Understanding Israel’s Message on ISIS-Inspired Terror in Jerusalem
News headlines across Israel and the world reported that ISIS may have inspired the Palestinian terrorist who committed the deadly January 8, 2017, truck ramming attack in Jerusalem that killed four Israelis and injured 16.
Speculation over possible ISIS involvement was triggered by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s comment at the scene, “All signs point to the attacker being a supporter of the Islamic State.” Referring to similar recent ISIS truck ramming attacks in Europe, Netanyahu added, “We know that we have here a series of attacks, and there could be a link between them, from France to Berlin, and now Jerusalem.”
Netanyahu’s announcement underscored an important and often overlooked principle:
Radical Islamic terror in Europe and Israel are both motivated by radical and extremist ideologies and must be condemned equally. Israel has been subject to endless justifications and warnings by Western leaders and media that Palestinian terror is largely the result of “settlements,” “occupation,” “lack of peace,” and “lack of a two state solution.”
Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and the Israeli body politic criticized this frequent differentiation of “good terrorists and bad terrorists.” One recalls muscular Western condemnations of Salafist terror’s “psychopathic monsters” as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had branded the ISIS terrorists who massacred 130 people and wounded hundreds in simultaneous Paris attacks in 2015.1
“Psychopathic,” ideologically and religiously motivated terrorists also live and work in Jerusalem. The “truck” terrorist, Fadi al-Qanbar, a father of four young children, lived in the neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber. He was not driven by socioeconomic deprivation or nationalist sentiment. He enjoyed complete freedom of movement and received the same social and economic benefits as Jews and other residents of Jerusalem.
Jabel Mukaber is also known as known as a hotbed of religious jihadi incitement. A neighborhood communal leader said that in the late 1980s the neighborhood became a hotbed of Islamism.
Neighborhood children as young as eight and nine years old have declared their intentions to become “martyrs for Allah” according to interviews conducted in Jabel Mukaber by Islamic affairs expert Avi Issacharoff.
Jabel Mukaber is also home to the jihadist terrorist cell that massacred Jewish worshipers in a synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood in 2014.
A sister of Fadi al-Qanbar, confirmed Jabel Mukaber’s growing reputation for radical Islamism. She told Israel’s YNET News, “Praise be to Allah that he (al-Qanbar) became a martyr. It is the most beautiful kind of saintly death. Allah chose him for this martyrdom. Thank God.”
It is true that UN officials and western leaders uncharacteristically and unconditionally condemned the Jerusalem truck ramming terror attack. However, one cannot ignore the context of the these condemnations as a collective expression of diplomatic discomfort in the aftermath of the politically-fueled and distorted resolution passed by the United Nations Security Council on December 23, 2016 that delegitimized Israel’s sovereignty and annulled its sui-generis 3,000 year connection to its capital, Jerusalem.
Khaled Abu Toameh reminds us in a recent analysis for Gatestone Institute2 that the resolution has also energized radical Islamic terror against Israel. Just days before the attack, Abu Toameh observed that the recent UNSC resolution served to ‘“Bolster the popular resistance’ against Israel – code for throwing stones and firebombs, and carrying out stabbing and car-ramming attacks against Israelis.” He added that the Gaza-based Hamas and Islamic Jihad see the resolution as another step toward their goal of replacing Israel with an Islamic empire. When Hamas talks about “resistance,” it means suicide bombings and rockets against Israel.
From a jihadi point of view, there is no difference between truck terror in Berlin, Nice, or Jerusalem. Palestinian jihadis and their fellow travelers in ISIS, al-Qaida, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham in Syria, Hamas, Iran’s IRGC and Hizbullah proxy have declared that Islamic terrorism against Europe and Israel stems from the same radical root and aims for the same extremist end: Exclusive Islamic sovereignty across the lands of the Near East and ultimately the entire world.
Hamas praised the Jerusalem truck terror attack as “heroic.” The Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated group features a charter that reminds us of the popular motivation of the Palestinian struggle. It declares, “For our struggle against the Jews is extremely wide-ranging and grave, so much so that it will need all the loyal efforts we can wield, to be followed by further steps and reinforced by successive battalions from the multifarious Arab and Islamic world, until the enemies are defeated and Allah’s victory prevails.”
Palestinian jihad in Jerusalem also enjoys PLO and Palestinian Authority financial and rhetorical support. Brigadier General Yossi Kuperwasser’s January 2017 Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs report “Incentivizing Terrorism: Palestinian Authority Allocations to Terrorists and their Families” confirms that official Palestinian Authority legislation guarantees more than $310 million dollars in annual allocations to terrorists and their families. PA and PLO leadership have long incited Palestinians to murder Israelis. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas both claim Israel is destroying the al-Aqsa Mosque. This libel was also one of the central sources of incitement to terror in Jabal Mukaber, according to Issacharoff.
Both the Netanyahu government and the Labor Party-led Knesset opposition equally reject the double standards some in the West apply to terrorism against Israel. Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog has noted the magnitude of the jihadi challenge. Following the 2015 ISIS attacks in Paris, Herzog said: “We need to be very precise. All the nations that seek peace and liberties, the democratic nations, are facing an enormous challenge from fundamentalist, extremist, Muslim terrorism – which is ISIS and all its precursors, al-Qaida and so forth. Terrorism is terrorism. There’s no two ways about it.”
Herzog’s warning reflects Netanyahu’s assessment of the similarities between ISIS and other jihadi truck terror in Berlin, Nice and Jerusalem.
Islamic jihadists in Europe and Jerusalem have heeded Herzog and Netanyahu’s latest warning in both rhetoric and action. That’s why the West must condemn and battle Islamic terror unconditionally, equally, and without reservation wherever it strikes.
* * *
A version of this study appeared in the Jerusalem Post, on January 12, 2017 http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Understanding-Israels-assessment-of-ISIS-inspired-terrorism-478163
* * *
1 John Kerry, Time Magazine, http://time.com/4115823/paris-attacks-john-kerry-isis-terrorism/
2 Khaled Abu Toameh, UN, Obama Further Radicalize Palestinians, Gatestone Institute. https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/9675/un-obama-palestinians