Analyzing the Palestinian Islamic Jihad
While the early PIJ nucleus held study circles on Qutb and Al-Afghani, their transformation into a resistance faction with material capability against the Zionist regime came in large part from recruiting former Fateh, PFLP, DFLP, and ALF fedayeen in prison. So what does this mean?
The analysis of the question of Palestine and liberation from colonialism and imperialism was always posited in a materialist way for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and one of its founding fathers, Fathi Al-Shiqaqi. “This is the history of the superpowers’ relationship with oppressed peoples” (1).
While he argues that there are certainly Quranic justifications for the falling of tyrants and the freedom of Muslims, Al-Shiqaqi always analyzed them in two separate but interrelated ways. Though there definitely seems to be some common ground between the works of Al-Shiqaqi and communists of the Third World (Amin, Fanon, PFLP), yet I also see in Al-Shiqaqi some elements of the Civilizational theories (Dugin, Abdel-Malek).
PIJ documents often separate the materialist and metaphysical arguments with regards to imperialism, colonialism, and the West’s ‘crusader ideology’, thus Al-Shiqaqi does not make grand claims about Islam as a 'pill' the whole world needs to swallow, although Ramadan Shallah, another PIJ founding father, is more convinced that the entire world should be converted to Islam.
In the work of Al-Shiqaqi, we can see Islam as a unique solution in the geographical, cultural, and spiritual arena of the Arab/Islamic civilizational sphere (AFR-Arabian in the words of Ali Mazrui (2)). By this, I mean that a unique type of society could be built in this area; this civilizational project could have Islam as a metaphysical and cultural frame of reference, and socialism (or in fact any other method of politico-economic organization) as the economic and political frame of reference. For example, in China under the guidance of the CPC, Socialism with Chinese characteristics is what works. It is socialism uniquely adapted to the local, regional, and modern conditions of China. Thus, we have seen President Xi Jinping reviving Confucianism to humanize the peaceful development in the PRC, and using cultural-civilizational touch points that are part of the Chinese lexicon (3).
In Bolivarian Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor, Comandante Hugo Chavez, never renounced Christianity, and are themselves deeply true believers who understand that Christianity acts as a moral and metaphysical framework for their people. Yet, they also understand how amenable Christianity is to the construction of Bolivarian socialism. When I read the PIJs’ political and historical documents, I saw these features for Palestine and the whole Ummah. Obviously, local conditions differ greatly (Sykes-Picot and the division of the Ummah made it this way) but this is what I envision for an Islamic socialism. Yet, as Al-Shiqaqi notes, all of our struggles right now are based on “calculations of immediate gain and loss” (4) instead of a coordinated and integrated attempt to build an Islamic renaissance.
While the early PIJ nucleus held study circles on Qutb and Al-Afghani, their transformation into a resistance faction with material capability against the Zionist regime came in large part from recruiting former Fateh, PFLP, DFLP, and ALF fedayeen in prison (5). So what does this mean? Firstly, it means that the colonial prisons have been the site of the development of new advancements in the struggle for Palestine. Secondly, it means that with a civilizational approach to history, as opposed to a purely metaphysical or purely materialistic approach, organizations and their philosopher-martyrs can adequately analyze and study their conditions, while also providing a solution to the contradictions of these conditions.
Looking deep into history with a full understanding of the civilizational approach has benefits when studying the Arab-Islamic civilizational sphere. According to Abdel Malek: “The first wave of invasions, looting, penetration, occupation was to hit the Arab-Islamic region, starting from the ninth century, from the Crusades to Zionist militarism” (6). Al-Shiqaqi recognized this when he recalled the heroes of Palestine and simultaneously diagnosed the collective West as adhering to a crusader ideology:
Thirteen centuries later, in one of the honorable days and on the path of extended continuation—the continuation and persistence of this great religion— came the…Husseini pioneer called Izz al-Din al-Qassam. He raised his small hand in the face of the next crusader invasion. Confronting the foul Britain and its Zionist affiliate, Al-Qassam fell as a [Husseini] martyr on the mountains of Palestine. (7)
The civilizational approach allows us to use cultural touchpoints with respect to historical and power-political analysis. It also allows us to stretch and use the strengths of the Marxist historical materialist approach for our own local conditions. This is the lesson of Fanon, that in the colonial context Marxism must be stretched, revisited, and reinterpreted. The above quote by martyr Fathi Al-Shiqaqi is also evidence of the ability of the Axis of Resistance to transcend the sectarian splits in our Ummah, which are exploited and aggravated through the collective West’s crusader ideology.
So while Erik Skare argues in his books on the PIJ that “Ali Shari’ati represents an Islamic Marxist position, and represents the most ‘centrist’ Islamic position, more akin to Khomeini”, as their positions are far from incompatible, the assertion that the martyr Izz al-Din Al-Qassam is ‘Husseini’ carries with it the weight of the Arab-Islamic civilizational project. This above quote highlights that in the realm of creed, Al-Shiqaqi and the PIJ see Shi’a Muslims as no different than their Sunni coreligionists, and that Shi’a-Sunni conflicts are Zionist driven fitna (strife) that seeks to sew discord.
The recent rapprochement between Hamas and the Syrian Arab Republic shows that the rise of multipolarity and the end of American and Zionist designs in West Asia requires a twofold approach. The first approach, according to Alexander Dugin, is that “correct evaluation of geopolitical timing is crucial”.
The growing strength of Ansarullah in Yemen, the evident weakness of the Zionists in their negotiations with Lebanon regarding the Karish gas field, the rising strength of the Palestinian resistance factions, the US and NATO’s tunnel vision in Ukraine, the growth of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (now including Syria); all of these developments point to a crucial time for a renewed push towards liberation.
The second approach relates to promoting unity in struggle across ideological and sectarian lines. Baathist Syria, an Islamic Iran renewed in strength, Shia Hezbollah, Sunni Hamas and PIJ, secular-nationalist PFLP, and Zaydi Ansar Allah can and have united to work towards expelling the invaders, what's left is to plan for the future. What will this future liberation look like? Is it possible to view things like Al-Shiqaqi did? A dual approach of spirituality and shrewd geopolitical analysis with respect for the religious and cultural lives of the people, combined with a government and economy capable of promoting equality and a good life for its citizens is necessary, in my opinion.
The rights of other cultural expressions within the Arab-Islamic civilizational sphere must be respected: Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Kurds, Assyrians, Jews, and other minority groups must be respected and integrated into this renewed civilization.
So again we see the power of the civilizational approach, not in the style of Huntington, which carries with it the anxieties of the collective West in the face of the rise of multipolarity, but in the style of Alexander Dugin and Anouar Abdel-Malek, where the cultural traditions of the oppressed peoples are not ridiculed, nor subject to an infantile leftist anti-theism. Instead, these cultural touchpoints are cherished, revised for the current epoch, and seen through a lens of liberation from the domination of invading states. The analytical strength of historical materialism remains in this case as well, and it strengthens the civilizational approach. An Islamic approach, unique to our civilizational project, is what propelled and drove martyr Fathi al-Shiqaqi; his participation from the prisons and the grassroots allowed him to see from the great heights of the civilizational view that every problem has a unique solution.
(1) Al-Shiqaqi quoted in Skare, Erik. A History of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Cambridge University Press, 2021.
(2) Mazrui, Ali A. Euro-Jews and Afro-Arabs: The Great Semitic Divergence in World History. University Press of America, 2008.
(4) Al-Shiqaqi quoted in Skare, Erik. A History of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Cambridge University Press, 2021.
(6) Abdel-Malek, Anouar. Nation and Revolution. State University of New York Press, 1981.
(7) Al-Shiqaqi quoted in Skare, Erik. A History of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Cambridge University Press, 2021.