How Iran funds Palestinian Islamic Jihad

PIJ is an important part of the Iranian strategy for fighting Israel. The regime in Tehran makes use of charities and other civilian organizations, such as money changers, to transfer funds to its allies in Gaza. Analysis

Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei. Photo: Reuters

Since its inception in 1981, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization has openly declared its desire to destroy Israel. Unlike Hamas, PIJ does not provide Gaza residents with civil services, and therefore doesn’t have to answer to any other parties.

As far as terrorist organizations go, PIJ is second only to Hamas in size and significance within the Gaza Strip. Its military wing, Saraya al-Quds, has about 15,000 members. Despite its small size compared to Hamas, PIJ has influence through its ability to escalate tensions with Israel by initiating rocket launches. This has been demonstrated several times in the past few years.

PIJ has a deep ideological connection to Iran – one which was established by PIJ founder Fathi Shaqaqi, who saw Iran under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini as an example to be followed. Iran is currently the only arms supplier for PIJ, which increases the organization’s allegiance to the Tehran. Despite the sanctions Iran is facing, its leader, Ali Khamenei, is determined to keep funding Palestinian terror against Israel – even if the scale of support is reduced.

Iran has a wide array of financial channels through which it can transfer funds to the PIJ, as well as to other “resistance” organizations in Gaza. The Al-Ansar Charity Foundation, established in 2001, is associated with PIJ and is used as an arm of Iran with which to move money into Gaza. A senior Al-Ansar member revealed in 2019 that Iran gives aid to 9,000 families every three months – most of which are families of terrorists.

The Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation is another funding mechanism. The foundation’s Lebanese branch was placed under sanctions in 2010 by the US for helping fund Hezbollah. The foundation regularly gives humanitarian aid to Gaza, and Iran uses this activity to maintain its connections with terrorist organizations there.

The Iranian Red Crescent is another probable avenue for illicit funding of terrorism. The organization operates under a humanitarian guise, but considering the organization’s history with the Revolutionary Guard, it’s highly likely that Tehran is usingit to smuggle weapons and money to terrorists in Gaza. Even though it is used in this manner by Iranian rulers, The Iranian Red Crescent is not on the US sanction list.

Money changers for terror

Gazan money changers are also being used by Iran to fund terrorism. During an escalation of tensions between Israel and Hamas in May 2019, Israel killed Hamed Al-Khoudary – a field commander in the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. Folowing his assassination, the IDF revealed that Al-Khoudary was the owner of a money changing company that was classified as a terrorist organization by Israel in June 2018. In the past few years, Khoudary was responsible for transferring large amounts of money to Hamas, PIJ and other Gazan terror organizations.

Dr. Mansharof is a researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, as well as a Research associate at the Ezri Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies

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