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ISIS: Inside the Army of TerrorISIS: Inside the Army of Terror by Michael Weiss

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found this to be an excellent book – even though I am very much a novice in this particular field and know little of the details on the topic. The authors were extraordinarily well researched and the writing was clear. The complexity of the tapestry of individuals and groups that are fighting for power and control of Syria, Iraq and the wider Middle East is astounding.

The book does a great job in providing the origins of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (al-Sham is the Arabic word for the Levant and given that its name is actually that it has finally made sense to me why the Obama administration kept calling it ISIL versus Islamic State in Iraq and Syria). The origins pre-date the second Gulf War but really take a massive injection of energy with the existence of one man: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi…a Jordanian low-level thug who turned to religion at the prodding of his mother who hoped it would keep him out of trouble. It was Zarqawi (a name I had heard and knew about since the early days of the second Gulf War when he became the source of agitation against American troops and efforts to rebuild Iraq) who helped drive the effort to start a sectarian civil war among the Iraqi nationals. The catalyst for a lot of this though was the American blundering into Iraq and to a great extent getting rid of the structures that Saddam Hussein had in place to control things. Iraq – according to Weiss and Hasan – was pretty much ruled like a mafia state by Hussein. He gave specific tribes what essentially amounted to monopolies in certain areas and to certain resources and they then pledged allegiance to him. Additionally, he kept the Shias in check – albeit brutally. By eliminating all that and then trying to stand up a democracy – a concept that didn’t fit with the tribal mentality that Hussein leveraged to his advantage we essentially “broke” the Iraqi model.

In so doing we opened a Pandora’s box of issues and suppressed hatreds that continue to plague the region till today. On top of that Iran – seeing an opening – has played the US for fools by encouraging the Iraqi Shia and supplying them with money and armaments.

On the other side – in Syria – the collapse of the al-Assad regime has been just disastrous. When the Arab Spring began to sweep through the Middle East Assad did what he knew he had to do in order to maintain power (how could he not do what he did – he saw the results of what happened in Libya). He also was involved in sending terrorists to Iraq to try and destabilize the American efforts there – all the while claiming that he was fighting terrorism. When things spun out of control and the Free Syrian Army – along with a large number of other rebel groups including the al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front – began to take him to town the inevitable intervention of the Russians was the only thing that saved him.

The Russians – as much as they claim to be there to help Assad against ISIS are actually spending the majority of their time bombing Syrian rebel groups and even Syrian civilians and then claiming that ISIS is the one doing it. This is an old tactic that the Soviets used so well in WWII – when they got close to Warsaw towards the end of the war the Free Polish Army rose up against the Germans thinking that the Soviet Army would help them. The Soviet forces stopped short of Warsaw, waited for the Germans to brutally suppress and destroy the Free Polish Army and then rolled in after it was all done. The Russians are pretty much trying to do the same thing here. Given how ISIS and the anti-Assad rebel factions hate each other – the Russians are letting them fight it out (while also attacking the rebels as well) with the idea that once they’ve expended their resources on each other then the Russians and the Syrians will go in and clean up the mess and re-establish Assad’s control over all of Syria.

The book covers so much more than just what I’ve mentioned above – I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’m eagerly waiting to see the next edition of this book (this edition was published in early 2016) as the events are still quickly unfolding over there and the authors definitely have excellent insights into what is happening. I highly recommend this book – even if you’re a neophyte like me on this specific topic – it is an excellent resource and gets you up to speed very quickly on these things.

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In their continuing effort to rewrite human history and to deny the truth of the connection of the Jewish people to Israel the Arab allies of the Palestinians – Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Kuwait, the UAE, and Morroco – have introduced a proposal to UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization – that the Western Wall, a remnant of the supporting wall of the Temple Mount, be considered as part of the Al Aqsa Mosque and be designated as the Buraq Plaza.  This is nothing new obviously.  It started quite a while ago when the Palestinians wanted UNESCO to designate the Tomb of the Jewish matriach, Rachel, (known in Hebrew as Kever Rachel) as well as the Cave of the Patriarchs (which Abraham – the father of the Jewish people – bought – and where he, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Leah – all of whom are the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people – are buried) as mosques.  In addition to these two items, the proposal asks that the countries of the world condemn Israel for calling on its citizens to bear arms (as the Mayor of Jerusalem and Ashdod have done) in light of the recent terror wave; condemnation of “Israeli aggression and illegal measures taken against the freedom of worship and access of Muslim to al-Aqsa Mosque and Israel’s attempts to break the status quo since 1967”; condemnation of the continued attacks on al-Aqsa Mosque by right-wing Jewish extremists;Israel’s prevention of clerics, sheikhs and preachers from accessing the mosque;  condemnation of Israel for the continued excavations near the Temple Mount and the Old City; condemnation of Israel’s decision to build a cable car in East Jerusalem and an office building and a museum near the Western Wall, as well as a few other buildings and an elevator near the wall.[1]

Let’s take a look at the details of this proposal more closely.  First, the Palestinians want to have UNESCO deny any cultural or historical connection of the Western Wall as part of the Jewish Temple that existed on the Temple Mount before the Romans destroyed it about 2000 years ago.  On the surface this looks like an attempt to attack Israel but in essence, what they are asking UNESCO to do is to declare Judaism’s connection to the Western Wall and to the Temple Mount itself (and further by extension to all of Jerusalem) null and void .  What they are really asking for is not a declaration against Israel – but against Judaism itself. This also is nothing really that new – the Palestinians have been seeking to deny Jewish history and authenticity for a long time now.  Their approach now is to do so through the UN and it’s satellite organizations – specifically UNSECO.   Not content with denying that Israel has a right to exist the Palestinians and their Arab allies are now determined to start a campaign of denying Judaism’s legitimacy and it’s right to exist.

Next the proposal calls for the condemnation of the calls by the Mayors of Jerusalem and Ashdod for Israelis to carry guns in order to defend themselves against knife-wielding terrorists.  Sure, it’s easier for a Palestinian wielding a knife to find a ready target if they don’t have to worry about the possibility that their target may kill them before the can strike.  In fact the Palestinians have been producing videos (see here, here, and here) explicitly encouraging and teaching exactly how to strike.  It’s much easier if you know that your prey is unarmed and incapable of striking back.  And the Palestinians want the world to condemn Israeli politicians for suggesting to their constituents that they should be able to defend themselves.  And this message is lapped up by non other than the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon who deplores the Israeli killings of Palestinians (without making ANY mention of the fact that the Palestinians who were killed were all terrorists) and proclaims that he “looks to the Government of Israel to conduct a prompt and transparent investigation into the incidents, including whether the use of force was proportional”[2].  Is he serious?  He wants the Israelis to use “proportional” force when defending themselves against knife and meat-cleaver wielding terrorists?  So Israelis should go around with knives and meat cleavers attached to their belts in case they need to defend themselves?  Oh wait, the Palestinians would still ask for the countries of the world to condemn them for that – what they want is for the Israelis to be sheep who can be slaughtered at will and not resists.  Sorry – we did that once with the Nazis – don’t think we’re going to give an encore performance of that one.

The Palestinians also want condemnation of Israel for its “aggression and illegal measures taken against the freedom of worship and access of Muslim to al-Aqsa Mosque and Israel’s attempts to break the status quo since 1967”.  Let’s look at the facts.  The status quo since 1967 has been that the Jordanian Waqf has had control of the Temple Mount ever since Israel freed it from Jordanian control during the Six-Day War.    During that time the Waqf has had the ability to pretty much do whatever they wanted up there except for security which is Israel’s responsibility (if Israel did not maintain a security presence on the Temple Mount the Muslim worshipers there would attack the Jewish worshipers below at the Western Wall [3]).  Now, the Palestinians want the international community to provide security on the Temple Mount in order to provide protection for the Al Aqsa mosque [4].  All the while Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, calls for the maintenance of the status quo [5].  So, in truth, it is THE PALESTINIANS who are trying to change the status quo on the Temple Mount – not the Israelis!

Another condemnation request in this proposal by the Palestinians and their Arab allies is the demand that UNESCO condemn of continued attacks on al-Aqsa Mosque by right-wing Jewish extremists.  What is the basis for this claim of attack?  That’s hard to tell.  As I have pointed out in another blog post the number of Jews who have gone up to visit the Temple Mount accounts for only 0.3% of the total number of visitors to the Temple Mount (about 10,000 – 12,000 Jews compared to 200,000 Christians and 4,000,000 Muslim visitors).  If that is the basis for their claim of attack then it is spurious at best and a flat-out lie at worst. The Palestinians definition of “right-wing Jewish extremists” is unknown – it could be settlers living in the West Bank or it could be any Jew.  On top of that there are no statistics as to how many of the Jewish settlers who go up to the Temple Mount are “right-wing” or “left-wing” much less extremists.  This claim is a red-herring.  The fact is that Palestinians don’t want non-Muslims in what they consider as their exclusive holy site – and as Abu Mazen has stated previously they certainly don’t want Jews with “their filthy feet”.[6]

On top of all of the above the Palestinians want UNESCO to condemn Israel preventing sheikhs and preachers from accessing the Al Aqsa mosque.  Their claim seems to center around the fact that Israel is trying to prevent preachers like this guy and this guy from being able to preach their hate and lies at the Temple Mount.  And why shouldn’t they prevent this?  If ever there was a chance for peace between Israelis and Palestinians these guys are ready and willing to kill it.  On top of that the lies and hate that they preach incites those who hear it to go out and commit murder and mayhem at will.  While Israel does have freedom of religion for all faiths that does not mean that that freedom may be abused to promulgate ancient blood libels in an attempt to foment anarchy and murder and mayhem if it can be prevented.  As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. pointed out freedom of speech doesn’t mean that you can also falsely shout fire in a crowded theater.  And that’s basically what Israel is trying to prevent by denying such preachers and sheikhs the opportunity to do on top of the Temple Mount.  This is no different.

The Palestinians also want UNSECO to condemn Israel for the continued excavations near the Temple Mount and the Old City.  Why is that?  They claim it’s because the excavations are meant to undermine the Temple Mount, the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa mosque.  However, when you look more closely you realize that the real reason you see that they are trying to distract attention from their own illegal archaeological digging in and under the Temple Mount and their destruction of archaeological evidence of Jewish history and the existence of the Temple on the Temple Mount.[7]  By erasing any trace of previous civilizations and their ties to lands conquered by the Arabs during and immediately after the Mohammedan period, the Arabs can make claims that they were the original inhabitants of the land and that no evidence exists of any earlier inhabitants.  Look at what happened in to the statues of the Buddhas in Bamiyan in Afghanistan and what is happening today in Syria and Iraq where ISIS holds sway.   If anything, UNESCO should condemn the Palestinians and the Jordanian Waqf for the excavation and construction they have been conducting on and under the Temple Mount which is itself changing the status quo.

Why does the Palestinian leadership and their allies want to see this proposal passed? Because they need to continue the fabrication of their narrative in order to feed the incitement of their people and to direct their ire and anger against Israel and away from the leaders.  The Palestinians have a deep investment in the narrative of them as victims and of Israel as the aggressor and if they had to face the truth of the situation their world would fall apart.  By getting UNESCO to add its approbation to that narrative the Palestinian leadership will continue to dupe their people and the rest of the world that their lie is the truth.

[1] “Palestinians to UNESCO: Western Wall is Part of Al Aqsa”, Itamar Eichner, YNetNews, found at,7340,L-4712189,00.html

[2] “Ban Ki-moon says he is ‘profoundly alarmed by the growing number of deadly incidents in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem.'”, Danielle Ziri, Jerusalem Post, found at

[3] “Temple Mount Erupts in Violence”, Israel Today Staff, Israel Today, found at

[4] “Israel rejects any international intervention at Temple Mount”, Times of Israel Staff, Times of Israel, found at

[5] “Netanyahu: We will preserve status quo on Temple Mount”, Noam Dvir, YNetNews, found at,7340,L-4587022,00.html

[6] “Abbas: Israelis have no right to desecrate our holy sites with their filthy feet”, Khaled Abu Toameh, The Jerusalem Post, found at

[7] “The Destruction of the Temple Mount Antiquities”, Mark Ami-El, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, found at

I’ve been watching the events unfold in Israel for the past few weeks and I am constantly amazed at how the truth gets twisted and turned around to fit a narrative that doesn’t exist.  The latest round of terror from the Palestinians seems to have started with claims by the Palestinian Authority that Israel was looking to change the status quo on the Temple Mount (known as Har HaBayit in Hebrew).  Their claims were that more Jews were visiting the Temple Mount and creating a situation whereby they would demand a place to pray – or at least a defacto situation whereby the Israeli government would insist on providing them a place to pray on the Mount – and therefore offending the Muslims and “threatening” the Al-Aqsa Mosque.  Of course, among the Palestinians the apparent logical progression of this is that the Al-Aqsa Mosque was in danger of being destroyed (I assume that’s what went through their minds) and this was fed by the Palestinian leadership – including Abu Mazen.

Never mind that Jewish visitation to the Temple Mount only amounted to about 0.3% (approximately 10,000 in total) of all visitors in 2014 (compare that to the 200,000 Christians and the 4,000,000 Muslims who visited there in 2014) (1) – to the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian leadership – to them the Jews are threatening the Al-Aqsa Mosque.  Really?  The truth is the Palestinians – having decided and proclaimed that they are no longer bound by the Oslo Accords (their actions over the past 15 years seems to have indicated that they weren’t all that interested in being bound by those accords since 2000) needed some issue to claim that they must go on the offensive.  And now they have.  Over the past few weeks Palestinians – with the encouragement and provocation of the Palestinian Authority – have been waging a renewed and invigorated terror campaign against Israelis – mostly through stabbing attacks within the Green Line (the line demarcating the boundary between pre-1967 Israel and the West Bank).

The latest attacks involved two Palestinian terrorists – two cousins – one 13 years old and the other 15 years old – who stabbed two Israelis in the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood of Jerusalem (2).  The police responded and killed the older of the two attackers.  Rather than try to help defuse the situation the Palestinian Authority’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, declared that Israel “summarily executed” the 15 year old terrorist and demanded that the Israeli police arrest the personnel who fired on him.(3)  It comes as no surprise that the Palestinian Authority would make such a ludicrous claim.  They are looking to continue escalating the tensions and the violence all the while claiming that they are trying to calm the situation.  According to Israeli defense sources Abu Mazen (aka Mahmoud Abbas) is appealing for calm among the Palestinians (4).  However, while he may be appealing for calm he is also working to incite further attacks by claiming that every “drop of blood that was spilled in Jerusalem is pure blood as long as it’s for the sake of Allah. Every shahid (martyr) will be in heaven and every wounded person will be rewarded, by Allah’s will” (4) and that “Al-Aksa is ours and so is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They [the Jews] have no right to desecrate them with their filthy feet” (4).  As always, he speaks out of both sides of his mouth. Abu Mazen is the modern day Janus.  You cannot have it both ways – you cannot claim that you are trying to calm the situation and yet still exhort your followers to continue to attack and commit terrorist acts.

  1. “Only 0.3% of Yearly Visitors to Temple Mount are Jews”, The Jewish Press, Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu, October 9th 2015, found at
  2. “Jerusalem stabbers were cousins, 13 and 15 years old”, The Time of Israel, Tamar Pileggi and Judah Ari Gross, found at
  3. “Abbas spokesman: Israel ‘executed’ teen stabber’, The Times of Israel, Adiv Sterman, found at
  4. “Abbas working to restore calm in West Bank, Israeli sources say”, The Jerusalem Post, Jeruslaem Post Saff, found at
August 2020

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