By D. Bender
The Islamic State is nothing if not media and marketing savvy. The international terrorist group is offering Israeli Arabs an all-expenses-paid visit to a resort in Turkey, including airfare and hotel, in order to entice them to join the organization, Israel’s Ch. 2 News reported Thursday.
Dozens of Israeli Arabs and Bedouins recently took part in the attractive offer, in which they were enticed to undergo military training in Syria. However, after pressure from their families, they repented and returned to Israel – and are apparently not expected to stand trial.
‘M’, a twenty-something Israeli Arab from northern Israel, flew to Turkey with a group of like-minded youth, and stayed there for three nights in a hotel. He was supposed to join one of ISIS’s sectors in northern Syria, in the volatile triangle bordering Iraq and Turkey.
“My friend said he decided to join ISIS and the goal is to help the citizens of Syria to overthrow the Assad regime,” ‘M’ said.
“I went to their sites, connected with their ideology; I corresponded with people associated with them and they made sure to pay me and those who flew with me, including a ticket and three nights in a hotel. I did not tell anyone in the family about my intentions,” he admitted.
“I flew there, and got to the hotel in Istanbul, where a man was waiting for me and introduced himself as a representative of the organization. He invited me to join a training week in Syria. They brainwashed me; I’d be an Arab national hero, I’d get to heaven,” ‘M’ recalled.
The representative, however, “saw me struggling and unsure of myself and tried to convince me that if it didn’t fit with me, I could repent and he’d take care to transfer me back to the border; to take care of everything.”
‘M’ stayed in a hotel with a few friends who flew with him for the same purpose. But when his father heard that he hadn’t traveled to Turkey for the beaches, halvah and cheap leather goods, but rather to join the radical Islamic organization, he urgently called and pleaded with him to return to Israel.
“Dad begged, cried, ‘don’t do anything stupid!’ Even my mom talked to me – it affected me a lot. I realized I did an idiotic thing, without thinking too much,” he confessed.
“I’m young, I haven’t seen anything in my life, never married and have a family, and it’s not worth it to lose it all and do many years of jail time in Israel,” he said, explaining his decision to return to Israel.
Dozens of other young men who flew to Turkey with ‘M’, apparently, had the same second thoughts, and booked tickets home to the Jewish State.
Officials told them they would not be prosecuted since they neither enlisted into ISIS’ ranks nor trained with them, in sharp contrast to a young man from Umm al-Fahm who, after joining ISIS, repented, was arrested upon his return to Israel, and is now expected to do heavy prison time.
In September, the Israeli Defense Ministry officially outlawed membership or any activity suggesting membership in the Sunni terrorist organization.
At about the same time, an Israeli Arab high school teacher was arrested on suspicion of supporting the Islamic State after a search of his home revealed Islamic State flags and jihadist propaganda materials.
Twenty-four-year-old Mahmoud Mehamid teaches a class on Islam at Atid High School in Kafr Qara. Local Police Superintendent Shimon Ben-Shabo said the suspect had returned from a trip to Jordan, where he said he got the Islamic State materials.
In parallel, former deputy minister, Ayoub Kara (Likud), who himself belongs to the country’s Druze minority, recently began a campaign among disaffected Israeli Arabs and Bedouin aimed at preventing them from enlisting in ISIS.
Kara says he operates through secret channels in Turkey and Arab countries, and sees his goal “as a national mission to save the lives of these children from extremists who were exploiting their naivete.
“We were able to prevent many young people from joining the organization. I am in contact with entities in Turkey and Arab countries, and assist the return of Israelis tempted to join the organization,” Kara said.