Israel and ISIS, the genesis of a new antisemitic motif
By Manfred Gerstenfeld, Leah Hagelberg
In line with the tradition of antisemitism, a wave of accusations associating Israel with ISIS has rapidly sprung up.
That Jews are absolute evil is the core accusation of antisemitism and has been for close to 2,000 years. Since 2014, Islamic State (ISIS or IS), the cruelest of the major Muslim terrorist groups, has gradually started to replace Nazism as the symbol of absolute evil. The genocide by the Germans and their allies is many decades old, while ISIS murders brutally today. In line with the tradition of antisemitism, a wave of accusations associating Israel with ISIS has rapidly sprung up.
These accusations have a number of variations including that Israel has helped to create ISIS, is behind ISIS, is comparable to ISIS and is the reason for ISIS. The short time during which the image of ISIS has developed in the public domain enables us to follow closely the genesis of a new version of the old core calumny that Israel is absolute evil. Most, but far from the only, promoters of this hate come from the Muslim world, the extreme Left and the extreme Right.
Some of the earliest propagators of the new hate motif were Iranian. Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency cited a supposed interview with Edward Snowden in which the claim was allegedly made that a US, British and Israeli plot to destabilize the Middle East, code-named Hornet’s Nest, was the force behind the creation of ISIS. Another rumor attributed to Snowden, but which he has claimed is a hoax, is that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is really a Jewish Mossad agent named Elliot Shimon or Simon Elliot.
In June of 2014, shortly before ISIS proclaimed itself a caliphate, Iranian Army Chief of Staff Gen Hassan Firouzabadi stated, “ISIS is Israel’s cover up for distancing the revolutionary forces from Israeli borders and creating a margin of security for the Zionists.” Iranian deputy minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian claimed in November 2014 that Israel helped to create ISIS.
In Europe one of those who spread the hate message early was non-practicing Dutch Muslim Yasmina Haifi, an employee of the Dutch counter-terrorism agency NCTV. Haifi had been a candidate for the Labor Party in the 2012 parliamentary elections, although of very low rank. In August 2014, she tweeted, “IS has nothing to do with Islam... it is a plan of Zionists who want to blacken Islam.” Haifi thus attempted not only to whiten the Islamic character of the world’s most extreme Islamist movement, but in addition, to spread a conspiracy theory about Jews. A Facebook site supporting her went up that has 11,000 likes and is active to this day.
In the same month Mohammad Shabbir, aide to MP Naz Shah of Labour, tweeted the question: “Is IS serving a purpose to create a pretext for Israel to invade Syria and Iraq? Has quest for greater Israel started?” Another member of the Labour Party to make such assertions was Salim Mulla, former mayor of Blackburn. As is so often the case among Muslim antisemites around the world, in addition to attacking Israel he also incited against Jews, writing, “Zionist Jews are a disgrace to humanity.” Beinazir Lasharie, a Labour councilor in Kensington posted a Facebook message saying: “Many people know about who was behind 9/11 and also who is behind IS. I’ve nothing against Jews... just sharing it!” On the extreme Right of the political spectrum, David Duke, former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan whose anti-Semitic slurs frequently involve conspiracy theories, wrote an article titled “Horrors of IS created by Zionist Supremacy.” It lists a “series of planned deliberate actions, all initiated by Zio-Supremacist fanatics who seek to spread disunity infighting and turmoil among all non-Jews, and particularly those neighboring their international headquarters of Israel.”
Allegations are not only being spread across the political spectrum, but also across the world. A top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Alexander Prokhanov, claimed in 2014 that the Mossad was training ISIS to undermine Russian interests in the Middle East. A Polish nationalist website called Justice4Poland posted a widely-circulated article by Makia Freeman that opens with the sentence: “IS is a US-Israeli creation, a fact as clear as the sky is blue.” This same article has been posted on left-wing and free-press sites such as GlobalResearch and that of Paul Craig Roberts, former associate editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.
This is a preliminary selection of the charges made by those connecting Israel with ISIS and represent only some of the antisemitic smears linking the two. Others include that Israel is the main buyer of ISIS oil, that ISIS’s rise is due to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and that the tactics of Israel and ISIS are the same. As time passes on more will develop.
It is not surprising that there are so many accusations – that is in line with the ageold nature of antisemitism. Social media accelerates the process. The same themes in articles, graphics and conspiracy theories are being shared among people from very different backgrounds. Also in this case antisemitism brings together people otherwise at odds with each other, in their common cause of vilifying Israel.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is the emeritus chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism and the International Leadership Award by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Leah Hagelberg, MSW, is a research associate in the field of antisemitism.