‘ISIS is just an excuse,’ say terror experts, citing incitement among Arab-Israelis

Terror experts say blaming ISIS for terror attacks ignores the real problem — widespread anti-Israel sentiment among some of the Arab population.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

In the span of less than a week, three Arab citizens of Israel with links to the Islamic State in Syria (ISIS) perpetrated deadly terror attacks that left six Israelis dead.

Hebrew-language media and government ministers have been quick to play up the connection to ISIS, but terror experts say that blaming the violence on a foreign entity is a convenient way to move away from the real issue at hand — intense anti-Israel sentiment and antisemitism among Israel’s Arab population.

“ISIS is just an excuse,” Dr. Edy Cohen, a prominent Arab affairs expert and researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told World Israel News.

“It’s not the reason. We’re talking about an Arab population — of course, not everyone, but many — who are not at peace with the existence of the State of Israel.”

Cohen, who was born and raised in Lebanon and served in Israeli intelligence for more than a decade, said that virulent anti-Israel statements from Arab leaders in the Jewish state is what set the stage for increasing terror.

It’s not surprising that more Israeli Arabs are committing violent attacks when “there is incitement by Arab members of the Knesset every day who call for Palestine to be freed and rant about occupation and apartheid,” he said.

In Cohen’s view, while the terrorists may identify with ISIS’s mission, “they are not actually from ISIS,” meaning that they did not receive support or material training from the terror group.

Rather, he believes they acted out of a general Islamic anti-Israel sentiment, and “the connection to ISIS is just an excuse in order to not hurt their families.”

Maor Tzemach, chair of the Israeli sovereignty NGO Your Jerusalem, agrees with Cohen’s assessment. “The names [of the terror groups] aren’t relevant — whether it’s ISIS, Hamas, or Islamic Jihad, they all have the same goal,” he said.

He noted the similarities between the ideologies of Palestinian terror groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad to ISIS, saying their attitude towards the existence of the Jewish State and Jewish control over Jerusalem are identical.

“ISIS’ ideas are embraced by many other Islamists, who connect with it on a nationalist, Palestinian level…they’re similar to what’s pushed by Hamas…all these concepts go together, creating an atmosphere of terror.”

He added that both Islamic Jihad and Hamas have recently expressed a clear interest in “connecting with their ‘brothers’ inside [Israel], the 1948 Arabs [who possess Israeli citizenship] in order to create internal chaos…and hurt Israel’s security.”

On Monday, a Gazan media outlet posted a picture of one of the perpetrators of the terror attack in Hadera, Ayman Aghbaria, posing with Sheikh Ra’ed Salah, the leader of the northern faction of the Islamic Movement in Israel. Salah has repeatedly been incarcerated by Israel on charges of incitement and other terror offenses.

Though it may be more convenient to blame a foreign terror group like ISIS for the deadly attacks in Israel, it appears that much of the extremist ideology that inspires terror is originating at home.