Israel: Two Jews on List of 20 Israeli Citizens Recruited by ISIS

Two Jews from Israel have converted to Islam and joined the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in a rare case of conversion from the Judaism to radical Islam, according to Israeli security services.

The two Israeli nationals were part of a list of 20 citizens named by the domestic Shin Bet intelligence agency, the Times of Israel reported.

Both of the Israeli Jews were originally born in the Soviet Union before immigrating to Israel with their families at a young age. They converted to Islam as adults and traveled to Syria to fight for the radical Islamist group, which seeks to establish a worldwide caliphate for Muslims under a brutal brand of Islamic law.

Details of their departure and their reasons for converting to a radical strand of Islam remain unclear.

One of the converts, a 28-year-old woman, is from the southern city of Ashdod, the second, a 32-year-old man, is from the Israeli city of Lod.

The Israeli government is making plans to remove the citizenships of Jewish Israelis or Arab residents of Israel who travel to the Middle East to join ISIS. They will become stateless, and unable to re-enter Israeli territory.

The majority of those on list are Arab Israelis from predominantly Arab towns. One of them even served in the Israeli military as a combat soldier, according to Israeli press reports. 

ISIS graffiti in East Jerusalem A Palestinian man walks past a graffiti portraying the ISIS group's flag in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, July 5, 2015. Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

ISIS claimed its first attack in Jerusalem in June, in the contested east of the city that Palestinians seek for any future state and that Israel says is part of its united capital. Three gunmen launched an attack from within the contested holy site known as the Temple Mount to Jews and the Haram al-Sharif to Muslims.

But Hamas rejected the ISIS claim. Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told Newsweek it was “one of the Israeli intelligence’s fabrications.” He confirmed that one of the members of the cell was affiliated with Hamas.

Israel’s Shin Bet security service said all three men had been arrested previously for extremist activity related to Palestinian groups.

Israel features as a prominent subject in ISIS’s propaganda output, with the group regularly stating that it seeks to take over Jerusalem. In January 2016, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said ISIS is already present in Israel among the country’s Arab communities, who make up almost 20 percent of Israel’s population.

“The Islamic State is already here, that is no longer a secret. I am not speaking about territories bordering the State of Israel, but within the State itself,” he said in a speech at Tel Aviv University. 

“Research studies, arrests, testimonies, and overt and covert analyses…clearly indicate that there is increasing support for the Islamic State among Israeli Arabs, while some are actually joining ISIS,” he added.

Israeli security services estimate that as many as 50 Arab-Israeli citizens have travelled to Syria to fight for the militant group. The radical Islamists have produced propaganda videos in Hebrew in the hope of luring disillusioned Arabs within Israel. The Arab population of Israel is around 20 percent of Israel’s eight million people.