By Michael Karadjis
The pro-Assad Druze lynch-mob who pulled two wounded Syrians from an ambulance in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, and then proceeded to bash one and kill the other while the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) looked on, justified their action with the claim that Israel is treating wounded fighters from the sectarian-jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra.
As a Nusra unit had several weeks earlier killed 23 Druze in northern Idlib province, they and their supporters claimed to be concerned with the fate of the larger Druze communities in southern Syria, where a variety of Syrian rebel formations are in control, mostly the anti-sectarian Southern Front of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) but also Nusra. Though all revolutionary organisations in Syria had vigorously condemned the massacre, and even Nusra had officially condemned it and removed the commander (see my analysis at https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/revolutionary-forces-throughout-syria-condemn-nusras-massacre-of-druze-villagers/), understandably the Druze minority remain concerned and vigilant.
In reality, the actions of the killers chime in well with current propaganda among the Likud-led regime in Israel, which is threatening to intervene to “protect” the Druze in south Syria, even “mulling the creation of a safe zone” – ie, a new Zionist land grab – on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights in order to aid Druze refugees.” (http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-weighs-safe-zone-for-syrias-embattled-druze/). Moreover, Syrian Druze condemned the murder as incompatible with Druze (http://syrianobserver.com/EN/News/29400/Druze_Community_Condemn_Golan_Heights_Ambulance_Attack); and really, imagine the Zionist army allowing a Palestinian mob to attack one of its ambulances and drag out patients and murder them: they would have slaughtered Palestinians before they got anywhere near it.
To top it off, it turned out that the murdered patient was FSA fighter Munthir Khalil from the Revolutionary Command Council in Quneitra and Golan (https://www.facebook.com/jwlanijana/photos/a.1504648763090664.1073741826.1504646789757528/1659290030959869/?type=1&theater), another name for the Military Council of Quneitra and Golan, from which Brigadier General Abdul-Ilah al-Bashir, last year appointed Chief of Staff of the Supreme Military Command of the FSA, comes from. This FSA brigade is also a member organisation of the FSA’s Southern Front which of course had vigorously denounced Nusra’s Druze massacre and offered protection; moreover, the Southern Front several months ago issued a declaration that there would be no further cooperation with Nusra at any level.
Who is promoting the fairy-tale?
Thus the “Israel supports Nusra” discourse had simply led to the murder of a member of the FSA. But where does this theory come from? A number of writers in recent months have come up with the proposition that Israel is in some kind of alliance with Nusra in the southern Syrian region bordering the Israeli-stolen Golan Heights.
“Why has Israel embraced al-Qaida’s branch in Syria?” asks Rania Khalek in the Electronic Intifada (https://electronicintifada.net/content/why-has-israel-embraced-al-qaidas-branch-syria/14619). “In the Golan, Israel has cultivated an alliance with Islamist forces it falsely claims to detest: the al-Nusra Front,” claims Richard Silverstein (http://www.richardsilverstein.com/2015/06/25/israels-dangerous-game-with-syrian-islamists/). “Why is the media ignoring Israel’s alliance with al-Qaeda?” asks Asa Winstanely (https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/inquiry/18855-why-is-the-media-ignoring-israels-alliance-with-al-qaeda).
According to Silverstein, evidence for this is that “It has built a camp to house fighters and their families on Israeli-held territory. It conducts regular meetings with Islamist commanders and provides military and other critical supplies to them,” and that “all of this is documented in written UN reports and images captured by journalists and activists on the armistice line (between Syria and Israel).”
Khalek also refers to these UN reports:
“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.”
Khalek, Silverstein and Winstanely would appear to be on good grounds for making these allegations, since the evidence is to be found in the reports of the UN forces stationed on the ceasefire line.
Except that you will not find such “evidence” in the relevant UN reports, as we will see.
The ‘evidence’ of Israel treating wounded Syrians
Before that, however, let’s note the other major piece of evidence for Israel’s “alliance with al-Qaida.” According to these writers, Israel has been providing medical treatment in Israeli hospitals for Nusra fighters from across the border.
That would seem powerful evidence. But the only problem is that the source for this “information” – the Wall Street Journal – didn’t say this. It merely reported that:
“An Israeli military official acknowledged that most of the rebels on the other side of the fence belong to Nusra but said that Israel offered medical help to anyone in need, without checking their identity. “We don’t ask who they are, we don’t do any screening…Once the treatment is done, we take them back to the border and they go on their way,” he said.”
Now, one may decide to complain about the medical help to people from across the border (whether fighters or civilians) if that is your view, but there is a big difference between not checking who they are and the assertion that they are Nusra fighters, let alone Khalek’s pure invention of the last part of the sentence about sending them back to fight Hezbollah..
Khalek also referred to the Vice News video that showed wounded Syrian fighters in an Israeli hospital, and says that “the narrator acknowledges that the fighters could be affiliated with al-Nusra.” But if the entire edifice of “Israel aiding al-Qaida” is based on the fact that someone says that, among the fighters, some “could be” Nusra because they don’t check, then that’s pretty shabby “evidence.” The doctors insist most patients are civilians, and among the fighters none are Nusra fighters. The narrator notes a patient with long hair who has his face turned because he didn’t want to be seen in an Israeli hospital, and suggests these two things suggest he may be from Nusra. The idea that non-jihadist fighters might also not have time for a haircut, and that many of them may be just as embarrassed to be shown in an Israeli hospital, is apparently lost on the narrator.
As for civilians, since the source for most of the hysteria appears to be one The Wall Street Journal article, this article notes that “a third of the 1,500 treated by Israel have been women and children,” that is, some 500 people; the EI article by Khalek quoting this adds “the rest have been fighters.” As I have no subscription to the WSJ article, I am unable to verify this, but the implication here seems to be that all those who are not “women and children” are by definition fighters (a not uncommon recipe for massive “collective punishment” of men by oppressive regimes and genocidaires over time). On the other hand, if we assume that male civilians also get wounded just as often as women and children, then the majority may well be civilians.
For some two years now, Israel has been bringing these wounded Syrian fighters and civilians to Israeli hospitals and dropping them back when they’re done. It is well to point to the hypocrisy of the Zionist state, that daily massacres Palestinians and even attacks their hospitals and ambulances and murders medical staff and patients, showing a nice face by providing this medical aid to Syrians who are the victims of similar Zionist-style butchery by the Baathist gang occupying Damascus.
It would be a similar level of hypocrisy to the Syrian regime treating wounded Palestinians in Syrian hospitals.
Presumably we could also denounce Israeli hypocrisy in oppressing, dispossessing and killing Palestinians but then treating wounded Palestinian civilians and liberation fighters in its hospitals (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2007/feb/8/20070208-115659-5410r/?page=all; http://www.timesofisrael.com/16-year-old-gaza-terrorist-treated-in-israeli-hospital/; http://www.israel21c.org/health/israeli-hospital-treated-both-sides-during-jenin-battle/). Personally, however, I will not be engaging in any reverse hypocrisy or outright slime by writing an article headed “”Israel’s Dangerous game With Palestinian Terrorists.”
Israel’s interest in the region
But denunciations of hypocrisy, while all very valid, rarely get us very far. Israel is doing this for purposes either of propaganda, or to attempt to influence, or co-opt, in whatever limited way it can, some of the wounded fighters or civilians.
Countless Israeli leaders, military officials, intelligence chiefs, strategists and others have declared their preference for the survival of the Assad regime over any of the alternatives on offer throughout this conflict, for good reason: the Assad regime fired not a single shot across the border of the Israeli-stolen Golan for 40 years, nor even organised symbolic actions near the border, nor even conducted any serious diplomatic offensive, and meanwhile regularly slaughtered Palestinian civilians and resistance fighters. However, the reality now is that the regime no longer controls Syria; in fact it is falling to bits.
None of the groups fighting the Assad regime, whether the secular nationalist Free Syrian Army, the various Islamist groups or Jabhat al-Nusra have ever shown any inkling whatsoever of wanting to have anything to do with Israel, and all of them insist the Golan is Syrian. In the circumstances of its reliable Assadist border-guard collapsing, the Zionist regime aims to try to influence some of the local fighters in the “border” region as best it can via providing medical support. After all, some variation of them will be in control there whether Israel likes it or not.
There is of course no indication thus far that this influencing will work; and meanwhile, someone with their arm blown off is hardly going to say no to a hospital bed.
But to suggest that this medical aid, and the tiny amounts of aid alleged by these writers to be seen in the UN reports, is the reason that rebels are holding the regime at bay in these southern regions, is entirely fanciful and suggests a complete lack of understanding of the realities on the ground. The UN reports show that the Syrian airforce bombs the region massively and continually; there is nothing in the UN reports suggesting any transfer of arms to the rebels, let alone the kinds of arms that would be necessary to fight such a regime.
Indeed, if it wanted to, Israel could tell the Assad regime that by bombing the region along the armistice line, it is breaking the terms of the 1974 UN ceasefire, but has never done so; indeed it could use this as an excuse to down the warplanes; failing that, if it actually wanted to aid the rebels’ fight it could supply them anti-aircraft missiles. Of course, there is nothing in the reports that suggest it has supplied even a single bullet, let alone anything useful.
So what then do these famous UN Observer Force reports say?
According to the Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force for the period from 11 March to 28 May 2014 (http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2014/401, “crossing of the ceasefire line (ie, into the area of separation) by civilians, primarily shepherds, was observed on an almost daily basis,” including “persons digging out and removing landmines” (the whole area is heavily mined). “On 19 and 22 May, IDF fired warning shots towards shepherds as they were crossing the ceasefire line.” “Frequent interacting” between “armed members of the opposition” and the IDF “across the ceasefire line” was reported, and it is clear in the report that this “interacting” was entirely concerned with transferring wounded patients to the IDF or the IDF returning treated patients. On one such occasion, the UN observed IDF “handing over two boxes to armed members of the opposition.”
From all the reports I read, this is the one and only time anything was handed over by the IDF to the armed oppositionists, and it was the sum total of two boxes, in the context of swapping wounded and treated patients (perhaps a patient’s clothes?). There is certainly no suggestion they were Nusra, in any case.
The next report (May 29-September 3) contains the usual list of shepherd crossings and swapping patients and nothing much else of interest.
According to the following report (September 4 to November 19 2014, http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2014/859), aside from the shepherd crossings:
“On 27 October, position 80 observed two IDF soldiers east of the technical fence returning from the direction of the Alpha line towards the technical fence. UNDOF observed IDF opening the technical fence gate and letting two individuals pass from the Bravo to the Alpha side. Following the evacuation of UNDOF personnel from position 85 on 28 August, UNDOF sporadically observed armed members of the opposition interacting with IDF across the ceasefire line in the vicinity of United Nations position 85.”
So we now have two individuals (apparently unarmed) pass through the separation fence. Khalek writes “unlike most fighters seen entering the Israeli side, these individuals were not wounded.” It is unknown why Khalek decided they were “fighters” – the UN report does not say this. And we again have sporadic “interactions” between some “armed members of the opposition” and IDF soldiers “across the ceasefire line,” the only difference with the other reports being that in this case it does not specify that this interaction involved transfer of wounded; discussing it perhaps?
According to the next report, from November 2014 to 3 March 2015 (http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/s_2015_177.pdf), there were a few crossings of the ceasefire line by “armed individuals” who “approached the technical fence and at times interacted with IDF across the ceasefire line” and “wounded individuals were handed over from the Bravo side to the Alpha side.” As in all such cases, there is no indication what, if any, faction they might be from.
According to Khalek, this report “notes that UN forces witnessed Israeli soldiers delivering material aid to armed Syrian opposition groups.” However, the report itself, indeed as she quotes it, says:
“During the evening of 20 January, in the area north of observation post 54, UNDOF observed two trucks crossing from the Bravo side to the Alpha side, where they were received by IDF personnel. The trucks were loaded with sacks before returning to the Bravo side.”
The report says “two trucks,” with no suggestion they are military trucks. Khalek says “armed opposition groups.” This is entirely her own invention. Silverstein is even more creative: “The UN observed the IDF unloading supplies in boxes at the armistice fence, which were then picked up by Islamist fighters.” Wow.
The report continues that “on at least four occasions in February, United Nations personnel at observation post 54 saw vehicles, including small trucks, crossing the ceasefire line from the Bravo side and approaching the technical fence.” Again, no indication that these “small trucks” were military vehicles or that they were being driven by fighters, and in these cases, no evidence of anything loaded onto them.
The report does mention that on one occasion, “several vehicles, including some with anti-aircraft guns mounted on the back, were seen parked next to the technical fence. Owing to the terrain, UNDOF could not observe whether interaction between individuals on the Alpha and the Bravo sides took place.” Thus on the only mention of a military vehicle there is no evidence of interaction. It would be interesting to know something about the “anti-aircraft guns.” As with the vast majority of rebel arms, almost certainly they have been captured from regime forces; there is no indication here that they came from across the border. If Israel had supplied them, one might expect them to be of a quality that might actually be useful, ie, actually shoot down warplanes; something which has never happened in the region.
Next, the report tells of a massive regime operation in February, including large-scale airstrikes, as a result of which “UNDOF observed approximately 300 civilians in total, mostly women and children, from the areas affected by the airstrikes move farther west into the area of separation in the vicinity of United Nations positions and the Israeli technical fence. After the air campaign ended, the individuals moved back east in the direction of their villages. The following day, while shelling continued, around 150 civilians, mostly women and children, moved into the vicinity of position 80.”
No doubt such continual airstrikes in the border region are a good reason that hundreds of women and children have been treated in Israeli hospitals.
The UN observers also note that “on 24 November, an exchange of fire took place between members of different armed groups in the vicinity of United Nations position 80. … On 27 November, United Nations personnel at position 80 once again observed an exchange of fire between members of different armed groups approximately 1 km from the position.”
The fact that the UN reports – not just this one, but also previous reports and following reports – speak of fighting between different armed opposition groups, casts further doubt on the proposition that Israel is allied to Nusra in the region, or that we can judge that most fighters in the region are Nusra just because Nusra seized the border post.
It is just as likely the opposite: that Israel may be providing some material support to non-Nusra fighters in the border region to keep Nusra at bay. According to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, the IDF is providing assistance (heaters, blankets etc) to “Syrian border villages” on condition that “the more moderate militias in the border area keep radical militias away from the Israeli border” (http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.632418). Even then however, to suggest that such assistance may include some light arms would be conjecture, because so far we still have no indication that any material aid (let alone arms) has been provided to any fighters, except two boxes.
The next report, from March 3 to May 28, 2015 (http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2015/405) tells us that:
“On 26 April, United Nations observation post 73 heard three explosions in the vicinity of an IDF position located west of the observation post and subsequently observed smoke west of the position and IDF air activity west of the Alpha line. Shortly thereafter, IDF informed UNDOF that they had killed four “terrorists” carrying “heavy equipment” who had crossed the Alpha line from an eastern direction as they approached an IDF position approximately 500 m north-west of observation post 73.”
Interesting. Who were the “terrorists” that the IDF killed?
The report goes on with the usual list of civilians, “mostly shepherds,” crossing the ceasefire line on an almost daily basis, of wounded people, sometimes on stretchers, being handed over across the line, of “two men (no indication that they were armed) being transported from an easterly direction on the Bravo side to a gate in the Israeli technical fence north of their location” and “the vehicles subsequently left the location without the two men” and so on. Nothing that could even be remotely connected to “Israel’s support to al-Nusra.”
The only interesting thing is a claim that, “on 19 May, United Nations personnel at observation post 51 observed three individuals from the Bravo side in a vehicle crossing the Alpha line. They collected about 50 mines, after which they left the location.” Who these “individuals” were is unclear.
Next, the report tells us of further intense fighting between armed groups that centred on the area of Al Qahtaniyah and its surroundings in the central part of the area of separation,” between 27 April and 5 May, but “the IDF did not retaliate to the spillover incidents,” except once when “UNDOF observed two tank rounds being fired from an area just south-east of Camp Ziouani on the Alpha side towards Al Qahtaniyah in the area of separation. The points of impact were not observed.”
However, unlike in the other reports, in this one there is some indication of who may have been fighting on this particular occasion. Noting that the UN “does not have the means to verify reports independently,” they claim that several sources suggested the clashes involved “a coalition of armed groups” including Nusra (I think about the only time Nusra is even mentioned in these reports, except for the taking of UN troops hostage), the Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham and forces from the Southern Front of the FSA, “attacked positions of the newly formed armed group Jaysh al-Jihad,” because Jaysh al-Jihad is linked to ISIS. The UN report indicates the rebel coalition defeated the ISIS front.
It was in the news that an ISIS front suddenly appeared in that region around this time, and, like everywhere in Syria, was attacked and defeated by rebels. Of course, there is no indication of Israeli support to Nusra or other rebels even when they are driving away ISIS. Of course, there is no indication of any Syrian regime attempt to expel the ISIS front.
The report also notes that during this fight against ISIS, “Syrian armed forces re-established control over Al Samdaniyah, in the central part of the area of separation, south of Al Baath, and occasionally targeted exposed high-value assets of the armed groups, destroying at least one tank.” As elsewhere in Syria during that period, and most periods, the appearance of ISIS tends to bolster the regime against the rebels.
However, this ISIS group was not there earlier, so the previously reported clashes between armed groups in the region could have been an entirely different line-up. The report also notes “occasional fighting between rival armed groups” after the defeat of ISIS, and in particular “friction growing between the Al-Nusra Front and the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade.”
From what I can see in the reports, that’s it. As for Silverstein’s assertion that the “relevant UN reports” tell of Israel having built “a camp to house fighters and their families on Israeli-held territory” and that “it conducts regular meetings with Islamist commanders and provides military and other critical supplies to them,” unless I am blind this is entirely his invention.
What can we conclude from the UN reports?
To summarise the reports: a number of minor incidents were observed of apparently unarmed people crossing the separation line; members of armed groups crossed the line and “interacted” with the IDF, in most cases to hand wounded people over to the IDF for medical treatment, or the IDF handed back treated patients; on one such occasion the IDF also handed over two boxes; there was not a single other reference to anything received from across the line by any armed group; some apparently unarmed trucks crossed over, in one case bringing back some kind of supplies; there were constant clashes between armed groups; there is not a single specific mention of Nusra in any of this, except the one occasion when it allied with other rebels to defeat an ISIS-allied incursion.
It is from this, and from the fact that Israel does not check for Nusra membership cards when wounded people cross the line for treatment that many have declared “Israel is directly aiding al-Qaida.”
My conclusion from this is that Israel is aiding no one, though it is possible that some wounded FSA and Nusra fighters have been fixed up in an Israeli hospital.
If among this there has been some small-scale material aid (eg, let’s assume for argument’s sake that the civilian truck which brought back supplies later took them to a group of fighters), then Nusra was probably the least likely recipient. I want to stress, however, that this does not mean that I think Israel is aiding the FSA Southern Front, or that the Southern Front would want a bar of Israel any more than Nusra does; and since the “evidence” of Israel aiding anyone, as shown above, amounts to nothing at all, it would be pure slander to conclude that “Israel does not aid Nusra, but only the FSA.”
If it is true that Israel has “assisted villages near the border in exchange for keeping extremist Islamist groups (ie, Nusra) away from the border” (see above) then it should not be assumed that the local village militias in question are “FSA” any more than “Nusra.” They may simply be non-ideological village guards. In fact, this same article went on to slander a number of FSA groups in the region as “sleeper cells” for ISIS and suggested Israel would need to get more involved in Syria to counter them.
To her credit, Khalek appears to not support the Assad regime, despite her article being standard Assadist fare:
“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.”
It would seem logical to me that destroying entire cities and towns and forcing millions from their homes is of a somewhat more serious nature than things such as not checking the ID cards of wounded patients, allowing a couple of unarmed guys to cross the line and loading a civilian truck with supplies, in terms of these alleged “actions on behalf of” extremist groups.
Israel, Hezbollah, Nusra and the Golan
In terms of more general Israeli policy, these writers note that Israel has attacked Hezbollah positions a number of times, but has not attacked Nusra (or FSA) positions, indicating a preference for having these Syrian rebel formations, even Nusra, in the Golan region rather than Hezbollah.
As Silverstein correctly points out, this is not due to any real Israeli opposition to the Assad regime, but rather to Israel’s opposition to its Iranian and Hezbollah allies who have now intervened massively to artificially prop up the dying regime. This is true: as previously noted, Israel prefers the Assad regime to any of these irregular forces, but it no longer has that choice, and has a different view of Hezbollah than it has of the pliant Assad regime.
Khalek quotes retired Israeli Brigadier General Michael Herzog, a former chief of staff for Israel’s defense minister, that “Nusra 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.”
It is certainly true that neither Nusra nor the FSA has set out to provoke an Israeli response by trying to prematurely liberate the Golan; they are “focused” on fighting the Syrian regime as this is the reason for their existence. At this moment, they would obviously be mad to provoke another genocidal regime at their back when they are busy fighting another one in front of them. Silverstein’s alternative suggestion that Nusra is not currently attacking Israel “due to the aid it offers them on the battlefield” is entirely fanciful, especially given the level of “evidence” for this “aid.”
In that sense, pragmatically, Israel can tolerate their presence in the region – at present – just as it was happy with the presence of a pliant Assad for 40 years. But not all Israeli leaders share Herzog’s view; the Zionist elite is deeply divided. For example, Brigadier General Itai Baron, the head of the Military Intelligence and Research Division of the Israeli Defense Forces (the second most senior position within Israel’s military intelligence establishment), said that “it is just a matter of time” before Syrian “Islamist” organisations, spearheaded by al-Nusra, “begin to target us from the Golan Plateau according to their radical ideology.” If they are not doing it yet it is only because they are busy confronting the Assad regime, but their ideology “clearly states that Damascus should be seized first and then they could proceed to liberating Jerusalem” (https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/16413-an-israeli-general-the-jihadists-will-set-the-golan-on-fire-against-us).
On the question of Hezbollah, where Herzog claims that Hezbollah is focused on Israel as it “pushes south,” in fact there is no reason to believe this. Actually, the whole purpose of Hezbollah’s adventure in Syria is to prop up the Assad regime, and so it is also “totally focused on the war in Syria.” Indeed, other leading Israeli strategists say the exact opposite of Herzog – ie, that Hezbollah’s focus on Syria means it won’t bother Israel (http://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/politics/e7600499-fc09-4b0c-b2db-2b57f6c3f6fa). In fact, from the outset, Hezbollah promised that Israel’s northern border would be “the safest place in the world” due to Hezbollah’s “focus” on Syria (http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/1.580751). Silverstein’s assertion that Hezbollah “constantly probes in this sector and mounts attacks against Israeli forces” is entirely imaginary: in all its time in Syria, Hezbollah never attacked “Israeli forces” and never even responded to Israel’s sporadic attacks on it until its response to Israel’s killing of several of its cadres in January this year.
As for Khalek’s claim that Israel views “the destruction of Syria as an opportunity to incapacitate Hizballah in southern Lebanon by draining its resources in Syria” really makes no sense: it is Hezbollah that made the fateful decision to squander its cadres’ lives, resources and energy on slaughtering Syrians on behalf of some tyrant; Israel can be blamed for a lot of things, but certainly not for Nasrallah’s Syrian treachery. If Israel were to now take advantage of this weakness to destroy Hezbollah in south Lebanon or even to annex further parts of the still occupied Shebaa region, Hezbollah would have itself to blame.
Notably, none of the occasional Israeli strikes on Hezbollah have had any military significance, and on no occasion has Israel struck Hezbollah in the context of a battle with Nusra or the FSA; and the occasional strikes on Syrian regime forces have mostly been on warehouses suspected of transferring Iranian weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Of course, it may well be surmised that Israel would prefer to not have two borders with Hezbollah and this may be a reason to keep it away from the Golan “border,” in case Israel ever launches an attack on Iran; however, as the famed Israeli attack on Iran is almost certainly just a massive propaganda exercise by the Zionist regime needing a “Third Reich” to justify its continued racist existence, and not something likely to happen (Israel has been threatening to bomb Iran “within weeks” for a quarter of a century), I tend to view the occasional pinprick strikes on Hezbollah within that propagandistic context.
In any case, Israel appears to view Iranian and Hezbollah activity in Syria somewhat favourably as long as it is further north from the Golan. In May, IDF spokesman Alon Ben-David noted that:
“The Israeli military intelligence confirms that the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s ability to protect the Syrian regime has dramatically declined, making the Israeli military command more cautious of a sudden fall of the Syrian regime which will let battle-hardened jihadist groups rule near the Israeli border.”
Therefore, he reported that the Israeli Air Force and the Military Intelligence Service are preparing a list of targets that are likely to be struck inside Syria, after a possible fall of the Assad regime (http://aranews.net/2015/05/israel-prepares-for-a-post-assad-phase-in-neighboring-syria/).
Even the analysis that Israel at this moment has a general preference for anyone on the anti-Iranian side, and thus prefers the opposition to Assad, is far from clear; rather there appears to be a sharp divide within the Israeli ruling class. For example, on January 14, Dan Halutz, former Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army, said that Assad was the least harmful choice in Syria, and that western powers “should strengthen the Syrian regime’s steadfastness in the face of its opponents.” If they allowed Assad to fall, “they would have committed the most egregious mistake” and this “would turn the region into a fertile ground for the jihadist groups with radical Islamic ideology, which will target Europe and Israel with their terrorist operations, in contrast to the Syrian regime which would never think of such steps if guaranteed to remain in power” (http://aranews.net/2015/01/assad-least-harmful-israeli-official/).
I have fully analysed this issue of Israel’s changing relationship to the Syrian war here: https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2015/02/24/the-syrian-war-israel-hezbollah-and-the-us-iran-romance-is-israel-changing-its-view-on-the-war/
Conclusion: Behind the fairy-tale
At the end of the day, the issue is not so much who might be providing microscopic amounts of material “aid” to who in rapidly changing circumstances and shifting interests, as what are the longer-term interests of Israel in the region.
For exactly the same reason that Israel was happy to live with a stable right-wing dictatorship on its stolen northern border for half a century, the worst thing for Zionist interests would be the establishment of a democratic, secular Syria as a result of an armed people’s uprising against that dictatorship. Whatever Zionist leaders might say, the threat of a southern alliance between the secular FSA Southern Front and the Druze communities of the south would be a nightmare for a state based on sectarian ethnic cleansing and ongoing apartheid.
As I analysed recently, this promise appeared to be close just on the eve of Nusra’s massacre of 23 Druze in northern Idlib several weeks ago. Nusra’s reactionary sectarian activities have allowed both the Assad dictatorship and the Zionist occupiers to pose as protectors of the “besieged” Druze minority, while the event itself naturally caused caution and consternation among the Druze, despite the vigorous condemnation of Nusra’s actions by the Southern Front and all other revolutionary forces in Syria.
It could be argued that precisely for this reason, the sectarian Zionist state may well secretly be happy with the growth of sectarian Sunni organisations like Nusra or even the more murderously sectarian ISIS – in the same way as the sectarian Syrian Alawi-centric regime has been dabbling with ISIS against the revolution for years.
The reality is, however, that it is nothing other than the genocidal slaughter unleashed by the Syrian regime, together with the betrayal of the democratic and secular revolutionary forces by western powers who have pretended to be sympathetic, that leads to the growth of mirror-image sectarian forces which sit uneasily within the armed opposition (Nusra) as well as those which are openly hostile to it (ISIS). Neither Israel nor the US would need to do a thing to help boost these forces.
But in any case, the fact that Israel may secretly prefer sectarianism to a democratic, secular Syria cannot be interpreted as support for such organisations which are also resolutely hostile to Israel and imperialism. Indeed, the part of Khalek’s article that shows some Israeli leaders cynically expressing the view that an ISIS-ruled Syria would enable Israel to gain international support for its annexation of the Golan, is clearly not a declaration of support for ISIS, but just the opposite. After all, Gilad Sharon “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.”
Thus taking advantage of sectarians is not the same as supporting them or arming them. In any case the simple fact of the matter is the evidence, as above, is not there. Why then are people promoting a story that is based on nothing?
Unlike ISIS, Nusra fights mostly against the regime (and against ISIS) alongside other Syrian rebel groups. Therefore, this “Israel supports Nusra” fairy-story is not aimed at claiming that Israel is secretly aiding a sectarian diversion of the revolution, but, on the contrary, the aim is the same old warped conspiracy theory that the mighty Syrian revolution is just a conspiracy orchestrated by a US-Zionist-Gulf-Jihadist-Martian cabal bent on destroying the nice progressive “secular” regime of Assad. Quite deliberately, these writers conflate Nusra with the FSA and other rebels; the fact that the UN reports talk about, for example, handing two boxes to members of an “armed group” for these writers automatically means Nusra. Even when it was found out that the wounded fighter murdered by the Druze lynch-mob was in the FSA and not Nusra, these haters declare him an “Islamist” fighter, in order to be as dishonest as is humanly possible without still calling him “Nusra” – for them, Nusra, Islamists and FSA are all the same thing.
The entire fairy-tale of Israeli support to either Nusra or the FSA in the south is based on nothing. Stupid stories, however, can have deadly results.