especially the Aug 87 planning in Bethlehem for a young woman, Atif Aliyan, to car bomb the Israeli Ministry of Justice, which Israel prevented.

There is also an Egyptian Islamic Jihad that is associated with the Al-Qaeda group and Osama Bin Laden.

The following background material about the Palestinian Islamic Jihad was prepared by the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies:


Meir Litvak Moshe Dayan Center ‎ for Middle Eastern and African Studies

The Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is the most radical terrorist organization ‎operating in the Palestinian arena. It was established in 1981 by two Islamist ‎activists in the Gaza Strip, Dr. Fathi `Abd al-`Aziz Shiqaqi, a physician from ‎Rafah, and Shaykh `Abd al-`Aziz `Awda, a preacher from the Jabaliyya refugee ‎camp. The two men, who had studied in Zaqaziq University, a center of Islamic ‎radicalism in Egypt, rejected the approach of the mainstream Islamic movement, ‎the Muslim Brethren, to the Palestine question. The Brethren maintained that the ‎Muslim world should deal with Israel only after curing its own spiritual and ‎religious ills by returning the masses to Islam and revitalizing Islam. Once ‎Muslim unity was achieved, the Muslim Brethren believed, Israel’s destruction ‎would be quickly achieved. By contrast, Shiqaqi argued that Israel, by its very ‎existence, was a source of moral and spiritual corruption that prevented Muslims ‎from remedying the malaise of their society.‎ The Islamic Jihad’s ideology blended Palestinian nationalist ideas with themes ‎drawn from three other sources: the ideology of the Muslim Brethren; patterns of ‎activity of the militant Islamist groups in Egypt; and, uniquely among Sunni ‎movements, the teachings of Ayatollah Khomeini, the Shi`i leader of the Islamic ‎revolution in Iran.‎

According to the Islamic Jihad, a proper reading of the Quran and an ‎understanding of history would lead to the conclusion that Palestine is the focus ‎of the religio-historical confrontation between the Muslims and their eternal ‎enemies, the Jews. The Muslims represent the forces of truth (haq) while the ‎Jews (and Christians) embody the forces of apostasy (batil). In the context of ‎this confrontation, the Palestine problem is the core of a Western offensive that ‎began with Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798 and reached its climax in 1918 ‎with the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, which had symbolized Islamic ‎unity. According to this view, Palestine was always the focus of Western ‎imperialist designs and was meant to serve as a launch pad to take over other ‎Muslim territories.‎ Inasmuch as the Jewish presence in Palestine symbolizes Muslim inferiority in ‎the modern age, commitment to Palestine cannot be framed in the narrow ‎confines of Palestinian nationalism. Instead, it is an essentially Islamic issue and ‎is the key "to every serious strategy aimed at the liberation and unification of the ‎Islamic nation.” Herein lays the Islamic Jihad’s ideological innovation. The ‎jihad in Palestine entails a commitment to two inter-related goals: the liberation ‎of Palestine and pan-Islamic revival. Jihad is the only way to liberate Palestine, ‎since Muslim victory and the elimination of Israel are foreordained by God’s ‎words in the Quran.‎ Shiqaqi praised Ayatollah Khomeini for being the first Muslim leader to give ‎Palestine its proper place in his Islamic ideology. In addition, the Islamic ‎revolution in Iran was a major victory in the struggle against western attempts to ‎exclude Islam from politics, and was uniquely successful in establishing a state ‎founded on Islamic law. Therefore, the PIJ, alone among Sunni Islamist ‎movements, saw Khomeini as the rightful leader of the entire Muslim world.‎

The PIJ began its armed operations in 1984. Shiqaqi was arrested in March ‎‎1986 and was deported to Lebanon, along with `Awda, in April 1988. He ‎continued to lead the movement from exile until his assassination by Israeli ‎agents in Malta in October 1995. Dr. Ramadan `Abdallah Shallah succeeded ‎him and set up his headquarters in Damascus. Since Shiqaqi was a charismatic ‎and excessively centralist leader, the movement needed some time before it ‎could resume operations.‎ While Islamic Jihad preceded Hamas (established in 1988), it remained the ‎smaller of the two movements. Hamas became a mass movement with a political ‎branch grounded in a widespread network of religious and welfare institutions. ‎By contrast, the Islamic Jihad remained a revolutionary vanguard of several ‎hundred activists. During the 1987-1993 intifada, the PIJ sought cooperation or ‎unity with Hamas, but the latter was reluctant to move in this direction.

Shiqaqi’s move to Lebanon enhanced the movement’s ties with Hizballah and ‎Iran. Iran became the movement’s major financial sponsor, and Hizballah ‎provided it with training facilities and logistical aid. Thanks to Hizballah’s ‎support, the PIJ expanded its network in the Palestinian refugee camps in ‎Lebanon. Whereas Hamas was always an independent Palestinian movement, ‎Islamic Jihad became an instrument of Iranian policy in the Arab-Israeli conflict.‎

Both PIJ and Hamas rejected the 1993 Oslo Accords as a betrayal of Palestinian ‎and Islamic rights, and they launched attacks against Israeli targets in a “race” ‎‎(Shiqaqi’s own word) to halt the peace process. By 2000, PIJ could take credit ‎for killing several dozen Israelis, mostly civilians. While it refused to recognize ‎the Palestinian Authority as a legitimate government and did not participate in ‎the 1996 PA elections, Islamic Jihad did not challenge the PA politically in the ‎same manner as did Hamas. However, it was easier for the PA to take strong ‎measures against the Islamic Jihad, as the smaller organization, and it closed al-‎Istiqlal, the Jihad newspaper in Gaza, and arrested some low-level activists.‎

The outbreak of the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation in September 2000 gave a ‎boost to the Islamic Jihad. Along with Hamas, it claimed that jihad was the only ‎way to drive Israel out of the West Bank and Gaza, as the first phase in the ‎complete liberation of Palestine. It enjoyed full freedom of action and ‎apparently some logistical support from PA officials, as well. On the operational ‎level, Islamic Jihad activists joined hands with Hamas and Fatah activists in ‎carrying out attacks against Israeli targets. Concurrently, the Islamic Jihad ‎competed with the two other movements in carrying out more daring and ‎devastating operations, as a way to enhance its prestige.‎

Despite its successes, PIJ remains a small movement. According to numerous ‎opinion polls, it enjoys the support of only 4-5% of the Palestinian population, ‎mainly because it lacks the institutional network built by Hamas. That fact, ‎however, enables Islamic Jihad to focus on its ideological goals and disregard ‎wider political considerations. Consequently, the Islamic Jihad did not ‎participate in the Cairo talks held during mid-November between Fatah and ‎Hamas to discuss a possible temporary suspension of suicide bombings inside ‎Israel, and it persists in carrying out its devastating attacks.‎

The following material was prepared by the Israel government:

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 Ara b 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 isdisseminated 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).

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information:

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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