The Palestinians are trying to compare the current (40 days so far) “lone wolf” terror campaign against Israelis to the 2014 50 Day War with Hamas in Gaza. That is an exaggeration as there were about 30 times as many Israeli (and Palestinian) casualties during the 2014 conflict. The current terror campaign seems larger than it actually is because each casualty gets so much media coverage. While most of the Israeli casualties have been soldiers and police, all the Israeli deaths (12) have been civilians (along with 200 wounded) because civilians have been the main target of the 80 (so far) attacks. The most used weapons are rocks, vehicles and kitchen knives. Children are encouraged to participate and some of young as 11 have attempted knife attacks. So far eighty Palestinians have died and over a thousand wounded.
For the Palestinian leadership (Fatah) in the West Bank the offensive is a big success because it justifies decades of increasingly virulent propaganda demonizing Israelis and all Jews. This media campaign plays on the Arab sense of entitlement and persecution. Thus a recent opinion poll showed 83 percent of Palestinians believe that all of Israel is actually Palestinian land and any actions to drive the Jews out are justified. Only 12 percent agreed that both Jews and Palestinians had a place in the Middle East. As a result Palestinians consider any Jews killed in terrorist operations as justifiable because the Palestinians are defending their land. Any Palestinians killed by Israel is murder by an illegal occupier of Palestinian land.
These beliefs did not develop overnight. Moslem media and politicians have been preaching virulent anti-Semitism for over a century now, and it only got worse when Israel was established in 1948. This Moslem propaganda is pretty nasty stuff, and you can pick it up on al Jazeera or the Internet, although the worst of it is only available on Arab language sites. Al Qaeda, which originally did not see Israel as a primary target, eventually changed its mind when it found that Moslems conditioned to hate Israel can be converted into general purpose Islamic terrorists. This anti-Semitism often expresses itself in the form of physical assaults on Jews or damage to Jewish religious or educational buildings.
It’s not just the Arabs hating the Jews. This fondness for murderous fables is common in the region. For example Iranian media pushes the idea that the Saudis are flying ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) terrorists in from Syria to help with the fight against Shia rebels there. This sort of paranoia plays well throughout the Middle East and is regularly used against enemies local and foreign. For example many Moslems (Sunni and Shia) believe that ISIL is the creation of the United States and Israel. This situation gets more bizarre the closer you look at it. The Arab oil states are also mad at Palestinian refusal to make some kind of peace deal with Israel. The Arab oil states are also mad at the Palestinians for supporting Saddam Hussein’s plans to conquer all of Arabia (starting with Kuwait in 1990). Then there is the common attitude in the Arab world that the Palestinian mess is all the fault of the West and they should pay for it.
The current Palestinian mess began in 1949 when Arab nations refused to accept and absorb Moslems who fled (mostly) from what is now Israel on the promise of the Arab nations soon mobilizing sufficient military strength to destroy Israel, drive the Jews out and allow the refugees to return home. That never happened and it was quickly recognized that there was a serious refugee problem. The UN established a program to take care of these refugees but in a very unusual move the 750,000 original Palestinian refugees were allowed to pass on their refugee status to their children. No other refugee group was allowed to do that by the UN. About the same number of Jews were driven out of Moslem countries after 1948 and they were all accepted and absorbed by other nations, mainly Israel and the U.S. Since 1947 the number of “Palestinian refugees” has grown to five million and Arab states continue to refuse to absorb them.
This situation was all about Arabs believing they had the right to decide who can live in “Moslem territories” and for them Israel was a major offense. This is nothing new. Moslems had been driving infidels out of Islamic nations for a long time. That’s why most Arab-Americans are Arab Christians. Despite having been there before Islam came along, Arab Christians (and Arabs professing other religions) were always under pressure to either convert, or leave. Many of those who left over the past two centuries, came to America, and prospered in a much more tolerant society.
For decades, Arab propaganda, including stuff included in schoolbooks for kids, insisted that the Israelis were illegally occupying Arab land, were not capable to doing so without the assistance of other nations (especially the United States), committed the most outrageous (and non-existent) atrocities, and that there could be no compromise on this issue of Palestinian control. The message was clear; Israel must be destroyed, and Arabs were not at fault in creating the situation. Thus a growing number of Moslems (especially Palestinians) feel they are being oppressed by the UN and the West for condemning righteous Islamic terrorism.
With all that Islamic terrorism efforts against Israel have not been very successful. In desperation Palestinian terrorists adopted the use of suicide bombing against Israel in 2000. The Israelis eventually developed tactics which emphasized going after the key people involved in planning and carrying out the suicide attacks. This worked and defeated the effectiveness of suicide bombing. On the down side the Palestinian attacks destroyed the substantial support within Israel for a Palestinian peace deal, and increased support for stronger measures against Palestinian terrorism. The Palestinian terrorists are still at it, although many Palestinians admit that the tactic has failed and has been counterproductive. Despite that Palestinians continue to favor violence over peaceful resolution.
Since the latest terror campaign began in early October Israeli police and intelligence agencies have been going after individuals or groups that are actively supporting the “lone wolf” attacks. Palestinians can count and many have noted that nearly all attackers have been killed or caught (and face long prison terms). So to keep this going Palestinian “helpers” have appeared. The Islamic terrorist groups in the West Bank have used the lone wolf mania to do some recruiting and try to carry out some more spectacular attacks. So far that has not worked and there have been more arrests of Palestinian Islamic terrorists in the last month.
The Israelis are not the only ancient minority in the Middle East that suffer from Moslem intolerance. Many of these minorities will, if given a chance side with Israel. Such is the case with the Syrian Druze. Most of the Druze (a thousand year old offshoot of Shia Islam) live in Lebanon and Syria and they have always sought protection from the government in power. As a persecuted minority, this was a matter of survival. But that means Druze loyalty is tied to the degree of protection provided. Thus in 2012 the 20,000 Druze living in the Golan Heights (captured from Syria in 1967) openly turned against the Syrian government for the first time. Before that most (over 80 percent) of these Druze refused the offer of Israeli citizenship, feeling that they still owned loyalty to Syria (who never gave up trying to get the Golan Heights back). Since 2012 many more Druze have applied for Israeli citizenship. So far 80 have applied in 2015. That is over half of the 151 who have applied since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. Only about 300 Druze in Golan have applied for Israeli citizenship since it was first offered in 1981. The Syrian government had long treated the Syrian Druze well, as long as they supported the minority Alawite Assad dictatorship that ruled the country. The increasing violence against Druze in Syria has turned these normally pro-Syria Druze against the Assad dictatorship. But many Syrian Druze (mainly older ones) still harbor positive attitudes towards the Assads. The growing and very real threat from Islamic terrorist groups has managed to unite some of the Syrian Druze in agreeing to work with their fellow Druze in Israel and cooperate with the Israelis.
In Egypt there is a lot more counter-terror action in Sinai as security forces seek to finally hunt down an ISIL group that have been active in Sinai for most of 2015. This group claimed responsibility for the October 31st bombing of a Russian airliner over Sinai. The ISIL group took advantage of the corruption (you could pay cash to get past security checks) to get a bomb on board the flight. It is unclear exactly how the bomb was planted but there are plenty of people at the Red Sea resort complex in southern Sinai that will bend the rules for a cash payment. Yet most Egyptians, including the Bedouins in Sinai oppose ISIL. The Bedouins, who have long supported armed opposition to the government, are openly hostile to ISIL because ISIL tries to impose harsh “Islamic” lifestyle rules on the Bedouins. That is one thing you do not try to do and the Bedouins forced ISIL to back down on several occasions because of this hostility. But the Sinai Peninsula is a big place (60,000 square kilometers) with only about 600,000 people, mainly in a few urban areas. Lots of places to hide out. ISIL is also accused of killing popular clerics who support Islamic terrorism but not ISIL and planning to become the only Islamic terror group in Sinai (and eventually the world).
The Egyptian counter-terror campaign in Sinai is believed to have reduced the number of active Islamic terrorists (outside of Gaza) from 4,000 to a few hundred in the past few years. The decreasing number of Islamic terror attacks seems to attest to that. In the last few months the Sinai Islamic terrorists appear to have concentrated on finding better hideouts and reorganizing to better deal with the security situation. There are still suicide bombings against the security forces but no large scale attacks. The ISIL bombing of the Russian airliner is a good example of the new approach. ISIL has been smuggling cash and weapons (including explosives for bombs) to its Sinai branch (usually via Libya) and that would have enabled the building of a bomb and the bribing of airport personnel to assist in a “smuggling operation.” Even corrupt airport personnel are not going to risk their jobs with an aircraft bombing that will greatly reduce traffic to the airport and the need for aircraft personnel. But smuggling, usually drugs, is more common and acceptable.
November 11, 2015: Israeli aircraft bombed a weapons storage site near the Damascus airport in Syria.
In Lebanon the UN agreed to waive diplomatic immunity for one of its career (more than 20 years) local employees and turn him over to Lebanese police as an accused Israeli spy. Two other Lebanese were also arrested and charged with spying. These three are accused of being part of a network of Israeli agents that took pictures and videos of potential Israeli targets in Lebanon and emailed the pictures to Israel. Such informant networks have long been used by Israel in the Palestinian territories and throughout the Middle East to look out for potential threats.
November 10, 2015: An Israeli official announced that Israel was now neutral when it came to removing the Assad clan from power in Syria. That is the goal of the Syrian rebels but Russia and Iran back the Assads. Many Israelis note that as the Syrian rebels were taken over by Islamic terrorist groups (especially ISIL) there were calls for a more aggressive hatred of Israel than the Assads practiced. At that point it became clear that, for Israel, Assad was not so bad after all. However Assad has long depended on Iran for support and Iran backs Islamic terrorist group Hezbollah in Iran which has long used violence against Israel. Russia has become a close ally of Iran and all these developments and connections are not good for Israel.
November 5, 2015: Off the Gaza coast an Egyptian patrol boat fired on a Palestinian fishing boat and killed a Palestinian. Egypt has joined Israel in blockading Gaza because of the growing number of anti-Egyptian Islamic terrorists based in Gaza. Palestinian fishermen suspected of smuggling are sometimes fired on when they refuse to halt.
November 2, 2015: In Syria Israeli aircraft apparently bombed a shipment of weapons headed to Lebanon for Hezbollah.
November 1, 2015: Egypt revealed that it had found and destroyed 31 smuggling tunnels from Gaza in October. Many of these tunnels were destroyed by salt water. Since 2013 Egypt has been building a 13.8 kilometer long security zone along the Gaza border that was designed to be 500 meters wide. This is in order to detect and destroy smuggling tunnels. To make it even more difficult for tunnel builders the security zone features a 40 meter (128 foot) wide and 20 meter deep ditch from the Mediterranean. Since this ditch is filled with salt water from the sea that makes it even more difficult to build tunnels because the water seeps down and makes it more expensive to tunnel beneath it. This salt water is also pumped into newly discovered tunnels. This and the new detection methods forces the tunnels to be dug deeper and all this makes it more expensive to build and use the tunnels. Most Egyptians in northern Sinai are anti-tunnel because the tunnels are basically run by gangsters and Islamic terrorists, two groups that are seen causing more trouble for the locals. Egypt blames Hamas for much of this violence because Hamas tolerates the presence of these anti-Egypt Islamic terror groups in Gaza and lets them use the smuggling tunnels to move between Egypt (where they stage attacks) and Gaza (where they are safe from Egyptian retaliation). Even before the security zone decision Egypt had detected hundreds more tunnels using satellite based sensors and new ground based search procedures. The 500 meter security zone made most of the then current tunnels useless and forced the tunnel operators to dig deeper into Egypt.
October 31, 2015: A Russian airliner carrying 224 people (mostly Russian tourists returning home from Egypt) blew up over the Sinai Peninsula. There were no survivors. It soon became obvious that a bomb brought down the aircraft and many foreign airlines halted or restricted their flights to the Sinai (especially the Egyptian airport at the Red Sea resort complex). Russia resisted admitting that it was a terror attack because ISIL had quickly taken credit for the downed aircraft and said it was payback to Russian intervention in Syria. Egypt also resisted the ISIL claims but within ten days both Russia and Egypt acknowledged it was ISIL and took action. One local ISIL leader was then killed in Sinai and another identified. Egypt is a popular vacation spot for Russians and there were 80,000 Russians in the Red Sea resorts when the aircraft went down.
October 30, 2015: In Syria Israeli aircraft apparently bombed a shipment of SCUD ballistic missiles headed to Lebanon for Hezbollah.
For the first time Iran was invited to meet with American and EU (European Union) diplomats for ongoing discussions in Europe about how to deal with the mess in Syria. Also attending are officials from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. Iran has long complained loudly and openly about being excluded from these talks and got an invite because of intense Russian pressure and by promising to make a useful contribution. Few of these negotiators expect a deal to be made. The Arab Sunnis want no part of Assad but the Iranians need to maintain Shia (as in Assad or a Shia replacement) rule in Syria. The racial and religious animosities between Arabs and Iranians is a major obstacle. This is made worse by the popular belief in the Moslem world that ISIL and al Qaeda are inventions of Israel and the West to damage Islam. The West (and a growing number of Moslems) see the main problem as the Arab refusal to take responsibility for their actions. ISIL comes out of the Sunni radicalism tolerated (and subsidized) in Saudi Arabia for decades. Iran, Syria and Russia all have a history of supporting and promoting terrorist groups. Getting past all these bad habits, many of them not the sort of thing the perpetrators are willing to even acknowledge publicly, makes negotiating a peace deal in Syria extremely difficult.
October 29, 2015: For the first time Russian warplanes hit Syrian rebels near the Israeli border. Otherwise the Israelis have found their Syrian border pretty quiet for the last month or so.
October 27, 2015: The Iranian Quds Force has succeeded in establishing another pro-Iran Islamic terrorist group in Gaza. This one, “Al-Sabireen Movement For Supporting Palestine” uses the same symbol as the Iran backed Hezbollah in Lebanon and has 400 members, all of them paid monthly by Iran. Most of these men formerly belonged to Sunni Islamic terror groups but agreed to become Shia (if only in name) because Iran promised financial and other support. Al-Sabireen " The Patient Ones" has been active since mid-2015 and has already lost several members in clashes with Israeli troops who patrol the border with Israel.
October 24, 2015: In the north an Arab-Israeli man who was a recreational paraglider used his paragliding gear to fly across the border into Syria where he had arranged to join ISIL. So far more than 40 Arab-Israeli men have gone to Syria to join ISIL Most of these are still in Syria and at least two are known to have been killed. The few who have returned have been arrested. Israel believes ISIL is a potential threat but is not currently an immediate threat to Israel.