ISIS in Israel? An expert tells TPS ‘An ISIS connection to recent terrorist attacks must be questioned’

March 31, 2022 by Baruch Yedid - TPS
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Is anyone other than ISIS – also known as Islamic State – behind the terrorists from Umm al-Fahm and the Negev who perpetrated the recent terrorist attacks in Hadera and Be’er Sheva?

Members of the Zaka organization work at the scene of a shooting attack in Bnei Brak, March 29, 2022. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.

Who is behind this recent the wave of terror being committed in Israel, on the eve of Ramadan?

Dr Asaf Maliach, an expert on radical Islam and global terrorism, explained to TPS why there is very good reason to doubt that ISIS was actually behind these attacks.

“Waving ISIS flags is not enough to be accepted into the ranks of the organization, nor is distributing a video in which you make an oath to ISIS,” Dr. Maliach told TPS. “The operation conducted by ISIS or on its behalf is a complex and complicated operation that is not available to just any member of a terrorist organization, including the extremist Islamic ones.”

Malih explains that assuming membership in ISIS requires a swearing-in ceremony – ‘ Ba’a’ in Arabic – which usually takes place in the presence of an ISIS leader, but in recent years it can also be carried out via the Internet. The recruits will then receive official and written confirmation of their membership in the Islamic State. Maliach says that it is highly doubtful if this happened with the terrorists who committed the recent attacks and who are citizens of a state in Israel.

He also doubts that the video released by the terrorists from Umm al-Fahm, before the horrific attack in Hadera, was genuine and that they may not have really been affiliated with ISIS.

The recruitment process for ISIS is not simple. Recruits must be free from any mental or physical defect, be free from any “sexual deviation” and lead a strict and proven religious lifestyle.

“The volunteers undergo a security investigation to rule out attempts to infiltrate the extremist organization [by various intelligence groups fighting terrorism],” Dr Maliach said.

Despite all this, Dr Maliach does not rule out allegations that Islamic State officials will now take advantage of the appearance of the terrorists in Israel as those who acted on behalf of the organization, and this may explain the statement of responsibility issued after the attack.

However, Dr Maliach’s words are not reassuring, quite the opposite in fact. The fact that there are elements among Israeli Arabs who are willing to go to the extreme of impersonating ISIS, despite the world’s hostility to the terrorist organization – including in the Arab world – is cause for concern.

“ISIS, however, may take advantage of the attacks to try and recruit more operatives and prove ISIS activity in the Palestinian arena as well and even to defy al-Qaeda,” warns Maliach,

Maliach concludes, “In the absence of unequivocal evidence that these are ISIS operatives, the question arises as to whether another factor activated the terrorists and, if so, who is this factor?”

The growing understanding among some experts now is that ISIS supporters from various areas around the world, such as those who crossed a psychological threshold and expressed a desire to join the murderous Islamic group, may be relying on severe religious extremism among Israeli Arabs and working in the service of other elements Israel has yet to identify, in order to carry out terrorism within Israel’s borders under the cover of the Islamic State.

(Dr. Asaf Maliach is an expert on radical Islam, with special expertise in global jihad and al-Qaeda. He is a researcher on the Arab Middle East in the Political Science Department at Bar-Ilan University and is a consultant for the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.)

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