The thirty-second issue of the ever so slick magazine Sada al-Jihad is out. Like the rest of jihadi media these days, it focuses on Gaza. Practically the entire 41-page journal is devoted to Palestine, and the front page features a close-up picture of the blood-stained face of a Palestinian child. However, the articles do not seem to contain many original viewpoints and analyses. They highlight the civilian suffering, the treason of the Arab leaders, and the futility of the moderate Muslim Brotherhood approach. Much of this has been heard before.
But this does not mean the Gaza rhetoric is inconsequential. For many I am stating the obvious, but the Israeli assault on Gaza has greatly benefited al-Qaida propagandists and recruiters. In 2007 and 2008, the global jihadist message was losing some of its resonance, partly as a result of Iraq’s sectarian turn, bickering within the jihadi movement, and the absence of new symbols of Muslim suffering. Gaza reinvigorated the global jihadist movement and provided a much-needed new rallying cause. I do not doubt that we will soon feel its repercussions in the form of new recruitment and perhaps more violent activity. By the way, it is a relief to finally see Western officials such as Alan West publicly recognizing the connection between Palestine and global jihadism.
The last time Palestine caused a similar stir was during the early days of the al-Aqsa intifada, which was then accompanied by a massive increase in the flow of recruits to al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan. Today the impact will be somewhat more difficult to measure, since new recruits have fewer places to go, but I would not be surprised if we see an increase in the number of people trying to go to Iraq, Afghanistan and other jihad fronts.
We are also starting to see foreign volunteers making it to the battlefront in Palestine. Princeton Professor Bernard Haykel kindly brought to my attention the martyrdom biography of a Saudi fighter named Abu Muhammad al-Marri who was recently killed in Gaza. Although he is not the first Saudi to try to join the jihad in Palestine, he is, to my knowledge, the first to die in combat there. The novelty is not that foreign jihadists want to fight in Palestine – they always wanted to – but rather that al-Marri made it through and was allowed to fight by the Palestinians. There are three ways to interpret this report: 1) as a fluke – al-Marri had a Palestinian wife so he may not have been seen as an outsider; 2) as reflecting a decision by Hamas to allow in a Saudi or two to embarrass the Saudis, or 3) as reflecting a strategic decision by Hamas to accommodate more foreign volunteers. Only time will show which one it is.
Meanwhile, here is the table of contents of Sada al-Jihad 32:
• The Gaza war: if we lose, our enemies will benefit (leader)
• Hamas: correct the basis and fear God, not people (by Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi)
• Gaza, attacked by the Jews and besieged by the apostates and the infidels (Abd al-Aziz al-Julayyil)
• The Gaza massacre and the siege of the traitors (Ayman al-Zawahiri)
• Gaza, a war that distinguished the ranks and uncovered positions (Sada al-Jihad special)
• Reflections on the jurisprudence of jihad (part 2) (Muhammad al-Shaybani)
• Believers are brothers (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi)
• A call for jihad and to end the aggression on Gaza (Usama bin Ladin)
• The lies of the blood profiteers are uncovered in the cities of Gaza and al-Ahya (Abu Taha al-Miqdad)
• The great scandal (Ahmad al-Masri)
• Will Palestinians understand those waging war on them? (Akram Hijazi)
• Amir al-Shihri (Abu Hilal)
• How do you confront an interrogator?
• A call to the monotheists
Document (Arabic): 01-28-09-faloja-sada-al-jihad-32
Document (Arabic): 01-28-09-almoltaqa-saudi-martyr-in-gaza