Israel at a Crossroads—Unable to Vanquish Resistance or Negotiate Peace
In this interview conducted by JPS’s sister publication, Majallat al-Dirasat al-Filastiniyya (MDF), Dr. Ramadan Abdallah Shallah, the secretary-general of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine (Harakat al-jihad al-islami fi Filastin), discusses the background and consequences of Israel’s 2014 offensive against the Gaza Strip, the regional context of the conflict, and his organization’s role in these events.
Shallah, born in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shuja‘iya in 1958, obtained his doctorate in economics from the University of Durham in the United Kingdom and was subsequently adjunct professor at the University of South Florida in the United States. In 1995, he assumed the leadership of Islamic Jihad after the movement’s charismatic founder, Fathi Shikaki, was assassinated in an Israeli operation in Malta. The Shikaki assassination is often portrayed by Israel as an instance in which an organization is dealt a mortal blow by the physical elimination of its leader. While Islamic Jihad was indeed slow to recover, today it is an integral component of the Palestinian national movement, politically as well as militarily, and particularly so in the Gaza Strip.
Shallah himself remains based in Damascus, reflecting the closer relations Islamic Jihad has traditionally nurtured with Iran and Syria, when compared to Hamas. On the strength of its relationship with what is often referred to as “the axis of resistance,” Islamic Jihad boasts a military arsenal and capability that is second only to that of Hamas. Within Palestine, the organization has managed to remain equidistant from both Hamas and Fatah, declining to join the Palestinian Authority while remaining a major proponent of national reconciliation. Despite periodic and sometimes violent tensions with each, it has generally managed to maintain constructive relations with both, and it coordinated closely with Hamas during Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s summer 2014 attack on Gaza.
The interview originally appeared in MDF #100, Autumn 2014, and was translated for JPS by Dima Ayoub.