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Shias in Palestine: A Foothold of Iran?

THE LEVANT NEW - By: Labib Taha*--

Shias is one of the major sects in Islam; their name emerged in the first years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. Although Shias and Sunnis sects comply with Islam in general, the disparity between both sides has its aspects in political, intellectual and jurisprudential life of Islam until today.
In Islamic history, the prosperity of any sect depends on, to some extent, the sect of the rulers, whether they are Sunni or Shia. The Shiite sect flourished during the rule of two Shiite states (Fatimid and Buyids), and fell down during the rule of the Ottoman and the Ayyubid states. This hypothesis is right to Sunnis under the rein of the Safavid state in Persia during the sixteenth century.
In regard of Palestine-Fatimid dynasty that located in Egypt- enhanced Shias in Palestine, as well as in other areas in Asia and Africa. Many historians narrated that the inhabitants of Tiberias were Shiites, and the majority of Nablus and Jerusalem inhabitants were Shiites as well.
The Fatimid Caliphate established Dar al-'Ilm (House of Knowledge) in Jerusalem, which had a big role in spreading Shiism. When Palestine had been dominated by Zengid and Ayyubid states, those states adopted Sunnite doctrine and resisted Shias. Ahmed Pasha al-Jazzar, the ruler of Akko, and Ottoman State mount campaigns against Shias; as a result, Shias (as independent and well-known sect) no longer had a presence in Palestine from then on.

The emergence of Shias in the Palestinian territories at the beginning of the third millennium

Someone may believe that Shias emerged in Palestine before the Fourth century Hijri, and they are not totally eradicated at any time, such thing need more investigation and research.
When the boundaries between Palestine and Lebanon were drawn in 1927, Palestine included Shiite villages; however, the villages have been destroyed by Israeli during the 1948 war, and its inhabitants got refuge in Lebanon. Again, no Shias in Palestine officially after that, until the end of the twentieth century.
Nowadays, we hear clearly about Shias and their presence in Palestine. Shias talked about their percentage and circumstances, one of forums on the internet said that there are hundreds of Shias. Others said that Shia’s presence is close to 9% of the Palestinians.
Shias demanded many things in these forums which include: audio-visual materials to learn religious and jurisprudence orders and obligations, establishing a Shiite institution in Palestine and contacting with their brothers abroad to help them to create a Hawza ( religious seminary) in Palestine.
Palestinian Shias said their whereabouts throughout the Holy Land and in the Diaspora. They said they are facing intellectual and ideological terrorism in Gaza and in the West Bank, some of them said they suffer from Israelis.
There are some reasons that have led many Palestinians to become Shias, which include the following:
1 The appreciation of many Palestinians to Hezbollah experience, especially after The 2006 War, which increases the popularity of the its leader Sayed Hassan Nasrallah and Shias in the Palestinian territories.

  1. Iran's support to some Palestinian factions, especially the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIS), resulted in converting of a number of its leaders - according to some sources- and members to Shi’ism.

  2. Israel's deportation of Islamic activists to “Marj al-Zohour” village of West Bekaak in Lebanon in 1992, which resulted in converting some of them to Shias. Also, Some political and intellectual Palestinian figures had converted to Shias in and outside Palestine.

Attitudes toward the spread of Shias in Palestine

The Palestinian Authority does not agree with Iran and Hezbollah’s role in the Palestinian issue, it is said that after the election of Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) as a president of the Palestinian Authority, he sent Abdel Fattah Hamayel as an envoy to Lebanon to meet with Hezbollah officials and ask them not to interfere in Palestinian affairs, especially in the “al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades”, according to press sources.
Hamas attitudes range between denial of the phenomenon and underestimating it. The denial represented in the remarks of Taher al-Nunu, spokesman of Hamas’ government who confirmed to AFP that “religious freedom is fully respected in Gaza,” stressing at the same time that “everyone in the Gaza Strip is Sunni, and he did not heard of any other sects.”
Ahmed Yousef, political adviser to the Prime Minister of Hamas’ government, diminished the importance of the phenomenon and considered it a form of “sympathy and admiration of The Islamic Republic of Iran and Hezbollah without any ideological or religious significance. ”
Hamas found itself forced to deal with a minority sees itself as an extension of The Islamic Republic of Iran in Gaza. Fearing that such thing may adversely affect the relationship with Tehran, which originally had deteriorated due to the Syrian crisis.
“The Islamic Jihad” group is not making any effort to curb the spread of the phenomenon of Shias, due to the depth of its relation with The Islamic Republic of Iran.

Does Palestine Shiites water pours in Iran mill?

Some argue that the presence of Shias in the Palestine is an advantage to The Islamic Republic of Iran that will find a foothold here, and will use Shias as a tool to obtain political gains in its international relations. Others suppose that Shias in Palestine will be loyal to The Islamic Republic of Iran rather than to Palestinian interests.
The above hypothèse seems reasonable, since “France 24” channel cites: Accountant Abdul Rahim Hamad, 42, who announced himself as a Shiite five years ago, told AFP: “We are a stream of Shias in the Gaza, we consider ourselves an extension of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Hezbollah, and consider that this republic as our reference.”
It is important to mention here a statement by Fattah Gholami, one of the officials in the Information Office of the Presidency of the Republic of Iran, who confirmed that the Iranian regime was able to enter Shiism to Palestine, and this is what did not happen at any time before.
The question of the faith is a personal matter and is not entitled to be rejected, the rise of the Shiites in Palestine may be a manifestation of the increasing influence of the Islamic Republic of Iran at regional and international level.

*Labib Taha is a Palestinian journalist based in Ramallah.

Written by The Levant