North Africa, West Asia

Israel and the mirror of ISIS

Netanyahu is warning us off an organisation which, like Israeli Zionism, claims its legitimacy on religious grounds and certain narratives of religious history.

Mohammad Ayyad
9 September 2014
Portrait of Netanyahu, Wikimedia Commons

Portrait of Netanyahu, Wikimedia Commons

In an interview with ABC, Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the current escalation taking place in Gaza, during which Israeli Zionist forces have relentlessly carried out the most savage acts – massacring civilians, journalists, medics and anyone in their way.

Of course, Netanyahu felt free to conjure an ugly image of Hamas in order to justify these acts. Therefore, when confronted with a question about the soaring numbers of civilian casualties – and bearing in mind his American/ western audience – Netanyahu tried to depict Israel in a heroic light by describing the resistance group Hamas as a group of "mad Islamists". To make the picture clearer, he then went on to compare Hamas to Al-Qaeda, Hezboallah, Iran, and ISIS, concluding his speech with the observation that, these groups' possession of missiles, drones, chemical weapons and in the case of Iran, nuclear weapons, could "really change history".

Apparently, he was compelled to underline the "danger" of Hamas for the audience by connecting it to the greater threat in the region which consists of either Islamic states, or organisations which are intent on establishing an Islamic state. Therefore, the threat that western audiences should learn to fear above all, according to his statement, is the mad Islamists who are in favour of establishing an Islamic entity in the region which will change history.

However, the irony in this statement is considerable. ISIS was mentioned only once in the interview, but it is ridiculous that Netanyahu had to refer to them in order to explain the "threat" that Hamas now poses. Netanyahu addresses his audience by invoking that familiar image of terrorism which with the help of social media has been successfully lodged in our consciousnesses, particularly once ISIS invaded Iraq. ISIS may be the most active and dangerous known "Islamic extremist" group today, but it is hard to ignore the resemblance between the ISIS project and that of Zionism. Both projects set out to re-establish a religious state in the Arab World.

Netanyahu is warning us off an organisation which, like Israeli Zionism, claims its legitimacy on religious grounds and certain narratives of religious history. In order for this to succeed, this organisation has successfully recruited young followers of its religion in Europe, where Muslims are being subjugated to discrimination, and are faced with Islamophobic approaches to their presence on the continent.

In order for ISIS to secure its territory, and the numeric superiority of people who worthy to live on its territory, it has declared war on Shi’i Muslims, as well as the members of other sects and religions currently inhabiting the lands that ISIS intends to claim as its own. In other words, ISIS is attempting to maintain its grasp on the land through the use of force and possibly through the expulsion of a whole population: the expulsion of "the others".

Both ideologies of extremism treat their "others" as those who are not worthy of the same divine rewards allocated to the "chosen" or "true" people or followers of religion. And, when denying the people who are excluded from this group their right to divine rewards – only earned by the followers of this group – both Zionism and ‘ISISism’ base their treatment of the "others" on their relegation of the latter to a level below that of own their followers in humanity – their project is designed to dehumanise those "others".

When Israel tried to release itself of any responsibility regarding the terrible acts it had committed in Gaza – most notably bombarding the homes of civilians – it justified these acts by maintaining that warning messages had been sent to those civilians before their houses were shelled. These warnings resulted in the displacement of thousands of Gazans who found themselves homeless due to Israeli shelling from the ground, sea and air, as well as thousands of causalities who lie somewhere between death and major injury. The attitude with which such justifications are expressed, implies that such warnings gave the act of killing hundreds of civilians some sort of legitimacy.

We have indeed witnessed the same act being copied by ISIS, as it sent warnings to the Christian communities in Iraq, ordering them to leave in order to avoid death at the hands of ISIS militants. Such an act not only mirrors what Israeli forces did in Gaza in recent weeks, it also reminds us of a history of Israeli terrorism that has been going on for 66 years; it reminds us of the Nakba, when Israeli Zionist militias used fear to drive away those they had not killed. Ironically however, ISIS allowed the Christians in Iraq more time than any family in Gaza was accorded in order to leave their houses after receiving a warning, most probably because many warnings came in the form of a knock on the roof

The ideology of ISIS, which is allegedly based on Wahhabi interpretations of Sunni Islam, resembles the basis of Zionism's narration of history. Adopting the strict interpretations of a particular sect, means the acceptance of a certain version of the history of the region and its use as a basis to claim sovereignty over a territory.

Both this entity that resulted from Zionism and the entity sought by ISIS attempt to re-establish a certain religious state as it has been gleaned from their particular historical narrative. Additionally, to provide themselves with a sense of legitimacy and sovereignty, both have attempted to rid their territory of the borders "imposed" on them by the "other". ISIS intending to establish its Caliphate, has expended some effort on breaking down the borders of Sykes-Picot. Israel did the same with its continued expansion of settlements in the West-Bank and the construction of new ones as the siege and containment of Gaza continue – distorting the entire premise of borders in a way that makes the two-state solution impossible, however desperate the PA might be to establish a state on the 1967 borders. The PA's yearning for such a solution, despite the great opposition by Palestinians to the entire process of negotiating with Israel, has allowed Israel to carry on building settlements inside the "1967 borders". As such, it has made the borders of the "State of Israel" the central issue of its negotiations, rather than dealing with the pressing concern of settler colonialism.

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