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Israeli defence minister: "I choose the Islamic State"

January 26, 2016 at 9:44 am

At a “security” conference in Tel Aviv last week, top-level Israeli speakers argued the case for viewing Israel as being in the same trench as the so-called Islamic State.

It sounds like an unlikely thing for me to be reporting, but it happened all the same. “Islamic State”, a hideously violent extremist group, has made very few rhetorical statements against Israel. It has certainly engaged in anti-Semitic rhetoric, and terrorists linked to Islamic State have carried out anti-Semitic attacks in the West – but that is a very different thing from targeting Israel itself (and in fact anti-Semitic attacks in the West only fuel the false Zionist narrative about Israel being the only safe place for Jews).

But, aside from the odd stray missile, the group has never targeted Israel. Most of its attacks have been focused on those it considered infidels in the the Middle East. These include native Christians and non-Sunni Muslims in the Arab world, but the largest part of its victims have been ordinary Sunni Muslims.

It’s no wonder, then, that Israel does not consider “Islamic State” to be much of a threat. With the group focusing on killing Arabs, Israel has little to worry about. In fact, killing Arabs is a speciality of both entities.

At the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies (a think tank) on Tuesday, former Israeli army commander Yoav Galant argued that “developing ties between Israel’s allies and enemies as they join forces to fight Islamic State pose a threat to Israel,” reported the Times of Israel.

The de facto alliance between Iran and several Western countries fighting Islamic State in Syria and Iraq “creates new challenges for Israel” Galant argued. The logic went that Iran and the Lebanese resistance group Hizballah are Israel’s true opponents in the region, so they would rather have Islamic State come out on top of the civil war in Syria, rather than the government of Bashar al-Assad — who is backed by Iran.

Galant was head of Israel’s army command during the 2008-09 Israeli onslaught against the people of Gaza. That war killed 1,400 Palestinians, including 345 children. But it also systematically devastated the civilian infrastructure of Gaza. Galant himself was clear about the aim: to “send Gaza decades into the past.” The man is now an Israel politician – the current housing minister (the most successful Israeli politicians have a long record of killing Palestinian and other Arab civilians during their time in the military).

A similar logic seems to apply to Israel’s policy in the wider region. When Israel is unable to directly attack the surrounding countries (as it did during their war on Lebanon in 2006) it does all it can to try and divide the peoples of the region against each other, exacerbating civil wars and plotting and carrying out terrorist attacks.

Israel’s strategic aim in Syria has long been to “let both [sides] bleed”. While there’s no reason to believe Israel is directly aiding “Islamic State,” it certainly has been aiding the Nusra Front – al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate (the two groups have very similar ideologies, and at time have been allies, while at other times have been in conflict).

The twisted, pro-Islamic State logic went further up the Israeli political food chain at the same conference last week. No less a figure than defence minister Moshe Yaalon expressed the same thinking.

Yaalon is another piece of work.

In a 2002 interview he said the “Palestinian threat” was “like cancer” and an “existential threat”. This is genocidal language – especially considering the fact that Yaalon’s proposed solution to the “threat” was “applying chemotherapy”.

At another recent Israeli conference last year, Yaalon followed a long-standing Israeli tradition of threatening to target Lebanese civilians in any future war with that country. And he even threatened to drop a nuclear bomb on Iran.

At this conference, the Islamic State love-in continued with Yaalon saying that if he had to pick a side out of Iran and Islamic State to win in Syria: “I choose the Islamic State”. He argued that “our greatest enemy is the Iranian regime”.

The Times of Israel also reported that Yaalon “characterized the conflict in Syria and Iraq as the ‘height of the clash of civilizations’.” This is another bizarre statement to make in context. The indirect implication seems to be, if we are to understand Israel as preferring Islamic State to come out on top in Syria, that would mean that Israel is fighting on the side that is against “Western Civilization,” (as the highly problematic “clash of civilizations” thesis claims it).

What are we to understand by all this?

Israel, although it is militarily powerful, is, fundamentally weak. It is ultimately a colonial entity which is entirely alien to the region and fundamentally rejected by the overwhelming majority of the peoples of the region. It is only by starting and waging successive wars of aggression against its neighbours, and pouring fuel on the fires of other regional wars that it has any hope of prolonging its occupation of Palestinian land. Divide and rule is the name of their game.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London and an associate editor with The Electronic Intifada.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.