Opinion: Recent terror attacks committed by Islamic State followers and rise of Palestinian Islamic Jihad prove Israel must adapt to fighting an enemy different than ‘secular’ dissidents of PA and even the changing Hamas

This year again as every year, Israel experienced a wave of terror attacks. Only this time, a new type of assailant committed some of the atrocities.

Some of the attacks carried out during a murderous wave back in March were committed by followers of the Islamic State, which is gaining steam 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 IS, and even tried to reach Syria to fight for the terror group.

Two Arab Israelis from Umm al-Fahm in court over shooting in Jerusalem carried out in the name of Islamic State
Two Arab Israelis from Umm al-Fahm in court over shooting in Jerusalem carried out in the name of Islamic State (Photo: Ido Erez)


IS kept the Jewish state out of its enemies’ list during its rampage in the region a few years back, and this is the first time such a deadly attack was carried out inside Israel by one of its followers. This might be a new challenge to Israel and its intelligence services, who are used to the more secular Palestinian Authority dissidents and a much changing Hamas, which is getting away from the concept of Jihad and focusing on their social role in the Gaza Strip as its ruler.

Both Hamas and Iran’s proxy, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, have been using the concept of Jihad within their political agenda, which has 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-Aqsa Mosque is central to the Islamic faith and a special place for Muslims as it was used as the first Qibla (direction towards the Kaaba in the Sacred Mosque in Mecca), and was the site of the miraculous night whereby Prophet Muhammad traveled from Makkah to Al Aqsa in a single night. This explains its use by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad as a battle cry during the intifadas.

Muslim pray on the Al Aqsa Mosque compound during last Friday
Muslim pray on the Al Aqsa Mosque compound on Friday (Photo: Reuters)


Hamas’ 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 endeavors, 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 part of Hamas. During and after the intifada Hamas maintained a large social base and became popular among the Palestinians, seen as someone who could help them with their daily struggles.

On the other hand, the Islamic Jihad, established in the mid 80s, was also part of the Muslim Brotherhood, but held 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 spread 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 via direct violent confrontations.

Other than violence, the Islamic Jihad derives 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 – seen as the instigator of the conflict. They also see Palestine as a base for Westerners to take over other Muslim lands.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists attend the funeral of a fellow fighter in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip
Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists attend the funeral of a fellow fighter in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip (Photo: AFP)


The latest flare-up in Gaza was between Israel and the Islamic Jihad, and it shows the strengthening of the organization, which also impacts Hamas’ status as a body that can maintain security.

Hamas thinks twice about using violent confrontations and sees Islamic Jihad’s growing influence as a provocation, which steals “Jihad” out of their resistance, weakening them in the eyes of their followers. This might be a positive aspect for Israel if the PA were to agree on taking control of the Strip, but this does not seem to be happening anytime soon.

The involvement of Egypt’s intelligence services in the truce negotiations following the latest round of violence attests to Islamic Jihad’s elevated status, and the concern that the tensions between Iran and Israel will spill over to Egypt’s borders.

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

As reported by Ynetnews