News headlines across Israel and the world reported that Islamic State (ISIS) may have inspired the Palestinian terrorist who committed the deadly January 8 truck ramming attack in Jerusalem that killed four Israelis and wounded 16 others.
Speculation over possible ISIS involvement was triggered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comment at the scene that “all signs point to the attacker being a supporter of the Islamic State.”
Referring to similar recent ISIS attacks in Europe, Netanyahu added, “We know that we have here a series of attacks, and there could be a link between them, from France to Berlin, and now Jerusalem.”
Netanyahu’s announcement underscores an important and often overlooked principle: Radical Islamic terrorism in Europe and Jerusalem are both motivated by radical and extremist ideologies and must be condemned equally.
Israel has been subject to endless justifications and warnings by Western leaders and media that Palestinian terrorism is largely the result of “settlements,” “occupation,” “lack of peace” and “lack of a two-state solution.” Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and the entire Israeli body politic reject this artificial differentiation of “good terrorists and bad terrorists.” One recalls muscular Western condemnations of Salafist terrorism’s “psychopathic monsters,” as US Secretary of State John Kerry had branded the ISIS terrorists who massacred 130 people and wounded hundreds more in simultaneous Paris attacks in 2014.
“Psychopathic,” ideologically and religiously motivated terrorists also live and work in Jerusalem. The “truck terrorist,” Fadi al-Qanbar, a father of four young children, was from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Jebl Mukaber. He was not driven by socioeconomic deprivation or nationalist sentiment. He enjoyed complete freedom of movement and received the same social and economic benefits as Jews and other residents of Jerusalem.
Jebl Mukaber is also known as a hotbed of jihadi incitement. A neighborhood communal leader said that in the late 1980s the neighborhood became a hotbed of Islamism.
Neighborhood children as young as eight and nine years old have declared their intentions to become “martyrs for Allah” according to interviews conducted in Jebl Mukaber by Islamic affairs expert Avi Issacharoff.
Jebl Mukaber is also home to the jihadist terrorist cell that massacred Jewish worshipers in a synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood in 2014.
A sister of Qanbar’s confirmed Jebl Mukaber’s growing reputation for radical Islamism. She told Israel’s YNET news, “Praise be to Allah that he [Qanbar] became a martyr. It is the most beautiful kind of saintly death. Allah chose him for this martyrdom. Thank God.”
It is true that UN officials and Western leaders uncharacteristically and unconditionally condemned the Jerusalem attack. However, one cannot ignore the context of these condemnations as a collective expression of diplomatic discomfort in the aftermath of the politically fueled and distorted resolution passed by the UN Security Council on December 23, 2016, that delegitimized Israel’s sovereignty and annulled its unique 3,000- year connection to its capital, Jerusalem.
Khaled Abu Toameh reminds us in a recent analysis for the Gatestone Institute that the resolution has also energized radical Islamic terrorism against Israel.
Just days before the attack, Abu Toameh observed that the recent UNSC resolution served to ‘“Bolster the popular resistance’ against Israel – code for throwing stones and firebombs, and carrying out stabbing and car-ramming attacks against Israelis.” He added that the Gaza-based Hamas and Islamic Jihad see the resolution as another step toward their goal of replacing Israel with an Islamic empire. When Hamas talks about “resistance,” it means suicide bombings and rockets against Israel.
From a jihadi point of view, there is no difference between terrorism in Berlin, Nice, or Jerusalem. Palestinian jihadis and their fellow travelers in ISIS, al-Qaida, Jubrat al-Nusra in Syria, Hamas, Iran’s IRGC and its Hezbollah proxy have declared that Islamic terrorism against Europe and Israel stems from the same radical root and aims for the same extremist end: exclusive Islamic sovereignty across the lands of the Near East and ultimately the world.
Hamas praised the Jerusalem attack as “heroic.” The Muslim Brotherhood group features a charter that reminds us of the popular motivation of the Palestinian struggle. It declares, “For our struggle against the Jews is extremely wide-ranging and grave, so much so that it will need all the loyal efforts we can wield, to be followed by further steps and reinforced by successive battalions from the multifarious Arab and Islamic world, until the enemies are defeated and Allah’s victory prevails.”
Palestinian jihad in Jerusalem also enjoys PLO and Palestinian Authority financial and rhetorical support. IDF Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser’s January 2017 Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs report “Incentivizing Terrorism: Palestinian Authority Allocations to Terrorists and their Families” confirms that official Palestinian Authority legislation guarantees over $310 million in annual allocations to terrorists and their families.
PA and PLO leadership have long incited Palestinians to murder Israelis.
PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas both claim Israel is destroying the Aksa Mosque. This libel was also one of the central sources of incitement to terrorism in Jebl Mukaber, according to Issacharoff.
Both the Netanyahu government and the Labor Party-led Knesset opposition equally reject the double standards some in the West apply to terrorism against Israel. Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog has noted the magnitude of the jihadi challenge.
He has said, “We need to be very precise: all the nations that seek peace and liberties, the democratic nations, are facing an enormous challenge from fundamentalist, extremist, Muslim terrorism – which is ISIS and all its precursors, al-Qaida and so forth. Terrorism is terrorism.
There’s no two ways about it.”
Herzog’s warning reflects Netanyahu’s assessment of the similarities between ISIS and other jihadi terrorism in Berlin, Nice and Jerusalem. Jihadists in Europe and Jerusalem have clearly heeded Herzog’s and Netanyahu’s latest warning in both word and deed. That’s why the West must condemn and battle terrorism unconditionally and without reservation wherever it strikes.
The author is project director for the Program to Counter Political Warfare and BDS at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is also a research fellow at the International Institute for Counter Terrorism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and twitter @dandiker84.