IS­RAEL TREAT­ING VIC­TIMS OF JI­HAD

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY SHIRA RU­BIN

THE DE­CI­SION by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to launch airstrikes against Isis in Iraq over the week­end has brought to the fore a new Mid­dle East cri­sis that, at least for a few days, over­took Gaza as the world’s num­ber one story.

But be­yond shift­ing in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion, the chaos in Iraq, which is rapidly re­draw­ing bound­aries in the re­gion, could have ma­jor im­pli­ca­tions for Is­rael.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s de­ci­sion to sup­port the Kur­dish bat­tle against ji­hadi forces and to back the re­place­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki in Baghdad is an in­di­ca­tion that his ad­min­is­tra­tion may be pre­pared for the first time to forcefully take sides in the re­gion’s main con- flict. This could well be a cru­cial stage in the dis­in­te­gra­tion of Iraq and the emer­gence of an in­de­pen­dent Kur­dish state. Is­rael al­ready has dis­creet ties with the Kurds and at least one deal to buy lo­cally ex­tracted oil.

The threat now posed by Isis to Jor­dan and Le­banon could lead to a wider re­gional al­liance tak­ing in Saudi Ara­bia — which has al­ready promised $1bn in mil­i­tary aid to Le­banon — the US and Is­rael.

Iran and its proxy, Hizbol­lah, also en­e­mies of Isis, are al­ready over-ex­tended in their cam­paign to sup­port the As­sad regime in Syria. In this sce­nario, both would be iso­lated, along with their re­main­ing al­lies in Baghdad and Da­m­as­cus.

Greater Saudi in­flu­ence over Le­banon would hurt Hizbol­lah’s ca­pac­ity to threaten Is­rael. Mean­while, with the US no longer re­ly­ing on Iran to pro­vide re­gional sta­bil­ity, the Is­lamic Repub­lic’s bar­gain­ing power in next month’s nu­clear talks could be greatly di­min­ished.

Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu and other Is­raeli lead­ers have tried to draw com­par­isons be­tween Ha­mas and Isis, but the anal­ogy is a poor one. While they both are Sunni Is­lamist move­ments, there is a great deal of dif­fer­ence be­tween the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood’s po­lit­i­cal Is­lam, upon which Ha­mas was founded, and Isis’s vi­sion of a global caliphate.

Is­rael is now part of the Egypt-Saudi coali­tion, which sees both streams as en­e­mies and is try­ing to con­vince the Amer­i­cans to adopt a sim­i­lar at­ti­tude.

The fact that in Gaza some ji­hadist groups, in­clud­ing a num­ber of for­mer Ha­mas mem­bers, are al­ready iden­ti­fy­ing with Isis, may make that eas­ier.

Is­rael, Egypt and the Saudis are all now on the same side. It re­mains to be seen whether the US ad­min­is­tra­tion will give up its hopes of pla­cat­ing Iran and in­stead fol­low up on its new cam­paign in north­ern Iraq by join­ing the new coali­tion. Such a move would change the face of the re­gion.

FOR the past week in north­ern Iraq, tens of thou­sands of Yazidis, a re­li­gious mi­nor­ity, have been stranded on the Sin­jar Moun­tain, fac­ing death by star­va­tion or by the Isis ji­hadis, who awaited them below.

Jerusalem-based NGO Shevet Achim is one of the few or­gan­i­sa­tions to have as­sisted the char­ity Kur­dis­tan Save the Chil­dren in this cri­sis, and is pro­vid­ing surgery for Yazidi chil­dren suf­fer­ing from car­dio­vas­cu­lar ail­ments.

Since the cri­sis be­gan, a small num­ber of Yazidi fam­i­lies have been screened by Shevet Achim in Su­lay­maniya, Iraq, and then taken to Is­rael via Jor­dan, said the NGO’s spokesper­son, Madeleine Miles.

“The ma­jor­ity of the pa­tients have been Mus­lim, and now we have a num­ber of Yazidis, but in the hos­pi­tal there is no dis­tinc­tion,” said Ms Miles, who added that the group has worked with many Is­raeli hos­pi­tals and govern­ment work­ers, who viewed the mis­sion as “an hon­our”.

Since its in­cep­tion in 1994, the NGO has fa­cil­i­tated the trans­fer of thou­sands of chil­dren from Gaza, Syria, Jor­dan and Iraq to Is­raeli hos­pi­tals for life-sav­ing pro­ce­dures.

At least 500 Yazidis have been mur­dered, and some buried alive, by Isis, which ac­cuses the eth­nic Kur­dish group of devil wor­ship.

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

Kur­dish soldiers cel­e­brate af­ter ex­pelling Isis from Makhmur, north­ern Iraq

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