Three videos, Three Middle Easts

ISIS is ripping through Iraq and Syria, foraging into Lebanon, and burning the Palestinian flag.

It hasn’t attacked Jordan or Israel yet, and many wonder what nefarious relationship might exist between the Jewish State and the Islamic State, and why ISIS hasn’t attacked Israel yet.

The most straightforward explanation is that you’re gonna have a harder time carving out an Islamic state if you attack the country with the best army and the least muslims in the region.

Strategically, attacking Israel is suicide for ISIS and they know it. Even attacking Lebanon makes very little sense except it’s also a soft target. I don’t see the Islamic State trying to seriously enter Turkish territory for exactly the same reasons, the Turkish army will bomb them flat, although some wonder if they are not attacking Turkey for the same reasons as Israel: because ISIS is a Turkish creation, or is it an Israeli-American creation? Or a Qatari-Saudi creation?

All three co-conspirators have completely different priorities, and it’s unlikely ISIS was “created” by all three contenders at once, but it is interesting to look at how different parts of the region view the hydra-headed beast that ISIS.


The Iraqi state media video was the first to air, and is by musical and production standards, the best video of the three presented here.

It is also the most virulently racist.

ISIS is the hatched son of the Devil and a Jew.

The video goes a step further by presenting other contenders to the ISIS party: A cowboy (American), an Emirati (Qatar), the Joker, Dracula and what appears to be a Turk.

Iraq has gone through changes over the past thirty years and has fluctuating relations with its neighbors, its allies and its oil producing competitors. That Iraqis view themselves as central to a transnational plot would make sense from their perspective, although not from Nosferatu’s.

The irony of the video is that it incites the exact same kind of hatred against Iraqi Jews that it condemns in the displacement of Iraqi Christians. At any rate, if I were an Iraqi Jew, after watching this video I would consider Aliyah in a heartbeat, while it’s still beating.


The Palestinian video is the funniest, by virtue of it being a skit rather than a music video.

Us Westerners watching Jihadists like ex rapper Jihadi John, or German rapper Deso Dogg, have to wonder how people who up until a week ago were eating fish and chips are now cutting people’s heads off.

The Palestinian ISIS parody asks the same question, presenting the ISIS thugs as your average Haamra or Gemayizeh street partiers turned fanatic, one of them is called Abu Goatee.

ISIS’ demands are equally ridiculous, how many times does the letter A appear in the Hadiths for instance, to the point where their victims would rather get shot than deal with their stupidity, and just watch how they handle a Jordanian Christian having a stroke.

And yet, when the Israeli citizen walks by, the ISIS recruit allows the young man to walk passed him toll free.

It could mean several things, either the directors think that ISIS is an Israeli creation, or they’re implying that Israel gets a free pass from ISIS for aforementionned reasons, or they might mean that ISIS is first and foremost a threat to the “arab world”, which it is.


Hilarious isn’t it?

The Kurdish video is mired in Kurdish historical and cultural references. For instance references to ISIS being bearded and dirty. Kurds don’t traditionally wear beards. Without being provocative, you wouldn’t be wrong if you confused a Kurd wearing a trim moustache for a Turk, especially if his name was Mehmet Ozul.

And interestingly enough, the video doesn’t blame its Arab neighbors as such, but points the finger at foreign jihadists.

ISIS is also compared to Al Hajjaj and Al Saffah, respectively Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphs among the original Salafs, whose military exploits are often praised, but whose brutality was legendary. This link to an excerpt of The Kurdish National Movement: Its Origins and Development, indicates that the relationship between Kurds and both caliphs (Al Hajjaj is refered to directly, while the Abbasid are refered to as a dynasty) was frought with violence.

The Kurdish video blames Qatar, not the United States, not Israel and not even Turkey, which would definitely be a feather in the Kurdish cap, but they don’t.

Cynics might argue that Israel is a direct beneficiary of Kurdish oil, and therefore kurds wouldn’t be critical of Israel, and that by removing Saddam the United States are the Kurds’ de facto best friend. Turkey on the other hand is no friend to the Kurds, so cynical arguments (although factually correct) fall somewhat flat.

Some might ask who funded the video, and why Qatar exclusively, but just as the Iraqi video, the Kurds world view depends on their history and their relationships with their neighbors and allies.

All three videos have the same laudable goal of attempting to diffuse the tension and vilify their enemies in the eyes of their people, but they are also undistinguishable from how each population views the world, the politics and the people behind it, and while they show unity against ISIS, they are also reflective of the deep rooted divisions, and perceptions that define the Middle East.

About the Author
Mame Bougouma Diene is a civil servant on permanent vacation even when he works 70 hours a week, who also blogs for the Times of Israel in French. He's French-Senegalese American, loves Israel and the Middle East, would really like to see an end to this intractable mess in his lifetime.