Islamist Movements of Palestine

  September 13, 2021   Read time 3 min
Islamist Movements of Palestine
There have been, and still are, Islamist movements other than Hamas in Palestine. The most important one is the Islamic Jihad Movement, established in early 1980s, at least five years before the emergence of Hamas.

The Islamic Jihad was formed by iscontented former members of both the Muslim Brotherhoods, Fatah and other nationalist and leftist Palestinian factions. Inspired by the victory of the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1978/9, the idea of the Islamic Jihad was to form a bridge between Islam and Palestine, which were separately represented by the Muslim Brotherhood on the one hand, and the nationalist camp (the PLO) on the other hand.

When the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the mother organization of Hamas, was immersed in its religious programmes in the first years of 1980s, the Islamic Jihad offered a new version of nationalist Islam which incorporated the struggle against Israel into the very heart of Islamic discourse and practice. Between 1982 and 1987, the Islamic Jihad posed a serious challenge to the Muslim Brotherhood because of its adoption of military resistance against the Israeli occupation. It also posed an equal challenge to the nationalist factions whose main criticism of the Muslim Brotherhood concerned its deferment of confrontation with the occupation. If the PLO was nationalist enough, but lacked an Islamic dimension, and if the Palestinian MB was Islamist enough, but lacked a nationalist dimension, the Islamic Jihad combined both components and had ended what it had seen to be a disconnection between Islam and Palestine.

In the second half of the 1990s, and during the second Palestinian uprising in the year 2000, the Islamic Jihad carried out many suicide attacks. At certain periods, it outpaced Hamas and other factions in this practice. However, the Islamic Jihad is weak in its membership and networking, and this is why it shows little enthusiasm for elections. Its justification is that elections absorb national energy that should be directed toward resisting the Israelis. In the 1990s whenever the Islamic Jihad took part in even minor elections for student unions or trade unions, its results ranged between 4 and 7 per cent compared with 45 to 55 per cent for Hamas.

Another Islamist movement with a certain visible presence in Palestine, if with less current relevance, is Hizb al-Tahrir (the Liberation Party). It was founded in 1952 as a splinter group of the Muslim Brotherhood. Its main belief is that the source of all sins in Muslim societies is the disappearance of Khilafa, the overarching Muslim rule, and that all efforts should be focused on restoring Khilafa. Once in power, the Khalifa (the person representing the supreme Islamic authority) can mobilize Muslims by virtue of his appeal, and his power if necessary, and direct them to work for any cause. The failure of Muslims (including Palestinians), Hizb al-Tahrir concludes, stems from their overlooking this premise. Grassroots efforts and gradual Islamization are fruitless. Change should be undertaken from above, and when the Khalifa is in power, many problems that face Muslims will be solved. Regarding the Palestinian question and confronting the Israeli occupation, Hizb al-Tahrir maintains a passive approach which has lost it popularity and leverage among Palestinians. The party opposes all forms of political participation, such as elections, and, in the absence of the Khalifa, it opposes a resort to violence against either national governments or Israel.