The above headline isn’t precisely correct. Shabak believes it’s exposed an ISIS cell in Umm al-Fahm, a Palestinian town in Israel. But it hasn’t yet publicly made this claim. Instead, it’s “disappeared” one resident, Muhammad Mahajna, as I reported yesterday. According to a loal source, today he was permitted a meeting with his attorney. Also today, the Shabak arrested 10-15 other residents of the town. My source didn’t know the reasons for these arrests. He believed Mahajna’s arrest involved charges of stone- and Molotov cocktail-throwing.
But through two separate Israeli sources I’ve learned the security forces believe they’ve exposed an ISIS cell in the heart of Palestinian Israel. The timing of this is curious to say the least. Just as ISIS sweeps through Syria and Iraq and Israel closes yet another failed war in Gaza, Bibi Netanyahu makes a big splash with the fraudulent claim: “Hamas is ISIS, ISIS is Hamas.” That’s precisely the moment when the secret police gin up an ISIS-plot against the state. Once the gag order is lifted you’ll probably read headlines about plans to stuff Bibi into an orange jumpsuit and behead him.
It’s important to note this article (Hebrew) by Yossi Melman, which essentially argues that all claims of an ISIS presence not only in Israel, but in the West Bank or Gaza, are a crock.
It’s also no accident that just as Bibi seeks to deflect blame from Israel for killing 2,100 Gazans in cold blood, the Shabak manages to expose a huge plot to overthrow Fatah in the West Bank. All this proves that the Israeli agency isn’t really a pure intelligence or security entity, but rather one deeply immersed in politics and which yokes its wagon to the prevailing political winds. Here in the U.S., we saw how corrosive such a phenomenon was when the CIA tailored its reports to Dick Cheney’s preconceived notions about Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. It found WMD where none existed. We got into a disastrous war whose consequences and misery are still being felt. All due to the politicization of intelligence.
If anything, Shabak’s predicament is even worse. There is little or no separation between it and the political echelon and it serves at the latter’s bidding. Which is how you get concocted thrillers like this one.
These charges will further stir up hatred of Israel’s Palestinian minority among Jews, who largely see the former as a hostile Fifth Column. If you read the headline in the accompanying Bibiton front page, you can read the suspicion and hate dripping off the page:
According to information supplied to state leaders, tens of Israeli “Arabs” have joined various rebel groups in Syria since 2011. At least 25 of them, known as extremists, joined Jihadist groups. It’s suspected they’re likely to use the experience they gain in Syria and Iraq and try to amass intelligence about Israel to be used in future terror attacks.
The word “leaders” in the passage above implies the leak of this questionable claim came from the Prime Minister’s Office. This isn’t surprising since so many questionable or outright false claims about Palestinians come from this source and are published without any confirmation or skepticism by the Israeli press.
With screaming yellow journalist headlines like this, the Israeli far-right has lapsed into full-blown Islamophobic paranoia. Israel has become a land beset by hate and fear of fully one-fifth of its own citizens. It brought to my mind a tortured reading of the opening lines of the Gettysburg Address. In Israel’s case it might go something like this:
Three score and six years ago our [Israeli] fathers brought forth a new nation conceived in ethnic cleansing and dedicated to the proposition that all non-Jews are unwelcome and second class. Now we are engaged in yet another war filled with blood, guts and hate, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived can long endure.
Can an Israel drenched in such hate and paranoia long endure?