Wednesday, November 06, 2013

6-Nov-13: Gaza's Islamists and the poorly-understood background to what actually motivates them

Jihadists worshipping near Aleppo, Syria, July 24, 2012
[Image Source: EPA/Landov]
The premise on which we write this blog is expressed in the paragraph at the top of this page, the one starting with the words
"Many people lack a factual understanding of events in our region because the media often report them inadequately. Our daughter Malki..."
Terrorism turned our lives upside down. Every day, and the experiences it brings, serves to remind us that most people don't understand terrorism. They don't understand who the terrorists are or why the terrorists do what they do. This means they also don't understand how wide and deep the danger posed by terrorism is, and how it threatens people everywhere.

The jihadists of terrorism-infested Gaza are a classic illustration of how, in the modern perception (meaning the widespread viewpoints nurtured by a politically-correct reporting profession possessing no Arabic-language skills and with little cultural sensitivity to the region from which they report), terrorists are depicted as passionate about a specific political issue. What makes the jihadists crazy? What brings them to the point where they will lovingly lay down their lives in pursuit of a noble goal? Why, that would be the evil Zionists, of course.

Right? Of course not right. The reality is more complex, more nuanced, less obvious and hugely under-reported.

Agence France-Presse syndicated an article earlier today that opens with a depiction of a Palestinian Arab Gazan called Mohammed al-Zaanin. He is now deceased, having been blown up recently in what AFP's writer calls "a suicide attack". We are fiercely opposed to the use of that widely-deployed and erroneous label. It discounts the reality that there were victims and that the attacker intended to kill. That the attacker also died is a by-product of the principal activity - never its goal. Such attacks need to be termed bombings, knifings, massacres, shootings and so on. The people who kill others by means of explosives on their person are human bombs.

Being from Gaza, jihadist Mohammed obviously hated the Israelis and sought to kill them but was himself killed in the process. But what is obvious, at least to some, is simply not true when Gaza and the world of the Palestinian Arabs is concerned.

The life of this dead Mohammed in fact ended in Syria.
The 23-year-old Palestinian joined the ranks of a growing band of Gazans who have died fighting the Damascus regime. Zaanin was a member of a Salafist Islamist group in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, and his flight to war-torn Syria represents the mix of frustration and zeal that have seen more than two dozen young men leave in search of jihad... [AFP | "Gaza jihadists take their fight to Syria", November 6, 2013]
We have zero interest in glorifying this miserable thug's life and achievements by recounting here what AFP says about him and his motives. We do feel it is worth passing along the following points:
  • He departed Gaza in June 2013, ostensibly to make a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, according to AFP. (June is not Haj season, but it's a small detail.)
  • He spoke with his family on September 16 and was reported a day later to have been killed.
  • Salafist sources in Gaza speak of several dozen jihadists from Gaza who have gone to Syria to fight.
  • Why? "There's the combination of the relative calm in the Gaza Strip, and the lack of opportunities for (violent) resistance... Islamist fighters are turning elsewhere to satisfy their thirst for jihad..."
  • Hamas hitches a ride on the public curiosity in the deaths of such "fighters" by posthumously honoring them for their brutality and savagery (or in their terms, "martyrdom").
  • AFP gives that process an assist by helpfully quoting the message conveyed by another deceased Gazan jihadist who instructed his family to "rejoice" at his death and to understand that he succeeded in doing what he had hoped to do (a direct quote).
  • It's a message which resonates well in large swathes of the Islamic world. Today's Washington Post quotes the Islamist use of portraits of dead fighters in the Syrian conflict, their deaths "heralded in Web postings, many of which feature bloody — and, occasionally, smiling — portraits of the newly deceased. Although the images may strike many Westerners as macabre, they have become one of the rites of service among Syrian jihadists, as well as a popular recruiting tool."
Syria/Gaza stories like these represent a small aspect of the ongoing struggle by civilized societies against the rising terrorist hordes. Reporters will continue to tell their news-consuming audiences that Hamas, PIJ and the other terrorist gangs of Gaza are fighting for their national pride and to shake off an oppressor who stands between them and their longed-for, yet-to-be-created homeland. But they are conveying an ideology-driven nonsense.

In reality, today's AFP report, focused on the role of Islamist jihadism and the lust to kill unbelievers, is closer to the truth. So is the fact that, as the Washington Post, quoting an academic observer, puts it,
"...the normal jihadi cultural material — previously confined to private discussion forums — is being broadcast more widely where everyone can see it... The closed jihadi community is coming out into the light of day and inviting others to join.”
It's also something to keep at the back of one's mind when new and improved Middle East "peace plans" are under discussion.

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