Israel launched air strikes on the Gaza Strip last Friday in a pre-emptive operation because, it claimed, the Islamic Jihad movement was planning to launch an attack across Gaza's nominal border. Senior Islamic Jihad figure Taysir Al-Jabari and a number of his companions were martyred when the Israelis targeted the building he was in. The movement declared that the Israeli attack was a declaration of war, and its response was launched soon thereafter.
According to a political analysis, it appears that there are three factors that directly concern the Israeli government which were behind the attack. The first was the allegation that Islamic Jihad was preparing an attack on Israelis. Hence, the occupation state's "precautionary" measures, including the arrest of dozens of Islamic Jihad activists in the occupied West Bank, the most prominent of which was Bassam Al-Saadi. The movement responded by saying that these measures were unjustified, and gave the Israeli authorities a time limit to release Al-Saadi, saying that if he was not released, it would be forced to respond militarily.
The upcoming Israeli General Election is also a factor. With three leading politicians seeking to be the next prime minister — interim PM Yair Lapid, former PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Benny Gantz — each must "prove" his security credentials. There is no better arena for the Zionists to do this than the occupied Palestinian territories.
Finally, there is Islamic Jihad's alliance with Iran, from where it gets funding and arms. It seems clear that the Israeli government wants to employ this factor by telling people that the army hit Iran's proxy in the Gaza Strip and killed one of its leaders.
The Islamic Jihad movement makes no secret of the fact that it is part of an axis led by Iran. Its Secretary-General, Ziad Al-Nakhala, is currently in Tehran and he threatened to hit Israel with missile strikes that do not take into consideration any red lines. However, the movement has always said that it does not receive instructions from Iran or anyone else and that it makes its own decisions suited to the Palestinian arena. Many Western analysts consider the movement to be the most radical of all the Palestinian factions, and they claim that Iran is using it as a means to turn Gaza into an arena for a confrontation with Israel, as well as to militarise the West Bank, where the Jenin Brigades are located.
Regardless of what the West, the US and Israel claim about the links and alignments of Islamic Jihad, and regardless of what the movement says about the independence of its political and military decisions, it must be admitted that Tehran wants to act on its intelligence gathering, and that it prefers to do so with non-Iranian proxies. This is where the Palestinian arena comes into play as a strategic option. This is nothing unusual. All of the conflicts in the Middle East are linked to each other, so we find that the Iranian regime invests in every file, problem and incident that occurs in the region. Statements by Iranian officials are heard about any crisis, so Ismail Qaani, for example, the commander of the Quds Force, said that Lebanon's Hezbollah is preparing to launch the final strike on Israel and eliminate it, and that the resistance camp is ready. This full-time adoption of Palestinian resistance operations is an Iranian investment in the Palestinian national liberation movement. Where is the problem in that?
The main problem does not lie in the statement made by the Commander-in-Chief of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hossein Salami, during his meeting with Al-Nakhleh: "The liberation of Palestine is more than a wish, but an inevitable strategy for the Iranian people. Our goal and strategy are to liberate the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque and restore the occupied Palestinian land to its true owner."
Nor does the problem lie in the constant threats against Israel issued by Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Iran's proxy in Lebanon, nor in the statements of the Iraqi and Houthi militias that they are ready to fight the Israeli enemy. These are all statements offered in political auctions that we are used to hearing.
In fact, the problem is that some have started to reflect all the grievances they suffer at the hands of Iran's militias and their extended arms in the so-called axis of resistance on Palestine, to the extent that we hear them saying, "Since this Palestinian party or that party allied with Iran, Palestine will no longer be our concern." Some anti-Iran Arab regimes thus place Palestine in the same equation as Iran.
This short-sighted and mistaken understanding knocks the Palestinian cause out of its place in our hearts as a moral issue in the conscience of every Arab individual. It also serves the Iranian regime greatly, as it seeks to acquire the Palestinian cause and invest in it.
What we must understand is that Palestine is not Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah, the PFLP or any other faction. It is not a political issue that we disagree on with Iran or anyone else, leaving it to them whenever we want, just because of a political position adopted by any Palestinian party or because a Palestinian party resorted to another one elsewhere.
Palestine is an Arab land, an Arab neighbour and a cause that must remain central in the mind of every Arab individual. We must also be aware of the fact that abandoning Palestine will make the resistance movements connected voluntarily or otherwise to the Iranian project, which will map out the political, social and even cultural future of the cause until further notice, especially after the fall of the regional Arab system. The Palestinian resistance movements are trying to acquire the wherewithal to deter Israel by all means possible in order to stop the occupation state from its repeated shedding of Palestinian blood and to force it to concede to the Arab right to obtain a viable independent state of Palestine. When the Arabs leave the Palestinian arena, Tehran and others will fill the vacuum by giving the Palestinian forces means of deterrence, but taking advantage of this deterrence will be down to the forces that granted it, whether Iranian or others.
Over the decades, the Arab people have paid money and blood for the Palestinian cause. Mothers and fathers have struggled to make Palestine a living reality in the minds of all the people of the Arab nation, which prompted thousands of young people from different Arab countries to become fedayeen fighters at the height of the Palestinian resistance era in the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s. Today, it shows immense ingratitude to those mothers and fathers if popular interest in the Palestinian cause declines in most of our Arab countries due to the education processes led by some regimes and political circles, which say that the Palestinian cause has become a political card in the hands of Tehran due to the close relationship between this or that Palestinian faction and Iran. They then use this to justify the pathetic and flawed option of normalising with Israel and completely abandoning our people and our land in Palestine. This cannot be allowed to continue.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 8 August 2022
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.