Al-Zarqawi's Plan Before Dying: Al-Qaeda Recruiting Palestinians in Gaza
by Jim Kouri, CPP
The late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, once slammed Hamas for going mainstream by taking part in elections while under Israeli occupation and claimed that Palestinians had “other choices” -- those choices being Al-Qaeda. While many are celebrating the demise of Zarqawi, an impressive terrorism tactician, there is evidence that before being killed he dispatched recruiters to Gaza.
The extreme poverty and hopelessness that are the reality of the fledgling Palestinian State have always created an excellent environment for recruitment by radical groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Now it appears Al-Qaeda recruiters and trainers are getting into the act.
The most vulnerable Palestinians to Al-Qaeda ideology and propaganda are the young adult and teenaged males who now look at Hamas, to a certain degree, as mainstream since the elections that saw them become part of a weak Palestinian government. The young men see the two major parties -- Fatah and Hamas -- involved in political infighting that at times becomes violent, and they see hopes for independence, prosperity and an end to the state of Israel fade.
According to Middle East intelligence experts, there is evidence that Gaza has become a recruitment center for Al-Qaeda. Palestinian security officials working for the President Mahmoud Abbas claim that Osama Bin Laden’s terror network, which in the past wasn't involved in Gaza or the West Bank, is now recruiting among the angry and disillusioned young men.
Some believe that the Al-Qaeda organization has been helped by the lawlessness that has engulfed the Palestinian territories since Hamas emerged as the surprise winner of parliamentary elections and formed a government.
“There is such despair in Gaza: some are ready to sacrifice anything and this creates fertile soil for growing Al-Qaeda,” said Ashraf Juma, a former Fatah fighter, during a BBC interview with reporter Marie Colvin.
Juma spent 18 years in Israeli prisons and is now a Palestinian legislator representing Rafah -- a city that is considered a robust recruitment area for Islamofascists.
“They support Al-Qaeda because they are angry at the American support for Israel and they see Al-Qaeda hurting the Americans. We have a proverb to describe this: ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend,’” he told Colvin.
Intelligence analysts believe that, as its presence in Iraq grows weaker, Al-Qaeda thinks some form of coup in Gaza or the West Bank will increase support for their brand of terrorism and radical Islam across the Middle East, where the fate of the Palestinians is a symbol of the wider Arab cause.
"Any group that wants to fight will have no problem finding weapons; Gaza is awash with guns. Hamas’ policy on rooting out Al-Qaeda is contradictory. Security forces charged with tracking down the organization have no guidelines and Hamas has said it will not arrest anyone resisting Israel. Meanwhile police officers have not been paid for March and there is scant prospect of any wages arriving soon," writes BBC News's Marie Colvin.
“No one knows what is the security policy of the interior minister,” said Samir Masharawi, head of Fatah in Gaza, who liaises between the various Palestinian factions. He continues to hope he will not have to add Al-Qaeda to his list of terrorist groups operating in the region.
Hamas' main strategy has been resistance and jihad, and now they are the government, they are embarrassed to say they should arrest those who are attacking Israel. In addition, Al-Qaeda is stronger and better equipped to wage war than the impoverished Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The paradox is that Hamas depends on foreign aid, including the $50 million the Palestinian government receives from Israel, to purchase weapons and equipment. With the American and European governments cutting back on aid since to many Hamas remains a terrorist group, fewer foreign aid dollars are filtered to the radical groups.
Now that Zarqawi is dead, there may be a shift in his group's strategy. As things become more dangerous for them in Iraq, the remnants of Al-Zarqawa's fighters may turn their eyes on the Palestinian territories.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.