By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.
In the previous articles, we talked about 12 illusions in Palestinian politics. Today, we will talk about two others.
The Thirteenth Illusion: The Islamists’ delay in participating in the armed resistance:
Some accuse the Islamic movement of being absent for decades from armed Palestinian resistance, and that it came late after the launching of Hamas movement in 1987 and after the national and leftist forces had carried the burden for decades.
These people confuse and separate between the Islamic movement, the Muslim Brothers (MB) movement and Hamas. The former’s armed resistance is the oldest and most deeply rooted in modern and contemporary Palestinian history. Hamas did not arise out of thin air; the MB armed resistance—from which Hamas arose and to which it belongs—dates back to at least the 1948 war, which makes it the oldest resistance organization in Palestine, even if it was interrupted for periods of time, as was the case with other movements.
The first Palestinian armed resistance movement with an Islamic character dates back to the beginning of 1919, at the start of the British occupation of Palestine. There were two secret societies, the first was al-Kaff al-Aswad (The Black Palm), which was established in January 1919 and changed its name to al-Fida’iyyah in May 1919. It had branches in Jaffa, Jerusalem, Gaza, Nablus, Tulkarm, Ramleh and Hebron and continued until 1923. Its leader was Haj Amin al-Hussaini, who studied at the School of al-Da‘wah wa al-Irshad, run by the scholar Muhammad Rashid Rida. Al-Hussaini then became the mufti of Jerusalem in 1921, the Chairman of the Supreme Muslim Council in 1922, the covert director and sponsor of the uprisings, and the field leader of the revolution in 1936. The second secret society was al-Ikha’ wa al-‘Afaf, which was led particularly by the scholars of Jerusalem and was headed by Sheikh Sa‘id al-Khatib. Among its leaders were Sheikh Muhammad Yusuf al-‘Alami, Sheikh Hasan Abu al-Sa‘ud and others.
There was also a pioneering Islamic movement organization, al-Jihadiyyah movement, which was established by Sheikh Izz al-Din al-Qassam in 1925. Although it began armed resistance during al-Buraq revolution in 1929, al-Jihadiyyah’s official launching was in November 1935, after having recruited and secretly trained about a thousand members and supporters. It was the movement that started the Palestinian Revolt on 15/4/1936, when its leader Sheikh Farhan al-Sa‘di—who succeeded Sheikh al-Qassam after that latter was martyred—carried out a military operation. Then, on 26/9/1937, it reignited the Revolt, when one of its members assassinated the British District Commissioner for the Galilee Lewis Andrews. During the second phase of the great Palestinian Revolt, al-Qassam group led the areas of northern and central Palestine.
Al-Jihad al-Muqaddas organization which led the resistance efforts in Jerusalem and Hebron, was headed by ‘Abdul Qadir al-Hussaini and was sponsored by Haj Amin. In it, nationalism was in harmony with the Islamic trend, thus reflecting the open moderate Islamic spirit of the resisting Palestinian national movement. Christian resistance fighters participated in it, and ‘Abdul Qadir al-Hussaini and his companions heroically fought during the Palestinian Revolution and in the 1948 war.
As for the MB movement, which established its Palestinian organization in the 1940s, it actively participated in the 1948 war. When the war ended, the MB did not lay down their arms, rather they reorganized themselves in a secret military organization in Gaza Strip (GS), particularly in the 1952–1954 period, under the auspices of the Egyptian MB movement and under the leadership and supervision of Kamel al-Sharif (We have previously published a study on this action). Therefore, the MB movement is considered one of the first to launch resistance military action after the 1948 war, along with some resistance groups that were sponsored by Mufti Haj Amin.
It was clear that the Fatah movement emerged from the Palestinian MB movement environment, particularly its military organization. In its early years, the membership and recruitment of Fatah focused on the members of the MB movement, but its approach was patriotic, especially after the ‘Abdul Nasser regime clashed with the MB movement and chased its members, for it wanted to continue resistance, away from hostility toward Islamists. Perhaps the readers have heard of the MB background of Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad), ‘Abdul Fattah Hammud, Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyyad), Yusuf ‘Umairah, Kamal ‘Adwan, Mu‘ath ‘Abed, Hamad al-‘Aydi, Hani al-Hasan, Salim al-Za‘nun, Riyad al-Za‘nun, Muhammad Yusuf al-Najjar, Rafiq al-Natsheh, Sa‘id al-Muzayyan … and many others.
The fierce pursuit of the MB movement, and the rise of leftist and nationalist movements, weakened the ability of the MB and other Islamic movements to organize resistance action. This situation has made the movement enter a latency and self-preservation phase, between mid-1950s and late 1960s. However, the MB movement returned to participate actively in the resistance action through the Shuyukh camps 1968–1970, in coordination with Fatah.
It seems that the Palestinian Islamic movement wanted to establish a strong organization and gain a deep-rooted popularity so that it can withstand and continue when engaging in military resistance action. The movement preferred to wait for a period of time, during which it was active in advocacy, educational, social and trade union activities. However, a number of the MB youth were not satisfied with such a delay. As a result, Dr. Fathi Shiqaqi and a number of his colleagues founded the Islamic Jihad Movement in 1980, and since then this movement has become one of the prominent Palestinian armed resistance forces.
As for the Islamic movement members of the 1948 territories, they established, in the 1970s, a resistance group called Usrat al-Jihad, supervised by Sheikh ‘Abdullah Nimr Darwish and led by Farid Abu Mukh with a number of colleagues. They executed several operations, however the Israeli occupation was able to hit the group and arrest lots of its members.
In the early 1980s, Sheikh Ahmad Yasin founded a military organization in GS, but in 1984, the occupation forces was able to hit it and arrest Yasin and a number of colleagues, and in the following year, Yasin was released in a prisoner exchange deal.
Thus, it can be concluded that the emergence of Hamas in 1987 is considered a continuation of a long process of Palestinian Islamic resistance, which has not stopped over the past hundred years.
The Fourteenth Illusion: The Fatah movement had fired the first bullet of the Palestinian Resistance:
As we noted in the discussion of the previous illusion, the armed Palestinian resistance is genuine and deeply rooted in modern Palestinian history; and its members have confronted the British occupation and the Zionist project since the beginnings. Armed resistance organizations emerged, preceding the launch of the Fatah movement by more than forty years, and their bullets were fired in the uprisings of Jerusalem 1920, Jaffa 1921, al-Buraq 1929 and al-Qassam 1935, the Palestinian Revolt 1936–1939 and the 1948 Palestine War.
Fatah supporters may argue that what is meant by the first bullet is the revolution that followed the catastrophe of the 1948 war; but as we have indicated earlier, the resistance action did not stop after the Nakbah, and in the first half of the 1950s the MB armed resistance organization emerged and carried out a number of operations. It was led by Khalil al-Wazir and a number of his colleagues, who later established Fatah.
Even if the “first bullet” was intended for the resistance action during the 1960s, during that period there were Palestinian organizations that were preoccupied with the guerrilla action or were preparing for it. There was the Palestine branch of the Arab Nationalist Movement, which formed in May 1964 the National Front for the Liberation of Palestine that launched a guerrilla warfare, and had its first member killed on 2/11/1964, about two months before the launch of the military wing of Fatah. Also, in mid-1965, the Palestine Liberation Front launched its military action.
Historically speaking, and regrettably, Palestinian literature ignores the resistance action in the 1949–1956 period, during which many resistance operations were carried out by Palestinian individuals and small groups. Israeli reports have acknowledged tens of thousands of border breaches, where part of them were related to resistance action. These reports have also acknowledged the killing of about 540 Israelis in the same period; a large number of whom were killed by resistance fighters, or whom Israeli reports called “the infiltrators.”
The Fatah movement’s literature is filled with the “fact” that it had fired the first bullet, to the extent that it seems to be an indisputable axiom, whereas we are concerned here with establishing historical facts. Fatah will not lose much by abandoning this claim, for what is more important is that when it fired its bullet, it continued without stopping, worked in difficult and harsh conditions, succeeded in expressing the concerns of the ordinary “non-ideological” Palestinians, led the national project, and maintained wide popularity, over dozens of years. It remained the backbone of armed resistance until the mid-1980s, and it actively participated in the Palestinian uprisings. It still has the highest number of prisoners in Israeli prisons.
It should be noted that a number of Fatah affiliates use this argument for political gains and in a way that eliminates or diminishes the role of others. They try to grant legitimacy to those who fired this bullet so that they would be able to speak on behalf of the Palestinians and represent them, or to silence their opponents, critics and competitors. This has been the case especially after Fatah’s adoption of the peace process and after it has undertaken the leadership of the Palestinian Authority…, which is what we referred to in a previous article.