In the weeks since the U.S. embassy was relocated to Jerusalem, foreign terror organizations have rejected the relocation and called on followers to attack the United States, Israel, and Jews around the world. Additionally, they have accused the United States and Israel of violating international law, perhaps in an effort to enhance their own political legitimacy.
Statements Calling for Violence against Jews:
- On Thursday, May 17, the Liwa al-Tawhid Brigades, also known as the al-Nasser Salah al-Din Brigades, the armed wing of the rejectionist ‘Popular Resistance Committees’ in Gaza, released a statement on Jerusalem. In it, they state their ‘battle with the enemies of Allah, the Jews, is continuous.’ They go on to promise that they will not be oppressed, and they will do their best to strive for what is ‘right’ in the region.
- On Thursday, May 17, Hurras al-Deen, an al-Qaeda affiliated insurgent group in Idlib, Syria, released the below statement, explicitly calling for violence against Jews: “We motivate and urge our brothers in Gaza and all over Palestine to continue their jihad against the Jews and to kill them and revive the Sunnah [traditional Islamic law] of assassinations and raids among them.”
- On Wednesday, May 16, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, based in North Africa (Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, Libya, Tunisia and Niger), released a statement celebrating the onset of Ramadan and condemning the U.S. embassy’s relocation to Jerusalem, calling Trump ‘reckless’ and ‘arrogant.’ They remind the “Islamic Ummah [nation]” that liberating al-Aqsa Mosque “from the filth/abomination of the Jews is one of the greatest responsibilities of [their] time.”
As the Anti-Defamation League has outlined in the past, groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State rely on depictions of a ‘Jewish enemy’ to recruit and motivate followers, as well as amplify their cause; moreover, they often present a distorted narrative of the conflict between Israel and the region’s terror groups to solicit empathy from followers and to further promote the notion that God has ordered Muslims to “fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees” (Quranic Hadith).
These calls to violence echo the threats made by foreign terror groups following the December 2017 announcement, which preceded a dramatic spike in violence in Israel and the West Bank shortly thereafter. In fact, the number of attacks nearly tripled following the announcement. There were 249 attacks in December compared to 84 in November and 71 in October (Newsweek).
Although no direct link was established, pro-ISIS propaganda suggested that the December 11 Port Authority bombing in New York City was in retaliation for President Trump’s Jerusalem decision. The image shows an explosive device in Times Square threatening, “The recognition of your dog ‘Trump’ Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, will make us recognize explosives as the capital of your country.” The attacker, Akayed Ullah, told investigators he was angry about U.S. policies in the Middle East; therefore, it’s possible that the U.S. policies he mentioned included the Jerusalem decision, which was announced a week before the attack.
The new wave of violent incitement should be taken seriously, as terrorist groups’ calls for violence in response to the December 2017 announcement likely contributed to the spike in violence in both Israel and the United States.
Statements Criminalizing the United States and Israel
- On Tuesday, May 15, al-Shabaab, based primarily in Somalia and parts of Kenya, issued a statement outlining a recent video they released introducing the “Jerusalem Brigade.” They called the brigade “a practical response from the movement [al-Shabaab] to the decision of US president Donald Trump to transfer his embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as the capital of the Zionists, in violation of all international conventions and UN resolutions and condemnations of the Islamic world (link).” Based in the Golis Mountains, the Jerusalem Brigades serve as a local al-Shabaab-backed army fighting for the global cause of “confronting the Jews and liberating Jerusalem.”
- On Monday, May 14, The Islamic Jihad Movement, an Islamist militant group that violently opposes Israel’s existence in the Gaza Strip, called the relocation a “crime committed by the crusader America and Zionist entity in the city of Jerusalem(link).” The crime, they specify, was a “bloody massacre against the defenseless citizens of the Palestinian people who have declared their adherence to Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.” They held “the Zionist entity” fully responsible “for its crime, and its aggression on popular demonstrations and unarmed demonstrators (link).”
- On Monday, May 14, Lebanon-based Hezbollah Secretary General, Hassan Nasrallah, said that the United States is not “trustworthy because it respects neither the int’l[sic] agreements, nor its allies.” Moreover, he stated that “the US works according to its own interests as well as the interests of the Zionist entity.” Here, he hints at American exceptionalism, alluding to the “international agreements which [they] are asked to respect and implement…The most powerful state in the world itself is not respecting these agreements (link).”
- On Monday, May 14, Hamas released a statement from Gaza describing the protests that coincided with the relocation “These martyrs today, whose blood is bleeding, flows into a revolution of rejection…on the transfer of the American Embassy…which was transferred today over the blood and skulls of our people, our women and children, this embassy and this terrible American-Zionist crime…Our Palestinian people rejected this crime with their blood (link).” Hamas spokesman, Abdul Latif al-Qanua, urged Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem to confront “the enemy and rally in the uprising of Jerusalem (link).” Acknowledging the same conspiracy as al-Qaeda and the Islamic Emirate, Hamas calls the relocation of the American embassy to Jerusalem “an attack on the right of [its] people in its land and a crime against humanity and against the world (link).” Threatening retaliation, Khalil Ismail Ibrahim Hayya, the deputy head in Gaza Strip, states Hamas holds “the American administration [responsible] for the consequences…of this unjust decision and this terrible crime will not pass (link).”
- On Monday, May 14, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Afghan Taliban operating out of Kandahar, released a statement “regarding [the] relocation of US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” which condemns the “illegal and oppressive step taken by arrogant America and considers it a ruthless pro-occupation move violation all Islamic and internationally recognized principles (link).” Moreover, they link American support for the “Zionist regime” as an “example of state terrorism,” which “calls for “a practical response from the Islamic and free world (link).” It echoes the themes articulated in al-Zawahiri’s speech, namely that the embassy relocation is part of a larger problem—violation of international law.
- On Sunday, May 13, Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula featured its leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in a new video, “Tel Aviv is also the Land of Muslims.” In it, he uses the embassy relocation to focus on al-Qaeda’s long-standing conspiracy theory claiming that the international system is inherently hostile to Muslims, and being a part of the United Nations indicates complicity in this scheme:
I would like to clarify to [my Muslim and mujahidin brothers] that all countries of the Islamic world which are members in the United Nations have recognized Israel by signing the United Nations Charter, which confirms the unity and territorial integrity of each of its states, including Israel (link).
Through this, he redirects followers’ anger sparked by the embassy relocation on the larger issue of the “Zionist-Crusader” conspiracy; indeed, signing the United Nations charter is considered a sin. Therefore, it is every Muslim’s duty to delegitimize the “criminal international tyrannical system” by engaging in “battle…on multiple fronts, not as separate groups that retreat before the imperatives of the greatest criminals (link).”
Some foreign terror groups have used the relocation to depict the United States and Israel as international criminals driven by exceptionalism and a disregard for established international conventions. This approach can be seen as various groups’ attempts to delegitimize both the United States and Israel’s international sovereignty and in turn build up their own political credibility.