Over the past decades, the Islamic movement has endeavored to establish itself and prove its existence in the wake of the collapse of the Ottoman caliphate in the beginning of the last century. The Islamic movement started its activity with the foundation of the Muslim Brotherhood (full title Society of Muslim Brothers, MB) in Egypt, which extended its influence to the surrounding Arab countries.
Islamic movements in Palestine: A historical perspective - I
- Publish date:10/03/2011
Since the Gaza Strip was, at that time, under the control of the Egyptian military, it was specifically influenced, before other regions, by the activity of this movement, and it started attracting the youth before it extended its roots to the Palestinian territories that were occupied in 1948 C.E. and the West Bank. The Palestinian Islamic movements were a natural extension of the MB, which gave birth to the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), headed by Shaykh Ahmed Yassin, the founder of the movement, that declared itself on December 14,1987 C.E., four days after the outburst of the first Intifada.
These two movements worked hard to strike Israeli targets, in an attempt to drive the Israeli occupation out of the occupied Palestinian territories. Their activity was prominent during the first Intifada, especially Hamas, which had a large mass base, and involved thousands of youths who believed in its ideology; and its base continued to expand until the coming of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA or PA).
With the establishment of the Palestinian authority, Hamas adopted a line of thought that had two directions: the first was to strike Israeli targets, whether within the borders of the territories occupied in 1967 C.E. that are under the authority of self-rule, or inside the territories occupied in 1948 C.E. The other is to save the sanctity of Palestinian blood.
With the outburst of the blessed Aqsa Intifada, Hamas began to rearrange its papers on the basis of the same ideological foundations and rules with which it was launched, and the same goals it sought to achieve. Within a short period, it was able to rebuild its structure, especially the military power to be stronger than it had previously been. It was encouraged to do so by what it considered to be the failure of the Oslo project after ten years of negotiations, and the Palestinian mass assembly round the choice of resistance, including Palestinian organizations, regardless of their different ideologies and political perspectives, leading to an unprecedented Palestinian national unity in the history of the Palestinian revolution.
Hamas benefitted from the mass support for its military acts, especially martyrdom operations, which left many Israelis dead. Hamas gained great ability to inflict harm on the Israeli occupation, in spite of its weak military and financial capabilities, depending on martyrdom operations, causing what came to be known as the ‘balance of terror’.
This, of course, was condemned by the Zionist entity and the American administration. The occupation forces did their best, and used the most advanced military force available, including the F16 and Apache aircraft and tanks, without being able to abate the Intifada or discourage Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, not to mention the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and the Popular Front (for the Liberation of Palestine, PFLP), who were also involved in those operations.
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks that destroyed the World Trade Twin Towers in New York, a fierce campaign was launched against all Islamist activity, under the pretext of the "war against terrorism", without giving an exact definition of terrorism. Thus, whoever does not support America became a terrorist, which means, in other words, that whoever was against Israel is assumed to be against America, i.e. whoever was against Israel was labeled a terrorist, regardless of his legitimate right of self-defense.
The future of Islamic movements was put on the touchstone: could Israel and the United States destroy those movements? Or, could the Islamic movements adapt with the variants and save their existence, given the Palestinian debate about the feasibility of martyrdom operations which the Islamic movements insisted on being the only weapon available in the face of Israeli aircrafts and tanks, depending on the principle of ‘equivalence of punishment’?
Roots of the Palestinian Islamic movement
The first roots of the Islamic awakening in Palestine go back to the foundation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt at the hands of Shaykh Hasan Al-Banna in 1924 C.E. This awakening extended to the Gaza Strip, in view of its being under the control of the Egyptian military until 1967 C.E.
The Palestinian Brotherhood movement in the Gaza Strip was deeply influenced by the conditions that surrounded the mother movement in Egypt. If the main MB in Egypt was exposed to pressure or any harmful resolution, this would affect the subsidiary Gaza movement, since Gaza was under the control of the Egyptian military.
In 1954 C.E., the Egyptian government issued a decree to ban the movement’s activities, and of course, it included banning the activities of the movement in the Gaza Strip, which closed its 11 divisions, duly representing the greatest political movement in the Strip, as it included the biggest number of members and supporters. At that time, it had more than a thousand supporters. This decree forced the MB to work in secret. It held its meetings far from the sight of the people, and the Egyptian military intelligence devices in the Strip.
We cannot determine a certain year for the beginning of the Islamic awakening in Palestine. However, we can say that its activities increased notably in the seventies for various reasons. According to some analysts, the rebirth of the Islamic awakening goes back to the failure of Arab nationalism, or to the 1967 defeat according to others, which alerted Muslims to the surrounding risk.
After the defeat of 1967 C.E., the Gaza MB organized huge demonstrations in protest against the Israeli occupation in 1968 C.E., where the demonstrations started and came out from different mosques in the Strip. In the middle of the seventies, the Islamic awakening started through the Palestinian Universities, like the Hebron University, the Islamic University of Gaza, An-Najaah National University in Nablus, and other areas. Islamic blocs were formed in these universities whose aim was to rescue the Palestinian youth from the moral and political deviance that was planned by the Israeli occupation.
In his comment on the Islamic awakening, an Israeli officer said, “The slogan ‘Allahu Akbar’ started competing with the slogans of the PLO.” He added that when he entered houses with soldiers, he saw photos of Yasser Arafat and some Quranic Verses hung on the walls. He wondered, “What would happen if Arafat died?” He answered, “I do not think there is anyone to succeed him. But I fear that he would be replaced by fundamentalist Muslims who would never come to the Geneva peace conference.”
In the eighties, the Islamic movement intensified its activities. Islamic student blocs emerged clearly in the Palestinian scene in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and they organized demonstrations and confronted Israeli settlers and soldiers. For example, when the Gush Emunim movement tried to settle in the heart of the city of Nablus, the youth of the Islamic bloc in An-Najaah National University confronted them on May 15, 1986 C.E., and engaged in clashes with the army, which resulted in the departure of the settlers.