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Editorial: Salafist Jihadi groups in the West Bank?

Nov. 28, 2013 2:51 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 3, 2014 7:46 P.M.)
By: Nasser Lahham
Immediately after Israeli forces murdered Mahmoud al-Najjar, Mousa Makhamra and Muhammad Nayroukh in Yatta on Tuesday, Israel started a large media campaign claiming the three men were planning to found an al-Qaeda-affiliated group in the West Bank.

The campaign was very fast, very large and prepared in advance. Media outlets in the Arab world and in Palestine bought the Israeli argument to a certain extent by quoting reports about the incident from Israeli sources.

The absence of an official Palestinian account, and the fact that Palestinian factions and security services remained silent, helped circulate the Israeli account and even give it some credibility. The public dislikes silence and vacuums in such situations because it leaves more room for curiosity and encourages more circulation of the Israeli account which accuses the Hizb al-Tahrir (Liberation Party) of creating fertile ground for jihadists. If that is the case, Israel all of a sudden decided to put the group through a test.

Benjamin Netanyahu's government turned everybody's attention away from the ugly assassination and instead propagandized a cinematic plot justifying the death penalty without trial. The world has almost forgotten that Israeli forces carried out a predetermined, well planned military attack against young men in the prime of their youth driving a civilian car.

They were in possession of a handgun. What does it mean to have a handgun in the first place? In fact, Israel kills over intentions rather than deeds, unlike international law, and all human-made laws, which prosecute people over what they do and not what they aspire to. In Israel, things work differently. Israel believes that any Palestinian who deep in his mind considers taking action against Israel, has to be murdered. The question is whether there is a single Palestinian on earth who has never considered taking action against the Israeli occupation.

So are there Jihadist Salafists in Palestine? If the answer is yes, I don't think that the news is as dangerous as Israel is trying to circulate. It is a natural reaction to the ongoing occupation and inter-factional rivalry in Palestine. In this country, one can find all kinds of beliefs and organizations including, to say the least, liberalism, human rights, animal rights and other rights. As for organizations, they range from the average classic groups to groups adopting radical Islamist beliefs in line with what they see and hear about in neighboring countries.

Fighting Jihadist Salafist ideologies and radicalism shouldn't be through targeted assassinations of supporters of these ideologies, simply because, violence begets violence. The right way to do that is through the withdrawal of the occupation on one hand, and through dialogue between Palestinian organizations and Salafists on the other. Those people should be invited to dialogue sessions to listen to their thoughts and obsessions.

There will never be any solution except through education, reflection, dialogue and participation. Israel has been trying for years to get religious people to do military service through dialogue with those people and through listening to their demands.
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