The Islamic State Started Here

The Islamic State or ISIS is the greatest threat to humankind in our time. This “state” seems to have appeared from out of nowhere, whose members originate from different places around the world, intervening in local communities, taking on an identity and worldview of the most radical, fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, posing a significant threat to all of humanity. It is no surprise that a broad coalition of states including the United States, Russia, Britain, France, and Muslim states such as Jordan, Turkey, and the Gulf states have all joined together in combating the Islamic state, despite their often oppositional interests – proof of the significance the world grants to defeating this entity.

The declaration of war by this aspiring Islamic Caliphate has resulted in the mass murder of civilians, the elderly, women and children, some thought of as “collateral damage” on the various battlefields, which take place on the outskirts of various cities in the region. Justifiably, the world does not stop for a moment to reflect upon the the motivations of the Islamic State, nor does it attempt to engage in dialogue towards compromise with this entity, as the world knows that one cannot recognize such a terrorist organization as a legitimate entity, one cannot negotiate with it or attempt at compromise. Images of decapitation, drowning, and mass slaughter have etched in our consciousness the impossibility of engaging in dialogue with such a vicious entity.

While the Islamic State is perceived as a new phenomenon, the truth is that it has roots in our area from as far back as 50 years. In 1964, Fatah established the Palestine Liberation Organization, an umbrella organization for various Palestinian terrorist organizations. This terrorist organization attempted to establish “a state within a state” known as “Fatahland” within Lebanon, where it trained troops and sent them around the world to commit acts of terror. The PLO was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians in hijackings carried out all over the world. Its hijacking activities have resulted in the invasive security checks that take place in every airport around the world, for fear of additional aviation terror attacks and hijackings. Until today, aircraft crash with great frequency due to acts of terror, which hundreds of innocent travelers becoming victims.

The Arab world was not deeply impressed by these terrorist groups, who operated in areas under Arab control until 1967 – under Jordanian rule in the West Bank, under the Egyptian authorities in the Gaza Strip and some in refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria. None of these states offered the PLO the option of establishing an autonomous area, nor were the “historic rights” of the PLO recognized. In none of these places is not offered autonomy has been proposed by government, has not recognized the historical rights. Following the peace agreement with Egypt, only Israel was ready to assume the risk of enabling Palestinian autonomy.

The historic decision of the Oslo Accords represented an unprecedented act to negotiate with a terrorist entity as a legitimate entity. The Oslo Accords, although it was very difficult to accept in Israeli society, represented a dramatic change in the Israeli worldview. Israeli society was faced with the question of whether it was prepared to make far-reaching and painful compromises to achieve peace. Despite the split in Israeli society on this issue, the general approach of Israel society exhibited a readiness to make painful concessions for true peace. The left and right wings in Israel both altered their worldview. Israeli society had come a long way since the approach of “better to have Sharm el-Sheikh without peace, than peace without Sharm el-Sheikh.

The State of Israel took a decision far-reaching and unparalleled in the political world of today by agreeing to allow the return of terrorists into its borders, giving them the opportunity to become legitimate leaders of the residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Oslo has created consensus in Israeli society for the possibility of a compromise and withdraw from most of the territory, with the possibility of land swaps.

In response to this act, acts of terror began to take place within Israel. Furthermore, despite the fact that the Oslo Accords were based on the concept of mutual recognition, the Israeli public eventually came to understand that the Palestinians refused to recognize the legitimate existence of a Jewish nation, whose state is Israel. Various factions representing Palestinian society have since become increasingly violent, not only against Israel, but also against one another. Hamas murdered Fatah activists in Gaza, in a prelude of what the Islamic State would do a number of years later.

Despite these events, the debate remains between Israel and the PLO is over less than 10 percent of the territory; however, there remains a huge conceptual gap between Israel and the PLO: while Israel desires a negotiated two-state for two peoples, the Palestinians claim there is no purpose in negotiations and refuse to accept a Jewish state. Thus, the State of Israel claims that says there is no partner, but that if a partner would be found for this basic approach, it would be willing to make painful concessions for peace.

When the other party refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, it undermines the very concept of negotiations, and strengthens the claim that negotiations are a façade for a staged approach towards Israel’s destruction. Israel finds itself dealing with an organization which historically inspired the most horrific acts of terror being committed today by organizations such as the Islamic State, expected to negotiate with it, despite the fact that it refuses to recognize the Jewish state.

Thus, there is a need to rethink our strategic approach. There is a need to rethink the Oslo-based concept of mutual recognition and the possibility for co-existence. The establishment of a new political entity of current conditions is not reasonable, due to our inability to reach basic agreements. In retrospect, allowing a terrorist leadership to return to lead the residents of the West Bank and Gaza has proven to be mistaken. In addition, our hopes that the “1948 Arabs” would serve as a bridge towards reaching an agreement have shattered before us, as the possibility for dialogue and peace continues to deteriorate.

Attempts to impose a solution on the two sides cannot succeed. The sides need to re-learn how to live together, get to know the other and facilitate co-existence. Only then will real compromise be possible. It is impossible to engage in discussions about peace when one party wants to liquidate the other, refuses to recognize its legitimate existence, while taking an active part in the trends of global terrorism and the instability in our region.

A society that educates its children to be murderers and celebrates them as shahids, which served as an inspiration of the Islamic State, devotes itself to a legacy of blood and fire, incites towards blood libel against Jews, using many of the propaganda methods employed by Goebbels, cannot be accepted as a partner. There is no difference between terror and terror, as all terror undermines the social order of the modern world. This kind of society can only be condemned and combated. We cannot reach understandings with a society estranged, insular, and hateful, a society dangerous both to itself and all of its neighbors. This is a society that has turned incitement into a type of theology, as murder has become a means for worshipping God. The world must say loud and clear to this entity – enough, at any price!

About the Author
Dr David Altman is senior vice-president at the Netanya Academic College and vice-chair of the college's Strategic Dialogue Center
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