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March 22, 2016 3:24 pm

Former IDF General to AIPAC: ISIS Is Influencing Palestinian Teens to Commit Terrorism Against Jews

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

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Michael Herzog. Photo: The Washington Institute for Neareast Policy.

Michael Herzog. Photo: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

A retired IDF brigadier general said on Sunday he believes that Palestinian teens who commit violent attacks against Israelis are influenced by Islamic State terrorists.

“I strongly believe that this phenomenon of ISIS, of Daesh, has an impact on the atmosphere in Palestinian society,” Michael Herzog — an international fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy — said, during his address to AIPAC delegates in Washington, DC. “The banality of violence, the banality of death, also infiltrates the Palestinian society. Most of these young people do not swear allegiance to ISIS, don’t go and fight with them, [but] they are certainly influenced by this atmosphere and some of their terminology reminds me of what you hear and read about ISIS.”

Talking about the thought process behind these young Palestinians committing terror attacks, Herzog — who is the brother of Israeli Labor Party and Opposition leader Isaac (Buji) Herzog — believes they feel a “sense of deep frustration” not only with Israelis, but also with their own lives. That feeling, coupled with what he called the “psychological need for self-fulfillment through what they believe is martyrdom and heroism,” results in their lashing out through violent terror attacks.

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“They don’t mind losing their lives; they say so. They say, ‘Let’s meet in heaven, in paradise.’ They know they stand a good chance of losing their lives, yet they go and do it,” said Herzog. “I believe these people vent existential frustrations. They are disappointed with their own leadership… And they paint a black-and-white picture where they don’t see any hope. Their leadership, as far as they are concerned, does not provide any hope for them. No solutions. no statehood, no unity, no governments, no nothing.”

Herzog also pointed to a “psychological element,” according to which Palestinian teens feel it is very “in” to go out and try to kill Jews, and they subsequently become heroes for their efforts.

Herzog, who previously served as the chief of staff and senior military aide to the minister of defense — said the top priority in the Middle East is to calm the wave of terror currently taking place in the region, though he realizes the challenges that come with such a mission. “It’s not that simple to deter a young fellow who’s ready to die,” he said.

He said a range of ideas have been discussed to deal with the situation, such as expelling the families of terrorists. But, he noted,  “I can tell you from experience in the second Intifada that it’s not that simple to deter such people, and we have to not only to think in terms of specific deterrence, but also in terms of how to change the atmosphere. And that’s very challenging.”

“There is a lot of incitement out there,” he added. “The general feeling is that one incident feeds the next one. People want to emulate their friends or other people that lost their lives and follow them.”

The Palestinian Authority does not know how to deal with the phenomenon of terrorism taking place in its society, and is also “irrelevant” in the effort to stop teens from attacking Jews, according to Herzog. He said the PA will not publicly condemn the terror attacks — despite international pressure — because “it is very unpopular in their own society to go against what they call resistance…in some places they will [even] encourage it.

Aside from that, Herzog believes that even if PA President Mahmoud Abbas were to issue a decree forbidding young Palestinians from committing terrorist attacks, they would not listen.

“They dont care about him,” Herzog said. “They don’t count him. In their calculation, their leadership doesn’t count.”

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