The New Jihad

Al-Jihad 1.0

In the early 1950s, the National Socialist leadership of Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt created a commando unit, the Fedayeen,[1] to attack Israel within its borders in hopes of destabilizing the fledging nation.

This group, organized under the direction of SS-Gruppenführer Hajj Amin al-Husseini, and  Amin Omar (Johannes) von Leers, was recruited from among young Muslim Brotherhood  members in the Egyptian Army and in Cairo University, and was trained by Nazi SS officers like SS-Sturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny,  SS-Untersturmführer Wilhelm Boerner (Willy Berner), and Kreishauptmann  Erich Altern.[2]

This collaboration between Amin el-Husseini and Omar Amin von Leers produced the first of the Jihadist organizations as we know them today. It was, in fact, an advanced version of the Mufti’s pro-Nazi organization Al’Jihad al’muqqadas, commanded in 1947 by Ali Salameh, a Wehrmacht major that had arrived in Palestine in 1944 as part of Hitler’s aid package to the Mufti,[3] and the Arab League’s Jaysh al-Inqadh al-Arabi (Arab Liberation Army), also led by a Werhrmacht officer, Fawzi al-Quawuqji, made up of a coterie of carryovers from Rommel’s Afrikakorps, escapees from war prisoner camps and Albanian and Bosnian Muslims recruited by the Mufti during the war to wage guerrilla warfare on the British forces in Palestine. No one seemed to be troubled that this “Arab nationalists” were no more than “German volunteers [who], as in the old days, have adopted ‘Die Fahne Hoch’ as their marching song.”[4]


Fawzi al-Quawuqji, 1948


The fourth leg of this table was the Muslim Brotherhood. It was, after all, a leader of the German financed Brotherhood that in 1944 had called for a Jihad against Jews, “who needed to be destroyed like sick dogs.”[5] With German financing, the Muslim Brotherhood was at the end of WWII an impressive organization with more than a half a million members in Egypt, organized in over 1,500 chapters. And they now embraced Amin el-Husseini as their spiritual leader. It was this support that led the Arab League to appoint the Mufti as the Palestinian Leader, if in name only, in 1946. Upon the Mufti’s returned from Paris, he was extolled by the Muslim Brotherhood as a “hero [who] fought Zionism with the help of Hitler and Germany. Hitler and Germany are gone, but Amin Al-Husseini will continue the struggle.”[6]

The efforts of this band of commandoes were, in spite of continuing low-level attacks starting in 1951, largely ineffective. Neither did the Muslim population join them, nor where they able to inflict more damage than the random killing of civilians, mostly in isolated areas.


Israeli policemen at a site where 5 Fedayeen were killed, 1956


In the end, the Egyptian Army was soundly defeated in 1973, and the Fedayeen melted into the PLO and other terrorist organizations.

Al-Jihad 2.0

By the late 1970s, as Egypt moved into a peace process that culminated in 1979 with the signing of the Camp David accords, what was left of these trained commandoes steeped into the ideology of Husseini and von Leers went into the second stage of their development.

Their target now was not just Israel, but the Arab leaders that had “betrayed” them. The spectacular introduction of this new phase was the assassination of Anwar el-Sadat in 1981, by al-Jihad, formed by Muslim Brotherhood members, some trained as Fedayeen, and who later became one of the founding groups of al-Qa’ida.


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Assassination of Anwar el-Sadat, 6 October 1981


Alas, the Muslims masses failed, yet again, to join them. Despite an intense campaign of terrorist attacks in the 80s and early 90s, and serious attempts to provoke the Muslim population into following Iran’s example to establish theocracies in place of what they described as corrupt regimes too accommodating to the West, their efforts fizzled into little more than bands of marauders.

Al Jihad 3.0

In the mid-1990s, the leaders of al-Jihad struck a deal with Osama bin-Laden and changed their strategy again. Now the enemy were no longer the governments of Arab and Muslim countries but Western “crusaders”.

Saudi collaboration in the first Gulf War, allowing the establishment of military bases on its soil to contain Iraq, provided the excuse. In 1996, Al Quds al-Arabi, a London newspaper, published the first of a series of Fatwas by bin-Laden:

“Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places.” In it, bin-Laden, now associated with Aymann al-Zawahiri, declared (in a long and rambling tirade as difficult to read as it is to comprehend):

“The people of Islam awakened and realized that they are the main target for the aggression of the Zionist-Crusaders alliance…The latest and the greatest of these aggressions, incurred by the Muslims since the death of the Prophet (ALLAH’S BLESSING AND SALUTATIONS ON HIM) is the occupation of the land of the two Holy Places -the foundation of the house of Islam, the place of the revelation, the source of the message and the place of the noble Ka’ba, the Qiblah of all Muslims- by the armies of the American Crusaders and their allies… Our Lord, the people of the cross had come with their horses (soldiers) and occupied the land of the two Holy places. And the Zionist Jews fiddling as they wish with the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the route of the ascendance of the messenger of Allah (ALLAH’S BLESSING AND SALUTATIONS ON HIM). Our Lord, shatter their gathering, divide them among themselves, shaken the earth under their feet and give us control over them; Our Lord, we take refuge in you from their deeds and take you as a shield between us and them.”


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Bin Laden’s declaration of War’s first effect


But the Muslim masses did not join them. On the contrary, as events in Afghanistan and Iraq later were to show, most Muslims regarded the ramblings of bin-Laden as no more that those of a lunatic and, with the notable exemption of Iran, were perfectly happy to join with efforts to eradicate them from their lands.

Al-Jihad 4.0In 2008 two things happened.

First the US government adopted a policy of appeasement and abandoned its allies in the Middle East and, second, al-Qa’ida adopted a new strategy based in the also rambling and endless tract (1,600 pages!) of Abu Musab al-Suri, a veteran of 30 years of Jihad, close collaborator of bin-Laden and al-Zawahiri and beneficiary of Western largess. The strategy is carefully laid out in “The Global Islamic Resistance Call.”[7]

Al-Suri called for hundreds of attacks by small cells and individuals using all sorts of mundane weapons: cars, trucks, axes, knives, homemade explosive devises in the “underbelly” of the West. That is, From Paris and Brussels to Orlando and San Bernardino.


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Al-Suri (left, and bin Laden, c. 1994


Since Jihad has been unable to motivate Muslims to join a holy war, the object of the new strategy is to provoke westerners to do it, by reacting against the Muslim communities in the West in hopes that that will, in turn, finally cause a rising of Muslims worldwide in defense of their brethren.

So far, it has not happened. But the increasing virulence of anti-Muslim discourse in the West is not a good sign.

Let’s hope our “Holy Warriors” do not prove to be the tool the terrorists need to escape what will otherwise be total defeat at the hands of the largest Arab-Muslim-Western coalition ever assembled.

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Demonstrators playing into the hands of al-Qa’ida

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[1] Fedayeen from “fedai” one who gives his life for a cause had been used in the 19th century to denote an Ismaili assassin.

[2] One of the earliest trainees was Yasser Arafat, a Lieutenant in the Egyptian Army and, he claimed, a nephew of Hajj Amin al-Husseini.

[3] Gershon Avner to HIS-AD, 13 April 1948, HA 105/31 as quoted by Benny Morris, 1948, 121, and Joseph Nevo, The Arabs of Palestine, 1947-48: Military and Political Activity, published in  Middle Eastern Studies, 23, No. 1 (Jan. 1987), p. 35.

[4] Der Spiegel, 13 March 1948, p. 11.

[5] Thomas Mayer, Egypt and the Palestine Question: 1936-1945, Berlin, 1983, p. 191.

[6] Jeffrey Herf, Nazi Propaganda in the Arab World , Yale University Press, 2009, p. 244: Hassan Al-Banna and the Mufti of Palestine, in Contents of Secret Bulletin of Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin dated 11 June 1946, Cairo, July 23rd, 1946, NACP RG 226 (Office of Strategic Services), Washington Registry SI Intelligence, Field Files, entry 108A, box 15, folder 2.

[7] The full text can be found here:ührerSS-Sturmbannführer

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