Friday, November 29, 2013
The Salafist challenge in Palestine

Earlier this week IDF forces tackled for the first time a Salafist cell in Hebron Mountain that ended in the killing of 3 terrorists. The funerals that followed attracted thousands that shouted for revenge on Israel. This may hint at possible ground for al-Qaeda stronger appearance in the future.

However, the military clash last night was the first of its kind in the West Bank. While Salafists groups exist in the West Bank for long time, they did not appear as military force so far. In contrast, al-Qaeda already appeared in Gaza since 5 years now. Al-Jazeera site published on 20/2/2013,d.ZGU that the Qaeda did not appear militarily in the West Band was "because of the tight grip of both the Israeli and the PA security apparatuses". And indeed some Israeli sites mentioned a plausible guess that the clash took place as a result of security cooperation of both sides.
It was apparent that the Palestinian Authority was embarrassed and it took some time before they reported the clash. The Israelis reported that the cell was bound to attack both Israeli and Palestinian targets. The Palestinians did not deny this information and the problem was about defining them as martyrs. The moment they do it – they legalize attacking PA targets. And indeed when Yasser Abd Rabbo was asked this morning about the event he blamed Israel on escalating tensions in the West Bank but avoided labeling the terrorists as "martyrs". However, in course of time the Palestinian websites began to call them martyrs as well ignoring the fact that they were targeting the PA as well.

We have to distinguish between two kinds of Salafists that operate across the Middle East. The "Salafiya Daawiya"- "Preaching Salafiya", and "Jihadi Salafiya". According to Al-Jazeera's report the differences are in critical theological issues. The Preaching Salafism recognize the "actual ruler"—"ulu al-amr" that in the Palestinan arena means recognizing both Abu Mazen in Ramallah and Hamas in Gaza. They do not intervene in these political matters. Sheikh Nabil Naiimi the deputy of the Salafist society "the Quran and Sunna" based in Tulkarem said: "we are of moderate practice. We do not call to violence and preach for tolerance." According to Al-Jazeera the several preaching societies are linked to the royal family in Saudi Arabia and belong to the formal Salafist School of the regime. After the Palestinian security organs arrested some of the Salafists in the past, Abu Mazen interfered based on the request of their leaders – and let them free.
As for the Jihadi school, as its name suggest they do not believe in preaching but in jihad. The Salafist activist in Gaza Mahmud Taleb told Al-Jazeera that they rejected Hamas participation in elections and the protection Hamas gave to UNRWA. We hav eto remind here that Bin Laden has declared that all UN agencies are "crusaders"- that's to say – should be attacked. Hence, al-Qaeda Palestine not only doesn't recognize Ramallah – not even Hamas. Therefore, the Jihadi Salafist—al-Qaeda – differs from the Preaching Salafists in two critical matters: they preach for terror (jihad) versus preaching and avoiding terror and in rejecting both Hamas and Fatah as "infidels" that should be fought against in contrast to the pro Saudi wing that recognize all rulers that are in power.

The appearance in Hebron should not surprise as it is the most Islamist in spirit in the West Bank. Tulkarem comes next. It is sometime now that the villages in Hebron area do not welcome Palestinian police patrols. In the last year I know about 2 events in which the villagers opened fire on the policemen.
Hebron area is also accommodating the largest local branch of the world wide Caliphate movement – the Tahrir Party. It is also a "preaching" movement that does not call for jihad, but is not affiliated with the Salafist al-Qaeda but rather closer to the Moslem Brothers family. In contrast to the "preaching Salafists" they do not recognize the "actual rulers" and they reject both Ramallah and Hamas, and although they do not preach to jihad they do not reject it either and are considered to be a corridor to jihad. For example the two British terrorists who operated in Tel Aviv (the Mike's Place attack) joined Hamas through Tahrir channels in Britain. So, the cell in Hebron although is not directly related to the Tahrir infrastructures- Tahrir preaching actually paved the way for al-Qaeda to make its first appearance on stage.

As for the al-Qaeda in Gaza – it is much more meaningful. According to Al-Jazeera's report the Qaeda recruited their activists from both Hamas and Fatah that were disappointed from the lull in the struggle against Israel. Inside Hamas especially the ceasefire with Israel triggered defections to al-Qaeda.
There are several groups in Gaza: the "Tawheed wa al-Jihad: that was crushed in 2009 by Hamas, Jeish al-Islam (army of Islam). Jeish al-Umma (the army of the Umma- that's to say the army of Moslem community) ) Jamaat a-Tawheed – the group of the monotheists, all of them united a year ago under the banner of "the Council of the Shura (advisory) of the Mujahedeen of Jerusalem."

All Qaeda groups in Gaza are also operating in Sinai and mostly attack Egyptian targets rather than Israeli.

Sum up: earlier this week al-Qaeda gave its first performance in the West Bank but was crushed by IDF. They also planned to attack PA targets. The appearance in Hebron should not surprise us as being the most religious area in the West bank and Tahrir party already laid the foundation for fundamental Islam to appear in military shape.