Tel Aviv, Israel (TFC) – The Islamic State is beginning to turn its eyes towards Israel. The United Nations and the Israelis, as well as internal disputes between Hamas and Fateh, have given the Islamic State all of the recruitment tools it needs to turn the Palestinian people into a pawn in the push to control the Middle East.
Scattered in refugee camps across the Middle East sit millions of idle Palestinians. They’re poor, isolated, unsupported, and angry. They may never see a Palestinian state because it runs contrary to Israeli policies. They aren’t really welcomed by the other Arab countries because those Arab countries enjoy the bad press the situation gives Israel. Now, the United Nations is abandoning them.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is seeing an unprecedented funding shortfall. In response the UNRWA cut international workers drastically and is closing schools for Palestinians. The schools provided young Palestinians with a glimmer of hope that their life might exist somewhere outside of a refugee camp one day in the distant future. It’s false hope, but it’s hope. Now that hope is gone as well.
Fateh and Hamas are the two major political parties in Palestine. There was an attempt at a unity government that has failed miserably, partially due to Israeli influence and partially due to fundamental differences between the two parties. Hamas is an Islamist organization and the more militant of the two groups. Fateh is a secular organization and is moderate in nature. By “moderate,” we mean actually moderate, not “moderate” by US government standards in Syria. As an example, homosexual behavior is legal in Fateh-controlled areas, and Fateh leaders come to the aid of Palestinian Christians when they are attacked by Israeli settlers. They are truly moderate and secular.
However, to many Palestinians both organizations have failed them. They still lose their land to illegal Israeli settlements, they are still under military occupation, and they still live in poverty. Many see Fateh’s cooperation with the Israeli security services as a betrayal. There is little hope in the occupied territories, but there is still plenty of defiance. It’s a defiance that is ready to be harnessed.
Israel has been so intent on undermining any form of Palestinian unity that they haven’t seen the larger threat posed by the Islamic State. While there is ample proof that Israel and the Western powers exercised some control or at least influence over the Islamic State in the early days, that control has withered away. When Islamic State forces within Gaza launched rockets at Israel, the Israelis responded by attacking Hamas. While a small scale civil war occurred in Gaza, the Israelis effectively sided with the Islamic State supporters. In short, Israel has made no attempt to ally with the strongest opposition to the Islamic State in the area.
The Sinai Peninsula has become destabilized and the Israelis are taking rocket fire from within the Egyptian-held area.There is no real evidence of who is behind the attacks.
The Islamic State plan to capitalize on the Palestinian suffering
The Palestinians provide the Islamic State with a ready source of manpower, and those would-be soldiers have an ax to grind with the Islamic State’s chief opposition in the area: Israel. What is the Islamic State offering those sitting in camps with no jobs, no schooling, no future, and a UN stipend of $30 per month?
The Islamic State pays their troops an average of $300 per month, plus $70 per month for food. Troops also receive bonuses for marriage and a single $400 payout for each child. The pay is just the starting point. There is even vacation time for troops to visit their families.
The Islamic State is offering promises to entice ideologically-driven soldiers as well. The Islamic State is promising “full return” of Palestinians to the areas they were driven from. This is an offer the current Palestinian leaders could never realistically make. In 2013, the Palestinian leadership publicly abandoned hopes of reclaiming Acre, Jaffa, and Safad. These areas are the homes of many of those in the refugee camps. The news of the abandonment reached the camps like a shot. The Islamic State is casting both Fateh and Hamas as traitors that don’t have the stomach for the war that must be fought to regain control.
For young men and women who grew up in refugee camps listening to stories of a homeland they’ve never seen, this promise of a full return and the words of a leadership with the courage to attack Israel head on has to be enticing.
Thanks to Uncle Sam, the Islamic State has the weapons, money, and training; the Palestinians have the numbers. It sounds like a marriage made in Heaven. There is one major problem. The vast majority of Palestinians are sane. They’ve enjoyed the freedoms that come from living without an oppressive religious government, and they’ve seen the damage religious governments can do via Israel’s actions. However, the Palestinians are very pragmatic. There is nothing stopping them from accepting arms and funds from the Islamic State and then attempting to push the IS out after Israel’s defeat.
Yes, Israel’s defeat. In an absurd twist of fate, the only people standing between Israel and casualties on a level they have never experienced are the people they have victimized for sixty years. The Palestinians quite literally hold Israel’s future in their hands. Israeli military reputation rests on victories that occurred forty years ago. The IDF soldiers of today are not soldiers who witnessed their families die at the hands of Nazis. They are not the soldiers who are adherents to Zionism. They are simply fighting because of the shallow propaganda efforts of their government. They will be grossly outnumbered by a force that has nothing to lose and nowhere to return to in the event of a defeat. The Palestinians will fight until they win or die. Israel will count on assistance from the West, which will not be coming.
The Palestinians are facing a defining question. They have seen major gains in the international community recently and many in the world are beginning to see Israel’s policies for what they are: ethnic cleansing. Accepting assistance from the Islamic State will undermine all of that positive recognition. However, even with that recognition, the international community has done little to alleviate the troubles facing the Palestinians. Peace has gotten them nowhere, are we cycling back to war?
Meanwhile, it’s time for the Israelis to be as pragmatic as the Palestinians are. At this moment the Palestinians could become allies and the entire dynamic of Israeli-Palestinian relations could change. Hamas and Hezbollah are at war with the Islamic State. Perhaps it is time for Israel to make some concessions to the Palestinian people before those people stop supporting Hamas and begin supporting the Islamic State out of sheer frustration. If the Palestinians support the Islamic State in any meaningful numbers, Israel will be forced to concede completely by the barrel of a gun.