Over the past decade, the Middle East — the cradle of civilization and the birthplace of the three major monotheistic religions — has become a flashpoint for religious extremism and fascism. The general public has grown used to associating radicalism with Islam, even to such an extent that the general notion is that the Islamic faith is the expression of religious extremism par excellence.
Yet such assessments have generally failed to take into account an equally dangerous radical trend that has been unfolding in the region for decades — Zionism.
“Although unpopular and deeply politically incorrect the notion might be, Zionism remains nevertheless a reality which the international community cannot afford to turn a blind eye on, especially since its ideology entails and affirms itself on the annihilation of an entire people — the Muslim people,” Rabbi Meir Hirsh, a member of the Neturei Karta, told MintPress News of the effort of Jews to regain and retain their biblical homeland — the historic ob “Land of Israel.”
Noting that the rise of Zionism is not just a Palestinian issue, Rabbi Hirsh warned that the Zionist absorption of Palestine is “the first step toward the rise of Greater Israel.”
“Criticism toward Israel has become such a social and political taboo that the public has been blinded to the truth. People can no longer see, let alone fathom, that Israel has become just as radical, intolerant and extreme in its views as Islamists have proven to be. I would actually argue that ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] carries disturbing Zionist characteristics, not only in its ideology but its policies, even though it claims to seek to destroy Israel.”
In late September, “#JSIL” became a social media sensation. The play on words comparing the notion of a Jewish State of Israel and the Levant (JSIL) to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS) was tweeted about 5,200 times at its peak. The hashtag sought to point out that the radical Islamic group that adheres to Takfirism and Zionists share similar characteristics, and in many ways, both ideologies stem from religious exclusivism.
Takfirism is a centuries-old ideology marked by the practice of using a harsh dogmatic lens to judge someone else to be a non-believer. It is defined by the belief that Muslims are required to cleanse their faith to be once more worthy of the pure Islam, as prescribed and practiced during the first caliphate in the 7th century. It calls upon its adherents to settle together in isolated communities and fight against infidels.
The movement experienced a revival in 1967, when Cairo was suddenly confronted by the Israeli military’s might and superiority and the country’s Arabs and Muslims were forced to grapple with the possibility of their world falling to another religious denomination — Judaism. Thus, in reaction to an attack they perceived as spiritual, groups of Muslims began their journey toward Takfirism and radicalization. Today, radical groups like al-Qaida and ISIS count themselves as adherents to the ideology.
As far as radicalism goes, investigative journalist Max Blumenthal is among the many who have pointed to the striking similarities between ISIS and Zionists, not only in the formulation and expression of their radical views but also in the deep-seated belief that the assertion of their ideology entails the destruction and negation of all others. Moreover, both groups operate on the same political plane and both advocate territorial expansion and political absorption.
Speaking of the commonalities existing in between Takfirism and Zionism, Rabbi Hirsh emphasized that the two movements are even identical in their blood patterns.
“If ISIS has proven sickening in its killing of innocent civilians and its taste for gruesome public executions, the same can be said of Israel. Was it not Ariel Sharon, Israel’s then-Defense Minister, who ordered the massacres of Sabra and Shatila, where thousands of Palestinian civilians were slaughtered? Was it not again Israel who targeted unarmed children on a Gaza beach this summer? Or was it not Israel who rationalized the killing of women and children in the name of its survival?”
While many may find the parallels uncomfortable to confront, the notion that ISIS and Zionists share not only common values, but identical ideological claims has been a recurring theme of late. United in their religious intolerance and exclusionism, experts — including Israel Shahak and Michel Chossudovsky of the Center for Research on Globalization — have argued that the ideologies have more in common than the world might care to acknowledge.
Yet some have pushed the envelope even further, positing that ISIS is no more than a Zionist creation engineered to serve Zionists’ hegemonic agenda in the Levant to see manifest on the ground a new political and institutional reality in the form of Greater Israel.
ISIS is an “operation by the West to create the greater Israel,” American author James Henry Fetzer told Tehran-based PressTV in an interview in August.
Such views were echoed by international security scholar and investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed in a report republished by MintPress in September. In “How The West Created ISIS,” Ahmed wrote:
“Since 2003, Anglo-American power has secretly and openly coordinated direct and indirect support for Islamist terrorist groups linked to al-Qaeda across the Middle East and North Africa. This ill-conceived patchwork geostrategy is a legacy of the persistent influence of neoconservative ideology, motivated by longstanding but often contradictory ambitions to dominate regional oil resources, defend an expansionist Israel, and in pursuit of these, re-draw the map of the Middle East.”
In regards to Israel’s motives in the region, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, a sociologist who specializes in the Middle East and Central Asia and the author of “The Globalization of NATO,” told MintPress, “What Israel is seeking is Israeli dominance, and this is very different from seeking religious supremacy in the region of the Levant.”
“Aside from token lip-service, Israel is not seeking the supremacy of Judaism at all. In fact, Tel Aviv has undermined the Jewish faith. The roots of the mainstream Zionism that Theodor Herzl subscribed to are based on the separation of the Jewish people from the Jewish faith (in other words, turning Jews into an ethnic category outside of faith and believing in Elohim or God and the Torah),” he explained.
Greater Israel: A Zionist dream
According to Theodor Herzl, the founding father of Zionism as a politico-religious movement in the late 19th century, “The area of the Jewish State stretches: From the Brook of Egypt to the Euphrates.”
Another fervent Zionist and leading official, Rabbi Fischmann, a member of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, made a similar declaration in his testimony to the U.N. Special Committee of Enquiry on July 9, 1947: “The Promised Land extends from the River of Egypt up to the Euphrates; it includes parts of Syria and Lebanon.”
Ever since political Zionism emerged in Europe in the 19th century, supporters of the movement have lobbied for and strived to to re-create what they perceive as their political and religious heritage and their birth right: the re-establishment of a Jewish state, exclusive to the Jewish people, within the territory defined by the Jewish Scriptures as the Promised Land of Israel.
The appropriation — or, as some argue, the misappropriation — of Palestine by Israel was never the end game for Zionists, but the cornerstone of a Jewish empire.
In an introduction to “‘Greater Israel’: The Zionist Plan for the Middle East,” a report written by Israel Shahak for the Center for Research on Globalization, Global Research Editor Michel Chossudovsky emphasized, “The Zionist project supports the Jewish settlement movement. More broadly it involves a policy of excluding Palestinians from Palestine leading to the eventual annexation of both the West Bank and Gaza to the State of Israel.
“Greater Israel would create a number of proxy States. It would include parts of Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, the Sinai, as well as parts of Iraq and Saudi Arabia,” Chossudovsky continued.
Looking at Zionism and how it has manifested through Israel’s policies, Shahak argues that Israel has actively worked toward the balkanization of the Middle East in view of asserting its own political supremacy.
The idea that “Greater Israel” can only be built atop the ruins of the Arab-Islamic world was documented in 1980 by Livia Rokach in her essay, “Israel’s Sacred Terrorism,” in which she details at length how Zionists in the mid-1950s planned to use Lebanon as ground zero for their divide-and-conquer modus operandi. Rather than the irrational work of a conspiracy theorist, Rokach based her argument on the memoirs of former Israeli Prime Minister Moshe Sharett, putting forward not her personal beliefs but rather the political manifesto of one of Israel’s founding fathers.
Within this narrative, Israel’s invasions of Lebanon in 1978 and 1982 can be understood as the implementation of Israel’s Yinon Plan — a strategy to fragment and weaken neighboring states to ensure Israel’s regional superiority.
Javad Arab Shirazi, an Iranian political analyst, believes that Israel’s attempt in 1982 to fragment not only Lebanon, but also Syria and Jordan, served as a springboard for Zionists’ divisionist policy in the Middle East. “Israel’s claims that it wants to see rise strong independent Arab states at its borders [Lebanon, Syria and Jordan] is laughable. What Israel wants are governments which will sanction its expansionist policy.”
“What Zionists want and what they are planning for is not an Arab world, but a world of Arab fragments that is ready to succumb to Israeli hegemony. Israel wants for the region to bow to its political will; its aims are certainly not democratic,” Shirazi continued, “Everything about Israel is actually the antonym of democracy.”
Likewise, Nazemroaya, the sociologist, noted:
“Zionism as an ideology is not intended on the institutionalization of sectarianism necessarily, but in practice it does do that, particularly in the case of Israel, too. The goals of Israeli officials are to entrench the sectarianism that already exists in their ethnocracy by supporting it in the neighboring states. This is why the Israelis want to see Lebanon, Syria and Iraq divided into political entities for Arabs and Kurds, at the ethnic level, and for Christians, Druze, Twelver Shia Muslims, Alawis, and Sunni Muslims, at the level of faiths.”
Two faces of a single coin?
If one can reconcile with the idea that Israel intends to claim territorial legitimacy over more than just Palestine in order to recapture the glory of biblical times, where would Takfirism — the messianic ideology expressed by ISIS — ever fit?
Have ISIS militants not vowed that they will not rest until Israel is defeated and Palestine’s sovereign rights are restored, thus positioning themselves as Israel’s arch-enemies?
Franklin Lamb, a former assistant counsel of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee and professor of International Law at Northwestern College of Law in Oregon, wrote in a report for Media with Conscience that, as of the summer of 2013, ISIS had created a special unit dedicated to the annihilation of Israel and the re-conquest of Palestine.
“ISIS’ ‘Al Quds Unit’ (AQU) is currently working to broaden its influence in more than 60 Palestinian camps and gatherings from Gaza, across Occupied Palestine, to Jordan, and Lebanon up to the north of Syria seeking to enlist support as it prepares to liberate Palestine,” Lamb wrote.
Considering ISIS’ infamous leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi has made several grandiloquent anti-Semitic declarations stating his hatred and resentment of Israel, some may think any comparison between Zionism to Takfirism would be far-fetched — especially since the two movements appear to be inherently and fundamentally opposed. Further, as the media has drummed on, Islamic radicalism is best understood in its antipathy and opposition toward Israel.
Yet many experts, analysts and scholars have asserted that Takfirism remains but the expression of Zionist will — a tool in Israel’s hands to destroy the socio-religious fabric of the Middle East.
In October, Iran’s defense minister directly accused Israel of plotting against the Arab people by enabling terror. As the Jerusalem Post reported, “Brig.-Gen. Hossein Dehqan said ISIS and Israel are two sides of the same coin, seeking to weaken the anti-Zionism resistance movements in Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.”
Dr. Kevin Barrett, a Ph.D. Arabist-Islamologist, told MintPress that he has “no doubt Israel has plotted and conspired against Arab states in the region, playing sectarian and tribal tensions to generate instability” to better further its hegemonic agenda.
“The fact that ISIS has not moved against Israel and instead focused on killing Muslims actually says a lot about this organization’s real mission,” Barrett stressed.
The new Middle East
Yuram Abdullah Weiler, a political analyst and columnist for Tehran Times with a keen interest in radical movements, argues that the manner in which ISIS has expanded its territories is suspicious.
“Looking at a map of the Middle East, it is obvious that ISIS militants sit exactly where Zionists imagine Greater Israel should be. Are we to believe that ISIS’ campaigns in Iraq and Syria and its push toward Egypt and Jordan are but a coincidence?” he told MintPress.
In his report, “How The West Created ISIS,” Nafeez Ahmed argues that ISIS’ actions not only align with Israel’s interests but actually serve the Israeli agenda by balkanizing the greater Levant region. He wrote, “The Third Iraq War has begun. With it, longstanding neocon dreams to partition Iraq into three along ethnic and religious lines have been resurrected.”
He went on, referring to Brian Whitaker, the former Guardian Middle East editor, who noticed parallels between Washington’s Perle-RAND strategy and a 1996 paper published by the Israeli Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies — a paper co-authored by former Pentagon official Richard Perle and other neocons who held top positions in the post-9/11 Bush administration.
“The policy paper advocated a strategy that bears startling resemblance to the chaos unfolding in the wake of the expansion of the ‘Islamic State’ – Israel would ‘shape its strategic environment’ by first securing the removal of Saddam Hussein. ‘Jordan and Turkey would form an axis along with Israel to weaken and “roll back” Syria.’ This axis would attempt to weaken the influence of Lebanon, Syria and Iran by ‘weaning’ off their Shi’ite populations.”
To succeed, Ahmed continued, Israel would need to gain U.S. support, “which would be obtained by Benjamin Netanyahu formulating the strategy ‘in language familiar to the Americans by tapping into themes of American administrations during the cold war.’”