December 22, 2014

About Jonathan Spyer

Dr. Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Herzliya, Israel, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum. He is the author of The Transforming Fire: The Rise of the Israel-Islamist Conflict (Continuum, 2010) and a columnist at the Jerusalem Post newspaper. Spyer holds a PhD in International Relations from the London School of Economics and a Masters' Degree in Middle East Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. His blog can be followed at:

Sunni Political Islam: Engine of the “Israeli-Palestinian” Conflict

Palestine events. The 1929 riots, August 23 to 31. Synagogue desecrated by Arab rioters. Hebron. Furniture broken, floor littered with torn sacred books (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA)

An oft-repeated sentiment currently doing the rounds in discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian issue is that it is imperative that the conflict not become a “religious” one. This sentiment, guaranteed to set heads nodding in polite, liberal company, stands out even within the very crowded and competitive field of ridiculous expressions of historical ignorance found in discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. This sentiment is connected to the recent wave of terror attacks in Jerusalem, … [Read more...]

Fear and Loathing in Jerusalem

Israeli emergency personnel walk past blood on the floor following the November 18, 2014, terror attack at a synagogue in Jerusalem's Har Nof neighborhood in which four were killed.

The current atmosphere in Jerusalem is reminiscent of the Second Intifada’s opening days, in the autumn of 2000. Tension and fear. A sense of foreboding. “I can feel it in my bones, what’s coming,” says Daniella, a native Jerusalemite who owns a restaurant in central west Jerusalem, and whose sister was killed in a suicide bombing in 2002. What’s coming, she and many others think, is more violence. There are fewer pedestrians on the streets. People have become cautious and alert in … [Read more...]

The Emerging Pattern

Palestinian terrorist Nur a Din Hashiya holding sign that reads, "We are a people who loves death like our enemies love life."

A pattern emerges, dear friends. The names of the five Palestinian Arab terrorists who have murdered or sought to murder Israelis in major incidents in the last couple of weeks are: Nur a Din Hashiya, Maher al Hashlamoun, Ibrahim al Akari, Abd al Rahman al Shaludi and Mutaz Hijazi. It is interesting to note that all these men are not simply members of the Arab Muslim public, with no prior affiliation, who suddenly committed acts of terror (there have been a number of incidents involving such … [Read more...]

Iran-Backed Shia Rebels Push Forward in Yemen

Sana'a, Yemen

The Middle East is currently the arena for a cross-border sectarian war.  The weakening or collapse of repressive regimes has unleashed a fierce war for succession between rival populations, with Shia and Sunni Arabs the main protagonists.  This process is playing itself out in Iraq and Syria, with Lebanon increasingly drawn into the vortex of conflict. The regional rivalry between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia further fuels this conflict. The Iranians are the central pillar of the united … [Read more...]

Jabhat al-Nusra: The Sunni Hizballah?

Flag of Jabhat al-Nusra

Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamist group which constitutes al-Qaeda’s ‘official franchise’ in Syria, last week carried out a successful offensive against Western-backed rebel militias in northern Syria. Key areas were captured. The Islamic State  and its activities further east continue to dominate western media reporting on the war in Syria.  But in north west Syria, in Lebanon and in the area immediately east of the Golan, it is Jabhat al-Nusra which is becoming the main Sunni jihadi force … [Read more...]

The Jihadi Connection: Sinai, Gaza, and the Islamic State

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

What kind of relations do the jihadists of northern Sinai and Gaza have with Islamic State, and with Hamas? Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month national emergency this week, following the killing of over 31 Egyptian soldiers in a suicide car bombing carried out by jihadists in northern Sinai. No organization has issued an authoritative claim of responsibility for the bombing, but it comes amid a state of open insurgency in northern Sinai, as Egyptian security forces … [Read more...]

IS and the Incoherence of Western Policy

U.S. Flying Surveillance Missions Over Syria for Possible Airstrike.

Fathom Journal, October 2014 Western bombing of targets in the area controlled by the Islamic State (IS) organisation has commenced. US and allied planes have struck at both military and infrastructural targets in the area controlled by the IS and have had an impact. There are two main problems for Western policy-makers; the first tactical, the second strategic. The first problem is that the West has no ground assets in Syria capable of destroying the IS, but the West also hopes to avoid … [Read more...]

The Shia-Sunni War Reaches Lebanon

Flag of Hezbollah in Baalbek, 2010

Jerusalem Post, 17/10 Hezbollah is under pressure as the consequences of its ongoing intervention in Syria have come back to bite the terrorist organization. There are increasing indications that the sectarian war raging in Iraq and Syria is now moving irrevocably into Lebanon. The Shi’ite group is currently seeking to shore up its legitimacy by reminding its constituents, and other Lebanese citizens, of the role that gains it the most domestic sympathy – resistance against Israel. … [Read more...]



PDF version available here *** WARNING:  This article contains images which some readers may find disturbing.  Caution is advised.   The fate of Kobani city now hangs in the balance, as around 9000 fighters of the Islamic State organization close in on the Kurdish held area.  The current IS assault on the Kobani enclave was not the first attempt by the jihadis to destroy the Kurdish-controlled area.  The Kobani enclave, most of which is now in the hands of the IS, at one time … [Read more...]

Western fear of angering Turkey leaves besieged Kurdish town at mercy of Islamic State

Tigris River and bridge in Mosul.

Jerusalem Post, 7/10 The fate of the Kurdish enclave in Kobani appears to be sealed. The greater part of the formerly Kurdish-ruled area has already fallen to the forces of Islamic State. Some 9,000 Islamic State fighters are positioned close to the last remaining redoubt – Kobani city itself. The black flag of the Sunni Islamists is already flying in three neighborhoods of the city. On Monday, the Kurdish authorities ordered the evacuation of all remaining civilians from the city. … [Read more...]