|Israel Resource Review
||19th July, 2008
SALAFI JIHADISTS IN GAZA: 'Compared to Us, Hamas Is Islamism Lite'
Ulrike Putz in Gaza
SPIEGEL ONLINE 07/18/2008
Global power is their goal, and they are willing to slaughter innocents to
get there. A group of ultra-radical Islamists are training in the Gaza
Strip, and SPIEGEL ONLINE met with one of their leaders.
It's not easy to find a place to meet the man who goes by the name of Abu
Mustafa. A number of places were agreed on and jettisoned. Finally, after
hours of cruising around Gaza City with Abu Mustafa's driver, the call came.
The meeting would take place on the beach. There are enough people on the
beach that one doesn't attract so much attention, the caller explained. How
absurd this notion was would soon become clear.
Most people don't stick out on the beaches of Gaza to the degree that Abu
Mustafa does. He picks his way across the sand on crutches, his leg wrapped
in a cast up to his thigh. The Pakistani clothes he wears are also
foreign -- and the white shirt that hangs to his knees makes walking on
crutches even more difficult. Finally he slumps in a plastic chair. "Peace
be upon you," he says quietly, welcoming his guest.
Many people would like to speak with Abu Mustafa these days -- he guesses
about 10 men call him each day. Abu Mustafa holds the key to an ideology
that many are turning to in the Gaza Strip: Salafist jihadism, a belief in
the most radical form of Islam. "We meet secretly in mosques and private
homes," says Abu Mustafa, who has become an entry point to the movement for
many. He says the Salafis now number up to 5,000 people, not counting the
women and children.
'A Very Dangerous Man'
"We aren't well enough organized yet, but we are in the process of building
networks," says the 33-year-old. Eventually, he hopes, a powerful movement
will be born. Members are already receiving weapons training and are
schooled in both dogma and strategy. "When the fight begins, they will show
no mercy," said a middleman for the interview -- himself a fighter in an
armed militia -- prior to the beach meeting. "Abu Mustafa is a very
Salafis -- sometimes referred to as Wahhabis -- dream of a world before
Islam became cluttered with new innovations and cultural influences. They
seek to live a pious, god-fearing life governed by the laws of religion, a
life resembling those of the original Muslims. At first glance, such a
belief system doesn't differ much from that of other utopian sects -- were
it not for their ideas related to holy war. To make their vision a reality,
Abu Mustafa and his men are willing to fight -- and they are willing to
slaughter innocent bystanders.
"Look," says Abu Mustafa, whose beard cascades down his chest, "there will
be three possibilities. Some will find their way to Islam. Those who don't
convert will be able to live in peace under the authority of Islam." For
those who don't want to accept the hegemony of Islam, however, holy war is
the only recipe. "Then we have to fight -- just like our brothers on September
11," Abu Mustafa says.
The attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. seven years ago were a response
to the contempt held for Islam by the Western world, he says. "If Muslims
are attacked anywhere in the world, one has to hit back, and it doesn't
matter where." Salafist Islam is like a cat, he says. "It is very friendly,
but if it is attacked, it turns into a tiger."
The True Islam
"We feel just like al-Qaida and we think as they do," Abu Mustafa says. He
won't say if he has contact with Osama bin Laden's terror group, but calls
it vaguely "a possibility." He also dodges the question of whether
foreigners have joined the Salafist movement in the Gaza Strip.
Abu Mustafa is not fond of speaking with journalists. It is still risky for
the group to come out of hiding, since Hamas -- the Palestinian Islamist
group which controls the Gaza Strip -- views Salafis with suspicion. Both
groups claim to represent true Islam, and both compete for the same
followers. The fact that Abu Mustafa finally agreed to a meeting with
SPIEGEL ONLINE comes out of gratitude, he says. "I owe the Germans a lot,"
he explains in his slow, careful German.
Abu Mustafa has a degree from the University of Saarbrucken in Germany's far
west. For seven years, until 2000, he studied chemical engineering and led a
largely normal student existence. He had periodic jobs with a moving company
or in construction, and he occasionally cooked up Palestinian specialties
for other students living in the dormitory. "I miss Germany," he says. He's
even looked on Google Earth for the street where he used to live and the
cafeteria where he used to eat.
He explains that he was largely accepted in Germany and found people there
to be quite friendly. The only problems came about when he encountered
scantily clad women or fellow students who spent much of their time in clubs
and bars. He says such experiences rooted him even deeper in his beliefs.
"It would be better for such people were they to follow the pure Islam," he
says. "We are going to try and bring the faith to them."
The Salafi warns that Germany, by supporting Israel and participating in
operations in Afghanistan, is a clear target for his fellow Islamists. He
claims he himself would never move against his "second home," but he warns
that "Germany should be afraid of being attacked."
Struggle for Global Influence
Salafis from the Gaza Strip first stepped into the global spotlight in March
2007, when jihadis from Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam) kidnapped BBC
journalist Alan Johnston, who was based in the Gaza Strip. The group is a
small faction among Salafis. They held Johnston hostage for four months,
threatening to kill him and showing images of him wearing a suicide belt.
Abu Mustafa says it was a legitimate tactic in the struggle for Islam. "It
was nothing personal. It was a message to the West that they should release
imprisoned Muslims." For the moment, he adds reassuringly, foreign
journalists are not in danger in the Gaza Strip.
Indeed, Abu Mustafa says, he and his comrades in arms realize they need to
be patient. There's a long way to go before they can begin their struggle
for global influence. First, they have to take care of an enemy closer to
So far, Hamas has done what it can to keep the Salafis under control. They
know the ultra-radicals are just waiting to take over Hamas' position of
leadership. "They are traitors," Abu Mustafa says of Hamas. "Compared to us,
they are Islamism lite."
Nevertheless, he's willing to be merciful. "We will give them the chance to
turn away from the false path," he says. And what happens if they don't take
up the offer? "Then there will be confrontation," Abu Mustafa promises,
bringing his fists together. Still, he doesn't think it likely that the
Salafis will have to take up arms against Hamas. "It won't be necessary.
They will destroy themselves."
His explanation is clear. "For many people in Gaza, Hamas embodied the
promise of a good, Islamic lifestyle," Abu Mustafa says. But once the group
seized power in the Gaza Strip over a year ago, many were disappointed. Of
the 10 defectors who call him everyday, many of them are Hamas fighters, he
claims. "These are tough men and they have insider knowledge. They will be
very useful should it come to a power struggle."
The group's greatest sin, says Abu Mustafa, who is also the father of two
children, is its effort to bring Islam and democracy together. "Hamas
represents an American style of Islam. They have tried to curry favor."
Which is not such a bad thing for Abu Mustafa and his Salafis. "Hamas is
like a block of ice in the sun," he says. "Every minute they get smaller --
and we get larger."
Abu Mustafa's broken leg and the scars on his right hand are the result of
an Israeli rocket attack. In January, he and a few of his comrades fired
rockets across the border into Israel. Afterwards, as they were heading
home, an Israeli missile hit them.
Four men were injured and one, as Abu Mustafa says, became a martyr. The
fact that his leg still hurts six months later is something he bears with
stoicism. "It is not important how one feels in this life, rather whether
one enters paradise or hell after death," he says.
For his part, Abu Mustafa claims he is not afraid of death. He says he is
not fighting for worldly things. And he hopes he will fall in the struggle
for his beliefs.
"On the other hand," he says before pushing himself up and limping back to
his car, "I would love to see my daughter wed. Maybe she will marry first,
and then I will become a martyr."
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Mideast survival guide
We need patience, ideology, and endurance to survive in Middle East
Our enemies read us, hear us, and understand us better than we understand
our own self-liquidation process, which we are engaging in with our very own
Our enemies see before them a people that is panic-stricken, emotional,
prone to tears, corrupt, hedonistic, reckless, and individualistic; a people
subscribing to a grab-what-you can mentality, lacking historical roots,
lacking ideology, devoid of values, lacking a sense of solidarity, wanting
everything now, and willing to pay any price without taking into account the
results of its reckless behavior.
Our enemies see media outlets that took sides, invested endless broadcasting
hours and limitless newspaper pages in order to produce a media melodrama
out of a wife's tear and a mother's sigh, thus creating public opinion with
the sense that we should pay any price for an immediate achievement. Yet who
appointed the media to determine our national priorities like that? Who
determined that it is appropriate to secure the return of two fallen
soldiers in exchange for a living murderer? Did anyone in the media think
about the future implications of the pressure exerted by the media on our
Anyone familiar with the simplest basis of deals in the Middle East knows
well that the moment one of the parties shows that it is facing pressure,
the price tag goes up, and the greater the pressure is, the higher the price
tag. Our media and public conduct every time we are facing our enemies -
those in Lebanon, Syria, and the Gaza Strip - shows them that they greater
the pressure they exert, the higher the price we shall be willing to pay for
easing the pressure, whether it is missile pressure or psychological
Our media and public panic created a situation whereby we, with out very own
mouths, are boosting the price of any deal to the point we cannot accept it.
This was our foolish conduct vis-a-vis Hamas in Gaza, vis-à-vis Hizbullah in
Lebanon, and vis-à-vis Syria, as every day we hear in the media the "sages
of Zion" reciting like a parrot the mantra: "Everyone knows what's the price
of a ceasefire/return of the hostages/peace with Syria," and when our
enemies hear it, why should they demand less than what that fool says
Our clock is different
Besides that, our clock is different than that of our enemies: Around here,
an average government serves for three years, and therefore it wants to do
something in that time and operates out of a sense of pressure that the
other side quickly recognizes.
The Muslims, in line with the Koran, believe that Allah is on the side of
those who have patience, and patience is found here on two levels: Time and
suffering. Allah helps those who do not rush and patiently wait for their
dreams to be realized, and in addition, are willing to patiently contend
with the suffering inherent in the struggle and expectation for the victory
that shall come, God willing. Nasrallah taught all of us some lessons, big
A people that has no patience, and that wants everything now without the
ability to suffer the pain of living in the poor, deprived, hungry, thirsty,
sick, split, and radical environment that surrounds us, cannot survive in
the oh-so-old Middle East, where the Shiites are still fighting for
supremacy in Islam, 1,400 years after it was taken away from them, and where terms such as democracy, human rights, minority rights, freedom of women,freedom of religion, and freedom from religion are but a distant dream, much more distant than our impatience.
Only a people that is instilled with ideology, possesses a sense of mission
and confidence in the righteousness of its path, and feels it is part of a
historical process and is willing to suffer and pay the price of
survivability in blood, sweat, and tears - only such people can survive in
the Middle East. This region is no place for post-Jewish spineless people
who are necessarily, sooner or later, also post Zionists.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a member of the Arabic-language department and
Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University
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Terrorist killed on July 10th was Head of Hamas Charity Foundation
IDF SPOKESPERSON'S ANNOUNCEMENT
July 19th, 2008
Now released for publication: The Palestinian terrorist who shot and wounded
an Israeli civilian near the Israeli community of Yaqir on July 7th, 2008,
is Mahmoud O'ttaman Mahmoud A'azi, 48, from Qarawat Bani Hassan village.
A'azi was the head of a source of funding for Hamas' terror activities, the
"Islamic Charity Foundation," in his village, and in the past was amongst
the heads of the terror organization in the Samaria region. An IDF officer,
who was moderately wounded by the terrorist during an exchange of fire,
identified the terrorist's location, opened fire, and killed him.
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