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The Islamic Jihad – The Imperative of Holy War

The Islamic Jihad is one of the most complex and dangerous of the Arab terrorist organizations, with cells in many Middle Eastern countries and, apparently, in Europe as well. These groups generally act on their own initiative without coordination, sometimes even within the same country. All these groups share a fundamentalist Islamic ideology which espouses holy war diihad) against the infidels, and which is under the powerful ideological-religious influence of the Islamic revolution in Iran. The Iranian regime and the Islamic Jihad groups collaborate closely at times. Some groups not only receive aid and guidance from Iran but also enjoy generous support from other Arab and Islamic countries such as Libya, Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the Persian Gulf oil states. They also cooperate extensively with diverse Palestinian organizations.

The Islamic Jihad aspires to overthrow secular Arab regimes in order to establish an Islamic pan Arab empire. The Jihad is unique among the Islamic movements, however, in that it views war against the Jews and Israel (“the spearhead of the West and imperialism in the region”) as an initial, essential step toward fulfilling the goals of Islam. According to the Islamic Jihad, the only way to resolve the conflict with the Jews in Palestine is by direct violent confrontation. In 1990, one of the organization’s leaders — Sheikh Tamimi (author of a 1982 booklet called “The Obliteration of Israel: A Koranic Imperative”) — expressed this principle in the following words: “The Jews have to return to the countries from which they came. We shall not accede to a Jewish state on our land, even if it is only one village.

The Islamic Jihad recruits young Arabs by means of religious indoctrination, and bases its terror strategy on the willingness of these young people to lay down their lives for what they see as a divine command — the war against the infidels. Many of the Jihad’s terrorist attacks are designed as suicide operations, in which the terrorist attempts to cause as many casualties as possible without planning his own escape. For example, during the Gulf War one Jihad recruit, instructed to set up and detonate a car bomb on a busy street in one of the countries fighting against Iraq, told a Times correspondent that the fate he awaited in the after world was far superior to the “rotten life” he had at present. He added, however, that his life was hardly miserable since he was about to die for his country. All lives move toward Heaven or Hell, the young Arab asserted, and he chose Heaven. It is this suicidal strategy that makes the Islamic Jihad one of the most dangerous organizations of our times.

The complexity and secrecy of the Islamic Jihad, as well as the many groups in Arab countries that bear this name but have no direct connection, cause much confusion and misinterpretation concerning the structure, size, and deployment of the real Islamic Jihad around the world. This report will attempt to clarify the picture by looking separately at the activities of the Islamic Jihad in the various Arab countries and in the Israeli-administered ‘territories.

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