Israel Resource Review 1st March, 2007


Brothers in Arms: Fatah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad: How Islamic Jihad Derived from the Fatah
Pinhas Inbari

Jerusalem Issue Brief Institute for Contemporary Affairs founded jointly at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs with the Wechsler Family Foundation

Vol. 6, No. 21 - 1 March 2007

Fatah was the main supporter in the Arab world of the Khomeini revolution in Iran when it erupted.

A view of Fatah as secular is far from reality. Fatah has strong Muslim features. Its websites reveal frequent Muslim phrases and tenets, for example, on the holy duty to liberate Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa mosque, and the religious terminology of "jihad." Its military wing is the "Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade," whose military announcements are heavily laced with Koranic verses identical to those used by Hizbullah.

Both Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah were established with deep Fatah involvement. Originally, Islamic Jihad was actually a purely Fatah offshoot, part and parcel of the military apparatus of Arafat's deputy, Abu Jihad, who, as his name may convey, was the major promoter of Islamic features in Fatah.

During the first Lebanon war, Abu Jihad followers helped Iran establish Hizbullah on the ruins of the Fatah infrastructure that Israel had destroyed in the war.

The joint plan of Fatah and Hizbullah was to surround Israel with terror rocket power from all sides. This master plan still exists, but now the main role has been given to Hamas.

The Myth of "Secular" Fatah

The current political efforts on the Palestinian track are based on the assumption that "moderate" Fatah should be empowered versus "radical Hamas." The internal infighting in the Palestinian arena has also been described as "secular versus religious." Yet while Hamas is religious in nature by definition, a Fatah defined as secular is far from reality. A brief review of its websites reveals frequent Muslim phrases and tenets in its discourse, for example, on the holy duty to liberate Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa mosque, and the religious terminology of "jihad" that has an equal footing with the secular term "resistance." Hamas also uses "resistance" and "jihad" as synonyms, and the term "resistance" is even part of Hamas' official name - "the Islamic Resistance Movement."

While one cannot claim that Fatah is a religious movement, it has strong Muslim features. Its military wing is the "Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade," whose military announcements are heavily laced with Koranic verses identical to those used by Hizbullah, according to which "the weakest on the face of the earth" will become strong and inherit "and become the imams - the rulers." This is the verse that Fatah leader Yasser Arafat chose to cite when he first entered Gaza in 1994 after the Oslo agreements.

Islamic Jihad's Roots in Fatah

The similarity in religious discourse between Fatah's Aqsa Martyrs and Hizbullah is not accidental. The most recent terror operation in Eilat was endorsed jointly by Islamic Jihad and the "Army of the Believers," an Aqsa Martyrs affiliate. In fact, both Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah were established with deep Fatah involvement. Originally, Islamic Jihad was actually a purely Fatah offshoot and was a shadow of Fatah for years.

Islamic Jihad was born as a result of the Khomeini revolution in Iran, when Fatah was its main supporter in the Arab world. Khomeini saw Fatah as a prime tool to spread his Islamic revolution in the Sunni world. But the Fatah-Shiite honeymoon broke down over Khomeini's demand of Fatah to "convert" to Islam and become what Hamas and Islamic Jihad are today, as well as due to Sunni pressure on Arafat, especially by Saddam Hussein, not to cross those red lines. However, the original founding of Islamic Jihad was as part and parcel of the military apparatus of Arafat's deputy, Abu Jihad.

Abu Jihad, as his name may convey, was the major promoter of Islamic features in Fatah, as opposed to Abu Iyyad, Arafat's second deputy, who was closer to the Soviet Union and then to the U.S. The initial appearance of Islamic Jihad was the attack on Beit Hadassah in Hebron in May 1990, killing six Israelis and wounding sixteen. When the members of the cell were captured, they revealed that they were sent by Abu Jihad, who told them that the ultimate goal of establishing Islamic Jihad was to Islamize Fatah.

The recognized founder of Islamic Jihad was Fat'hi Shqaqi, a Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood member in Egypt who believed that the Egyptian parent organization was neglecting the Palestinian cause. Once in Israeli prison, Shqaqi told Reuven Paz, an Israeli expert on Muslim radical movements, that he conceived Islamic Jihad as the promoter of an Arab revolution that would revive the Muslim caliphate. In due course, Shqaqi adopted the Shiite religion.

Even after Islamic Jihad left the Fatah womb, the special relationship between the Abu Jihad wing in Fatah and the Khomeini revolution was never broken. During the first Lebanon war, Abu Jihad followers helped Iran establish Hizbullah on the ruins of the Fatah infrastructure that Israel had destroyed in the war. Anti-Iranian elements inside Fatah objected to the tight connections between Fatah's military wing and Iran, and in internal clashes Abu Iyyad's followers were defeated by Abu Jihad's followers led by Abu Ali Shaheen, who later became one of Arafat's main supporters in Gaza. After the PLO left Lebanon, the remnants of the pro-Iranian elements left behind in the Palestinian refugee camps became either linked with Hizbullah or later became the core for the al-Qaeda group "Ansar al-Sunna."

Islamic Jihad-Fatah Cooperation in the 2000 Intifada

More significant was the tight cooperation between Islamic Jihad and Fatah during the second intifada beginning in 2000. While previously there had been significant resistance inside Fatah to links with Iran, this disappeared after the Oslo agreements. The major element opposing Iranian influence on Fatah was Arafat's Praetorian Guard - Force 17. But when he established his security forces in the Palestinian territories, Arafat left Force 17 commander Abu Tayyib (Mahmud Natur) outside and preferred the pro-Iranian Mahmud Damra, who was engaged in linking the upcoming uprising with Hizbullah and Iran. When the Aqsa Martyrs were established, their commander, the mysterious Abu Mujahid, was later named as Munir Maqdah, the military commander of Fatah forces in Lebanon and the closest Fatah figure to Iran and Hizbullah at the time.

Hence, while during the years prior to Oslo a balance was kept within the military echelons of Fatah between pro- and anti-Iranian elements, after Oslo, during the rebuilding of Fatah military forces, Arafat connected both Force 17 and the Aqsa Martyrs. The remnants of the old Force 17 were placed in the negligible "General Command," while the new Force 17 was reshaped in a way to be linked with Iran and Hizbullah. Islamic Jihad, as was apparent during the uprising, was the closest to the Aqsa Martyrs in terms of both operational cooperation and sources of funding, meaning Iran. This was apparent not only on the daily tactical level but, as the case of the Karine A weapons ship revealed, on the strategic level. The joint plan of Fatah and Hizbullah was to surround Israel with terror rocket power from all sides. This master plan still exists, but now after the demise of Arafat, the main role has been given to Hamas.

When the initial cooperation between Fatah and Iran began, Hamas did not yet exist and the Muslim Brotherhood was no less anti-Shiite than it is today. But as Hamas became stronger and Fatah weakened, the center of gravity shifted to Hamas. Yet, as far as Fatah and Islamic Jihad are concerned, their bonds are stronger. As a matter of fact, they are brothers.

* * *

Pinhas Inbari is a veteran Palestinian affairs correspondent who formerly reported for Israel Radio and Al Hamishmar newspaper, and currently reports for several foreign media outlets. He is the author of a number of books on the Palestinian Arabs including The Palestinians: Between Terrorism and Statehood.

This Jerusalem Issue Brief is available online at:

Printer friendly version of this article

Return to Contents

Europe's Stark Options
Daniel Pipes

March-April 2007

Europe's long-term relations with its burgeoning Muslim minority, the continent's most critical issue, will follow one of three paths: harmonious integration, the expulsion of Muslims, or an Islamic takeover. Which of these scenarios will most likely play out?

Europe's future has vast importance not just for its residents. During a half-millennium, 1450-1950, this 7 percent of the world's landmass drove world history; its creativity and vigor invented modernity. The region may have already lost that critical position sixty years ago, but it remains vitally important in economic, political, and intellectual terms. Which direction it goes in, therefore, has huge implications for the rest of humanity, and especially for its daughter countries, such as the United States, which historically have looked to Europe as a source of ideas, people, and goods.

Here is an assessment about the likelihood of each scenario.

I. Muslims Rule

The late Oriana Fallaci observed that, with the passage of time, "Europe becomes more and more a province of Islam, a colony of Islam." The historian Bat Ye'or has dubbed this colony "Eurabia." Walter Laqueur predicts in his forthcoming Last Days of Europe that Europe as we know it is bound to change. Mark Steyn, in America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, goes further and argues that much of the Western world "will not survive the twenty-first century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most European countries." Three factors faith, demography, and a sense of heritage argue for Europe being Islamized.

Faith: An extreme secularism predominates in Europe, especially among its elites, to the point that believing Christians (such as George W. Bush) are seen as mentally unbalanced and unfit for public office. In 2005, Rocco Buttiliglione, a distinguished Italian politician and Catholic believer, was denied a position as Italy's European Union commissioner because of his views on such issues as homosexuality. Entrenched secularism also means empty churches: in London, researchers estimate, more Muslims attend mosques on Friday than do Christians churches on Sunday, although the city is home to roughly 7 times more born-Christians than born-Muslims. As Christianity fades, Islam beckons; Prince Charles exemplifies the fascination of many Europeans with Islam. Many conversions could be in Europe's future, for as the saying is ascribed to G.K. Chesterton, "When men stop believing in God they don't believe in nothing; they believe in anything."

Europe's secularism shapes its discourse in ways quite unfamiliar to Americans. Hugh Fitzgerald, formerly vice president of, illustrates one dimension of this difference:

The most memorable utterances of American presidents have almost always included recognizable Biblical phrases. This source of rhetorical strength was on display this past February [2003] when the Columbia shuttle blew up. Had it not been an American but a French shuttle that had blown up, and were Jacques Chirac having to give such a speech, he might well have used the fact that there were seven astronauts, and evoked an image of the Pleiades first named in pagan antiquity. The American President, at a solemn national ceremony that began and ended with Biblical Hebrew, did things differently. He took his text from Isaiah 40:26, which led to a seamless transition from mingled wonder and awe at the heavenly hosts brought forth by the Creator, to consolation for the earthly loss of the crew.

The buoyant faith of Muslims, with its attendant jihadi sensibility and Islamic supremacism, could not differ more from that of lapsed European Christians. This contrast leads many Muslims to see Europe as a continent ripe for conversion and domination. Outrageous supremacist claims result, such as the statement of Omar Bakri Mohammed, "I want Britain to become an Islamic state. I want to see the flag of Islam raised in 10 Downing Street." Or the prediction of a Belgium-based imam: "Soon we will take power in this country. Those who criticize us now, will regret it. They will have to serve us. Prepare, for the hour is near."[1]

Population: Demographic collapse also points to Europe being Islamized. The total fertility rate in Europe today averages about 1.4 per woman, whereas sustaining one's population requires just over two children per couple, or 2.1 children per woman. The existing rate is just two-thirds of what it needs to be; one-third of the requisite population is simply not being born.

To avoid a severe diminution of population, with all the woes that implies and specifically, an absence of workers to fund generous pension plans Europe needs immigrants lots of them. That imported third of the population tends to be Muslim, in part because Muslims are close by it's only thirteen kilometers from Morocco to Spain, only a couple of hundred to Italy from Albania or Libya; in part because colonial ties continue to bind South Asia to Britain or the Maghrib to France; and in part because of the violence, tyranny, and poverty so prevalent in the Muslim world today, which prompts wave after wave of emigration.

Likewise, the high fertility of Muslims complements the paucity of children among indigenous Christians. Although the Muslim fertility rate is falling, it remains significantly higher than that of Europe's indigenous population. No doubt, the high birth rates have something to do with the premodern circumstances in which many Muslim women of Europe find themselves. In Brussels, "Muhammad" has for some years been the most popular name given to infant boys, while Amsterdam and Rotterdam are on track to be, by about 2015, the first major European cities with majority Muslim populations. The French analyst Michel Gurfinkiel estimates an ethnic street war in France would find the children of indigטnes and of immigrants in a roughly one-to-one ratio. Current predictions see a Muslim majority in Russia's army by 2015 and in the country as a whole by about 2050.

Sense of heritage: What often is depicted as Europe's political correctness reflects what I believe is a deeper phenomenon, namely, the alienation of many Europeans from their civilization, a sense that their historic culture is not worth fighting for or even saving. It's striking to note differences within Europe in this regard. Perhaps the country least prone to this alienation is France, where traditional nationalism still holds sway and the French take pride in their identity. Britain is the most alienated country, as symbolized by the plaintive government program, "ICONS - A Portrait of England," that lamely hopes to rekindle patriotism by connecting Britons to their "national treasures," such as Winnie-the-Pooh and the miniskirt.

This diffidence has had direct and adverse implications for Muslim immigrants, as Aatish Taseer explained in Prospect magazine.

Britishness is the most nominal aspect of identity to many young British Pakistanis. If you denigrate your own culture you face the risk of your newer arrivals looking for one elsewhere. So far afield in this case, that for many second-generation British Pakistanis, the desert culture of the Arabs held more appeal than either British or subcontinental culture. Three times removed from a durable sense of identity, the energised extra-national worldview of radical Islam became one available identity for second-generation Pakistanis.

Immigrant Muslims widely disdain Western civilization, and especially its sexuality (pornography, divorce, homosexuality). Nowhere in Europe are Muslims being assimilated, rarely does intermarriage take place. Here is one colorful example, from Canada: The mother of the notorious Khadr brood, known as the country's first family of terrorism, returned to Canada from Afghanistan and Pakistan in April 2004 with one of her sons. Despite her seeking refuge in Canada, she publicly insisted just a month earlier that Al-Qaeda-sponsored training camps were the best place for her children. "Would you like me to raise my child in Canada to be, by the time he's 12 or 13 years old, to be on drugs or having some homosexual relationship? Is it better?"

(Ironically, in centuries past, as the historian Norman Daniel has documented, Christian Europeans looked down at Muslims with their multiple wives and harems as overly-sexualized, and therefore felt morally superior.)

To sum up: this first argument holds that Europe will be Islamized, quietly submitting to the dhimmi status or converting to Islam, because the yin of Europe and yang of Muslims fit so well: low and high religiosity, low and high fertility, low and high cultural confidence.[2] Europe is an open door through which Muslims are walking.

II. Muslims Rejected

Or will the door be shut in their face? American columnist Ralph Peters dismisses the first scenario: "Far from enjoying the prospect of taking over Europe by having babies, Europe's Muslims are living on borrowed time. predictions of a Muslim takeover of Europe ignore history and Europe's ineradicable viciousness." Instead, depicting Europe as the place "that perfected genocide and ethnic cleansing," he predicts its Muslims "will be lucky just to be deported," and not killed. Claire Berlinski, in Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis Is America's, Too, implicitly agrees, pointing to the "ancient conflicts and patterns now shambling out of the mists of European history" which could well trigger violence.

This scenario has indigenous Europeans who do still constitute 95 percent of the continent's population waking up one day and asserting themselves. "Basta!" they will say, and reclaim their historic order. This is not so remote; a chafing among Europeans, less among elites than the masses, loudly protests changes already underway. Illustrations of that resentment include the anti-hijab legislation in France, irritation over the restrictions of national flags and Christian symbols, and the insistence on serving wine at state dinners. A movement spontaneously developed in several French cities in early 2006 to serve pork soup to the poor, thus intentionally excluding Muslims.

These are minor issues, to be sure, but insurgent anti-immigrant parties have already emerged in many countries and are beginning to demand not just effective control of borders but the expulsion of illegal immigrants. A nativist movement throughout Europe is forming largely unnoticed beneath our eyes. However meager its record so far, it has huge potential. Parties opposed to immigration and Islam generally have neo-fascist backgrounds but are growing more respectable over time, shedding their antisemitic origins and their dubious economic theories, focusing instead on the questions of faith, demography, and identity, and learning about Islam and Muslims. The British National Party and Belgium's Vlaamse Belang offer two examples of such a move toward respectability, which may one day be followed by electability. The presidential race in France in 2002 came down to a contest between Jacques Chirac and the neo-fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Other parties have already tasted power. Jצrg Haider and the Freiheits Partei ײsterreich were briefly in office. The Lega Nord in Italy was for years part of the ruling coalition. They will likely grow stronger because their anti-Islamist and often anti-Islamic messages resonate, and mainstream parties will partially adopt their messages. (Denmark's Conservative Party offers a model; after 72 years in the wilderness, it returned to power in 2001 due basically to anger concerning immigration.) These parties will likely benefit when immigration to Europe surges uncontrollably to ever-higher levels, including perhaps a mass exodus from Africa, as many indications suggest will happen.

Once in power, nationalist parties will reject multiculturalism and try to re-establish traditional values and mores. One can only speculate about their means and about the Muslim reaction. Peters dwells on the fascistic and violent aspects of some groups and expects an anti-Muslim backlash to take ominous forms. He even sketches a scenario in which "U.S. Navy ships are at anchor and U.S. Marines have gone ashore at Brest, Bremerhaven or Bari to guarantee the safe evacuation of Europe's Muslims."

For years, Muslims have worried about just such incarceration and brutalization, followed by expulsion or even massacres. Already in the late 1980s, the late Kalim Siddiqui, director of London's Muslim Institute, raised the specter of "Hitler-style gas chambers for Muslims." Shabbir Akhtar warned in his 1989 book, Be Careful With Muhammad that "the next time there are gas chambers in Europe, there is no doubt concerning who'll be inside them," meaning Muslims. A character in Hanif Kureishi's 1991 novel, The Buddha of Suburbia, prepares the guerilla war that he expects will follow after "the whites finally turned on the blacks and Asians and tried to force us into gas chambers."

But it is more likely that European efforts at reclamation will be initiated peaceably and legally, with Muslims in keeping with recent patterns of intimidation and terrorism being the ones to initiate violence. Multiple polls confirm that about 5 percent of British Muslims endorse the 7/7 bombings, suggesting a general readiness to resort to force.

However it happens, a European reassertion cannot be assumed to take place cooperatively.

III. Muslims Integrated

In the happiest scenario, autochthonous Europeans and Muslim immigrants find a modus vivendi and live together harmoniously. Perhaps the classic statement of this optimistic expectation was a 1991 study, La France, une chance pour l'Islam ("France, an Opportunity for Islam") by Jeanne-Hיlטne and Pierre Patrick Kaltenbach. "For the first time in history," they wrote, "Islam is offered the chance to waken in a democratic, rich, laic, and peaceable country." That hopefulness lives on. An Economist leader from mid-2006 asserts that "for the moment at least, the prospect of Eurabia looks like scaremongering." Also at that time, Jocelyne Cesari, associate professor of Islamic studies at the Harvard Divinity School, claimed a balance exists: just as "Islam is changing Europe," she said, "Europe is changing Islam." She finds that "Muslims in Europe do not want to change the nature of European states" and expects them to adapt themselves into the European context.

Such optimism, unfortunately, has little foundation. Europeans could yet rediscover their Christian faith, have more babies, and cherish their own heritage. They could encourage non-Muslim immigration or acculturate the Muslims already among them. But such changes are not now underway, nor are their prospects good. Instead, Muslims are cultivating grievances and ambitions at odds with their indigenous neighbors. Worryingly, each generation appears more alienated than its predecessor. Canadian novelist Hugh MacLennan dubbed his country's English-French split the "Two Solitudes"; one sees something similar, but far more pronounced, developing in Europe. Those polls of British Muslims for example, find that a majority of them perceive a conflict between their British and Muslim identities and want Islamic law instituted.

The possibility of Muslims accepting the confines of historic Europe and smoothly integrating within it can virtually be dismissed from consideration. Even Bassam Tibi, professor at the University of Gצttingen, who has often warned that "Either Islam gets Europeanized, or Europe gets Islamized," has personally given up on the continent. Recently, he announced that he is leaving Germany after 44 years' residence there, to move to Cornell University in the United States.


As the American columnist Dennis Prager sums them up, "It is difficult to imagine any other future scenario for Western Europe than its becoming Islamicized or having a civil war." Indeed, these two deeply unattractive alternative paths appear to define Europe's choices, with powerful forces pull in the contrary directions of Muslims taking over or Muslims rejected, Europe an extension of North Africa or in a state of quasi-civil war.

Which will it be? The decisive events that will resolve this question have yet to take place, so one cannot yet make the call. Decision-time is fast approaching, however. Within the next decade or so, today's flux will end, the Europe-Islam equation will harden, and the continent's future course should become apparent.

Correctly anticipating that course is the more difficult for being historically unprecedented. No large territory has ever shifted from one civilization to another by virtue of a collapsed population, faith, and identity; nor has a people risen on so grand a scale to reclaim its patrimony. The novelty and magnitude of Europe's predicament make it difficult to understand, tempting to overlook, and nearly impossible to predict. Europe marches us all into terra incognita.

Mr. Pipes ( is director of the Middle East Forum and visiting professor at Pepperdine University. This article is adapted from a talk for a Woodrow Wilson Center conference on "Euro-Islam: The Dynamics of Effective Integration."

[1] De Morgen, October 5, 1994. Cited in Koenraad Elst, "The Rushdie Rules", Middle East Quarterly, June 1998.

[2] It's striking to note that in these three ways, Europe and the United States were much more similar 25 years ago than today. This suggests that their bifurcation results less from historical patterns going back centuries and more from developments in the 1960s. However deeply that decade affected the United States, it had a far deeper impact on Europe.

Printer friendly version of this article

Return to Contents

Go to the Israel Resource Review homepage

The Israel Resource Review is brought to you by the Israel Resource, a media firm based at the Bet Agron Press Center in Jerusalem, and the Gaza Media Center under the juristdiction of the Palestine Authority.
You can contact us on