Why has Israel embraced al-Qaida’s branch in Syria?

UN observers have documented dozens of interactions between Israeli forces in the occupied Golan Heights and Syria opposition fighters crossing the boundary fence, as far back as 2012.

Atef Safadi EPA

During his 2014 address to the UN General Assembly, Benjamin Netanyahu declared that “fighting militant Islam is indivisible.”

The Israeli prime minister’s crude attempts to conflate ISIS with Hamas should not be allowed to conceal an important truth: Israel aids the forces of “militant Islam” when it is considered opportune to do so.

The most egregious example of such aid in recent times has been Israel’s support for Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaida’s franchise in Syria, as witnessed by UN peacekeeping forces stationed in the occupied Golan Heights.

Israel’s collusion with al-Qaida has been virtually ignored by the American media, with a few exceptions. For example, The Wall Street Journal reported in March that Israel has been treating wounded al-Nusra fighters and then sending them back into the Golan to battle Hizballah and the Syrian army.

Other media outlets have danced around the issue.

The Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, a frequent conduit for information from official sources, mentioned, in passing, last month that “Jordan and Israel have developed secret contacts with members of the Jabhat al-Nusra group along their borders.” But he failed to elaborate.

In a video report released by Vice News in December — in which Israeli soldiers are shown transferring wounded Syrian opposition fighters to an Israeli hospital — the narrator acknowledges that the fighters could be affiliated with al-Nusra.

Israeli media has been slightly more open about Israel’s embrace of al-Qaida. The news website Ynet has posted footage of Israeli army medics treating wounded Syrian opposition fighters, noting, “It is likely that most if not all of these nationals are rebels from the rival jihadist Islamic State and al-Nusra Front groups.”

This raises questions about the legality of sending members of one of the world’s most notorious and active armed extremist groups back into battle, especially since this particular group has been the primary target of a global war for more than a decade led by Israel’s greatest benefactor, the United States. (To be fair, though, the US is no stranger to backing al-Qaida and ISIS to undermine its adversaries.)

A US Defense Department spokesperson declined to comment for The Electronic Intifada about Israel’s apparent alliance with al-Qaida. The US State Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Material aid

As Israel’s neighbors absorbed millions of displaced Syrians fleeing a war that, according to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has killed more than 220,000 people, the Israeli government has painted its medical care for those wounded in Syria as altruistic. But only a third of the 1,500 treated by Israel have been women and children, according to the March report in The Wall Street Journal.

The rest have been fighters who Israeli officials admit are not screened and likely belong to al-Nusra.

Once it became undeniable, Israel confessed it was treating fighters, but claimed that they were moderates.

But after al-Nusra captured and ejected UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights last August, there was no longer any doubt that al-Nusra was the dominant force among opposition fighters in the area.

Since then, Ynet has resorted to whitewashing al-Nusra’s connections to al-Qaida. Citing unnamed Israeli officials, the publication claims that al-Nusra’s members are “simply local residents who joined the organization to benefit from the logistical and financial support it offers them.”

Retired Brigadier General Michael Herzog, a former chief of staff for Israel’s defense minister, told The Wall Street Journal that “Nusra is a unique version of al-Qaida. They manage to cooperate with non-Islamist and non-jihadi organizations in one coalition … They are totally focused on the war in Syria and aren’t focused on us. But when Hizballah and Iran and others are pushing south, they are very much focused on us.”

Israeli soldiers have also been seen providing Syrian opposition fighters dominated by al-Nusra with material aid.

Dozens of interactions between Israel and opposition fighters, as far back as 2012, have been documented by the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), the peacekeeping mission responsible for monitoring the 1974 ceasefire line between Israeli and Syrian forces in the Golan Heights.

The UN has good reason to observe these interactions closely.

In August last year, al-Nusra detained 43 UN peacekeepers and seized their equipment, prompting the UN to evacuate many of its soldiers to the Israeli-occupied side of the ceasefire line.

Quarterly UNDOF reports since the pullback reveal an ongoing pattern of Israeli coordination with those armed groups.

According to the December 2014 report, UNDOF observed two Israeli soldiers “opening the technical fence gate and letting two individuals pass from the [Syrian] to the [Israeli] side” on 27 October. Unlike most fighters seen entering the Israeli side, these individuals were not wounded and the purpose of their visit remains a mystery.

UNDOF “sporadically observed armed members of the opposition interacting” with the Israeli military across the ceasefire line, the report states.

The next UNDOF report, released in March, notes that UN forces witnessed Israeli soldiers delivering material aid to armed Syrian opposition groups.

“During the evening of 20 January, in the area north of observation post 54, UNDOF observed two trucks crossing from the [Syrian] side to the [Israeli] side, where they were received by IDF [Israeli military] personnel,” the report states. “The trucks were loaded with sacks before returning to the [Syrian] side.”

The coordination between Israel and armed opposition groups continued into May, according to the June UNDOF report.

Israel appears determined to keep the nature of these interactions as low key as possible, something Sidqi Maqt, a Druze resident of the Golan Heights, understands better than most.

In February, Maqt was arrested by Israeli intelligence for posting photos and videos to his Facebook page of Israeli army interactions with armed opposition groups. Maqt paid particular attention to documenting encounters he believed demonstrated the Israeli army’s alliance with al-Nusra.

Released in 2012 after serving 37 years in prison for engaging in armed resistance against Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights, Maqt is once again behind bars. He has been charged with “espionage, assisting an enemy during wartime and contact with a foreign agent,” according to Al Jazeera.

On top of providing al-Nusra with material aid and punishing those who expose it, Israel has launched airstrikes almost exclusively against forces fighting al-Nusra.

On 18 January, for example, an Israeli air strike on a convoy near Quneitra killed six members of Hizballah and a general in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Days later, rockets landed in the Golan Heights, according to UNDOF. The Israeli army retaliated by shelling a location it said was the source of the fire.

A Syrian army official, however, told the UN that “terrorists” had fired the rockets and that the Syrian army planned to target their positions. The UN relayed this message to the Israeli army, which responded with airstrikes against two Syrian army artillery positions.

Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, has said that some in Syria joke, “How can you say that al-Qaida doesn’t have an air force? They have the Israeli air force.”

While Assad’s policies, including the bombardments that have devastated cities and towns forcing millions to flee their homes, have contributed to the chaos and vacuum that has enabled extremist groups to flourish in some areas, Israel’s actions on behalf of those groups grant credence to his claim.

Cheering on ISIS

Amos Yadlin, a retired Israeli general, has offered a candid explanation for Israel’s partnership with al-Nusra.

“There is no doubt that Hizballah and Iran are the major threat to Israel, much more than the radical Sunni Islamists, who are also an enemy,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “Those Sunni elements who control some two-thirds to 90 percent of the border on the Golan aren’t attacking Israel. This gives you some basis to think that they understand who is their real enemy — maybe it isn’t Israel,” he reasoned.

Hizballah, which is aligned with Bashar al-Assad’s regime, has been fighting al-Nusra in the Golan Heights with Iranian support. Given Hizballah’s growing capacity and proven willingness to defend against Israeli aggression, Israel appears to favor al-Qaida on its northern front and to view the destruction of Syria as an opportunity to incapacitate Hizballah in southern Lebanon by draining its resources in Syria.

This does not mean Israel wants Assad to fall. On the contrary, Israel prefers a region fractured into small sectarian enclaves that are too busy fighting one another to unite against it. It is for this reason that Yair Golan, the Israeli army’s deputy chief of staff, recently celebrated the conditions on Israel’s northern border as “better than ever.”

The Jerusalem Post’s security correspondent, Yossi Melman, has echoed Golan, depicting Syria’s descent into chaos and fragmentation as a strategic boost for Israel.

Gilad Sharon, son of late Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, has gone even further by arguing that an ISIS takeover in Syria would offer an opening for Israel to acquire the Golan Heights permanently.

In the event of an ISIS takeover, Sharon wrote last month, “There would be no international pressure for Israel to give back the Golan Heights either — and that’s a very good thing. The Golan will remain an important part of Israel forever.” He added that Israel could rely on the West’s so-called anti-ISIS coalition to defeat a victorious ISIS next door, allowing Israel to bask in its newly annexed territory without lifting a finger.

Israel would not necessarily “welcome the presence of the Islamic State lunatics on our border,” Sharon wrote, “but it’s certainly no worse, and may even be better, than the presence there of Hizballah, which is the Lebanese proxy of the Iranian regime.”

Naftali Bennett, Israeli education minister and leader of the ultra-nationalist party Habeyit Hayehudi (Jewish Home), appears to be following Sharon’s advice.

Speaking at the Herzliya conference, a key event in Israel’s political calendar, this month, Bennett called on Israel to invoke the threat of ISIS expansion to compel governments around the world to legitimize its annexation of the Golan Heights.

“Who do they want us to give the Golan to? To Assad? Today, it’s clear that if we listened to the world we would give up the Golan and ISIS would be swimming in the Sea of Galilee. Enough with the hypocrisy,” said Bennett, agitating for expanding the number of Israeli settlers in the Golan from 20,000 to 100,000 in the next five years.

Support for al-Qaida in Syria, then, serves at least two purposes from Israel’s perspective: sapping the strength of the foe it fears most — Hizballah — and solidifying its occupation of the Golan Heights.

In addition to sowing chaos and bloodshed, Israel’s machiavellian schemes — as its decades of meddling in Lebanon show — have a poor record of achieving their goals.




By breaking its armistice with Syria through repeated air strikes against ongoing anti-terrorist operations there, Israel has forfeited all chance of living in peace, much less signing peace treaties, with the peoples of the region.

Israel has nil chance of surviving the waning power of the United States. That day has arrived, exactly as former Carter advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski has been warning in various interviews and books. This is the point at which the Zionist race colony finds itself today.

I used to think that Israel had no chance of surviving in its present form as an apartheid state. Now, I think it has no future at all. The track that Netanyahu has confirmed for his race colony is the one blazed by Algeria and Kenya, where all foreign colonists left given the magnitude of the brutality and downright barbarism of the English and French. The Palestine conflict is looking less and less like South Africa and more like Algeria and Kenya.

If Israelis imagine they can defend themselves against such an outcome either with nuclear bombs--as their leaders have been hinting this year--or by signing capitulation treaties with states they are, with the US, doing everything to break, they should think long and hard. Their departure will simply be another fact, neither decided nor dictated by anyone. It will be simply part of a mainstream history--you might say, the natural order of things--that is reasserting itself, one way or another. This process has already begun and is too strong for anybody to stop it now.

Zionists planted the seeds of their own destruction by adopting their ideology of race worship. They pulled off the biggest pseudo-religious swindle in history with biblical claims to a land inhabited by another people, and with an ideology of self-worship, chosenness and victimhood.

The Zionists of Israel, a good swath of whose north consists of lands stolen from Lebanon in successive wars, will pay dearly for Syria too, not just Palestine.


How passionately I wish that what Anthony Shanker has
written were true. Instead, I believe that under the
current US Administration and probably any future
US Administration of either party the US and ISRAELI
connection will grow every more tight. The recent
allocation of 1.9 BILLION dollars in wea;ponry to
Israel by the US should serve as proof.

It would be nice to believe that whenever Netanyahu
comes to speak before the US Congress at the invitation
of its Speaker next year, The current Administration
will announce a "conflict" and that it will be out of the
country with visits to Lebanon, the West Bank, Gaza
both Parliament and affected areas, Jordan. In
such a visit made with Air Force One and loaded with
reporters and photographers, translators for several
languages. The Administration should emphasize its
intention to communicate not only with representatives
of Hamas but also the PA (formerly the "PLO") as
well as visit ordinary people in Gaza, bombed school-
houses, hospitals etc.

A trip to Iran if invited by its Supreme Leader and
a speech to its parliament shojuld be in order.

Of course, none of this will happen. Ever.

----Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA


It's not a question of your or my passion, Peter. I do not say these things because I "wish" them to be so. Basically, the Pied Pipers or pipe-dream weavers, however one calls them, are leading our society and the rest of the world to a very bad place.

That the negotiations with Iran should come to nothing, which would still surprise me, would change nothing in the dynamics taking shape in the region and around the world. That the US should dispatch an additional $1.9 billion dollars to Israel will not change Israel's fate. Israel has already sealed its fate with its own hands. Long before that, even, when it was created on a race myth. In fact, the more cash it receives the faster its joke of an economy evaporates. For the West, it has been a basket case as well as its rabid dog. The only thing stopping the West from liquidating this strange "friend" and clear abomination to all humanity is that no one in America or Western Europe wants to admit 6 million Jews from Palestine on their return trip.

Money and arms are not how power is determined. The Saudis have tons of cash; the Zionist race colony sits on a mountain of American technology AND cash. But war and technology alone do not decide outcomes. The British Empire lost more battles to "primitive" tribesmen around the world during its miserable little life than any other, but it still prevailed--for a time. And so did the French empire. The US lost Vietnam. There are many factors involved.

In comparison, of course, Israel doesn't amount to a bristle. This "fact" has become clear to every thinking specialist in my field. This is the reality unfolding before our eyes because the United States is a waning, not rising, power. No more cavalry after this to save the West (US, UK and France) from Nazis. Our politicians had better start singing a new tune than shedding the same crocodile tears. We have had enough horror in the last century and a half.


Thanks Anthony Shaker for your reply.

Money and arms do not play the only role in how power is determined but
they play a very vital role indeed. I urge you to read William Greider's
book FORTRESS AMERICA... You will read about McBoeing (combination
of Boeing and McDonnell Douglas, Lockmartin (combination of
Lockheed and Martin Marietta) and RaeHighes (combination of
Raetheon and Hughes Aircraft) function both in their operations,
in their economic relationships and in working for "market share".
(I do not agree with all of Greider's points of course, but you
will find information you need.)

Admitted there are other factors. But the operation
of the giants play a very central role and it is one that
(probably purposefully) is rarely discussed.

Many believe that the US is a waning power and
I would very much like to agree. Unfortunately
it is yet an extremely strong world power on many
fronts. I doubt I shall see its demise in my
lifetime. Your optimism in this regard is encouraging
but if I were you I would advise you not to
"count your chickens before they hatch"

Once more, thanks for your reply.

----Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, US


1. Basic is the Israeli belief that it is "chosen" and "entitled" according
to Scripture. It is therefore immune to any crimes that mere mortals,
the unchosen etc, may commit. Like many colonial ventures
(many not "Jewish") "God is on their side".

These views are gaining ground in Israel and as R. Khalek has shown
have the support of the US which, although not based on Scripture,
are based on racism , colonial supremacy, "us" and "them" etc.

2. Israel (with the support of the US) believes that due to their
superior power and racist superiority, any extremist organization
with which they collaborate will come under their command
and will obediently do their bidding.

The US has discovered long ago that this supposition is
mostly a fabricated and false notion for belligerents.
Two examples are Vietnam and Iraq. These lessons
have conveniently and probably purposefully been "forgotten".

(See many articles in Consortiumnews.com which in
support Khalek's conclusions.)

----Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA


You don't believe Israel wants Assad removed? You must be kidding! Israel, together with Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have formed a strategy to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and to make Israel the super power in the Middle
East. Saudis and Israelis have had a joint strategy to eliminate the Palestinian problem for many many years. The pro-Zionist policy of the U.S. is the coordinater and the master strategist. They decide how others in the region need to play and must play for example: Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq, etc. Assad has to go because he did not want to play in this game, and neither did the resistance in Lebanon. Saudis and Qataris spend few $ millions to buy some misguided and elite Palestinians' allegence and loyalty to their scheme while spending trillions of dollars to support their joint Israeli strategy that you almost sketched correctly in your article.


Israel believes it is 'chosen' just as the USA believes it is exceptional. This is common to all colonial powers.

Israel's strategy was summed up in the Sharrett Diaries published 40+ years ago. To confessionalise its neighbours. It is a damning criticism of Assad that he preserved the confessional status quo rather than eradicating it. This was a consequence of his regime's barbarity. Not for nothing did the US extraorindarily render people to the tender mercies of its Mukhbarat.

If one supports the Assad regime vs ISIS then it is every much as the lesser of 2 evils. Hezbollah is forced to depend on this unstable regime but the question is for how much longer. Assad seems to be retreating into the coastal plain as ISIS takes over half of the country and the Kurds create their own fiefdom in the North.

Israel's intention is clearly to isolate Hezbollah and gain revenge for its defeat in 2006. All else is secondary.


Two references support Mr. Greenstein's p[osition.

R. Weitz was head of the Jewish Agency's colonization
program for many years (when there was a "Palestine"
but no "Israel") He said:

"Between ourselves it must be clear that there is
no room for both peoples together in this
country [Palestine]... there is no other way than
to transfer the Arabs from here to neighboring
countries, to transfer all of them: Not one village,
not one tribe should be left."

This is essentially the strategy which the invading Zionists
have used from the very beginning.

Although Zionism was not a religious movement per se
(it had strong objections by many rabbis usually on
theological ground), it nevertheless has extremely
deep religious roots which are undeniable.

Turning to Scripture and using a literalist interpretation
(essentially the Zionist interpretation) one can read in
Deut 20.16-18 as follows:

"But as for the towns of these peoples Yahweh and your
God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let
let anything that breathes remain alive. You shall
annihilate them...."

Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA


I strongly disagree with Greenstein's twisted remarks about the
Assad regime. They do not impact on Israel and its religious roots.

The terms used by Mr. Greenstein (such as "barbaric") are
uncalled for for a secular sovereign state which is trying without
help to defend itself.

It is Israel with its religious underpinnings etc. which is
"barbaric" and Israel with US support which as a terrorist
state and a threat to peace in the Middle East and to the

I recommend articles in CONSORTIUMNEWS.COM (many
authors particularly Editor-in Chief Robert Parry but others
as well).

I support Hezbollah, Iran etc. and oppose the terrorist enemy
Israel-US which is a center of hate, built on massacres,
rape, murder, dispossession, destruction, starvation of
an oppressed people, the murder of men, women and children,
attacking hospitals, schools. It is common knowledge that
these criminal activities are not limited to the '48 war
or to subsequent war by Israel. They continue now--every day.

Assad is no angel but is not the "monster" he is made out
to be in the West. Israel and the US are depriving
a sovereign member of the UN of its sovereignty
while saying nothing about the murders , Palestinian
home demolitions etc. which continue to this day.

I am surprised that one of your knowledge is so
taken by US/Israeli and Western MSM so-called

Evidently "self-defense", "security" and so forth are
only permitted for certain favored nations but totally
denied others who pay with their lives.

----Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA


if only the syrian army were as moral as the "israeli " army..


Zionism made a particular play for religious support because its key selling point was 'returning' to the holy land. Of course its founder Theodor Herzl wasn't at all religious. His sons weren't even circumcised. He had previously speculated about a mass conversion to Catholicism and in The Jewish State talked about Argentina as a destination for colonisation. But the Christian myth of the Jewish return, because it was never a Jewish myth, prevailed.

Nor is Zionism unique in that. Most forms of settler colonialism took the Bible as justifying their activities. The American settlers, the South African settlers and of course the Ulster Protestants. As Bob Dylan noted, every nation fights with god on its side!