IDF videos aimed squarely at spurring arab-on-arab hate
... and sectarianism
GAZA – A new video released by an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) spokesman has unnerved many in the global Muslim community for its use of sectarian rhetoric and slurs targeting Shia Muslims that are often used by leaders of extremist Wahhabi terror groups.
The video, released on social media on Thursday and already with more than 20,000 views, shows IDF Major Avichay Adraee asserting that Palestinian resistance group Hamas is “imitating Iran’s mullahs” — thereby making the group “officially Shiites,” even though Hamas is nominally Sunni.
Adraee — fluent in Arabic, given his family’s Syrian roots — then expounded on the “dangers” of Shia Islam, the followers of which he referred to as “rafidha” — a derogatory slur frequently used by Wahhabi terror groups like Al Qaeda and Jaish al-Islam for any Muslim who does not follow their radical interpretation of the religion.
Indeed, Adraee directly quotes Muhammad ibn abd al-Wahhab, the founder of the political movement of Wahhabism, stating that Shiites are “more harmful to Islam than Jews and Christians,” as he seeks to convince his viewers that supporting “these corrupt ones” who “claim” to be Muslim – i.e. the region’s “resistance axis,” composed of secular and Shiite governments – is a rejection of Islam.
Adraee singled out Shiites in the video as a means of targeting Iran, a Shia-majority nation whose government is the archenemy of the Israeli state, largely due to its obstruction of Israeli expansionism and continued support for Palestine. Adraee makes this clear in the video by asserting that “Shia Iran’s” recognition of the Palestinian Nakba, known as “Al-Quds Day,” is a “bid’ah” or heresy invented by Iran’s government. This, again, is an appeal to Wahhabism, as Wahhabist doctrine holds that any attempts to “innovate” within Islam must be rejected completely.
While an IDF soldier quoting extremists like al-Wahhab may seem unusual, Adraee – head of the IDF’s Arabic-language media division – has been making videos of a similar nature for over a decade, many of which similarly accuse Hamas of “profaning” Islam. Though his videos are often the butt of jokes in Gaza and elsewhere in Palestine, they seem to be aimed more at the global Sunni Muslim community. Indeed, Adraee boasts over 1.5 million followers on Facebook and Twitter and has found sympathetic ears in some Arab countries — such as Saudi Arabia, where Wahhabi Islam is the official religion.
As Adraee himself has hinted, his videos are aimed at robbing Palestinians of Arab support by seeking to foment sectarian hatred for Shiites. Adraee recently told Bloomberg:
The idea was that if there was a person who you could curse at or request something from, or who you knew, it would be much easier to connect through some kind of feeling, not necessarily love, it could also be hatred.”
By preaching anti-Shia sermons on social media, it is clear which feeling Adraee is seeking to promote through his videos.
A long history of colonial and post-colonial dividing and destabilizing
Adraee’s videos and their recent success is part of a long-standing effort, backed by Israel and select Western powers, to chip away at support for a Palestinian state among Sunni Arabs in the region. Such efforts have been more successful of late, with Saudi Arabian leadership recently chiding Palestinians for resisting Israel’s colonial ambitions amid warming ties between the Gulf kingdom and Israel.
Yet this strategy aimed at reducing regional support for Palestinians is based upon much older efforts seeking to divide and thereby weaken the entire Middle East. Indeed, Wahhabism itself was created by al-Wahhab at the behest of the British Empire, which sought to erode the Muslim community as a means of weakening the Ottoman Empire by breeding sectarianism and religious in-fighting.
That same century-old strategy is still used today with great effect. Indeed, the manipulation of sectarianism has been used by the United States to destabilize Iraq and, subsequently, to destabilize Syria. Israel has similarly sought to use sectarianism to its advantage by leveraging such divisions to push for the partition of surrounding Arab countries, in order to allow Israel to emerge as a regional superpower while Sunni and Shiite governments are constantly at each other’s throats.
Adraee’s latest video is not only part of that larger project, however. It also lays bare the roots of both Wahhabism and Zionism – intolerance and hate.