In an interview, Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, the Sheikh of Al-Azhar - the highest ranking religious official in Egypt and a presidential appointee - called for Jihad against Israel "in defense of the holy places, the liberation of the land, and the repulsion of the enemy." He stated that combating the oppression is incumbent upon the entire Islamic nation [Ummah] and not an obligation of the Palestinians alone. Sheikh Tantawi also declared that Islam requires that the leaders and people of the Arab and Islamic states support the Jihad of the Palestinian people.
Jihad is Mandatory
QUESTION: The unjust Israeli attacks on our brothers in Palestine have led many clerics [Ulama] to demand the revival of the spirit of Jihad in the souls of the youth of the [Islamic] nation, in order to confront the enemy and liberate the pillaged land. How do you view this call now? Do we need to declare a Jihad against Israel?
ANSWER: Jihad in the path of Allah is a virtue that binds Muslims at all times, and it is an obligation on everyone who is able to carry it out, and tens of Qur'anic verses narrate the virtue of Jihad in the path of Allah, as well as tens of prophetic Hadiths [traditions]. ...Jihad to confront the enemy and liberate the pillaged land is an obligation on Muslims in every time and place. Jihad in Islam was not legislated in order to fight faithful people, or to take away their money, violate their [women's] honor, occupy their land, curtail their freedoms, or negate their dignity. Rather, the Jihad was legislated to repel the aggressor enemy, support the oppressed, exalt the word of the Allah, and to fight the vile. This is what our brothers are now doing in occupied Palestine. Their Jihad against the enemy, against oppression, and against the Israeli tyranny is a legitimate and noble Jihad. It is obligatory for the entire [Islamic] nation... to support them in their Jihad. It is sufficient... that they are wage Jihad in the name of the entire [Islamic] nation and advancing their spirits in sacrifice to the religion of Allah and in defense of the blessed Al-Aqsa mosque. ...The entire [Islamic] nation... supports them... in the defense of their holy places and asserts their legitimate rights to [wage] Jihad to stop the enemy and the oppression which they have endured Allah afflicted them with, and since the entire Ummah was afflicted by, what is called "Israel."
On Fighting the Jews
QUESTION: Does this mean that fighting the Jews is a duty, so that the land can be liberated and Israel restrained from its tyranny and enmity?
ANSWER: Allah the Almighty says in His book, "Fight in the path of Allah those who fight you and do not transgress, for Allah does not love transgressors." ...Fighting in Israel is an obligation... in support of the oppressed, and it is... fighting in order to repel the aggressors. As long as the Jews are aggressors and pillage our rights and spill our blood, it is our duty to fight them. If they stop fighting, recognize our rights, and return the pillaged land to us, then it is our duty to treat them well and adhere to our [good] treatment of them...
"Peace is rejected"
Q: Several days ago during the Al-Quds rally, you raised the slogan, "What was taken by force can only be returned by force." Does this mean that you have lost hope in the peace negotiations with Israel and that you support the choice of force?
A: Israel is the one that is forcing us to choose force, because it does not want a just and comprehensive peace with us...
 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Oct. 10, 2000. The initial interview was in the United Arab Emirates paper Al-Khaleej.