Is Iran promoting ISIS as the new Palestinian leadership?
ISIS is offering oppressed and desperate populations in this region both hope and fantasy for escaping their deepening misery. The dream is to escape abject poverty and indignity by any means necessary, and joining ISIS or other like-minded cash-flush groups, which seem to appear out of thin air these days, is the most promising way to do it… ISIS representatives in the camps are pledging to destroy the Zionist occupation and boast about opening up Palestine to Full Return within two years.
….Young, fit Palestinians [in Lebanon] are at last being offered a job in a country where they are forbidden by law to work or own a home. Da’ish is reportedly paying an average of $300 a month, promising two and sometimes three days off each week to visit one’s family, cash bonuses for marriage and one-time child subsidies of $400 per child. Subsidies for food of $70 a month are also being offered, in the face of the fact that UNWRA has just reduced monthly cash for food stipends to a mere $30 per month.Must-reads from across Asia - directly to your inbox
There are two bits of news in this item. The first is that ISIS is now offering money to young Palestinians. The second is that publicists on the Iranian payroll are promoting ISIS as the legitimate leader of the Palestinians, despite Iran’s war with ISIS a few hundred miles to the West. This is a foretaste of what will bedevil the region if the Iran nuclear negotiations give Tehran the resources and maneuvering room to assert more influence in the Levant. “Today only a small percentage of Palestinians are responding to the siren-call of ISIS,” Lamb concludes. “But tomorrow?” The Persians will fight Israel as if there were no ISIS, and fight ISIS as if there no Israel, to paraphrase Ben Gurion.
Palestinians have the most positive view of ISIS among all Arab groups, with 24% approving vs. an average of 15% in Arab countries. A surge in Palestinian support for ISIS has been widely anticipated. In April, Fatah and Hamas fighters in Lebanon formed a joint force to keep ISIS out of Lebanese refugee camps after ISIS atrocities at the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Syria. “In the Middle East, truth is often counter-intuitive. Contrary to the prevailing conventional wisdom, the most significant barrier to Palestinian statehood is not Israel. It is, rather, an entirely foreseeable assortment of Arab forces, especially the Islamic State, or ISIS,” Prof. Louis Rene Beres of Purdue University wrote in the Washington Times June 2. He reported:
Now, irony of ironies, both Hamas and Israel are threatened by ISIS movements toward Gaza. Lately, various jihadi groups loyal to ISIS have exchanged gun- and rocket-fire with Hamas fighters, planted bombs in public Palestinian buildings, and prepared for all-out war with the Hamas government. When, recently, Hamas reportedly blew up a mosque believed to be a base for ISIS loyalists, a group calling itself Supporters of the Islamic State in Jerusalem offered the following statement: “In light of Hamas‘ latest action, we renew our allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, and call on him to strengthen his influence, to open up a war in Palestine in order to unite together in a war against the Jews and their accomplices.”
I agree with Prof. Beres: A year ago, I warned in Tablet Magazine that the ascent of extremists like ISIS would force a one-state solution on Israel as the existing Palestinian political structures disintegrated. The collapse of civic life in the Levant and Mesopotamia due to Sunni-Shia conflicts, I predicted, would produce a snowball effect like that of the Thirty Years War:
The region has seen nothing like it since the Mongol invasion of the 13th century. Perpetual war has turned into a snowball that accumulates people and resources as it rolls downhill and strips the ground bare of sustenance. Those who are left shiver in tents in refugee camps, and their young men go off to the war. There is nothing new about this way of waging war; it was invented in the West during the Thirty Years War by the imperial general Albrecht von Wallenstein, and it caused the death of nearly half the population of Central Europe between 1618 and 1648.
Perhaps 18 million people in the region have been displaced by war during the past several years, according to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees. The charts below first appeared in the cited Tablet essay.
This unprecedented refugee stream, moreover, coincides with a demographic bulge in the region’s military-age population. which has nearly doubled from about 15 million iin 1985 to 30 million in 2005. It will fall sharply in the near future (Iran in 2010 had 18 million people aged 15-24, but will have barely 10 million in 2020 due to the collapse of the birth rate in the 1990s).
The efforts of France, the Vatican and others to coax a Palestinian State out of this miasma probably are moot, as the petty concerns of the Palestinians are swamped by the greater regional conflict.