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Militant Islam Monitor > Articles > The Arab Spring as a Security Threat to Israel

The Arab Spring as a Security Threat to Israel

November 14, 2011


November 14, 2011 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org -The Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported early November 2011 that the black Al-Qaeda flag was waving on top of the Benghazi court house. Some rebels reportedly also displayed this flag as they drove in their vehicles and cried: "Islam, Islam! Neither East nor West!" This referred to the traditional rivalry between Eastern and Western Libya. If true, such things show that Muslim extremists in Libya want to create an Islamic state ruled by Islamic law or Sharia, replacing the previous dictatorship with another one. This is just what happened in Iran back in 1979.

Dictatorships and corruption are intrinsically evil. It was George Orwell who wrote: "A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes fragrantly artificial: that is, when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud." So toppling a brutal dictator is not a bad thing, but that is not enough. What really matters is what kind of political forces will replace that dictatorship. Look at Russia in 1917, look at Cambodia in 1975, look at Iran in 1979, look at Afghanistan in 1995/96. Although Al-Qaeda was not the driving force behind the Arab Spring, Al-Qaeda leaders did applaud it. They have a vested interest in creating chaos in the Middle East, and they want Egypt and Jordan to renounce the peace treaty with Israel.

In Tunisia, radical Muslims organized a demonstration in October 2011 crying: "We must kill all the Jews. We want an Islamic state." They threatened to kill a university dean who had previously refused to allow two female students because they were wearing Niqabs. Since January, radical Islamists reportedly seized control of 150 to 200 Tunisian mosques and prayer halls.

Tunisia's Islamist Ehnnada party won the elections in October. Party leader Rachid Al-Ghannouchi presents himself as a moderate Muslim. Yet, he endorses jihad in Gaza, stating that "Gaza, like Hanoi in the 1960s and Cuba and Algeria, is the model of freedom today." He has expressed support for suicide bombings and welcomes the destruction of Israel, which he predicts could 'disappear' by 2027."

Daniel Pipes, an American expert on the Arab world and the Middle East, writes "that given a free choice, a majority of Middle Easterners vote for Islamists. Dynamic, culturally authentic and ostensibly democratic, these forward a body of uniquely vibrant political ideas and constitute the only Muslim political movement of consequence."

In Egypt, radical Muslims frequently attack Christians and their churches. At least 100,000 Coptic Christians have left Egypt since March 2011, the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organizations (EUHRO) reported in September. "Copts are not emigrating abroad voluntarily," said Naguib Gabriel, the director of EUHRO, "they are coerced into that by threats and intimidation of hard line Salafists, and the lack of protection they are getting from the Egyptian regime." EUHRO "warned that emigration of Christians out of Egypt will threaten its demographic makeup and national identity." Salafism is an ultraconservative and increasingly powerful movement within Islam. It originated in Saudi Arabia and most Islamic terrorists are Salafists. Not all Salafists are terrorists, though.

"Salafist clerics, who gained political influence after the January 25 Revolution have become emboldened," said Gabriel, "calling Copts Dhimmis who have to pay the jizya (tax paid by non-Muslims to the state) because they are not first class citizens and can never enjoy full citizenship rights, or obtain sensitive posts." Thousands of Christians are also leaving Iraq and Lebanon. And what is going to happen to many Syrian Christians when the Islamists would finally succeed in defeating the abhorrent regime of president Assad? What is needed most is a real cultural revolution which will abolish not only existing dictatorships but also cultural and religious backwardness. Secular dictators in the Muslim world must not be replaced by Sharia ideologues.

Amitai Etzioni, a professor of international relations at George Washington University, quotes from polls held in the Muslim world according to which "more than three-quarters of Egyptians and Pakistanis, a majority of Nigerians and Jordanians, and a sizable minority of Indonesians favored stoning adulterers, the death penalty for those who denounce the Islamic faith, and whipping and cutting off the hands of those who commit theft or robbery – all illiberal punishments based on a fundamentalist interpretation of Sharia." "The 2007 Pew study found that in most of the predominantly Muslim countries in Asia and the Middle East, only minorities said a woman alone should have the right to choose her own husband."

Egyptian Muslim women who demonstrated against president Mubarak on Cairo's famous Tahrir Square, are now worried about the increasing influence of Salafists and other radicals who force these women to wear the Niqab. Even more liberal political parties do not encourage the candidacy of women, because male candidates attract more votes.

Egypt: the cradle of radical Islam and Eichmann's remarkable visit to 'Palestine' and Egypt in 1937

Egypt is the cradle of radical Islam or Islamism. It was back in 1928 that Hassan Al-Banna, an Egyptian teacher, founded the anti-Western Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood sided with the Nazis during World War II. One of the Brotherhood's prominent members, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, met Hitler in November 1941. Hitler told the grandmufti of Jerusalem that he endorsed the Arab call for freedom. Between 1941 and 1945 Al-Husseini made propaganda for the Nazi cause in the Arab world. From a radio studio in Berlin he called on his followers "to kill all the Jews whereever you find them." He was the Osama bin Laden of his day.

Ibrahim Shanti, the owner of Al-Difah (or Al-Difaa, the Defense), the most prominent Palestinian newspaper in the 1930s and 1940s, spied for the Nazis – as Adolf Eichmann and his SS-colleague Herbert Hagen reported after a remarkable visit to Palestine and Egypt in October 1937. Al-Difah, a pan Arabic newspaper, was also read by many Egyptians. Eichmann and Hagen reported that the Nazi Propaganda Ministry led by Joseph Goebbels provided Al-Difah with sufficient paper to print Shanti's popular newspaper, but the Palestinian owner needed more money. In their secret report Eichmann and Hagen proposed to pay off Shanti's mortgage. Their 57-page report was also read by their SS-superior Reinhard Heydrich, Heinrich Himmler's deputy in the criminal SS-organization. Heydrich was very enthousiastic about Eichmann's and Hagen's trip and their subsequent report.

Posing as a German journalist during his visit to Palestine and Egypt, Eichmann was in fact a German intelligence officer. Shanti is still revered by many Palestinians, Jordanians and Egyptians.

The Egyptian Sayyid Qutb, a prominent member of the Muslim Brotherhood, hated Jews and Christians. He also clashed with Egyptian president Nasser who banned the Muslim Brotherhood. Qutb's books would later inspire Al-Qaeda. He was hanged in August 1966, and subsequently hailed as a martyr by his militant followers.

One of these followers was an Egyptian doctor named Ayman Al-Zawahiri, who would later become Al-Qaeda's second-in-command. The first time I heard about Al-Zawahiri was in 1996. I mentioned him as well as Osama bin Laden in a Dutch book I published one year later. Many other radical Egyptian Muslims also joined Al-Qaeda. One of them was Mohammed Atef, a former Egyptian police officer.

Anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are widespread phenomena in the Muslim world, especially in Egypt. This is partly due to the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, but there are wider and deeper anti-Jewish sentiments. During anti-Mubarak demonstrations on Tahrir Square posters were displayed showing Mubarak with the Star of David. This was not coincidental.

In July 2011, Mohammed Morsy, president of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, labeled those who wanted to postpone parliamentary elections as "Zionists" and "agents of Israel and the United States." The Association for Change (NAC) and the Egyptian National Council (ENC) issued a joint statement accusing the Justice and Freedom Party of attempting to control the parliament in order to write a constitution that serves its purposes."

Ahmed Ezz-El-Arab, vice chairman of Egypt's secular Wafd Party, said in July 2011 that the September 11, 2001, attacks were "made in the USA," that the Holocaust was "a lie" and Anne Frank's memoir "a fake." "The girl was there, but the memoirs are a fake." He denied that the Nazis killed 6 million Jews during World War II. He said he accepted that the Nazis killed "hundreds of thousands" of Jews. "But gas chambers and skinning them alive and all this? Fanciful stories."

The Wafd Party is not a fundamentalist party nor is it linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Israeli fears Israel's southern border is not as well protected as its other borders. The Sinai is a lawless area largely controlled by local Bedouin tribes. Instability in Egypt, therefore, directly affects Israel's security. Egypt, Libya and Tunisia have freed hundreds of Islamists, among them also fanatical jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda. Others escaped from prison.

In August 2011, Palestinian terrorists from Gaza launched terrorist attacks near Eilat. "Eight Israelis were killed and 30 injured in a coordinated three part attack by the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees," IPT News reported. These so-called Committees are linked to Hamas. However, "an inspection of the bodies of the terrorists proved that at least three of the terrorists were Egyptian," writes IPT News. "Notably, one of the dead terrorists had been tried in Egypt for radicalism and imprisoned. He escaped along with hundreds of other terrorists during the first days of the overthrow of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak."

"Under Mubarak, Egypt quietly helped Israel against Hamas, much to Hamas' outrage," writes Daniel Byman in The Washington Quarterly. "Egypt mostly kept the Rafa crossing point between Egypt and Gaza closed, helping Israel restrict the flow of goods and people into and out of Gaza." "And in the last months of Mubarak's rule Egypt heeded Israel's call, building a barrier on the border that extended deep underground, making tunneling much harder."

Things have changed now, though. Recently, something happened which would never have happened under Mubarak. An angry Egyptian mob stormed the Israeli Embassy in Cairo on September 10, 2011. Only after U.S. president Obama had made a phone call to the Egyptian authorities in Cairo did Egyptian commandos free the beleaguered Israelis. However, the influential Muslim Brotherhood justified the assault on the Embassy.

Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Israel fears that there will be more terrorist attacks should the Muslim Brotherhood gain the elections. Early May 2011, Hamas leader Ismail Haniya condemned the killing of Osama bin Laden, calling it a "continuation of the United States policy of destruction." He referred to Osama bin Laden as a "mujaheed" (a holy warrior) and prayed that Bin Laden's soul "rests in peace." Daniel Byman notes that Haniyeh was "the only leader of a (pseudo) state to do so." Not only was Osama bin Laden a terrorist, he was also a criminal and a mass murderer comparable to Heinrich Himmler and Pol Pot. If he would have possessed a nuclear bomb, he would probably have used it. (After the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, U.S. intelligence discovered that Al-Qaeda did make serious attempts to obtain chemical and nuclear weapons; they found specialist manuals and laboratories in Afghanistan – I saw film footage on this myself.)

"Anti-Israel sentiment is strong in Egypt," Daniel Byman observes. "A Pew poll taken after Mubarak's fall found that Egyptians favored annulling the peace treaty with Israel by a 54 percent to 36 percent margin. Leaders who do not make good on promises to distance Egypt from Israel will face criticism and punishment at the polls, particularly if a conflict in Gaza or another crisis again dominates the headlines." It is unlikely, however, that a future Egyptian government will abrogate the peace treaty with Israel. Egypt is still very much dependent on American aid and pressure by Washington will probably prevent a diplomatic rupture between Israel and Egypt.

Another major Israeli worry is Iran, which currently presents the most important threat to peace and security in the Middle East. (The Iranians may very well have a nuclear bomb next year.) Iran supports Hamas and Hezbollah, also militarily. (Hezbollah is armed to the teeth and its missile arsenal poses a direct security threat to Israel.) In addition, the Israelis are worried about Iran's influence in Egypt. "Egypt has already made overtures to Iran, which considers Israel its nemesis," writes Daniel Byman. "Egypt allowed an Israeli warship to transit the Suez Canal, and on March 29 acting Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Al-Arabi announced Egypt would eventually normalize relations with Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah."

Al-Qaeda in Egypt and North Africa: The jihadists may reassert themselves

Al-Qaeda did not initiate the Arab Spring, but its leadership soon realized that new chances were being offered. Until Bin Laden's death on May 2, 2011, Ayman Al-Zawahiri was his deputy. After Egyptian president Anwar Sadat had been assassinated by Muslim radicals in 1981, Al-Zawahiri was jailed on suspicion of involvement in the assassination. Sadat had previously made peace with Israel, something which was completely unacceptable to radicals such as Al-Zawahiri. He was released in 1984. He joined Al-Qaeda in 1996 and became Osama bin Laden's closest adviser. In March 2011, Al-Zawahiri claimed that the Islamists were responsible for the "revolution." "The beginning of the American defeat is upon us… Its agents have begun to fall. (Tunisian president Ben Ali and Egyptian president Mubarak, V.) You must join in the jihad against them and assist those who fight them," he said. In January 2011, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) released an audio recording telling Tunisians: "We urge our people in Tunis to ready themselves and send their youth to us to train with weapons and gain military experience for the forthcoming battles against Jews and Christians."

The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), an umbrella organization set up by Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), issued a statement saying that U.S. power was waning: "America today is weaker than ever and its military strength is drowned in Afghanistan and Iraq. It eyes the legion of truth (jihadist forces) in Yemen, Somalia and the Islamic Maghreb, while its body trembles under the pressure of their exhausting financial and economic crisis, ready to fall and go bankcrupt. Your activities in the heart of the global geography will only increase their blunders and hasten their fall."

Another regional Al-Qaeda leader, Anwar Al-Awlaki, was killed in a drone attack on September 30, 2011. Shortly before his death he wrote an important article entitled The Tsunami of Change. It was published in the fifth issue of Inspire, Al-Qaeda's online magazine, believed to be produced by Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP). "It is our opinion that the revolutions that are shaking the thrones of dictators are good for the Muslims, good for the mujahideen and bad for the imperialists of the West and their henchmen in the Muslim world," Awlaki commented. "Our mujahideen brothers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and the rest of the Muslim world wil get a chance to breathe again after three decades of suffocation."

Jeremy Binnie, Ezzeldeen Khalil and Scott Johnson commented in Jane's Intelligence Review of April 2011: "While the jihadists currently look marginalized, protracted political instability and conflict in the region will provide opportunities for them to reassert themselves." Juan C. Zarate and David A. Gordon, two experts from the Washington based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), make a similar observation: "Paradoxically, the Arab Spring represents a strategic pivot for Al-Qaeda and its associated movements (AQAM)." "The failure of the Arab Spring could provide a profound sense of disappointment among an entire generation of Arabs. Amid this dispair, AQAM's message that armed struggle against the West is the only viable path to reform could find a fertile ground. Such a development would be a strategic opportunity for AQAM to reassert itself and regain its relevance in MENA" (Middle East and North Africa). "Zawahiri and other AQAM leaders are betting hard that the Arab Sping will implode."

Continued mass unemployment, economic misery, lack of opportunities and corruption will provide a fertile ground for radical Islamic movements. It is unlikely that the new leaders of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt will be able to cope with these post revolutionary problems. The bulk of the populations of the Arab world and North Africa consists of dissatisfied people below the age of thirty. Too many of them want to emigrate to Europe and the United States.

Arms from Libya's arsenals end up with Al-Qaeda and Hamas

Vast numbers of man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS or Strela-2 as well as the more advanced Strela-2M, a kind of Russian made stinger missile) were looted from Libyan arms arsenals and ended up with Al-Qaeda, Hamas and other jihadist networks.

"Officials from several neighboring countries claim that AQIM acquired truckloads of Libyan weapons, including MANPADS," writes Matt Schroeder, an arms specialist of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS). "Chadian President Idriss Déby told the weekly French magazine Jeune Afrique that members of AQIM took advantage of the pillaging of arsenals in the rebel zone to acquire arms, including surface-to-air missiles. which were then smuggled into their sanctuaries in Tenere" (a region in the Sahara). "This is a very serious matter," he said. "AQIM is becoming a real army, the best equipped in the region." "Little is known about the current whereabouts of most of the MANPADS looted from Libyan arsenals," writes Schroeder. Similar statements were made by officials from Algeria, Mali and Niger. An Algerian official "told Reuters about an eight truck convoy that delivered rocket propelled grenades, machine guns, Kalashnikov series rifles, explosives and ammunition to AQIM in northern Mali in early April. Using an unofficial name for the Strela-2, the official said the group has also acquired 'the most sophisticated weapons such as SAM-7s.'"

There can be no doubt about the fact that when regional branches of Al-Qaeda obtain sophisticated weapons it directly affects the political stability of the Middle East. But there are other dangerous terrorist movements that took advantage of the political chaos and civil war in Libya. According to a report in Haaretz higher quality anti-aircraft missiles from looted Libyan arsenals were smuggled into Gaza. On Wednesday October 26, 2011, a rocket was fired from Gaza which landed between Ashdod and Gedera. "The explosion was heard clearly all over Ashdod, which means it had a relatively large warhead," Haaretz reported. "It was not clear which Palestinian organization fired the rocket, but Israeli intelligence officials believed that in recent months Hamas had little incentive to launch such attacks and cause an escalation. It is possible a small faction fired the rocket in defiance of Hamas." But Haaretz also reported that "Hamas recently managed to smuggle relatively advanced Russian missiles, which were looted from Libyan military warehouses, into the Gaza Strip. Israel is worried about the presence of the missiles, both because they curb the air force's almost unlimited freedom of movement over Gaza today, and because of their possible use against civil aviation in Eilat." It is no longer unthinkable that Hamas or another Palestinian group would shoot down a civilian airliner over Eilat.

The Washington Post quoted former Egyptian military officials and arms traders in the Sinai who claim that "large caches of weapons from Libya are making their way across the Egyptian border and flooding black markets in Egypt's already unstable Sinai Peninsula." "Egyptian security officials have intercepted surface-to-air-missiles, most of them shoulder-launched, on the road to Sinai and in the smuggling tunnels connecting Egypt to the Gaza Strip since Moammar Khadaffi fell from power in Libya in August, a military official in Cairo said. Arms traders said the weapons available on Sinai's clandestine market include rockets and anti-aircraft guns.

Libya remains unstable, even after the victory of the Libyan rebels and colonel Khadaffi's death. Even children are carrying guns. It proved virtually impossible to disarm the many militias, especially in the capital of Tripoli. There is no police to enforce order. Recently there have been violent clashes between rival militias. If this does not stop, Libya might evolve into another Somalia or Afghanistan. The new Libyan rulers announced that they will introduce Sharia law which allows men to have more than one wife. "Each law that contradicts Sharia law is void," Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the new chairman of Libya's Transitional National Council (TNC), declared on October 23, 2011. Under Khadaffi polygamy was prohibited, but now the new rulers are giving in to the demands of fundamentalist Muslims. A man like Abded Hakim Belhadj became chairman of the Tripoli Military Council. In the past Belhadj had links to Al-Qaeda. He was one of the founders of the Libyian Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) which joined Al-Qaeda. Two senior Al-Qaeda members, Abu Yahya Al-Libi and Abu Laith Al-Libi, were LIFG members. Others in the group disagreed with al-Qaeda, however. Nowadays, Belhadj claims he is not opposed to the West.

Another major problem is illegal immigration from Africa. More and more Africans try to enter Israel. Israeli security officials fear that among the ever growing numbers of African economic refugees there are members of Islamist terror groups operating in Kenia, Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Tanzania, Somalia, Eritrea or Sudan.

Emerson Vermaat is an investigative reporter in the Netherlands. Website: emersonvermaat.com.


De Telegraaf (Amsterdam), November 2, 2011, p. 1 ("Al-Qaeda-vlag in Libië").

George Orwell, Collected Essays and Journalism 1945-1949 (London: Secker & Warburg/Octopus, 1980), p. 726.

Tom Heneghan, Radical Islamists seize control of Tunisia mosques: Reuters, November 2, 2011; NRC Handelsblad (Roterdam/Amsterdam), October 7, 2011, p. 13 ("Groep valt Tunesische universiteit aan").

IPT News, October 31, 2011 ("Media Whitewash Ghannouchi's Radical Islamist Views").

Daniel Pipes, Friendless in the Middle East: National Review Online, November 8, 2011.

Assyrian International News Agency, 100,000 Christians have left Egypt since March: Report, September 27, 2011.

Amitai Etzioni, Toward a Nonviolent, Pluralistic Middle East: Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2011, pp. 27-38.

Newsweek, October 3, 2011, p. 18-23 ("The women's revolution"). "Protests in Tahrir Square were meant to bring freedom. Eight months later, women fear their rights are about to be taken away."

Bericht über die Palästina-Ägyptenreise von SS-Hauptsharführer Eichmann und SS-Oberscharführer Hagen, G II-112, 26-3, November 4, 1937, Federal German Archives, Berlin, BArch R58/954, pp. 40-43 (on Ibrahim Chanti, also spelled: Shanti). Secret report from Eichmann and Hagen.

Ehab Shanti, Ibrahim Shanti: A Journalist's Passion: Electronicintifada.net, October 31, 2003.

Almasry Alyoum, English edition, July 5, 2011 ("Political forces slam senior Brotherhood figure for Zionism allegations").

The Washington Times, July 5, 2011 ("Egypt's party leader: Holocaust is 'a lie"').

IPT News, August 19, 2011 ('Gaza terrorists strike Israel, Israel retaliates'); IPT News, August 24, 2011 ('Egyptians involved in Israel attack').

Daniel Byman, Israel's pessimistic view of the Arab Spring: The Washington Quarterly, Summer 2011, p. 126 (polls), p. 127 (Iran), p. 130 ("Egypt quietly helped Israel against Hamas.')

IPT News, September 11, 2011 ("Brotherhood Justifies Assault on Israeli Embassy").

Reuters, 15 september 15, 2011 ("Sidelined by Arab revolts, Qaeda firms hold in Sinai").

MEMRI TV, 3 mei 2011 ("Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya condemns the killing of the 'Muslim Mujahid' Osama bin Laden"); New York Times, May 2, 2011 ("Hamas Condemns the Killing of Bin Laden"); The Guardian, May 2, 2011 ("Hamas Praises Osama bin Laden as Holy Warrior"); Reuters, May 2, 2011 ("Abbas Welcomes Bin Laden death, Hamas Deplores").

In the Wings. Al-Qaeda and the Middle East Uprising: Jane's Intelligence Review, April 2011, pp. 14-17. Quotes from Al-Zawahiri, AQIM and ISI as well as the quote from Jeremy Binnie, Ezzeldeen Khalil and Scott Johnson.

The Guardian, March 31, 2011 ("Al-Qaeda leaders welcome Arab uprisings, says cleric").

Juan C. Zarate en David A. Gordon, The Battle for Reform with Al-Qaeda: The Washington Quarterly, Summer 2011, pp. 107, 110, 117 ("The conflict in Libya plays to Al-Qaeda's favor for several reasons.")

Matt Schroeder, Holy Grails. Libya loses control of its MANPADS: Jane's Intelligence Review, May 2011, pp. 18-12; Al-Arabia/AFP, 25 maart 2011 ("Al-Qaeda snatched missiles in Libya: Chad President"'); Tschadonline.com, 26 maart 2011 ('Selon le président Tchadien Idriss Déby Aqmi se serait emparée de missiles en Libye').

Haaretz, October 27, 2011 ("Hamas boosting anti-aircraft arsenal with looted Libyan missiles").

Washington Post, October 13, 2011 ("Smuggled Libyan weapons flood into Egypt"); De Volkskrant (Amsterdam), August 25, 2011 ("In Gaza stikt het van de wapens uit Libië").

CNN (Europe) and Al-Yazeera, November 13, 2011 (armed militias in Tripoli).

NRC Handelsblad, October 29, 2011, p. 9 ("Libische vrouwen zijn weer "moeders, echtgenotes, zussen"'); Reformatisch Dagblad (Apeldoorn, Netherlands), October 24, 2011 ("Sharia basis van nieuwe Libië").

© Emerson Vermaat. All rights reserved.

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