President Reuven Rivlin warned Monday evening that Israeli Arab teens are growing more enamored with becoming Da’esh operatives for the ISIS terror organization.
“The Islamic State is already here – that is no longer a secret,” Rivlin told participants at the ninth annual international conference of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).
“I am not speaking about territories bordering the State of Israel – but within Israel itself.”
Rivlin said that according to figures gleaned from “research studies, arrests, testimonies and covert analyses,” there is increasing support for Da’esh among Israeli Arabs.
A number have already been arrested during the past year for attempting to join the terror group. Some were recruited via the Internet, where Da’esh makes a special effort to target new members with flashy videos and webzines in various languages, including Hebrew.
A resident of the northern Negev Bedouin town of Hura was sentenced to three years in prison yesterday (Jan. 18) after admitting to having joined ISIS. He planned to travel to Syria with other family members.
This month the Be’er Sheva District Court is scheduled to hear five indictments against Bedouins who joined Da’esh. Several worked as educators in Hura, and in the Bedouin city of Rahat.
Earlier this month the terrorist cell leader Muhammad Abu Al Kian was sentenced to four years in jail. One of his early followers, a medical resident from Ashkelon, joined ISIS in Syria and was killed.
Much of the sympathy for Da’esh is seen among Muslim Arabs, said Rivlin, but support for Islamist terrorism is growing in secular circles as well.
“We are today seeing the influence of extremist ideas even in areas and groups identifying as secular,” he noted. “We have seen the waving of the black flag of the Islamic State in various villages and at political rallies, some which have included the participation of members of Knesset.”
Rivlin emphasized that “the State of Israel certainly does not regard the entire Arab sector as an enemy, nor as a group entirely tainted with extremism and Islamic fundamentalism.”
He did, however, underscore the need for Arab leaders to step up and take control of the situation – or own up to their part in it.
“I do not for a moment absolve the Arab leadership of responsibility,” he said. “The voices that blame the ‘occupation’ as the source of all ills while displaying sympathy and understanding for attacks on innocents represent a serious problem.”
Rivlin said it is in the best interest of the state to offer Israel’s Arabs a better future than that promised by groups such as Da’esh.
“If children are growing up without a dream, without hope or without aspirations, with the feeling that their blood and their lives are of a lesser value in the State of Israel, then we must think of how to offer them a dream, hope and faith.”