As the Islamic State (formerly ISIS) inches closer to Israel in its sweeping conquest of Iraq and Syria, the real threat is that the extremist movement will gain a large number of followers in the Holy Land long before its current warriors reach the borders of the Jewish state.
A recent government report suggested that dozens of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians have already traveled abroad to join the Islamic State. And now, there are signs that local Muslims are taking up the cause.
“ISIS is on the right path,” an imam at a mosque in northern Israel preached last week.
At another mosque in the area, a congregant publicly declared, “The Islamic State is the only one that can establish an Islamic state, and it is good they are punishing people. I hope they make it to Israel.”
Israel’s Ynet news portal reported that in both those cases, and many others like them, the statements of support for ISIS were quickly followed by verbal and even physical confrontations between local Muslims both for and against the Islamic State.
Many Israeli Muslims view ISIS as a threat, but the concern is that they will quickly and quietly fade to the background as the clamor from the terrorist movement’s backers grows ever louder.
“When the picture becomes clear, everyone will understand that the Islamic State is the only solution for everyone. Jews should also support the state and convert to Islam,” another imam told Ynet.
In Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, a large sign featuring the ISIS symbol and a threat against “infidels that do not accept Islam” was taken down by police, only to be put back up with little or no public outcry.
Atop Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, worshippers have been photographed freely strolling about the sacred compound while carrying ISIS flags.
“When a backdrop of sympathy exists, there are usually some who cross over to wider action,” warned former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy in an interview with Army Radio this week.
Halevy noted that a similar thing had “occurred in western Europe and could already be happening here.”
It would appear Halevy’s assessment was accurate. Just days after his interview, a Jerusalem-based jihadist movement that previously pledged allegiance to ISIS threatened to carry out attacks against Twitter if the social media network continued to close the account of Islamic State supporters and officials.
Al Musra Al Maqdisia (The Supporters Of Jerusalem) posted a message reading:
“The time has arrived to respond to Twitter’s management by directly attacking their employees and physically assassinating them!! Those who will carry this out are the sleeper cells of death.”
Ignoring the mounting evidence to the contrary, the Palestinian Authority this week insisted that local Arabs are “moderate” and do not support the Islamic State.
A report in Palestinian Authority-controlled newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi cited officials as saying the Islamic State had tried to make inroads into Palestinian society, but had failed.
In addition to the aforementioned signs that the PA assertions are untrue, many Israelis would argue that Hamas (which shares many views and goals with ISIS) is far from “moderate,” yet enjoys widespread support on the Palestinian street.