January 14, 2016 | The Canadian Jewish News
Focus on ISIS is Obscuring Iranian Threat to Israel
Palestinians are stabbing, shooting and ramming cars into Israelis on a daily basis. According to a recent survey by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, two-thirds of Palestinians back the current wave of terror stabbings against Israelis, while the same percentage support a larger armed uprising.
Amid these daily assaults in Israel, as well as the Paris attacks, reports that ISIS is “preparing the largest religious cleansing in history,” as well as about mass slaughter of civilians in Syria and Iran’s testing of ballistic missiles in contravention of multiple UN resolutions, the UN General Assembly saw fit on a single day last fall to adopt six non-binding resolutions criticizing Israel.
This singling out of Israel is an example of what former justice minister Irwin Cotler describes as a “new, sophisticated, virulent” strain of anti-Semitism involving “the discrimination against, denial of, or assault upon the right of the Jewish People to live as an equal member of the international community, with the state of Israel as the targeted collective Jew among the nations.”
A small country comprising 0.11 per cent of the world’s population, Israel attracts a disproportionate amount of the world’s attention and animosity. Through terror plots both thwarted and successful, the Jewish state is relentlessly reminded of the existential pressure it faces to be stronger and smarter than its adversaries.
It must, therefore, be gratifying for the Israel Defence Forces to learn that while the world galvanizes against ISIS, the terrorist group is apparently scared of only one country: Israel.
Jürgen Todenhöfer, a former member of the German Parliament, is the first western journalist to be granted significant access to ISIS territory and come home safely. After his 2014 trip, he published a book titled My 10 Days in the Islamic State. He recently said in a media interview that the “only country ISIS fears is Israel.” He elaborated: “They think they can defeat U.S. and U.K. ground troops, who they say they have no experience in city guerrilla or terrorist strategies. But they know the Israelis are very tough as far as fighting against guerrillas and terrorists.”
What, then, to make of the message from ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, released at the close of 2015? “Jews,” he warned, “you will not enjoy in Palestine. God has gathered you in Palestine so that the mujahedeen can reach you soon, and you will hide by the rock and the tree. Palestine will be your graveyard.” The going wisdom is the recording was intended to boost ISIS’ popularity in the Arab world, after criticism the group is fighting Muslims rather than Jews and neglecting the Palestinian struggle. Israel is still perceived to be a low priority for an ISIS attack.
The Islamic State’s caution in this regard is consistent with Israel’s confidence in defending itself against the notorious terrorist organization. Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon has said that despite sharing borders with areas where the group is active, such as Sinai and the Golan Heights, his country is not significantly threatened by ISIS. “The Islamic State hasn’t opened a front against us, because they would simply get hurt,” Ya’alon declared.
Iran, on the other hand, is a major source of concern for Israel. Former head of IDF intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin admitted that an Iranian nuclear bomb is the most significant threat to Israel. Ya’alon expressed worry about Iran’s presence in Syria: “Iran’s Quds Force is currently the only source actively working in Syria to attack us, trying to smuggle weapons and run messengers.”
Indeed, the world’s current focus on ISIS may be obscuring the true long-term threats presented by state sponsors of terror such as Iran, which has the land, resources and newfound legitimacy to pursue its agenda. If the West is truly committed to countering terrorist groups in the Middle East, advice should be heeded from the sole democracy in the region with unsurpassed counterterrorism expertise: Israel.
Sheryl Saperia is director of policy for Canada at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow her on Twitter @sherylsap