Monday, February 22, 2016

22-Feb-16: Facing up to the death cults: ISIS, the PA and Hamas

Posters eulogizing terrorist-children are a phenomenon
right across the Palestinian Arab social media [February 2016 image]
For reasons that baffle us, reports about the growing involvement of children in terrorist attacks launched in the name of the Palestinian Arabs and their various causes only rarely focus on the age of the attackers.

This has implications at least as weighty for the Arab side as it does for us Israelis.  who are left to ponder some impossible challenges relating to how to keep our society and families safe while trying to deal in a humane fashion with the people dispatching children on missions of calculated murder - and with the children themselves.

These thoughts are sparked by two new reports. 

One is a news item recounting how ISIS is heavily promoting a video clip [here] in which one of its foot soldiers in the bloodbath that is today's Syria kisses his young son goodbye after persuading him to sit inside a bomb-laden car that then explodes to plan. And yes, we did write "heavily promoting". 

The other is a new and less emotive but nonetheless deeply disturbing monograph published this week at West Point ["Depictions of children and youth in the Islamic State's martyrdom propaganda, 2015-2016", Combating Terrorism Center/West Point, February 18, 2016]. In it, the authors, three senior academics at Georgia State University, say of ISIS that
the publicity-hungry organization vividly depicts the wide-ranging and routine participation of children in its jihadist media projects. 
Their analysis shows ISIS is
mobilizing children and youth at an increasing and unprecedented rate... [and] that the number of child and youth militants far exceeds current estimates...
On a quick first reading, it's clear that the data-driven findings reported in the paper have the most serious of implications for three theatres of war: (1) Europe where ISIS and its close analogues are engaged in a highly successful mass penetration; (2) for us living within the reach of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas and their evil machinations; (3) everywhere else.

Our sense of foreboding derives from our conviction that when you set aside the theological hair-splitting that separates the various strands of today's Islamists [here's a simplified chart of the Syrian killing fields to illustrate the point], their approach to murdering innocent non-believers (a term defined heart-breakingly broadly by their various leaders) is essentially the same: Violence works. Extreme violence works better, the more blood the better and it matters not at all whether it's their blood, our blood or anyone else's. And those who do it, particularly those who die doing it, are placed at the very pinnacle of the heroism totem pole.

In plain terms, a death cult.

Some of the points made in the West Point ISIS paper - all of them applicable, we say, to the two Palestinian Arab regimes:
  • Unambiguously, ISIS' mobilization of children and youth for what it calls military purposes - we say it's terrorism - is accelerating. 
  • The rate of young people dying in human bomb operations (they call them suicide bombings, which we think is a misleading term) almost doubled between January 2015 and January 2016.
  • Three times as many human bomb operations involving children occurred in January 2016 compared with January 2015. 
  • Such attacks "are becoming more tactically attractive. They represent an effective form of psychological warfare—to project strength, pierce defenses, and strike fear" into the hearts of their enemies.
  • In other conflicts, "the use of child soldiers may represent a strategy of last resort, as a way to “rapidly replace battlefield losses,” or in specialized operations for which adults may be less effective. However, in the context of the Islamic State, children are used in much the same ways as their elders.
  • "The use of children and youth has been normalized under the Islamic State’s rule. Instead of hailing them as young heroes, the Islamic State media team merely celebrates them as heroes." 
  • ISIS "bucks this trend [of keeping quiet about deploying children] brazenly by boasting about its young recruits, something that is indicative of the fact that it is using them differently than the child soldier norm. The data suggests that the Islamic State is not recruiting them to replace lost manpower— children and youth only constitute a small proportion of its battlefield losses overall—and they are not engaging in roles in which they have a comparative advantage over the adults. On the contrary, in most cases, children and youth are dying in the same circumstances as adults. Additionally, existing research argues that children and youth will be used more to attack civilian targets among whom they can blend in better." 
From observation, it's clear to us that the Palestinian Arab regimes adopt the same approach and for much the same reasons. What chance that mainstream news reporting is ready to stare into this abyss and draw conclusions?

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