I noted over the last several weeks that various politicians and commentators have been using the terms ISIS and ISIL in what seemed to be an interchangeable way. An investigation of the origins and meaning of the two terms, however, proved to be enlightening as there is a considerable difference as ISIL involves anti-Israeli sentiments.
When the Islamic State first emerged, in say, 2012, it was in Iraq and when it expanded later into Syria, it added the letters to reflect that it was the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS, if you will. The organization’s military operations remain in Iraq and Syria today, but its aspirations are much broader.
The thought that this organization noted for its cruelty and genocidal tendencies that include murdering Christians and Shiite Muslims, beheading enemies and having children watch the beheadings, the mass murder of Syrian soldiers, and killing those suspected of being non-Sunni or resisting forced conversion to Islam, has a broader view that is frightening.
This world view is the creation of the Caliphate, or region controlled by Sharia law, over Iraq, Syria, and the Levant. This leads to the term ISIL, or Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The Levant, a term Churchill used, refers to the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, and includes Cyprus, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel, and by implication the Saudi Peninsula. The Islamic view of the Levant, however, includes Palestine and not Israel.
We must be careful when we use ISIS or ISIL as the distinction is clear between ISIS, or the limited view of the Caliphate, or of ISIL, which refers to the geographically and politically expansive Islamist view of the Levant. The definition of Levant I gave earlier is the modern, European, post-1948, version. The ISIL version omits Israel for Palestine and that indicates the speaker’s mind set as being anti-Israeli. That is something to think about!!