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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

The Hidden Hand of ISIS and Its Impact on Palestinian Escalation

Filed under: Israeli Security, Palestinians, Radical Islam

The Hidden Hand of ISIS and Its Impact on Palestinian Escalation

In recent months the State of Israel has been facing what military jargon terms “popular terrorist activity,” characterized by violent disturbances in the al-Aqsa Mosque compound; Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem; the West Bank and Arab towns within Israel; attempts to lynch Jews entering Arab towns; attacks on vehicles with stones and fire bombs and of late – a wave of vehicular murders and fatal stabbing attacks.

This recent outbreak of Palestinian violence resembling an intifada (popular uprising), i.e. wide-spread acts of violence coupled with terrorist attacks (including within Israel’s sovereign territory), has taken place against the backdrop of Hamas’ recurring attempts to ignite an intifada in the West Bank and topple the Palestinian Authority, as well as unrelenting incitement on the part of the Palestinian Authority and its full support of “popular terrorism.” The violence has the complete backing of the Fatah movement whose military wing officially returned in July to “armed struggle,” i.e. perpetration of terrorist attacks with firearms. Palestinian leadership also foments violence in response to Jewish activists’ demand to realize the right of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount.

Ominously, there is also a “hidden hand” at work directly impacting events throughout the Middle East and the Palestinian arena.

On July 29 this year, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the establishment of the Islamic caliphate in territories captured by the Islamic State (known as IS, ISIS, and ISIL). In contrast to similar announcements in the past (by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq and the Islamic emirate in Afghanistan), the impact of the Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria has worldwide implications owing to the process of Islamization taking root in the Middle East, in Islamic states, and within Muslim societies around the globe.

The caliphate is not only a political entity-in-creation (an authority providing public services, education, food supplies, and enforcement of law and order via a morality police), but also the embodiment of the dream to resurrect the glory days of Islam. To many adherents it is the realization of the prophecy of Muhammad regarding the Islamic state that will enforce Islamic rule over the entire world.

The large Islamic organizations, among them the Muslim Brotherhood and Hizb al-Tahrir, although sharing the vision of a caliphate, have not recognized the caliphate regime, as this entails full submission and obedience to the Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The Caliphate’s Worldwide Strategy

Baghdadi’s strategy is to circumvent traditional and established Islamic organizations to reach the hearts of the Muslim public pining to witness the resurrection of Islam and rally jihadi forces to his side together with the thousands of volunteers rushing to his caliphate from around the world.

The list of those swearing allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s caliphate is extensive and comprises local Islamic organizations from Syria and Iraq; senior leaders of the Pakistani Taliban; al-Qaida’s affiliate Khorasan group; al-Qaida in the Indian subcontinent; Mujahedeen in Yemen, Libya, Algeria and Saudi Arabia, and Ansar Beit al-Makdas, active in Egypt’s Sinai that has close links to the Gaza Strip under Hamas rule.

The caliphate serves as inspiration to the Palestinian public, as witnessed by young Israeli Arabs (who identify as Palestinians) and Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip travelling to Syria and Iraq to participate in the jihad (holy war) against the infidels.

The Islamic awakening message, coupled with Islamic power evidenced in achievements on the jihadi front and defiance towards the West, all exert a strong pull on the Palestinian public, which is traditionally attracted to any force declaring a pretense to liberate Palestine (Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Iran and its proxy Hizbullah).

The organizational basis of the caliphate in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is still limited, yet the ideological infrastructure has deep roots within Palestinian society, as Hamas (the Palestinian offshoot of the global Muslim Brotherhood movement) and Hizb al-Tahrir (also a global network organization) share the vision of the Islamic state, including the establishment of a caliphate and implementation of strict sharia law.

In the new Middle East, increasingly Islamic in character, the winds of jihad are sweeping the masses, and would appear to be the main driving force behind the recent wave of Palestinian violence, not born of political or economic despair, but rather hopeful of cracking Israeli confidence and realizing the dream of the liberation of Palestine from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River with Jerusalem as capital city of the caliphate. These are also the principles expressed by leaders of the Islamic movement within the state of Israel, who identify with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The more the Islamic caliphate continues to boost its rule in Iraq and Syria and is certain to destabilize Jordan, the greater the chances are of the collapse of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the expansion of Palestinian violence towards Israel in its various names – popular intifada, armed intifada or terrorist assault.