TEL AVIV, ISRAEL — On Wednesday, Israel’s Interior Ministry announced that it would revoke the citizenship of 19 Israelis who are alleged to have fought on behalf of Daesh (ISIS). The move comes after a new law went into effect, giving Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri the ability to strip Israelis deemed to be members of foreign terrorist organizations of their citizenship.
The alleged Daesh members were identified by Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency, which provided the Interior Ministry with the names of 20 Israeli nationals who had joined Daesh. However, for reasons that are still unclear, one of the individuals on that list, who was left unnamed, did not have his or her citizenship revoked. Reports in Israeli media have claimed that the majority of individuals on the list were Israeli Arabs, though some were identified as Jewish Israelis.
Overall, Shin Bet estimated that 60 Israeli citizens have left the country since the conflict in Syria began in 2011 in order to fight on behalf of armed opposition groups, including Daesh and the Al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front. Fewer than 10 are believed to have returned to Israel since fighting in Syria began. The Jerusalem Post further notes that “dozens” of Arab Israeli citizens have been arrested by Israeli authorities in recent years for allegedly seeking to join terror groups like Daesh.
With Syria lost, Daesh outlives its usefulness to Israel
While the recent decision to revoke the citizenship of alleged Daesh members has largely been framed as the Israeli government cracking down on terrorism, such narratives ignore Israel’s own past support for the terror group over the course of the Syrian conflict.
Indeed, from early on in the conflict, Israel made it clear that it “preferred” Daesh’s presence in Syria to the presence of Syria’s legitimate government, a preference soon followed by a report published by an Israeli government-funded think tank that called Daesh a “useful tool” against Israel’s regional rivals — Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah.
Since then, considerable evidence, including a 2014 United Nations report, has shown that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have long been in regular contact with Daesh, even bringing wounded Daesh members into Israel for treatment. Particularly jarring was the 2016 statement made by Israel’s military intelligence chief, Major General Herzi Halevy, that Israel does not want to see Daesh in Syria defeated.
Even the very Israeli who declared ISIS an illegal terror organization, former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, later went on to candidly admit last year that Israel maintains open communications with a Daesh cell active in the Golan Heights, even though communicating with any group deemed terrorist by the state is, without exception, illegal under Israeli law. Not only that, but Ya’alon also went on to describe a specific incident in which Daesh apologized to the IDF after opening fire on an IDF position, suggesting that the Israel-Daesh relationship is deeper than “open communications.”
Given Israel’s proven collaboration with Daesh over the course of the Syrian conflict in order to aid its own regional ambitions, the recent decision to revoke the citizenship of 19 Israeli Daesh members is hardly the straightforward counter-terrorism measure it is being made out to be.
Instead, it is likely an indicator of the quickly approaching end of the Syrian conflict, which has seen the Syrian government largely reconsolidate its territory despite the efforts of largely foreign-funded opposition groups. Indeed, though Daesh was once a “useful tool” to the Israeli government, it’s failure to dislodge the Syrian government means that the group has outlived its usefulness — as have the handful of Israelis who joined the group over the course of the conflict.
Top Photo | A Jabhat al-Nusra fighter talks on a radio while carrying his weapon in the front line of Khan Sheikhoun, northern Idlib province, May, 2014. (Photo: Hamid Khatib/Reuters)
Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.