What is the Islamic Jihad?
As with Hamas, Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Authority have found it convenient to have Islamic Jihad conduct terrorist operations against Israel. After Arafat took the political steps to renounce terrorism in 1988 and then entered into the Oslo peace process of the 1990s, he could not be the point man in violent attacks on Israelis and other Jews as he did in the earlier days of his PLO organization. On the contrary, Arafat and his Palestinian Authority were obligated to end terrorism and incitement against Israel as a condition of Israel’s acceptance of its obligations.
In public, to Western audiences, Arafat claims he cannot control the independent terrorist organizations like Hamas,the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Islamic Jihad. There is ample evidence that this is a fiction, for example:
- Arafat permitted the Islamic Jihad terrorist group to hold a mass public rally in Gaza on October 31, 1997 to commemorate the “martyrdom” of Islamic Jihad leader Fathi Shikaki. An official representative of Arafat’s Fatah faction of the PLO, Fareeh al-Gharabli, spoke at the rally and urged unity between the PLO and “the Islamic forces and factions.” Jamil al-Majdalawi, representing the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, another PLO faction, told the rally that Shikaki was “a holy martyr.” At the rally, Islamic Jihad spokesman Ramadan Shalah declared that “the option of resistance is legitimate,” and Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin urged the audience to “follow the path of the holy martyrs.” Their statements were published in the official Palestinian Authority newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadeedah.
- On June 8, 2001, a funeral was held in the town of Tulkarm for an activist of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ashraf Al-Bardawil, who died while preparing an explosive devise for another terrorist act. In his eulogy, the PA Governor of Tulkarm, ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Sharif, delivered the condolences of Yasser Arafat to the family.
Chief of Israeli Military Intelligence, Major-General Moshe Ya’alon summarized the situation (Ma’ariv, April 16, 1998):
- Sadly, I cannot say that at any point since it entered the territory in May 1994, that the Palestinian Authority acted decisively or in a clear-cut way against the operational capability of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.