ISIS: An Historical and Contemporary Overview by Spyros Sofos and Michael Degerald

NOTE: Click HERE to watch the video! Once the link opens, click “Del 2”. It may load very slowly, but it does work;)

This is the video of a public talk given at Lund University by Spyros Sofos and Michael Degerald on 12 November 2015. Michael speaks first and outlines changes in modern Middle East history and global history more broadly that help us understand the emergence of the Islamic State. Spyros follows this and builds on Michael’s historical outline with a synopsis of his research on the contemporary dimensions of the Islamic State.
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ISIS Speaks on Israel/Palestine Conflict and the Necessity of Jihad

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In the last few days, a new element has emerged in ISIS propaganda that was, from everything I have seen, not present before. ISIS has begun explicitly targeting Jews and the Israeli state in attempts to align itself with the Palestinians in the wave of violence that has rocked Israel and Palestine in the last few weeks. The messages here are most often directed at Muslim Palestinians. Yes, you’re probably thinking, there are Christian Palestinians too. The speakers in these videos reject nationalism and encourage Palestinians to take up jihad against Israel. One specifically tells Palestinians that if they fight on behalf of the nation, then God won’t be happy with them, but if they fight on behalf of Islam, he will. Another speaking explicitly calls both Hamas and the PA to be “harakatayn murtadatayn” (two apostate movements). The emphasis on jihad, as I have noted in other posts, is part of the lasting influence of Sayyid Qutb. In several of these videos, they explicitly mention Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the deceased leader of the first iteration of the Islamic State in Iraq, emphasizing him as a martyr and hero. Zarqawi was from Jordan, but I am fairly certain he had Palestinian roots, and this is part of why they reference him here. They repeat basic tropes one can find in various elements of Islamic discourse towards Jews, but the cherry-picked negative ones of course. Themes of peace, love, and coexistence aren’t very interesting to ISIS, despite their prevalence in the Quran.

Secondly, in connection with these videos, are reports that the man who carried out the Beer Sheva bus station attack is somehow connected to ISIS. The connection to ISIS turned out to be that he made some comments about supporting ISIS to a co-worker, nothing more. Basically, there is no ISIS presence inside of Israel so far. ISIS is hostile to Hamas and the Palestinian Authority as shown in the videos. There can be no serious attempts to claim that ISIS and Hamas are cooperating or even on the same page ideologically, as I wrote in an earlier post. There is no real chance that ISIS could make any kind of invasion from the east, significant changes in both Syria and/or Iraq would have to change before that could ever happen, and Jordan still remains in the way, with a vast desert between western Iraq and any areas of habitation in Jordan. The only real chance would be if ISIS managed to make its way through Syria and attack Israel through the Golan Heights, again something so unlikely as to be near impossible.

It seems to me that this burst of propaganda has more to do with insecurity or discomfort amongst ISIS leadership than anything else. Palestinians are revolting with violence against Israel, and this is part of the broader Western alliance of the USA, Israel, and Arab dictators that ISIS opposes, but ISIS clearly isn’t a part of what’s happening. Moreover, ISIS has been losing territory to the Hashd As-Sha’bi in Baiji and other parts of Iraq- its own “baqiyyah wa tatamaddud” (remaining and expanding) isn’t happening. There is major price inflation inside the areas ISIS controls because of scarcity of goods, they’re lacking experts in many areas and experiencing a brain drain. Those on the inside see the failures of the project and are likely trying to co-opt the Palestinian struggle. I see very little chance for this to succeed.