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The ISIS war against Hamas in Gaza

At his ridiculous address to the UN General Assembly in 2014, Israel's sadistic and deluded Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, claimed that, "ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree." He continued: "When it comes to its ultimate goals, Hamas is ISIS, and ISIS is Hamas."

Since then, this has been a regular theme of Israel's inept propaganda. The Zionist state has been haemorrhaging international support for years now. Its brutal and racist actions against Palestinians mean that the state has become less popular around the world, particularly among the young, the educated and the liberal.

Polling has confirmed this general pattern for some time. US President Donald Trump's enthusiastic embrace of Israel has only exacerbated this trend, including among young Jews in America. Trump's open embrace of white supremacists and (ironically pro-Israel) anti-Semites only makes this worse.

Israel's steady decline of support in this way means that it is becoming more reliant on right-wing, extremist support bases. Among its rapidly declining number of friends in the US it counts some of the most fanatical right-wing Christian Evangelical elements. These include Pastor John Hagee, a nasty little anti-Semite who once preached that "Hitler was a hunter" sent by God to "chase" Jewish people "back" to Israel as a means of fulfilling his twisted vision of Biblical prophecy.

Read: Thirty years in the company of Hamas

Such people and the most viciously anti-Muslim elements in society often cross over. Among Islamophobes – as among anti-Semites – there is a tendency towards making mass generalisations about entire population groups. Netanyahu's words at the UN, therefore, seemed to have been calculated to appeal to that specific audience.

In fact, as is well documented, Hamas and ISIS, the so-called "Islamic State", are fundamentally opposed to each other, and have for several years now been in a state of open warfare. Hamas has prevented ISIS from forming any branch in the Gaza Strip.

A Hamas official last month told Gaza-based journalist Hamza Abu Eltarabesh – a contributor to The Electronic Intifada – that the Palestinian authorities in the besieged enclave now hold 550 suspected Islamic State fighters in jail. The group has a base in the neighbouring Sinai Peninsula.

Last August, the first ISIS suicide bombing targeting Hamas took place, leading to a clampdown on the group's sympathisers, who had been infiltrating the Strip. In October, Tawfiq Abu Naim, the head of the Hamas internal security service, was wounded in a car bomb. In public, some Hamas leaders insinuated that the apparent assassination attempt was the work of Israel, which indeed frequently sends its death squads against the leaders of the Islamic Resistance Movement. As Abu Eltarabesh reported, though, it's also possible that extremist cells linked to ISIS may have been responsible.

Read: Should we bid Hamas farewell?

The reasons for this conflict go deep, and are explained by ideology and politics. As its leading figures, including Khaled Meshaal, have explained many times, Hamas is essentially a national liberation movement with an Islamist bent. ISIS, by contrast, is an extremist, religious supremacist group, responsible for violent attacks against other religions and sects. Put very simply, ISIS attacks Christians while Hamas protects them. As a result, and given that Hamas participated in democratic elections, ISIS considers the movement to be a group of infidels.

Now that ISIS is thus fighting in essentially the same trench as Israel against Hamas, others suspect a deeper involvement between the so-called "Islamic State" and the self-styled "Jewish state".

"There is clearly a confluence of interests between the Sinai branch of Islamic State and Israel in their battle with Hamas," argues Abu Eltarabesh. "Some in Hamas and analysts have suggested direct collusion involving Israel and Islamic State. Both had an interest in seeing the assassination of Abu Naim, according to Hussam Al-Dajani, a politics lecturer at Ummah University in Gaza."

Rumours of Israeli funding, arming and support for anti-Hamas jihadist groups in Gaza have persisted for years. Considering Israel's fairly open support for militants in southern Syria linked to Al-Qaeda, it would not be so strange.

#Hamas

Earlier this month, another horrific ISIS propaganda video specifically targeted Hamas. In the video, Hamas fighters are attacked as "apostates" and a Palestinian man is shot and killed, accused of helping Hamas. The New York Times described this as a declaration of war on Hamas; apparently the paper's editors are unaware of the fundamentally opposite nature of the two groups and the history of lethal enmity between them.

The paper also reported that senior Hamas officials responded by intimating that Israel may have some involvement with ISIS in the Sinai. Salah Bardawil described the video as a Zionist production. According to Mahmoud Al-Zahar, ISIS "does not want there to be weapons in Hamas's hands to resist the Israeli occupation."

In fact, Israel has a long history of cheering on or supporting its enemy's enemy – even ISIS. "Let them both bleed," is the Israeli doctrine.

So is Israel arming ISIS in the Sinai? There's no evidence of that, but considering the historical precedents, it would not be the strangest thing to happen in the region.

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

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