Friday, May 13, 2016

Israel and "Palestine": What International Law Requires - Louis René Beres

by Louis René Beres

"The legality of the presence of Israel's communities the area (Judea and Samaria) stems from the historic, indigenous, and legal rights of the Jewish people to settle in the area, granted pursuant to valid and binding international legal instruments, recognized and accepted by the international community. These rights cannot be denied or placed in question." — Ambassador Alan Baker, Israeli legal expert.
  • Under relevant international law, a true state must always possess the following specific qualifications: (1) a permanent population; (2) a defined territory; (3) a government; and (4) the capacity to enter into relations with other states.
  • While this contingent condition of prior demilitarization of a Palestinian state may at first sound reassuring, it represents little more than a[n] impotent legal expectation.
  • For one thing, no new state is ever under any obligation to remain "demilitarized," whatever else it may have actually agreed to during its particular pre-state incarnation.
International law has one overarching debility. No matter how complex the issues, virtually everyone able to read feels competent to offer an authoritative legal opinion. While, for example, no sane person would ever explain or perform cardio-thoracic surgery without first undergoing rigorous medical training, nearly everyone feels competent to interpret complex meanings of the law.

This debility needs to be countered, at least on a case by case basis. In the enduring controversy over Palestinian statehood, there are significant rules to be considered. For a start, on November 29, 2012, the General Assembly voted to upgrade the Palestinian Authority (PA) to the status of a "Nonmember Observer State."

Although it is widely believed by many self-defined "experts" that this elevation by United Nations has already represented a formal bestowal of legal personality, that belief is incorrect. Under law, at least, "Palestine" - whatever else one might happen to think of "fairness" - remains outside the community of sovereign states.

This juridical exclusion of "Palestine," whether welcome or not, on selective political grounds, is evident "beyond a reasonable doubt." The authoritative criteria of statehood that express this particular exclusion are long-standing and without ambiguity. Under relevant international law, a true state must always possess the following specific qualifications: (1) a permanent population; (2) a defined territory; (3) a government; and (4) the capacity to enter into relations with other states.

Moreover, the formal existence of a state is always independent of recognition by other states. According to the 1934 Convention on the Rights and Duties of States (the Montevideo Convention):
"Even before recognition, the state has the right to defend its integrity and independence, to provide for its conservation and prosperity, and consequently to organize itself as it sees fit...."
It follows that even a Palestinian state that would fail to meet codified Montevideo expectations could simply declare otherwise, and then act accordingly, "to defend its integrity and independence...."

More than likely, any such "defending" would subsequently involve incessant war and terror against "Occupied Palestine," also known as Israel. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed in 1964, three years before there supposedly were any "Israeli Occupied Territories." What, then, exactly, was the PLO trying to "liberate?"

Whenever the PA finally decides it is time openly to declare statehood, certain explicit Montevideo standards and corollary criteria of statehood will need to be invoked.

Much as the Government of Israel, seeking to challenge any such adversarial PA declaration, will then cite correctly multiple Oslo Agreement violations. The PA will counter-argue that its particular right to declare an independent state of Palestine is nonetheless fundamental, or "peremptory." The PA will surely add as a footnote that its right of statehood according to "jus cogens" ("certain fundamental, overriding principles of international law, from which no derogation is ever permitted") simply overrides all previously-existing expectations of a just peace with Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, U.S. President Bill Clinton, and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat at the Oslo Accords signing ceremony on September 13, 1993. (Image source: Vince Musi / The White House)

Undoubtedly, among other matters, the PA will cite (1) the plainly non-treaty quality of the Oslo Agreements (per definitions of "treaty" at the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties), and to (2) those basic and allegedly immutable human rights under international law that concern "self‑determination" and "national liberation."

Now, of course, Prime Minister Netanyahu seems to have acknowledged the eventual creation of Palestine, but, among other things, only on the seemingly prudent condition of antecedent Palestinian "demilitarization."

While this contingent condition may at first sound reassuring, it effectively represents little more than a contrived and ultimately impotent legal expectation. For one thing, no new state is ever under any obligation to remain "demilitarized," whatever else it may have actually agreed to during its particular pre-state incarnation. For another, there is no discernible reason to believe that "Palestine" would ever make good on any of its pre-independence promises to Israel to support the Jewish State's equally basic right to "peace and security."

For "Palestine," following formal statehood, the struggle with Israel would continue to be conceptualized as zero-sum; that is, on the corrosive assumption that absolutely any gain for Israel would represent a corresponding loss for Palestine. It could claim it was defending itself against anyone, including terrorist groups, and remain within its rights.[1]

Under the Montevideo Convention, all states are legally equal, enjoy the same rights, and have equal capacity in their exercise. The moment that the PA should proceed to declare a State of Palestine, the new country could become the effective juridical equal of Israel. To best maintain its indispensable national interests in such circumstances, Israel should insist that Palestine's borders never be based upon pre-1967 lines.

A perfect core summation of such insistence is provided in the February 10, 2013 words of Israeli legal expert, Ambassador Alan Baker:
"The legality of the presence of Israel's communities in the area (Judea and Samaria) stems from the historic, indigenous, and legal rights of the Jewish people to settle in the area, granted pursuant to valid and binding international legal instruments, recognized and accepted by the international community. These rights cannot be denied or placed in question."
Accordingly, Israel should clearly affirm that Israeli "settlement activity" is in fact fully consistent with binding international law. Any contrary affirmation by a still-aspiring "Palestine" would be founded upon specious misrepresentations of this critical law.
Louis René Beres is Emeritus Professor of International Law at Purdue University. His just-published new book is titled Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel's Nuclear Strategy.

[1] Over the years, a number of cases in United States federal courts have rejected the idea that the PLO, as "parent" of the PA, is in any way recognizable as the legitimate core of an independent Palestinian state. Earlier, perhaps, capable Israeli lawyers and policymakers might have been able to refer to such American case law in compelling support of an argument against Palestinian statehood. Today, however, after Oslo, and after so many years of incremental Israeli recognition of PLO/PA authority as legitimate, Israel will have to base its well-founded opposition to "Palestine" on other grounds.

Louis René Beres is Emeritus Professor of International Law at Purdue University. His just-published new book is titled Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel's Nuclear Strategy.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Hillary, Deleter of the Free World - Matthew Vadum

by Matthew Vadum

Will a Justice Department -- whose employees think she's a rock star -- take Hillary's possible prosecution seriously?

Employees of the U.S. Department of Justice have given so much money to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign this time around that critics justifiably doubt the agency can handle her private email server case fairly and impartially.

In what appears to be a super-sized potential conflict of interest, Clinton, a pathological, self-serving liar who doesn't mind if Americans die to further her political ambitions, has accepted almost $75,000 in campaign contributions in the current election cycle from employees at the Justice Department, the cabinet bureau that will eventually decide whether to prosecute the Benghazi bungler for her use of a hacker-friendly home-brew email server while top U.S. diplomat.

The server is at the heart of the scandal over Clinton's mishandling of an Islamic terrorist attack in militant-infested Benghazi, Libya on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 that left four Americans, including U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens, dead. Even now, almost four years after the assault, the Obama administration has failed to provide an autopsy report about Stevens who was initially reported to have been ritualistically sodomized before being murdered by Muslim terrorists.

The fact that Mrs. Clinton destroyed email evidence -- evidence subject to a congressional subpoena, no less -- is already evidence in itself that she obstructed justice through spoliation of evidence. Spoliation means you can take as evidence the fact that evidence has been destroyed. Courts are entitled to draw spoliation inferences and convict an accused person on that basis alone.

This heavy team support for Hillary Clinton within the Justice Department adds to the growing expectation that she will never face justice for her willful national security breaches while serving at the State Department. After all, these DoJ employees are making it clear through their donations that they in effect want to hire Clinton as their boss. Presumably they wouldn’t want to hire her and then send her to prison.

A new Washington Free Beacon review of 2016 presidential campaign contributions reveals just how popular Mrs. Clinton is with Justice Department employees.

Clinton received $73,437 from individuals who listed “Department of Justice” as their employer. Among the 228 contributions, 12 hit the $2,700 level, the maximum amount individuals are legally allowed to give. The $73,437 is a huge improvement over Clinton’s 2008 White House run when she received 23 donations adding up to just $15,930 from DoJ employees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

In the current election cycle, Clinton rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has received 51 donations from DoJ employees adding up to $8,900. Businessman Donald Trump, now the presumptive GOP nominee, took in only two contributions from DoJ employees adding up to a meager $381.

Citizens United president David Bossie told the Washington Free Beacon he wants Attorney General Loretta Lynch, a hyper-partisan radical left-winger like her predecessor Eric Holder, to step back and appoint a special counsel to handle Clinton’s case.

“I’m not surprised in the least to see more evidence that shows the politicization of the Justice Department,” Bossie said. “How can Democrat political appointees fairly investigate someone who is about to become their nominee for president? That’s why last July I called on Attorney General Lynch to appoint an impartial special counsel to investigate the private Clinton email server.”

“Today, I renew my call that Attorney General Lynch must appoint a special counsel to determine if Hillary Clinton or her agents broke the law and compromised our national security,” he said. “This investigation needs to be conducted free of political influence once and for all.”

It's not like the DoJ has had a sterling reputation in the Obama era. From the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal to the gangsterish Operation Choke Point, the current DoJ is an extraordinarily politicized joke of an agency that goes after Obama's enemies while letting the administration's friends get away with crimes on a regular basis. The previous attorney general, the openly racist Eric Holder, barely escaped prosecution after Congress found him in contempt.

This is the same DoJ that helped to cover up ex-IRS official Lois Lerner’s unlawful targeting of conservative and Tea Party nonprofits.The agency refuses to investigate civil rights violations involving white victims and turns a blind eye to vote fraud. It sent radical taxpayer-funded community organizers to Sanford, Fla., and Ferguson, Mo., to foment civil unrest after Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown were killed by white men in self-defense. It works with dangerous Islamist front groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to smear Americans as "Islamophobic."

Under Obama, the Justice Department is skittish about treating criminals like criminals. The agency calls juvenile delinquents “justice-involved youth” to avoid hurting their feelings. Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason said last week that the bleeding hearts at the agency no longer refer to individuals as “felons” or “convicts” after they are released from prison because doing so makes it needlessly difficult for them to reestablish themselves in society.

Meanwhile, the FBI’s investigation, including an upcoming interview with Clinton about the emails, is reportedly ongoing. Adding to the high-stakes political drama, the Russian government is considering releasing a trove of Clinton’s emails that have come into its possession.

"There's a debate going on in the Kremlin right now between the Foreign Ministry and the Intelligence Services about whether they should release the 20,000 of Mrs. Clinton's emails that they have hacked into," Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano told Megyn Kelly on Monday.

And just days ago after it was discovered that the emails of Bryan Pagliano, the State Department tech staffer who ran Clinton server's, had gone missing, WND reports that U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan raised the prospect in a Freedom of Information Act case brought by Judicial Watch that it may be necessary for Clinton to be put through the deposition process.

The news prompted WND to cheekily refer to Clinton as "Deleter of the Free World" in a headline.
Of course, Obama administration officials at the highest levels were long aware of Clinton's cloak-and-dagger email infrastructure. The irretrievably corrupt Clintons created the system to frustrate Freedom of Information Act requesters, shield Hillary's correspondence from congressional scrutiny, and funnel oceans of money to the international cash-for-favors clearinghouse known as the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.

But getting Hillary in the prisoner's dock won't be easy. It may even be politically impossible.

Howard Krongard, who served as inspector general for the State Department from 2005 to 2008, predicted earlier this year that Clinton’s case would “never get to an indictment” even if the FBI referred her case to the DoJ for prosecution. He said the case would have to go through “four loyal Democratic women,” including Lynch, senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, and Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell, who runs DoJ’s criminal division.

None of this ought to suggest the case against Mrs. Clinton is weak. Actually, it would be difficult for it be stronger or more clear-cut.

Around the time of the attack Clinton lied about the facts and blamed U.S.-based Mark Basseley Youssef (formerly known as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula), the director of "Innocence of Muslims," an anti-Islam movie trailer on YouTube that almost nobody had seen. She claimed back then that the video inspired the sophisticated military-style operation that she claimed materialized spontaneously outside the facility which was in Islamist-held territory.

At the military ceremony that accompanied the repatriation of the body of Tyrone Woods, a retired Navy SEAL who perished fighting off Islamists in the 2012 attack, Clinton blamed all the death and mayhem of that awful day on Youssef, who ended up going to jail as a real-life political prisoner.

She promised the dead hero's grieving father, Charles Woods, that Youssef who was thousands of miles away from Benghazi at the time, would pay for whatever it was he had done.

“She came over … she talked with me. I gave her a hug and shook her hand and she did not appear to be one bit sincere at all and she mentioned about, ‘We’re going to have that person arrested and prosecuted that did the video,’” Woods recounted to talk radio host Lars Larson. “That was the first time I even heard about anything like that.”

If there is any justice, Americans will hear about Hillary Clinton's outrageous scapegoating of an innocent man over and over again before Election Day.

Matthew Vadum, senior vice president at the investigative think tank Capital Research Center, is an award-winning investigative reporter and author of the book, "Subversion Inc.: How Obama’s ACORN Red Shirts Are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers."


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Abbas and Sisi, the starling and the raven - Dr. Mordechai Kedar

by Dr. Mordechai Kedar

Abbas sees Sisi as a kindred spirit, but that does not mean that Sisi will fulfill his requests.

Rabbi Eliezer is quoted in the Talmudic Tractate Bava Kama (82:b) as saying: "It is not surprising that the starling chose to visit the raven, because they are of the same species," a reference to the fact that people of similar ilk are attracted to one another because their interests are similar as well.

Mahmoud Abbas has visited Abdel Fattah el-Sisi at least ten times since he became president of Egypt,  the most recent visit at the beginning of this past week. According to Egyptian and Palestinian media, these visits centered on two things: 1.Mahmoud Abbas' desire to call an international conference that will decide to force Israel to establish another Palestinian state, this one in Judea and Samaria and governed by the PLO - and 2. Abbas' attempt to enlist Egypt's help in ending the feud with Hamas that has caused a split within the Arabs of Judea and Samaria.

Except that the real story is behind the scenes.The idea of an international conference to give the peace wagon a shove forward changes its face constantly ever since the Madrid Conference of October 1991 and its unimpressive results caused the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to seek out other routes. Oslo, the capital of Norway, was one of them, and there have been others since then, some secret and others public, all attempts to reach an agreement between the two sides. 

An international conference is a friendly environment for whoever wants to pressure Israel because of the automatic majority the Arab side has at any forum of this type. The proximity of other heads of state gives every Israeli leader the feeling that he is under pressure and pushes him into a defensive po‎sition which convinces him that he must offer some form of payment  to the Palestinians in the form of territorial, political and/or economic concessions. 

An international conference allows the Palestinian spokesmen to set a high standard of expectations - from Israel - and to hint that if their appetite is not assuaged they will tell the world that Israel is "guilty for the lack of a peace treaty with her neighbors."

A well known principle of international conferences says that an international conference is held only after the nations that initiated it have already decided on their decisions and that the entire conference, with its meetings, documents,speeches, cocktail parties and participants are all props that are there to convince those who get their information from the media that something important has actually happened at the conference.

This is just what Abbas wants fromSisi, help in organizing  an international conference to which the Palestinians will come after they are convinced that the documents exhibited there have given them everything Israel does not want to give them in direct negotiations. Abbas wants to take advantage of the growing intimacy between Israel and Egypt, a result of the joint struggle of both countries against the increasing terror in the Sinai. For Sisi to take the part of the one responsible for the "negotiations," that is the forcing of a solution on Israel under the threat that if Israel  does not give in to his dictates - Abbas', that is - it will endanger the cooperation between them and the increasing terror in the Sinai will eventually threaten Israel.

The unsolved question is whether Sisi is really prepared to adopt the idea of calling for an international conference on the Palestine issue, whether he has the time and patience needed to ensure that the conference succeeds, when his own backyard - Egypt's worsening problems - pleads for real solutions. My gut feeling is that Sisi is not overjoyed about having  this conference thrust upon him, because he hasn't the time or patience to prepare it properly and also because he does not trust the Palestinians - and perhaps not the Israelis either - to act properly, cooperate with the participants and carry out the decisions once the conference is over. Sisi is afraid that this kind of conference will enter the history books as having had no influence on the situation, just like its predecessors.

Sisi is also not sure that the world will be interested in a conference aimed at progress in achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because the world today understands that even if a real peace agreement is signed between Israel and the PLO, it will do nothing to solve the problems in Iraq, Lybia, Yemen and the rest of the battles and controversies that are tearing the Arab world into shreds. Sisi knows that the Arab world's level of interest in the Palestinian problem is close to zero and that explains why he has no motivation to hold a conference that Abbas sees as the only way to return to the limelight after the "Arab Spring' pushed the Palestinian issue offstage.

Even the Arabic spoken in Gaza is different than that spoken by the Arabs of Judea and Samaria.
Sisi knows that the American president's eagerness to pull his weight to force Israel to give in to the Palestinian's expectations has lessened, that Obama has despaired of finding a solution, sensing that neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians have enough people who are really interested in solving the conflict. Sisi knows that the American president - if he only wanted to - could play a constructive role at a conference of this nature, but he does not see any great desire on Obama's part to do that, mainly due to Obama's fear of another failure for his party on the way to the November elections. In conclusion, the probability that Abbas' efforts to enlist Sisi to his cause will succeed is not high.

The second issue that brought Abbas to Egypt, healing the rift between the PLO and Hamas, is no less important than the first in Abbas' eyes. He - the Palestinian chairman - sees that Hamas is already planning the celebrations of the ninth anniversary of the establishment of its state in Gaza, while his chances of establishing a similar state in Judea and aSmaria under PLO rule are fading  by the day. His efforts to enlist Egypt are the last possibility to heal the rift in the Palestinian political system, a rift that proves that there is no unified agenda to which all those who claim the existence of a Palestinian nation can agree.

The rift betwen the PLO and Hamas is just an organizational ex‎pression of the significant cultural differences between the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, who have familial and cultural ties with the Jordanian population and the Gazan Arabs who are blood relatives of the Bedouins dwelling in the SInai and the Israeli Negev. Even the Arabic spoken in Gaza is different than that spoken by the Arabs of Judea and Samaria.

Hamas' control of Gaza is not threatened in any way; even Egypt and Israel, who hold the keys to the gates leading from Gaza to the rest of the world have not gotten Gaza to accede  to their demands and interests. Actually, Sisi has no realistic  way to force anything on Hamas. Even more, Sisi worries that if he tries to pressure Hamas in Gaza, they will only increase the aid they are already giving the Jihadists in theSinai and export the terror to Egypt on a higher scale.

That's why Abbas is probably going to have to accept another disappointment. It is hard to imagine Sisi endangering Egypt by pressuring Hamas,  just to convince that terrorist organization's members to accept the leadership of the President of the "Muqata in Ramallah," their derisive title for him.

In sum, there is every reason to expect that Mahmoud Abbas' recent visit to Egypt will not yield the fruits he expects and that his wanderings around the world are the personification of the Arab proverb: "any movement is blessed" - it doesn't matter what you achieve, nor does it matter what you do, the main thing is that you are in motion, raising dust and creating the impression that you are accomplishing something. Abbas is a master at creating illusions and that is what he is doing nstead of trying  the one thing that could bring results, sitting down with Netanyahu until they hammer out a solution.

This is how his foreign policy is carried out, but everyone must remember the fact that he, that very same Mahmoud Abbas, is the man who was in charge of funding the PLO terrorists during the days when he was Arafat's deputy and right hand man.

This week Israel remembers its fallen IDF soldiers and terror victims. Mahmoud Abbas is responsible for the deaths of not a few of them. May their memories be blessed.

Translated by Rochel Sylvetsky, Oped and Judaism editor, Arutz Sheva English site.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

The Newest Tool in the Toolbox of IDF - Or Heller


by Or Heller

The first training exercise of the new commando brigade simulated a single offensive effort, intended to take the enemy off balance by staging an aggressive thrust deep into the enemy dispositions. Or Heller on the major challenges the brigade is expected to face, both domestically and outside of Israel's borders

A unit's shoulder badge should tell you everything about the unit it represents, like the lone tree in the badge of the Golani Infantry Brigade or the stylized numeral seven in the badge of the Seventh Armored Brigade. The shoulder badge of the new commando brigade, which is very different from the established badges, should, likewise, tell you the whole story: it depicts an upright commando knife at the center and a two-pronged attack arrow that may arrive from the air or from the ground into the depth of the enemy's territory. The knife and the arrows form the Hebrew letter Kof (the first letter in the word "commando"), and the black and white colors represent the fact that the commandos operate 24/7, during the day and especially during the night.
In early February 2016, the vision several previous IDF Chiefs of Staff had attempted to advance until the present IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, came along and made the final ruling, has materialized at last in the establishment training exercise of the new commando brigade, held in the Jordan Valley.

It is by no means a simple task taking four special operations units, each trained to acquire different specialized skills, each possessing a different tradition and a different command structure, each wearing a different beret – and cast them all together to form a single brigade. That, precisely, was the challenge that faced Brig. Gen. Uri Gordin, commander of the IDF 98th Division (the elite paratrooper division) assigned to command the new brigade. Gordin commanded the recent exercise alongside the commander of the new commando brigade, Col. David Zini.

The IDF called this exercise Leil HaGsharim ("The Night of the Bridges"): four days during which the four special operations units, Duvdevan (= Cherry Tree), Maglan (= Ibis), Egoz (= Walnut Tree) and Rimon (= Pomegranate Tree) joined forces in staging a single offensive effort, designed to take the enemy off balance by staging an aggressive thrust into the depth of the enemy's dispositions. The commando brigade trained in the Jordan Valley, but what they had in mind, presumably, was actually located further north – Hezbollah. In the next war, in the face of Hezbollah's 140,000 rockets and missiles and the devastating potential this arsenal has with regard to the Israeli rear area, strategic installations and IDF bases, the new commando brigade will be one of the first forces marching into the depth of the enemy's territory in order to disrupt the launching of that arsenal.

Brig. Gen. Uri Gordin knows a thing or two about special operations units. He had advanced through the ranks of Sayeret Matkal (the IDF's elite GHQ special operations unit) all the way to the position of unit commander (between 2007 and 2010). The IDF Chief of Staff at the time, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, awarded him a personal Colonel rank as the commander of Sayeret Matkal pursuant to a special operation for which the unit was commended. Two months before the outbreak of Operation Protective Edge, Uri Gordin had become the commander of the Nahal Infantry Brigade, and led this brigade in the fighting against Hamas in the northern sector of the Gaza Strip. One year after that operation, in July 2015, Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot decided to promote Gordin and appointed him the commander of the IDF Fire Formation – the elite 98th Division.

Even after four days without much sleep, Brig. Gen. Gordin sounded fully alert when he told us about the establishment training exercise. "This is the brigade's first training exercise. We called it 'Night of the Bridges' and this name reflects the concept of an on-going sequence of operational activities by small forces, intended to gain a significant achievement opposite the enemy. The commando brigade is news to the operational elements of IDF – a clear and direct reinforcement to the operational edge of the military.

"To my understanding, the brigade is radically different from the Nahal Brigade I commanded during Operation Protective Edge and radically different from Sayeret Matkal I had commanded during Operation Cast Lead. All of the units making up the brigade took part in the operational activities of the fighting during Operation Protective Edge, each under command of a different brigade. They executed missions assigned to them by the various infantry brigades – missions that could have been assigned to any one of the other battalions. Through this unification, this fusion, we are determined to come up with something different, to adapt the missions to the operational capabilities or vice versa – to add a new and significant tool to the toolbox of IDF.

"The very establishment of the new brigade enables us to view the operational challenges differently – in a more focused, more diversified way, with operational solutions we can offer vis-à-vis the challenges. At the same time, we are in the process of developing a new capability. This is the first product, and although it is highly significant it is still the first product in a process of learning and developing new capabilities. Initially, we are engaged in fusing different capabilities, in advancing and developing an operational concept and operational plans."

Is the context of this training activity a specific one? Does each battalion execute a different mission? Is it a combined operations effort? What will the wartime employment of the new brigade look like?

"The brigade consists of four operational units plus a medical unit and a communications company, and they operate cooperatively – sometimes jointly and sometimes individually, vis-à-vis the missions and the challenges. When they departed for the training exercise on the first day, they all arrived in the staging area and from there they embarked on a sequence of almost four full days of operational activities, at times in close geographical proximity and at other times less closely."

What is the primary weapon system in use and what is the basic formation of the brigade? Is it a squad, a platoon or a company?

"Firstly, the primary weapon system is our people. These are special operations forces made up of warfighters who had received substantial, extended training and are capable of rising up to the challenges and to improvise on the ground – but also to maintain a relatively extensive range of capabilities in different combat situations. Regarding the basic formation, to our understanding, we develop it so that even at the team level they will be able to execute a relatively extensive range of missions. On the other hand, we understand that in the context of the more significant missions we will require a more substantial Order of Battle, and in that case our basic formation will be a troop. But I think that the main thing I would like to say is that what we have here, primarily, is a force possessing a very high degree of operational flexibility, made up of elements ranging from small detachments to large joint forces up to two or three units operating jointly within a given space. This will yield a very substantial and highly-focused strength."

How do you avoid losing the specialized undercover operation skills of the Duvdevan unit or the special weapons and tactics of the Maglan unit? How do these specialized skills fit into the joint operations of the units?

"Firstly, if there is one risk or concern in this process, it must be this issue – that we might adversely affect the independence of the individual units. We are intensively engaged in an effort to preserve their strengths and advantages. The initial impression of all of the units at the preliminary debriefing session we conducted was one of empowerment. With regard to the other context, I think this is the first time that IDF have regarded this tool as a different tool, and owing to the very assumption that it is different, then every time we face a challenge we think how to implement the response using this tool of commando forces that would operate as commandos rather than as infantry. This is a tremendous opportunity to build up a force and to find solutions of this type, as opposed to the manner in which the potential of these units was utilized as they were employed as a standard force."

Is the commando brigade regarded as a maneuvering brigade within the IDF OrBat?

"We will not be another maneuvering brigade. We will be a brigade of commando units that operate in the manner of commando units, which operate against high-value objectives, which attempt to achieve the desired result by focusing the strength on specific, significant points, on the challenges presented by the other side – the enemy. I think that the manner in which we employed the special operations units in the past was grossly inadequate and far below their true potential. I think that the very fact that we combined it and created a new perspective enables us to develop capabilities that we never had before as well as to come up with operational configurations that are different from anything we had in our plans to this day."

Gordin regards the establishment of the new brigade as an important strategic move. "It is an organizational decision that is nothing short of historical," he says. "A separate brigade of special operations units, somewhat reminiscent of the US Army JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command), operating out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Like many other ideas in IDF, in this case, too, we closely observe what the Americans are doing."

"A Structured Commando Iron First"

The new commando brigade incorporates four special operations units: Maglan – which employs specialized weapon systems behind enemy lines, the undercover operations unit Duvdevan – which operates (in disguise) primarily against wanted terrorists in the territories, Egoz, originally established in the 1990s to constitute a guerrilla warfare unit against Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Rimon, reestablished in 2010 (and adopting the name of the mythological Rimon reconnaissance unit that operated in the Gaza Strip in the 1970s) as a desert commando unit assigned to deal with the challenges presented by ISIS and other hostile elements along the Egyptian border and in the Gaza Strip.

The challenge is substantial. IDF Chief of Staff Eizenkot took four units associated with different regional commands and with different other units, possessing radically different specialized skills, methods of operation and functions, and subordinated all of them to the same commander – Col. David Zini, who had advanced through the ranks of the Golani Infantry Brigade and commanded the Egoz unit in the past. During Operation Protective Edge, Zini was rushed to replace the commander of the Golani Brigade, Col. Ghassan Alian, who was injured during the battle in Sajaiyeh. David Zini's lifelong dream – as an officer who had advanced primarily through the ranks of the Golani Brigade – was to become the commander of that brigade. However, last summer he was summoned by the No.1 veteran of the Golani Brigade, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, who had been Zini's commanding officer for many years and knows him very well, who told Zini: "You are not getting Golani. You are getting something that is more difficult than Golani."

The people of the special operations units are concerned, deeply concerned. The people of the Egoz unit are worried about their guerrilla tactics and doctrines being changed. The people of the Duvdevan unit are worried about their undercover capabilities being tampered with. Decades-old combat traditions are suddenly put to the test. Such units build themselves up over many years on Esprit-de-Corps and symbols, and suddenly all of the cards are placed back in the deck, then reshuffled and dealt again.

Nevertheless, we see that the "real" elite units, the most select ones, remain outside of the commando brigade – they remain in the IDF Intelligence Directorate, in the Air Force and the Navy or under the Depth Corps HQ. Right now, the new commando brigade must consolidate a combat doctrine that would be suitable to the new battlefield. No more cumbersome, regular armed forces made up of armored divisions equipped with Soviet-made arms – but ISIS, Hezbollah and Hamas. Organizations lacking a traditional military center of gravity, organizations blended into the civilian population. "The idea is to create one structured commando iron fist capable of operating in large formats and over long periods of time behind enemy lines," said a senior IDF officer.

IDF have logged an extensive history of commando operations since the dawn of their existence. The idea of uniting the commando operations has been around since the days of the eighth IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen Haim Bar-Lev, who was opposed to the establishment of a single commando HQ. IDF reviewed the idea again in 1982, but that review was interrupted by the breakout of the First Lebanon War.

In 1986, another attempt was made to establish a commando and depth HQ under command of Maj. Gen. Doron Rubin, but that initiative was interrupted by Operation Kachol VeHum ("Blue & Brown") in Lebanon and the idea was set aside once again. 

During the Second Lebanon War (2006), frustration ran high owing to the inadequate employment of the special operations units of IDF. Tal Russo was appointed as special consultant for commando operations to IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, and a combined operation by Sayeret Matkal and the Shaldag Unit was staged into Baalbek in Lebanon on August 2, 2006. The Israeli Defense Minister in those days, Amir Peretz, regarded Operation Had VeHalak ("Plain & Simple") as "the operation that would change the face of the war", but in effect, it was no more than a 'bragging trip' – a round trip into the depth of the Lebanese territory on board helicopters.

The question now is whether the new commando brigade would succeed in making a difference on the battlefield. It will never be out of work. 

Or Heller


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Online Women Activists Of The Islamic State – Where Are They Now? - A. Agron

by A. Agron

While not physically present on the battlefield, the ISIS women did their part by waging psychological warfare against their enemies, and by participating in promoting ISIS online, posting personal photos on their social media accounts that offered a glimpse into life in the Islamic State.

In years past, Islamic State (ISIS) members were more visible and vocal across a plethora of social media platforms than they are today. Actual ISIS members were eagerly followed by legions of adoring supporters who aided in the dissemination of propaganda. Within these pro-jihad online enclaves, they were celebrated media fixtures. The group has repeatedly stressed that "half of jihad is media" to highlight how vital its online activists are in winning hearts and minds in cyber space, in addition to on the physical battle field in Iraq and Syria.
Female ISIS members took on multiple roles as ISIS members, both online and in actuality. They were expected to be devoted wives to their husbands as well as strong maternal figures with the crucial task of raising the next generation. While not physically present on the battlefield, the ISIS women did their part by waging psychological warfare against their enemies, and by participating in promoting ISIS online, posting personal photos on their social media accounts that offered a glimpse into life in the Islamic State.
Images posted by ISIS members of babies brandishing weapons, or enticing snapshots of snacks and meals, or scenic landscapes of Syria went viral in their pro-ISIS circles. The accessibility and appealing visuals were key to structuring a specific narrative that ISIS wanted to project – a narrative of a very real Islamic utopia, in which pious Muslims and their families could freely practice ISIS's interpretation of Islam. Women were actively involved in penning threats on their various social media accounts, and tried to instill fear in their opponents; they were an important cog in the ISIS propaganda machine.
However, towards the latter part of 2015 and early 2016, there has been a noticeable void online amongst female ISIS members in the Islamic State. Instead, the torch seems to have been passed on to female ISIS supporters outside the Islamic State, scattered across the globe. It is now they who are most crucial in disseminating the group's message. Some of the most influential ISIS disseminators and activists, such as "Radical Girl,"[1] or the recently imprisoned Safya Yassin,[2] aka "Muslimah," are activists who have taken on the work of the women actually living in Islamic State territory. Long gone are the days when former Glaswegian Aqsa Mahmood, aka Umm Layth, would post entries in her blog aimed at women who might be seeking a life in the Islamic State,[3] or when Sally Jones, the widow of prominent ISIS fighter and hacker Junaid Hussain would leak personal details and home addresses of U.S. military and government employees, via her Twitter account.[4]            
It is important to note that there has been a marked shift in the content that is released by ISIS accounts in general, in light of frequent account suspensions.[5] Instead of threats and organized hashtag campaigns, some supporters are trying to disguise their agenda by appearing to comment on current events from Western media sources. This may be partially in an attempt to appear more sophisticated, and to show that jihadi supporters are not an uncouth, uneducated bunch ill-informed about world affairs.
Little is known about the inner workings of the ISIS media complex, however, it can be assumed that it is the senior ISIS officials who wield the power, functioning as the puppeteers pulling the strings and manipulating the online activists. What is known is that ISIS has a low threshold for dissent; there have been numerous reports on such activists who have been silenced, either temporarily or permanently.
A combination of factors may have contributed to the silencing of women ISIS members online. Firstly, restrictions have likely been imposed by ISIS for security reasons. For example, Junaid Hussain was killed by a drone in Raqqah in August 2015. It was reported that his online activity aided in pinpointing his location. British ISIS fighter Omar Hussain, a prolific blogger and media activist, was recently ordered off social media by the ISIS media wing.[6] Thus, if ISIS is censoring its prominent members, it would likely also go after lesser known online personalities.
Secondly, there is a real possibility that some of the ISIS women online have been killed in Coalition and Russian airstrikes. Thirdly, in 2015, ISIS banned the usage of Wi-Fi in private dwellings, limiting access to Internet cafes only, where computers and content can be monitored. This was perhaps also an effort to crack down on members' complaining about[7] or criticizing it online. It is possible that restriction on Internet access encouraged the women to participate in other leisure pursuits.     
It can be argued that Twitter's suspensions of jihadi accounts have been largely ineffective against combatting extremists who use the platform, particularly considering how quick and easy it is to immediately create a new account. Despite the inconvenience, ISIS members and supporters do this, sometimes hundreds of times, while boasting that Twitter can do nothing to keep them off permanently. However, if Internet access in the Islamic State is limited, and time to access a computer is limited as well, then the Twitter suspensions can be much more powerful in silencing the voices of the women in the so-called Caliphate. The Raqqa-based activist group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently reported, on July 19, 2015, that ISIS had banned Wi-Fi networks in public areas, and had restricted access to Internet cafes in order to monitor content.[8]
While women in the Islamic State can be found online, most are not as brazen as women activists have been in the past about advertising their locations or providing details that might reveal it. It should also be noted that female Jabhat Al-Nusra members are also posting content on various social media platforms; they appear to be more frank and candid than the ISIS women in presenting the hardships that they face in Syria.
The following report will examine the noticeable shift in the online activity of female jihadi voices.
Formerly Active ISIS Members Who Have Disappeared From Social Media
Previously, it was much easier to reach out to women residing in the Islamic State, and to view updates from ISIS members in those territories. Because of their current inactivity on social media, it is much harder to track these women down. One of these prominent social media activists was Sally Jones, who continued her husband's legacy online, issuing threats and leaks after his death.[9] She repeatedly disseminated links from her Twitter account, which contained the personal information of military members[10] and government employees. Jones was arguably the most prominent female ISIS member online.
Another, Umm Layth, aka Aqsa Mahmood, from Glasgow, who immigrated to Syria in early 2014, wrote a blog, "Diary of a Muhajirah,"on Tumblr, which went viral amongst jihadi devotees.[11] Mahmood also maintained a Facebook and a Twitter account. Like Jones, she penned threats and authored incendiary messages against Westerners. For example, a blog post from September 11, 2014 read in part: "Wallahi [I swear] explain we are free of those living in the West who know and proclaim the Shahadah [declaration of faith] while being beneath the feet of the Kuffar [infidels]. Ittaqullah [fear Allah]. Know this Cameron/Obama, you and your countries will be beneath our feet and your Kufr will be destroyed, this is a promise from Allah swt that we have no doubt over. If not you then your grandchildren or their grandchildren. But worry not, somewhere along the line your blood will be spilled by our cubs in Dawlah [IS]. We have conquered these lands once Beithnillah [God willing] we will do it again. Read up on your History, and know that it will repeat itself, you will pay Jizyah [tax on non-Muslims] to us just like you did in the past... "[12] When Mahmood's identity was revealed across mainstream media in the West in September 2014, her status was elevated among female jihadis; however, she seems to have posted nothing since the summer of 2015.
Another voice once prominent online was that of Australian teen Umm ("mother of") Istishhadi ("martyrdom seeker, aka suicide bomber"). Her last known Twitter handle was Umm Kalash.

"Lol forgot to put on my shoes for the photo shoot. Typical of me."
Umm Istishhadi was a prolific tweeter who returned immediately after each suspension of her Twitter account. On August 1, 2015, she revealed her goals in Syria: "1 of the goals I had of bein in sham [Syria] was volunteering at a hospital or orphanage Alhumdililah gonna come true. So happy Sistas contribute!"

The themes of Umm Istishadi's tweets were often violent. On August 17, 2015 she wrote, "Heard the story today that a husband signed his wife n him [up] to do istishad [martyrdom operation] together aww my heart I was like nearly in tears lol My dream."
On August 25, she tweeted, "The moment u think chicks chat bout girly stuff... well in sham [Syria]... e talk where in aussie we culd do istidhad [martyrdom operation] lol ahh the memories lol."

In 2015, four Western women in Libya actively promoted the ISIS province in the country. Their Twitter handles were Umm Unknown, Umm mus'ab, umm Asiyah and Islam4ly on Twitter.[13]

In 2014 and 2015, the sisterhood aspect of living in the Islamic State was a huge selling point for prospective female recruits. This aspect was stressed in photos showing women enjoying one another's company. Since the genders are strictly separated in the Islamic State, women-only cliques strengthen the bonds among women living in the so-called Caliphate. 
For example, a women's clique in Syria broadcast its members' Anglophone connection – it comprised an American, a Canadian, and two Australians. Some of their photos went viral.

American Umm Jihad shows off Western passports prior to a bonfire

Australian Umm Abdullatif with her friends in a group photo
A British woman who called herself RemoveYourFaceAvis[14] was a prominent voice on Twitter throughout 2015. She often recounted experiences of life in Raqqa, sharing with her followers her insights on life under the Islamic State. On August 4, 2015, she tweeted: "Sitting next to an ukht [sister] in café in Raqqa who divorced her husband and left him back in Darul Kufr because he was not making Hijrah to IS. After she left him, the same day she got her 2 young kids and booked flights to make her Hijrah! WALHAMDULLILAH!"

A French-speaking woman called Umm Abbas, who on her Twitter page said she lives in Syria, posted last on April 15, 2015.

Raheeq makhtoum, another French-speaking woman in Raqqah, was last active on Twitter on May 18, 2015.

An English-speaking woman called Umm Usamah who claimed to live in Mosul lasted tweeted on January 3, 2015. She had posted nearly 28,000 tweets.

A Bosnian ISIS member calling herself Sumaya Umm Dojana, who appeared to live in Deir Ezzor, used to post daily on her Instagram account. She stood out because she posted videos showing herself singing nasheeds, and showed her eyes in her burqa, which were heavily made up.

One photo she posted showed a chopping block shaped for amputating hands. She wrote on it: "stole and your hand go bye bye!!"

In another photo, shared in 2016, she showed the Internet café used by the locals. She wrote: "From here we get sweet[s] and net."

In early 2015, Summaya posted a photo of her current home, likely confiscated from a local resident, with a well-furnished bedroom. Her caption reads: "When they give u room and then they say u just need to 'clean her little.'"

A widow calling herself Mujahidah Lioness frequently tweeted photos showing off her culinary skills, and also wrote about romance and marriage. On August 3 , 2015 she tweeted photos of some dishes she whipped up in the kitchen: "Cooking makes me happy.. My husband is in Jannah [Paradise] so I just cook for me and my kids alhamdulilah." Her account disappeared shortly thereafter, and she has not resurfaced under a similar alias.

Inactive or Deactivated Accounts
Some ISIS members appear to deliberately deactivate their Twitter accounts; others refer to difficulty getting online. As noted, over time, Internet access in the Islamic State has been restricted by both ISIS's leaders and by the grim reality of living in a war zone. For example, a British ISIS member once prominent online, Mutawahhidah, tweeted on January 2, 2015: "Deactivating in shaa Allah forgive me if ive ever harmed you. Assalamu alaikom."

Another woman residing in the Islamic State, Umm Habiba Al-Habashia ("The Ethiopian") has a Twitter account that she has designated "inactive." It is interesting why she maintains an account that is not active instead of deleting it altogether.

A Dutch woman called Umm_Jihad states on her Twitter profile that she is married to a fighter in the Islamic State, and that she is formerly from Holland. She does not actually tweet, but she follows 16 people, and has 19 followers. She may be using Twitter only to direct message others, conducting private conversations via the platform.

A user called Zawjatou Abu Ibrahim ("Wife of Abu Ibrahim") states on her Twitter profile that she is in Syria. She has tweeted only a handful of times, apparently most recently on January 22, 2016. The mild tone of her tweets is notable – even when discussing jihad, she is neither belligerent nor threatening. She last wrote: "The tourism of my ummah is Jihad. –The Prophet salallahu 'alayhi wa salam."

A French ISIS member called Oum abdRahm states that it is difficult to connect to the Internet because it has been cut off. On December 6, 2015, she wrote: "In certain areas, internet was cut off for security reasons... for those of you that have no news of your loved ones."

A few months earlier, in July 2015, it was reported that ISIS had banned Wi-Fi networks in privates areas, and was only allowing access at Internet cafes so that activity could be closely monitored.[15]

Currently Active Women ISIS Members
A handful of Western women in the Islamic State appear to still be active online. For the most part, their tweets seem to be more sporadic, and are often more mundane, reporting on living conditions or quoting Koranic verses, for example.
A Malaysian doctor calling herself Shams has been active on social media since 2014.[16] She once maintained a Facebook page, but after suspensions, she moved to Twitter and Tumblr. The frequency with which she posts has dramatically decreased since early 2016. On September 7, 2015, Shams shared a photo of a women-only Internet café and writing: "And they say women are oppressed by IS."

A post by Shams indicates that slaves also are allowed to visit Internet cafes. On January 22, 2016, she asked, "Is it ok to share the story of Sabiyya [a female slave]By Allah, I just saw them at the women cafe net." Noticeably absent in recent times is any discussion or mention of women slaves. This was a hot topic of conversation, possibly deliberately played up by ISIS members and supporters in order to provoke critics in the West. Aside from this brief mention, the topic of slaves does not appear to have been revived online.

On March 7, 2016, Twitter user "black white" asked about Shams, since the latter had not posted in some time. She referred to the ISIS member by her pen name, Bird of Jannah: "Does anyone know what happened to 'bird of jannah'. Diary of a muhajirah... I really miss her articles." Shams' blog shared a name with the blog penned by Aqsa Mahmood.

 An American woman in Syria calling herself Umm Isa Al Amrikiah made her social media debut in January 2016. She created her own Telegram channel, which documents life in Syria and provides advice to women interested in immigrating to the Islamic State.[17] Umm Isa Al Amrikiah is also active on Instagram. She is one of the rare exceptions in this group of women, in that she actively issues menacing threats. For example, on January 19, she posted a photo of an explosive belt, and expressed her desire to use it in a suicide operation. She wrote: "Alhamdulilah finally got my Hizam [belt, i.e. suicide belt] today. May Allah Subhana wa ta'ala grant me the opportunity to use it soon, to grant me the honor to sacrifice myself for Him, for His deen [religion] (To kill the kuffars) [infidels]. May Allah subhana wa ta'ala grant us all shahadah [martyrdom] Ameen."[18] (Note: A few days after this paper was published, Umm Isa Al Amrikiah and her husband were reported killed in an airstrike.)

Photo of suicide belt and gun
In addition to making threats, and showing off life in the Islamic State, she occasionally doles out advice to Muslims living in the West. On January 20, 2016, Al Amrikiah posted an article she had written on titled "Are You A Hijabi or a Hoejabi?" The article lambasted Western Muslims who dressed inappropriately, and offered tips to rectify such habits. Defining a "Hijabi" as "A Muslimah [Muslim woman] who is fully covered head to toe, as her Lord commanded," she goes on to define a "Hoejabi" as "a hybrid between a whore and a hijabi. A creature somewhat confused whether she belongs in this camp or that." Amrikiah implores these women to refrain from adopting the ways of non-Muslim women. She enumerated additional characteristics of a "Hoejabi": Tight clothing, gratuitous amounts of makeup, excessive perfume, speaking loudly in public, tight abayas, high heels, showing cleavage, glittery abayas, and plucked eyebrows.
A French-speaking woman named Umm Omar Hass Coast also occasionally issues threats to Westerners on Twitter. In a series of tweets on February 13, 2016, she wrote: "French infidels, you think you scare us? You will make us give up? The sky in which you fly belongs to the almighty Allah // as is the ground you tread to fight us. We that are His allies inshallah! ... May the earth tremble under your feet and your blood flow, and your women become widows like you made our women widows. And may your children be orphans like you have made our children orphans. Know that your bombs do not impress us! They are the same ones that we attach on our belts or load into a vehicle to kill the lot of you. O Muslims! Wake up! Are you among those that kill your brothers? Emigrate for the sake of Allah or fight them in their land like they fight us on our land! Let us stand firm and pray a lot to the All Merciful."

One Filipina ISIS member called Umm Asmaa is fairly active online.[19] However, she appears to refrain from making any incendiary comments. A lot of her posts relate to marriage, or Islamic topics.

On February 29, she noted that most pro-ISIS accounts on Twitter have taken on a more passive, quiet role. A user called Pasta Analyst commented on her tweet: "They said the Islamic State has become weak in Wilayat [province] Twitter. They lied, the fighting has just begun. We're not going anywhere..." Umm Asmaa replied: "Somehow it is, but most of Baq Fam are turned observers nowadays." "Baqiya family" is how ISIS supporters refer to one another; "baqiya," meaning "remaining," is part of the ISIS slogan "baqiya wa tatamaddad," or "remaining and expanding." 

A pregnant French ISIS member called Summaya mainly tweets updates about her pregnancy, Islamic verses, and news of daily occurrences in Syria. On February 20, 2016, she noted that Syrian women stink of cigarettes, and that this exacerbates her nausea.
Often in the past, ISIS supporters and members on social media would gloat over and celebrate attacks such as the November 2015 Paris attacks and the March 2016 Brussels attacks. ISIS supporters of both genders lauded the attacks, but female ISIS members' reactions appeared more muted. One French woman in Syria called CapercitaUmmOussama[20] simply wrote, "Allahu Akbar!!!"
CaperucitaUmmOussama does hide the fact that she is living in ISIS-controlled Raqqah. On November 27, 2015, she posted a photo showing a Russian airstrike. She wrote, "Russian strikes in Raqqah," In the past, such a post would be widely shared, with the sharers often adding that they wished to die and become martyrs. However, the overall tone of such posts has shifted markedly, and reactions are more indifference.

A Western woman named Umm Ul-Khams, who tweets sporadically, offered a tip to fellow women living in a war zone. On December 19, 2015 she wrote: "Tip – put tape on your windows if you have glass windows to prevent shadaaaya [shrapnel]."

Awoman called Zawjah Shahid has tweeted only a handful of tunes. Her first post stated that she was only on Twitter for the news. She has posted a couple of tweets concerning her life in Syria, including one she stated was of her driving a car. According to another tweet, there is still self-defense and firearm training for women in Syria. On March 1, she tweeted: "Muhajirat muaskar [camp] is the best thing so far for me :) loving it! Alhamdulilah... firearm training is wajib [mandatory] in the land of Jihad."

It appears that Internet access in ISIS-controlled territory in Iraq may be as unreliable, difficult to come by, or restricted as in ISIS-controlled territory in Syria. A Western ISIS member living in Fallujah called Muhajirah Ila-Allah noted that there was a possibility that her Internet activity could end and that she could be forced offline.[21] On March 30, 2016, she tweeted: " I'm making use of my internet connection while it lasts. In case I'll be offline, want to tell the Baqiyah family: Baraka Allaahu feekum."

Complaints About Life In The Islamic State: Not All It's Cracked Up To Be
Dissent is very much discouraged under the Islamic State regime. Anything contradicting ISIS's narrative of a functional Islamic utopia merits censorship. Occasionally, an ISIS member will let slip a complaint on social media, and others will swiftly comment, suggesting mildly that the offending post be deleted. A MEMRI report published in November 2015 chronicled the complaints of ISIS members, many of whom were women. It should be noted that none of the women cited in the report are currently active online.[22]
One complaint from a distressed Swedish woman discussed the lack of respect for women in Syria. Muhajira Umm Hamza tweeted: "Its not sharia that men scream or talk to us in the street. Its not. I feel more and more sad here now. There is so little respect for us. Seriously, I am getting so tired of many men mujajirin now. I feel harassed so often now. Women cant do this or that. What is the point?"

One male ISIS member called Abu Muslim al-Hindi posted guidelines for how men and women should each walk in the streets of the Islamic State. On July 23, 2015, he tweeted: "It is not allowed for women to walk in the middle of the street. Ikwah [brothers] please walk on the roads and leave the sideways for ukhwaat [sisters]. #Advice."

Umm Hamza Al-Muhajirah is the author of a widely-circulated piece posted on which criticized ISIS leaders regarding the treatment of widows in the Islamic State and the insufficient funds provided to needy families living in the so-called Caliphate.[23] Her bold statements directly challenged the ISIS leadership: "If someone comes to you who is fit to be a leader, then allow him to lead if you truly hate leadership and want the best for the Caliphate.
Strangely, however, on January 27, 2016, a message penned by a Western woman living in the Islamic State containing harsh criticisms was widely circulated by ISIS accounts across a variety of various social media platforms.[24]
It should be pointed out that in addition to their domestic duties, some women ISIS members hold important positions, particularly in the medical field. In January 2016, the Mosul-based activist group Mosul Eye reported: "On January2, 2016, a number of foreign female doctors arrived to Mosul from the following nationalities: 2 from Finland, 3 from Australia, and 2 from Belgium."
Active Supporters
An outspoken ISIS supporter with ties to ISIS members called UmmHeartless repeatedly returns to Twitter after hiatuses. UmmHeartLess is an American Palestinian woman residing in the West Bank.[25] On March 12, she expressed her dismay at the fact that there are currently far fewer ISIS supporters on Twitter than in the past. She tweeted: "people should know there really is no baqiya family anymore. Too many have been arrested and too many have left."

There appears to be no shortage of female ISIS supporters online. Often women use certain images such as flowers, lions, or green birds as their avatar. Sometimes, a Twitter byline will state nothing that endorses ISIS, but sometimes, as is the case with "Leila la Faransiya," one will use ISIS terminology, such as the term "baqiya," to denote their affiliation.

A well-known ISIS supporter on Facebook called Nusaybah Qurtuz disseminates ISIS propaganda online, and romanticizes jihad. On March 27, 2016 she posted, "Advice for sisters and myself do not love those who are not obedient and submissive to the commands of Allah and Rasulullah... Never marry a man who has no intention to join the caravan of jihad for indeed he will die as a hypocrite."[26]

Sometimes supporters who disseminate ISIS propaganda online have actual ties to ISIS members residing in Syria. For example, a Palestinian woman who calls herself Fatimafofo Matilla, who resides in the Jerusalem area, announced on her Facebook that she has a woman friend who was an ISIS member.[27] Fatimafofo shared a photo from her friend which showed her friend's young son dressed in military fatigues, holding a sign that was dedicated to her. On March 20, 2016 Fatimafofo wrote: "I am so happy right now. My name is in hand of lion cub of the khilafah. May Allah protect him and bring victory for our ummah. Thanks for the sister who made it for me. May Allah bless her and protect her and her beautiful family. I am honored to know her."

Another active ISIS supporter on Facebook, who calls herself Has Nah, revealed in an April 1, 2016 post that she spoke to a well-known British ISIS member, Grace "Khadijah" Dare,[28] whose young son Isa Dare[29] starred in an ISIS video.
While some do not have physical ties to someone residing in the Islamic State, supporters still appear to brazenly interact with ISIS fighters in public forums such as Facebook. For example, on March 25, 2016 an ISIS fighter in Libya called Abdul Baraa posted on Facebook:[30] "A lil piece of advice: Don't just trust anyone, Take precaution and limit your circle of trust. If he doesn't have to know, don’t tell him about it. Hijra [immigration] is a 3ibada [a form of worship] and we must do it the way the predecessors did, with lotsa precautions!" An outspoken Western female ISIS supporter called Carolyn Urage Johnston wrote, "I don't show my face because it is haram [prohibited] even on internet. Nor give out phone or anything. But brother I will not hide my support for my brothers and sisters. I cannot hide in fear of spies. Let them keep reporting me! Like I told one sister: will they put an old woman in prison for words on Facebook? How silly!" Caryolyn Urage Johnston, who previously used the alias Amina Virginia, is a 60-year-old grandmother residing in Winchester, Virgina.[31]

An active ISIS supporter called Ukhti Al Albaniyyah ("My Albanian Sister") posts pro-ISIS content on her Facebook and Instagram accounts. She is part of a pro-ISIS clique on both social media platforms.

Supporters Who Have Been Silenced
As mentioned, ISIS supporters have picked up the slack on social media for ISIS members who are not as active online as they once were. Many supporters disseminate the latest ISIS videos, and magazines, on Facebook, Twitter, and on Telegram; however, it should be noted that a couple of prominent ones have been arrested.
On April 28, 2015, it was revealed that one of the most prominent ISIS supporters online was actually located in Seattle, instead of Syria as many thought. Rawdah Absisalam appears to have been arrested shortly before the truth was revealed by a reporter from Seattle's Channel 4 news.[32] More recently, one of the top ISIS disseminators online, called Muslimah, was arrested on February 28, 2016. It was revealed that the woman behind the account, Safya Yassin, was a 38-year-old woman in Missouri.[33]
Many ISIS supporters and those intending to immigrate to Syria may have been deterred from using social media by these arrests, particularly since certain platforms have been used by authorities to track down those harboring such sentiments. For example, in the summer of 2015, Jaelyn Young and her fiancé were arrested at a Mississippi airport as they were en route to Syria. Young had been active on Twitter, where she expressed her desire to join the Islamic State.[34]
Polygamy: A Hot Topic For ISIS Members
Both ISIS members and supporters have dedicated numerous posts to the topic of polygamy. For the most part, these women seem to strongly advocate the practice, and the topic was also covered in ISIS's Dabiq magazine. In Issue 12 issue of Dabiq, released on November 18, 2015, a woman writing as Umm Sumayyah Al-Muhajirah discusses the merits of polygamy in Islam in an article titled "Two, Three, Or Four."[35] Using Koran verses to buttress her pro-polygamy arguments, she writes: "Allah said in His clear-cut revelation, 'And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice] [An-Nisā':3]. This is a verse as clear as the sun that does not require extensive explanation or interpretation. Therefore, O slaves of Allah, you may marry two, three, or four women, unless you fear that you will have shortcomings in your fairness towards them or will fail to fulfill their rights, in which case you suffice with one wife."
Al-Muhajirah points out the hypocrisy she sees amongst non-Muslims on the matter, since Christianity and Judaism both once practiced polygamy. She concedes that Islam was not the first to introduce polygamy: "What's strange is that the Jews and the Christians taunt the Muslims with respect to polygamy, yet if they were to look into their own books they would've known that it was something present in their religions, for it is stated in their books that Ya'qūb had two wives and two concubines, and that Dāwūd had a number of wives and concubines, as mentioned in 2 Samuel [5:13] and 1 Samuel [25:42-44]. They also stated that Sulaymān had 700 wives and 300 concubines, as mentioned in 1 Kings [11:3]."
She concludes her article with tips for men with multiple wives, and for those who intend to take multiple wives. She advises that the men be gentle with their wives and speak softly to them, and adds that patience and tolerance is necessary when informing a wife of a decision to take another. She goes on to remind the men that they must fulfill the marital duties of a husband towards all of their wives, and that they should fear Allah if any of the wives is oppressed in any way.

In January 2016, Shams, the Malaysian ISIS member, posted on Twitter that she was looking for a co-wife.[36] After being widowed in 2015, she appears to have married a Swedish ISIS fighter. She tweeted: "After I've seen so many sisters are happy with polygamous marriage and after some reading, I finally understood. It was once a nightmare. But now I can see the invisible beautiful part of it. Put jealousy & emotions stuffs aside, its fitrah [common sense]. Let's built a wonderful sisterhood. I'm searching for a co-wife... sisters in Dawlah [ISIS], if you are searching for a wonderful husband and a sister-in-deen [religion], do contact me. May Allah bless this effort which is done to please Him and grant us goodness in this world and next. Ameen Ya Rabb!"
A lot of women appear to be actively involved in searching for an additional wife for their husband. On March 4, a French female ISIS member, "summaya," tweeted: "I am looking for a second wife for my husband. A big family bi idnillah."

On January 28, 2016, an ISIS supporter called Umm Qisas Asomaliyah expressed her view that only certain men were entitled to multiple wives. "The only kind of man who deserves polygamy is a mujahid, lone wolf, or future istishhadi [suicide bomber]."

A Filipina ISIS member weighed in on the topic of polygamy. On January 28 she posted: "Polygyny topic Know that having a co-wife is every woman's nightmare but it depends upon d[the] husband to let his wife understand everything. No woman can say NO to Co-wife if her husband really wants's just a matter of understanding our Deen [religion] & following d Sunnah. As a husband, it's your responsibility to make her comfortable with d situation and you'll see in Allah's perfect time..She'll be the one to look for her co-wife."

Sometimes women disagree with one another on the topic of polygamy. On August 8, RemoveYourFaceAvis wrote: "Too much talk about getting another wife when you cant even fulfull the rights of the first. These ikhwa [brothers] confuse me." A user called Haqummusaybah answered: "ASA [Al-Salam Alaikum,] many brothers think having more wives are for them but the benefit is for the sisters alhamdallah."

Just as women have their concerns about being treated equally in a polygamous arrangement, men have reservations about being mistreated by their wives. On January 15, 2015, a prominent pro-ISIS account called Milk Sheikh wrote: "A brother (before receiving serious injury in Jihad) was left by his wives after the injury. It shows you that some doesn't live for Akhira [afterlife]." A Swedish ISIS fighter called AbuLayth Tamimi replied: "If you as a women get your rights then you have no right to seek khul3 [khula, a woman's right to seek a divorce from her husband in Islam in exchange for compensation, usually monetary to him from her] and if the women doesn't stand by her mujahid then who?"

Sometimes the female perspective can be derived from posts by men. For example, on January 20, 2016, an ISIS fighter called Ibn Maa’ posted a photo of an AK-47 with the word "no" written out in bullets. His caption reads: "The answer you get when you tell your wife [you] wanna marry second [wife] plus no dinner for a week."

In the Islamic State, it is likely that if a fighter has multiple wives, one of them was a widow with a child. On November 16, 2015, a widowed female ISIS member called WifeOfAShaheedd complained about not being sufficiently looked after. A German ISIS member cautioned her that such things should not be shared online. WifeOfAShaheedd wrote:[37] "Who will act like the sahabah [prophet's companions] today and treat my orphan child as a child of his own and treat me right?" Al-Almaniyyah[38] ("German woman") replied, "Assalamu alakyum sister, such things are the job of ur wali [guardian] & shouldn't be posted here, wa Allahu alem. May Allah grant you sabr [patience]."

On February 7, 2016, a user called Umm Qisas Asomaliyah[39] conducted a poll on Twitter among her female Twitter followers, asking if they would remarry if widowed. She asked: "Sisters, would you re-marry after your husband attained his shahadah [martyrdom]?" Out of 49 respondents, 41% voted yes, and 59% voted no.

Women Jabhat Al-Nusra Members
When discussing Western ISIS women, it is interesting to compare the patterns of their online activity to that of their counterparts in Jabhat Al-Nusra. The tone of the latter's social media output is different, and they appear to continue to maintain a social media presence online, without any restrictions.
A 19-year old Malaysian widow who on Twitter calls herself Illegal Immigrant[40] tweets about her life in Syria. She is also active on Instagram, under the name emilystrange96. In contrast to female ISIS members' past activity online, she does not make any threats against the West, or discuss violence; instead she mainly talks about Islam, or her life in Syria. She is a self-described foodie, so many of her photos are dedicated to meals she purchases and cooks in Syria. Additionally, she teaches Arabic to young children, and has posted photos of her pupils, and of language exercises she prepares. In her free time she also takes to the streets of Idlib to promote the JN dogma to locals, passing out flyers.
In March 2016, she uploaded photos on Instragram of her propaganda work. "Had a fun day with amazing people. Yes, tiring yet soo exciting. May Allah reward every little deeds we do and increases it in the future Ameen. (There's a drone roaming on the sky when we were there.)"

Another widow, who calls herself Muhajirah_widow, is a 23-year-old from Africa living in Idlib.[41] She is actve on Instagram, Facebook, and Wordpress. She shares that she has been widowed since October 3, 2015. Muhajirah­­_widow, like other JN members on social media, does not appear to sugarcoat the harsh realities of life in Syria. The JN women do not shy away from refering to their adoptive homes as war zones, and they chronicle the daily hardships that those accustomed to modern Western life might face there.
For example, on March 21, 2016 she shared a few photos of her home on her Facebook page, showing her modest bedroom, living room, and kitchen. She wrote: "People often wonder how houses are in Shaam and the lifestyle. This was our 3rd house, based in Lattakia. We have basic needs and necessities, life like this very comfortable and stress-free. Knowing that we don't have the worries of competing with people over luxurious houses/furniture or materialistic things puts our hearts at ease. Simple living makes our focus be less Dunya related and more Akhira related Alhumdililah."

She states that JN widows and orphans are well cared for. In a post she wrote: "In our area, JN or Jaysh Al-Fath representatives come monthly to give us the subsidy (money) that our husbands received while they were alive. We get monthly food packs from the brigade which include all the necessities alhumdililah. JN/Jaysh Al-Fath provide baby clothes, baby food, nappies, and milk when necessary. Ansar [natives] and Mujahir neighbors love to visit and when they do, they usually leave money out of their own generosity and concern. Mujahid brothers frequently come and give us money from their own pockets and ask what needs we have."

On March 24, Muhajirah_widow reflected on the topic of jihad and women's needs in Islam, and recounted an anecdote from her personal life: "Just a few days before my husband was martyred he suggested that we do an 'amaliyyah istishhadiyyah [martyrdom operation] together. I'm not sure how serious he was about this (lol) but he looked quite convinced. he always knew how jealous I was when he would leave for missions, and he wanted me to contribute somehow to jihad first-hand like I always wished. He'd make me put his bullets in magazines and to prep his J'uba [body pouch] with his Qur'an, Zikr book, and ammunition. he made sure without fail to keep contact with me while at battle and let me know his activities. We know Jihad for women is an accepted Haqq, trust me we know! But that doesn't mean women don't have a role in Jihad of fighting. It's important that men do not forget that the Ummah includes women too and women have certain goals in the Deen just as men do. Not all women wish to be in the kitchen doing chores, we have souls too, we have passion and ambition too, we have pride over Islam too and we also want to support raising the flag of Allah's Deen. We know there are certain limitations in Jihad when it comes to women but it's important to include women in whatever way that's possible inShaaAllah."
Over the past couple of years, women ISIS members have left an indelible mark on social media; their threats, commentary, and glimpses into life in the Islamic State have greatly influenced the ISIS narrative, and have provided a great deal of information to those residing outside the so-called Caliphate. However, since the beginning of 2016, many of these once-vocal online voices have been muted; in relative terms, the silence is deafening. First-hand accounts of Islamic State residents are very useful in trying to understand the so-called Caliphate. However, in gauging ISIS's structure, its current strength, and the actual conditions in its territory, it is possible to gain some insight from what is not being said, and from the gradual disappearance of once-prominent voices.
*A. Agron is a Research Fellow at MEMRI
[2] See MEMRI JTTM report Top ISIS Supporter Arrested By FBI In Missouri, February 23, 2015.
[3] See MEMRI JTTM report British Female ISIS Member Shares Her Syria Experiences April 16, 2014.
[11] See MEMRI JTTM report British Female ISIS Member Shares Her Syria Experiences April 16, 2014.
[12] See MEMRI JTTM report In New Blog Entry, British Female ISIS Member Rejects Me, September 12, 2014.
[14], accessed August 4, 2015.
[15] July 19, 2015.
[20], March 22, 2016.
[21], March 30, 2016.
[26], March 27, 2016.
[30] See MEMRI JTTM report ISIS Fighter In Libya Shares Experiences On Facebook, March 16, 2016.
[33] See MEMRI JTTM report Top ISIS Supporter Arrested By FBI In Missouri, February 23, 2016.
[36] See MEMRI JTTM report Female Malaysian ISIS Member Seeks Co-Wife Via Twitter, January 15, 2016.
[37], November 16, 2015.
[38], November 17, 2015.
[39], February 7, 2016.

A. Agron


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