Palestinian Islamic Jihad

Palestinian Islamic Jihad: Islamist Writings on Resistance and Religion

By Erik Skare, published by I. B. Tauris, 2021, pp.266

Forty years ago, a group of students formed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in Gaza. It was inspired by the success of Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution in Iran and the assassination of Anwar Sadat in Cairo by an Islamist. In the absence of any desire by the Muslim Brotherhood to embark on a military struggle, PIJ carried out its first attack in 1984 — years before Hamas came into existence. Its intellectual raison d’etre was provided by its leader, Fathi al-Shiqaqi who was killed by Mossad agents in Malta in October 1995. This book is a collection of PIJ writings, mainly those of al-Shiqaqi’s, published for the first time in English. Its editor is the academic, Erik Skare who has produced excellent footnotes and explanations.

Al-Shiqaqi spoke perfect English, was well-read, imbibing a literature from Shakespeare to Marx and the publisher of the PIJ journal, Islamic Vanguard, in London in 1982. In contrast, his understanding of the Jews and their history, as demonstrated in this book, is primitive and uninformed. In July 1980, al-Shiqaqi wrote that Jews created ‘the usury system’ — an echo of a classic racist taunt in Christian Europe,

PIJ views Jews as the historical enemies of Islam — a corrupting, lying and pernicious tribe. In a pamphlet in June 1989, al-Shiqaqi noted that Jews had risen up during the time of the Prophet Mohammed and been vanquished — yet fourteen centuries later God had inexplicably returned them to Palestine. But, as al-Shiqaqi wrote: ‘we shall wake up from our sleep… and irrevocably dispose of them’. For PIJ, there is no room for compromise and they hold in contempt those Palestinians who contemplate a two state solution.

PIJ holds the view that Palestine was originally the domain of Arab Canaanites and that the Palestinians are descended from the Biblical Jebusites. Israel, on the other hand, is perceived as the embodiment of a foreign intellectual invasion of the Muslim world which was signposted by the Catholic ‘reconquista’ of Spain and Napoleon’s landing in Egypt in 1798.

In al-Shiqaqi’s eyes, Israel constitutes a danger to the entire Muslim world ‘from Tangiers to Jakarta, from Istanbul to Lagos..’

In PIJ’s view, suicide bombers kill themselves for God and martyrdom exemplifies a ‘pure moral behaviour’. 

Remarkably PIJ looks to Shi’ite Iran for guidance even though its members are Sunni Muslims. But Al-Shiqaqi was a great admirer of Khomeini who depicted Islam in ‘its revolutionary holistic sense’.

Erik Skare’s important book projects an insight into the mindset of Palestinian Islamists and their intellectual scaffolding. It will not appeal to the point scorers and the breast beaters of the megaphone war as well as those who believe that Palestinian Islamists — as opposed to Palestinian nationalists — can be engaged in a rational dialogue in the hope of eventually seeing the light of peace and reconciliation. As a PIJ pamphlet, published in Beirut in 1989, put it ‘(our task is) to drive the Zionist enemy from our land, inch by inch, village by village, city by city’.

Jewish Chronicle 17 September 2021

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