An Orlando man with violent tendencies committed the deadliest non-military mass shooting in American history and called 911 to profess allegiance to ISIS.
For some, this might as well have been the result of the Israeli “occupation.”
Not long after the Orlando attack, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told the EU Parliament, “Once the occupation ends, terrorism will disappear; there will be no more terrorism in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world.”
This fantastical claim and implication that Israel is to blame for mass murder should come as no surprise, given Abbas’ past anti-Semitic comments (and his promulgating in the same speech the libel that Israeli rabbis called for poisoning Palestinian water).
But it is not just Abbas or the EU Parliament Members who applauded him. High-ranking US officials have made what is in essence, a more moderate version of Abbas’s ISIS-Israel claim.
In December 2015, President Obama’s “ISIS czar,” Rob Malley said that “the absence of a resolution [to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] is fueling extremism” and extremists “refer constantly” to it. Resolving the conflict, Malley said, would be a “major contribution to stemming the rise of extremism.”
Returning from the Middle East in October 2014, US Secretary of State John Kerry commented, in agreement, “There wasn’t a leader I met with in the region who didn’t raise with me spontaneously the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because it was a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation.”
King Abdullah of Jordan was surely one such leader.
Shortly before Kerry’s trip, Abdullah said there was an “increase of foreign fighters going into Syria because of frustration, because of feeling of injustice done to the Palestinians and to what’s happening in Jerusalem.”
“[T]hese extremist organizations use the Palestinian issue as a recruiting course,” he said.
This also seemed to be the rationale for the Paris conference aimed at “reviving the peace process.”
Launching the conference, French President Francois Hollande vaguely argued that changes in the Middle East “make it even more urgent to find a solution to the conflict.”
Of course, to resolve the conflict, the US, Arab leaders and just about everyone else want just what Abbas wants: for Israel to end the so-called “occupation” by making massive territorial and security concessions.
Before granting groups like ISIS and Hamas a playground in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), however, the “recruitment tool” rationale should be considered carefully.
It may be that in online jihadi forums the Israeli- Palestinian conflict is a hot topic, but interestingly enough, Israel is barely mentioned in two manuals reportedly used by ISIS in the West.
In one manual, a recruitment guide published by al-Qaida but estimated to be used by ISIS, the only reference to the conflict is an instruction to refer to “current events and/or horrible occasions (e.g., the siege of Gaza).”
In another manual, “How to Survive in the West: a Mujahid Guide,” Israel’s spying prowess is praised and Israel is accused of sending spies to Muslim countries to plant bombs on civilian infrastructure. The Israeli fighting style, “Krav Maga,” is also praised. The Palestinians are not mentioned.
While this booklet is not a recruiting manual, jihadi grievances are mentioned, such as Muslims being “portrayed as evil terrorists” and “our Prophet… being insulted day and night.” One would think that if the Palestinians figured so prominently, they would be mentioned too.
But accepting that the conflict does anger Muslims, it does not quite follow that a Muslim would be so angry over it as to join ISIS and behead and oppress other Muslims in Iraq and Syria or shoot up a bar in Florida.
Such actions point to a “frustration” and readiness for violence that has little to do with Israel or the Palestinians and more to do with the recruit’s psychological state and the legitimacy of violence in his or her own culture and religious beliefs.
Jihadis also do not complain merely about the conflict or the absence of a Palestinian state living in peace with Israel.
It is the existence of a Western-Jewish state on what they believe is Muslim soil that infuriates them. This challenges their belief that the rule of Islam, as the absolute truth, must expand, not be rolled back in the Holy Land of all places.
As Samar Batrawi of the pro-Palestinian think tank Al Shabaka noted in an article on “Understanding ISIS’s Palestine Propaganda,” while ISIS uses the conflict for propaganda purposes, its propaganda makes clear that it does not view Palestinian suffering as the main problem, rather the lack of governance by Islamic law.
Lastly, suppose a resolution to the conflict would hurt recruitment. A Palestinian state would not necessarily achieve that. Israel’s Gaza withdrawal, for example, exacerbated the conflict, creating more “horrible occasions.” It is also possible that the conflict has no near-term solution.
Blaming the “conflict” or the “occupation” might seem like an easier strategy than fighting groups like ISIS on the ground, especially for those who will not face the consequences of the proposed Palestinian state. But if blunting recruitment for radical Islamic groups is the goal, then pressuring Israel to release convicted terrorists, withdraw troops, and allow the creation of what would likely be a radical Islamic state, would be counterproductive in the extreme.
The writer is an attorney and a Likud Central Committee member