When it comes to terrorists, it is sometimes difficult to tell the players without a program. Although the secular press of late has taken to calling them militiamen, freedom fighters, militants, and other such misleading nomenclature, the fact is that they are all terrorists. And they all speak of “liberating Palestine,” which means destroying Israel. Many now speak of taking on the United States also. And they all are extremely violent.
The Muslim Brotherhood began in 1928 in Egypt as an Islamic organization hoping to revive the Islamic way of life. Later it grew more political, joining other Arabs in combating Israel.
After Israel’s War of Independence, the Brotherhood continued to oppose Israel but also focused on overthrowing Egypt’s secular government and establishing an Islamic state in its place—a goal that continues to this day. As a result, the Egyptian government has banned the organization, arrested some of its members, and executed some of its leaders. Many of the Brothers have scattered to such areas as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the disputed territories in Israel, and Syria. In response, the Brotherhood assassinated some of Egypt’s political figures, including President Anwar Sadat in 1981.
Syrian Brothers attempted to overthrow the Syrian government, but failed. The late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad essentially eliminated the Brothers in Syria by executing upwards of 25,000 of them in 1982.
The Muslim Brotherhood has more than 70 branches worldwide and claims to have tens of thousands of members. It strongly opposes peace with Israel.
Palestine Islamic Jihad
The Palestine Islamic Jihad (often shortened to Islamic Jihad, not to be confused with Hezbollah, which sometimes calls itself Islamic Jihad) is on the U.S. State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. It was founded in 1979 in Egypt, splintering off from the Gaza Strip branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt expelled the organization back to the Gaza Strip after Sadat’s assassination. In 1988 Israel expelled the leaders of Islamic Jihad to Lebanon, where they reorganized and cooperated with Hezbollah. Today Islamic Jihad is based in Damascus, Syria. It receives most of its support from Syria and Iran.
Islamic Jihad’s goals are to create an Islamic Palestinian state and eliminate the nation of Israel through jihad (“struggle,” or “holy war”). Islamic Jihad is not as popular with Arabs in the disputed territories as Hamas is. It has laid claim to murdering scores of innocent Israeli civilians and wounding hundreds more since the Oslo agreement was signed in 1993. These attacks include the 1996 suicide bombing in Tel Aviv outside a shopping mall, killing 20 people, two of them U.S. citizens. They also include the 2001 brutal murders of American-Israeli teenager KobiMandell and his friend, who were found stoned to death in a cave.
Islamic Jihad also declares as its enemies the United States and moderate Arab states.
Hamas is an Arabic acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement. It, too, is on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. Based predominantly in the disputed territories, Hamas was founded in December 1987 at the start of the first intifada and is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and is thus highly Islamic in purpose and focus.
To a large degree, Hamas was formed out of frustration that the PLO then seemed to be weakening. Hamas determined to stay true to the Palestinian cause and strategy: to completely eradicate Israel through violence and establish an Islamic Palestinian state that encompasses all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
To Hamas, the conflict with Israel is a matter of survival and will not end until Israel is completely removed. It considers Palestine forever Islamic land and jihad the duty of every Muslim as the means of expelling the “Zionist” usurpers. Article 13 of its charter states,
There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.
Thus Hamas vehemently opposes all land compromises, recognition of the State of Israel, and all peace negotiations. Hamas members are prepared “to fight the Zionists until they leave Palestine the way they migrated to it” (Hamas Web site).
Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, Hamas has killed hundreds of innocent Israeli civilians and injured thousands more, despite its claim to pursue only military targets.
Hamas is growing in popularity among Palestinians, especially as the corruption within the Palestinian Authority is exposed and Yasser Arafat’s leadership weakens.
In July 2002, Israel killed Salah Shihada, a top Hamas leader responsible for murdering hundreds of Israelis. He was in the process of planning a major attack inside Israel involving a truck bomb loaded with explosives. Here is Hamas’s response to Israel’s action:
We call on the Qassam Brigades and other military wings to strike the Zionists at any time and at any place with all means . . . there is no prohibited method in our war with this dirty enemy. We vow before our Sheikh Salah (Abu Mustafa) [Shihada] to turn each and every Zionist house and street into a funeral. We vow before you our Sheikh commander to launch a reprisal act that satisfies Allah . . . for we have learned from you how to satisfy Allah. We pledge to you Abu Mustafa that we will not enjoy sleep until we see Zionists turning into scattered remains in all of their restaurants, buses and pavements (Hamas Statement and Military Communiqué, July 23, 2002).
Hezbollah (“Party of God”), sometimes called Islamic Resistance or Islamic Jihad, is a Lebanese terrorist group based primarily in southern Beirut and the Beqaa Valley, with a membership of around 5,000. It, too, is on the U.S. State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations.
Hezbollah was formed in response to Israel’s “Operation Peace for Galilee” in Lebanon in 1982. It is ideologically tied with Iran and gets much of its financial and strategical support from Iran. Although not formally united with the secular Syrian government, Hezbollah works in tandem with it to achieve the objectives of both groups.
Hezbollah’s two chief goals are to establish an Islamic government (patterned after Iran’s) and to destroy Israel. Hezbollah alleges it wants to accomplish the former in a peaceful, democratic manner, without using violence or coercion. How that harmonizes with its goal of destroying Israel is unexplainable.
Hezbollah is unabashed in its claim to murder and mayhem. Its Web site includes video clips of its terrorist operations. It also boasts of using suicide attacks as one of its “special types of resistance against the Zionist enemy.” Hezbollah is responsible for hundreds of attacks against Israeli positions in northern Israel. The organization has also kidnapped Israeli soldiers and civilians, holding them hostage and incommunicado. Hezbollah has also established working relations with Yasser Arafat to coordinate terrorist activities in the disputed territories.
Hezbollah is also an enemy of the United States, claiming responsibility for the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut and numerous kidnappings of Westerners. Five days after September 11, 2001, Hezbollah warned the United States against more “unjust” policies, “which have led to this level of hate against the US by many peoples and governments in the world.” There are reports that al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden’s organization, is regrouping in Lebanon and forming alliances with Hezbollah.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was established in 1967 to eliminate Israel and create a socialist, democratic, Palestinian state. The PFLP is on the U.S. State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations.
The PFLP gunned down an Israeli woman and her 12-year-old son in December 1996 and murdered Israeli Minister of Tourism Rehavam Ze’evi in October 2001.
Al-Fatah (Arabic, “The Conquest”), or the Movement for the National Liberation of Palestine, is a terrorist organization founded by Yasser Arafat and seven of his friends in 1959 while he lived in Kuwait. Fatah’s first publication called for the destruction of Israel. Fatah later became the largest and most influential member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and is responsible for countless terrorist attacks against Israel.
Fatah has also assisted in attacks against Americans. According to Newsweek (Nov. 15, 1999), Fatah supplied the weapons used to kill 241 U.S. Marines in Beirut in 1983.
Fatah’s leadership and support come directly from Yasser Arafat. Its resources, in the millions of dollars, come from the Palestinian Authority budget.
Fatah and Arafat’s personal security force, Force 17, are not currently on the U.S. State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations; but they once were. However, Israel’s government has proven that Fatah is still engaged in terror, only incognito as Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade, which is on the U.S. State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations.