In their coverage of Palestine-Israel, the media often portray Palestinian resistance groups in a very reductive and/or one-sided way. Quite often, the media portray such groups as existing for the sole purpose of destroying Israel, or the words used to describe these groups are the words of their adversaries in Israel or their critics in Canada. Examples of this are rife across Canadian media:
“Hamas, the Islamic militant group sworn to Israel’s destruction,…”[i]
“Israel imposed the blockade after Hamas, a militant group that seeks Israel’s destruction, seized control of Gaza from the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority in 2007.”[ii]
“Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad rejected the idea of peace talks and instead remained sworn to Israel’s destruction.”[iii]
“Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after Hamas, an Islamic militant group that seeks Israel’s destruction, seized control of Gaza in 2007.”[iv]
“Hamas is considered a terrorist group by Canada and other Western nations because it is committed to destroying Israel.”[v]
Palestinians have suffered dispossession, occupation and apartheid under Israel for decades, so it is not surprising that many Palestinian groups take up arms against Israel. Nevertheless, their foremost objectives are, unfailingly, Palestinian freedom, liberation and rights. These objectives are annunciated clearly in such groups’ founding documents, in the statements of their leaders, or in the resolutions passed at their gatherings. Like all socio-political movements, these groups are dynamic, and their positions may shift over time with the evolving geopolitical environment.
Good journalism should make the effort to present a balanced picture of such groups: a picture which could include references to how the group describes itself, what actions a group takes, how a group justifies its actions, how the group’s positions may have shifted over time, and how others perceive the group.
In each of the subsections below, a one-sentence description is proposed for a number of Palestinian groups which engage in armed resistance. Following this “brief” description, a “long” description is proposed. The two descriptions can be appended for a more complete picture of each group. Such descriptions are proposed to help media to avoid a reductive, one-sided approach, and instead to provide a more rounded and balanced description.
Hamas is an Islamic, Palestinian liberation organization which governs certain aspects of the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip, provides social services, runs media outlets, and has a military wing.
(Optional: Although Canada considers Hamas a terrorist organization, many countries do not, and a UN resolution to condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization failed in 2018.[i])
Hamas was founded in 1987 as an Islamic paramilitary group fighting for Palestinian liberation against Israel’s military occupation. In 2006, Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections and, following a power struggle with Fatah, took control of certain aspects of the Gaza Strip in 2007 (which ultimately remains under Israeli “effective control”[ii]). Hamas is dedicated to the liberation of Palestine and resistance to Israel’s military occupation. Since 2004 Hamas leaders have repeatedly and consistently stated that they would accept a peace agreement based on an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders (i.e. the Green Line). However, its original 1988 Charter rejected peace negotiations with Israel, and this is frequently and misleadingly cited as evidence that Hamas is committed to Israel’s destruction. Hamas’ militant wing is the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, whose rocket attacks from Gaza are typically its most visible acts of armed resistance.
“Hamas Accepts Palestinian State with 1967 Borders”, Al Jazeera, May 2, 2017, accessed July 11, 2023 at https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/5/2/hamas-accepts-palestinian-state-with-1967-borders.
“Hamas in 2017: The Document in Full”, Middle East Eye, May 2, 2017, accessed July 11, 2023 at https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/hamas-2017-document-full.
Laub, Zachary, and Robinson, Kali. “What Is Hamas?”, Council on Foreign Relations, August 17, 2021, accessed June 28, 2023 at https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/what-hamas
Tahhan, Zena. “Hamas vs Fatah: Same Goal, Different Approaches”, Al Jazeera, Oct.12, 2017, accessed July 11, 2023 at https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2017/10/12/hamas-and-fatah-how-are-the-two-groups-different.
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC)
The group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) is a secular, Palestinian nationalist group seeking to establish a Palestinian homeland through armed struggle.
The PFLP-GC was founded in 1968 after a split from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which it considered insufficiently committed to the armed struggle to liberate Palestine. In the 1970s and 1980s it was involved in a number of terrorist attacks against Israel, but its activities, tactics and alliances have shifted over the decades. Based in Syria and Lebanon, the group has had long-standing links to the Syrian government and allied actors in Lebanon. The ideology of the group and its support among Palestinian refugees has not always been clear. However, it has been consistently opposed to a political settlement with Israel, and after leaving the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1974, has never returned.
“5 Palestinian fighters killed in Lebanon blast blamed on Israel,” Aljazeera, May 31, 2023, accessed July 1, 2023 at https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/5/31/5-palestinian-fighters-killed-in-lebanon-blast-blamed-on-israel
“PFLP, DFLP, PFLP-GC, Palestinian leftists,” Council on Foreign Relations, Oct. 31, 2005, accessed June 28, 2023 at https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/pflp-dflp-pflp-gc-palestinian-leftists
“Popular Front For The Liberation Of Palestine–General Command (PFLP–GC)”, European Council on Foreign Relations, accessed July 1, 2023 at https://ecfr.eu/special/mapping_palestinian_politics/popular_front_for_the_liberation_of_palestine_general_command/
“Popular Front For The Liberation Of Palestine–General Command (PFLP–GC),” Encyclopedia.com, accessed July 1, 2023 at https://www.encyclopedia.com/politics/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/popular-front-liberation-palestine-general-command-pflp-gc
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) is a left-wing resistance movement seeking the liberation of Palestine through armed action against Israeli and Western interests.
The PFLP was founded in 1967 as a socialist group committed to the development of a secular, democratic Palestinian state. It used terrorist acts in the 1960s and 1970s – including prominent international airplane hijackings – to draw attention to its movement. In the 1990s, the PFLP rejected the peace negotiations with Israel launched by the PLO and withdrew from the PLO Executive Committee. Nevertheless, the PFLP is still a prominent faction within the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), the second biggest after Fatah. In 2000, the PFLP’s national congress scaled back its ambitions to the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, the withdrawal of Israeli forces to the 1967 borders, the removal of Israeli settlements, and the right of return of Palestinian refugees. Although the PFLP lost resources and support with the fall of the Soviet Union, it occasionally carries out armed attacks via its militant wing – the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades – primarily via the firing of rockets and mortars from the Gaza Strip.
“Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine”, Encyclopædia Britannica, June 7, 2023, accessed July 11, 2023 at https://www.britannica.com/topic/Popular-Front-for-the-Liberation-of-Palestine.
“Profile: Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)”, BBC News, Nov.18, 2014, accessed July 11, 2023 at https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-30099510.
Ibrahim, Arwa. “Profile: The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine”, Middle East Eye, Feb. 13, 2015, accessed July 11, 2023 at https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/profile-popular-front-liberation-palestine.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)
Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is a Palestinian Islamist group that seeks the liberation of historic Palestine through armed struggle.
The PIJ was formed in 1981 as an Islamist paramilitary organization which rejected the growing secularism and moderation of other Palestinian factions. The PIJ was one of the first Palestinian groups to carry out terror attacks against Israel through the use of suicide bombers in the 1990s. The PIJ seeks the creation of a sovereign, Islamic Palestinian state along the pre-1948 borders. The PIJ is opposed to negotiations with Israel, and maintains a focus on military confrontation with Israel rather than on politics. PIJ has strong support in Gaza and certain parts of the West Bank – especially Jenin and Hebron – while also maintaining strong ties to Iran via its leadership in Lebanon and Syria. Its militant wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, continue to make its presence felt through rocket and other armed attacks against Israel.
“Gaza Attack: What Is the Palestinian Islamic Jihad?”, Al Jazeera, August 7, 2022, accessed July 11, 2023 at https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/8/6/gaza-attack-what-is-the-palestinian-islamic-jihad.
“Islamic Jihad”, Mapping Palestinian Politics, accessed July 11, 2023 https://ecfr.eu/special/mapping_palestinian_politics/palestinian_islamic_jihad/
“Israel’s Prime Target: What Is Palestinian Islamic Jihad?”, Al Jazeera, May 11, 2023, accessed July 11 at https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/5/11/israels-prime-target-what-is-palestinian-islamic-jihad.
Debre, Isabel. “What Is Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Gaza Militant Group Now Fighting Israel?”, AP News, May 11, 2023, accessed July 11, 2023 at https://apnews.com/article/gaza-islamic-jihad-israel-hamas-conflict-militants-palestinian-1e45e7c653009c87a7d52ebeefde5595.
Smith, John. “A History of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.” Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2022, see https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/abs/history-of-palestinian-islamic-jihad/history-of-palestinian-islamic-jihad/AF33E414CF6B3EDACCCA01A1B23525B2
The Lions’ Den
The Lions’ Den is a youth-led, nonpartisan, nonsectarian resistance and liberation movement based in the West Bank.
The Lions’ Den emerged in Nablus in 2022 after armed confrontations between the group’s members and occupying Israeli forces. The Lions’ Den is an independent liberation group made up mostly of young men focused on armed struggle against Israeli occupation soldiers and illegal settlers. While the group’s members have ties to various parties, including Hamas, Fatah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), it maintains its independence and claims no affiliation with these established groups. So far, the group has been focused on fighting Israel’s military occupation using tactics like attacking Israeli checkpoints, soldiers, and settlements. The Lions’ Den’s popularity reflects widespread Palestinian anger toward Israel’s occupation, and discontent with the current political leadership, especially among youth. Its effective use of social media has enabled it to speak for itself, gain a strong following, and embody the frustration of many in Palestine.
“Lion’s Den”, Mapping Palestinian Politics, accessed July 11, 2023 at https://ecfr.eu/special/mapping_palestinian_politics/lions-den/
“The Occupied Territories in 2022: largest number of Palestinians killed by Israel in the West Bank since 2004, 2023”, Al Jazeera, January 8, 2023, accessed July 11, 2023 at https://www.btselem.org/press_releases/20230108_the_occupied_territories_in_2022_largest_number_of_palestinians_killed_by_israel_in_the_west_bank_since_2004.
“Who Are the Lions’ Den Armed Group in the Occupied West Bank?”, Al Jazeera, Oct. 26, 2022, accessed July 11, 2023 at https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/10/26/who-are-the-lions-den-armed-group-in-occupied-west-bank-explainer.
Abu Toameh, Khaled. “New Palestinian Militia Lions’ Den, behind Attacks on Soldiers, Settlers”, The Jerusalem Post, Sept. 27, 2022, accessed July 11, 2023 at https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/article-718244
Barghouti, Mariam, and Yumna Patel. “The Story of the Lions’ Den”, Mondoweiss, Nov. 4, 2022, accessed July 11, 2023 at https://mondoweiss.net/2022/11/the-story-of-the-lions-den/.
Baroud, Ramzy. “The Lions’ Den Is Not a Fleeting Phenomenon - an Armed Uprising Looms”, Middle East Monitor, Dec. 20, 2022, accessed July 11, 2023 at https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20221220-the-lions-den-is-not-a-fleeting-phenomenon-an-armed-uprising-looms/.
Estrin, Daniel. “A New Group of Tiktok-Savvy Palestinian Fighters Tests Israeli Forces in the West Bank”, NPR, Oct. 26, 2022, accessed July 11, 2023 at https://www.npr.org/2022/10/26/1131362639/west-bank-lions-den-palestinian-group-israel.
Luck, Taylor, and Abdulkarim, Fatima. “In the Lion’s Den: What a New Militia Offers Young Palestinians”, The Christian Science Monitor, Oct. 27, 2022, accessed July 11, 2023 at https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2022/1027/In-the-Lion-s-Den-What-a-new-militia-offers-young-Palestinians.
Last Updated: 2023-07-14
[i] “UN rejects US-drafted resolution to condemn Hamas,” Aljazeera, Dec. 7, 2018, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/12/7/un-rejects-us-drafted-resolution-to-condemn-hamas
[ii] “Why Gaza is occupied under Israeli Effective Control,” CJPME, June 23, 2023, accessed July 12, 2023 at https://www.cjpmemap.ca/why_gaza_is_occupied_under_israeli_effective_control
[i] “Israel, Hamas agree to cease-fire to end bloody 11-day war,” CityNew Kitchener / Canadian Press, May 21, 2021, accessed July 13, 2023 at https://kitchener.citynews.ca/world-news/israel-hamas-agree-to-cease-fire-to-end-bloody-11-day-war-3797838/
[ii] Federman, Josef, “Ceasefire broken: Israel-Hamas conflict reignites with airstrikes, incendiary balloons,” Global News / Associated Press, June 16, 2021, accessed July 13, 2023 at https://globalnews.ca/news/7954766/israel-hamas-airstrike-militant-sites-gaza/
[iii] Debre, Isabel, “What is Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Gaza militant group now fighting Israel?” Toronto Star / Associated Press, May 11, 2023, accessed July 13, 2023 at https://www.thestar.com/news/world/middleeast/2023/05/11/what-is-palestinian-islamic-jihad-the-gaza-militant-group-now-fighting-israel.html
[iv] Federman, Josef, “Official: Israel to allow Qatari payment to Hamas,” Ottawa Citizen / Associated Press, Janury 24, 2019, accessed July 13, 2023 at https://ottawacitizen.com/pmn/news-pmn/official-israel-to-allow-qatari-payment-to-hamas/wcm/09d1c272-04cd-410b-8210-cf31da601bbf/amp/
[v] Whittington, Les, “Canada restores funding for Palestinians,” Toronto Star, July 24, 2007, accessed July 13, 2023 at https://www.thestar.com/news/2007/07/24/canada_restores_funding_for_palestinians.html