US Secretary of State John Kerry repeated the attribute in a series of speeches: ISIS, according to him, is a "nihilistic and valueless" movement.
It's not. The last thing the Islamic State can be characterized by is being nihilistic. Modern nihilism was born in the end of the 19th century among desperate intellectuals in the Russian Empire, was adopted by philosophers in the West who were as desperate as them, and reached its peak in the writings of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
In essence, nihilism is a complete lack of faith, which allows nihilists to ignore values, ideologies and morality restrictions in a world in which "God is dead," as Nietzsche said.
ISIS, contrary to this perception, is based on fanatic religious faith, on obeying Koran verses word for word, on a global holy war aimed at establishing a borderless Islamic kingdom, on brutal reward and punishment and on a willingness for complete self-sacrifice in favor of the ideals the organization has raised on its black flags. As opposed to nihilism, ISIS supports a totalitarian ideology like communism and Nazism.
Although the mistake in characterizing ISIS was made perfectly clear to Obama and his administration's spokespeople, they didn’t take it back. Even Hillary Clinton, who usually tries to distinguish herself from Obama's wordings, used the expression "barbaric nihilism" to describe ISIS. Following the attacks in Paris, the terms "nihilists" became common among European statesmen and commentators too.
The erroneous Western insistence on seeing ISIS as an organization which is sowing death not in the name of the God of Islam but because it has despaired of Islam or of the God of Islam can only be explained by seclusion behind a wall of political correctness. But as the terror attacks increase, the correctness will crumble.
"Democrats may believe that calling ISIS's ideology nihilism - or criminal anarchy, or barbarism - decouples their religion from their terrorism," Prof. Marty Kaplan wrote recently in the Huffington Post. "That's wishful thinking. 'Nihilist' belongs to a Western narrative about a God that failed. ISIS isn't part of that story. It's discomfiting that ISIS's evil is rooted in the Koran - the most apocalyptic, ultra-conservative, literalist reading imaginable, yet the Koran nevertheless. But it's disingenuous of Democrats to root it in Nietzsche."
It's important to also quote the words of Senator Bernie Sanders, a candidate for the Democratic Party's nomination for president of the United States: "Organizations like ISIS are a danger to modern society. All the Muslim nations in the region are going to have to get their hands dirty, their boots on the ground." He added that the world must unite under American leadership and destroy the organization from the root.
According to Sanders of all people, a Jew identified with the relatively radical American Left, ISIS is not a "nihilist movement," but a fanatic Muslim sect driven by a totalitarian outlook.
The understanding that ISIS is indeed an ideology-inspired movement will pave the way to the formation of the right strategy for fighting it. Senior Israeli security officials, in the preset and in the past, estimate that it will take two to three years to eradicate ISIS's military hold in the Middle East, mainly through a massive ground operation.
But it will take at least 10 years, they believe, to successfully uproot ISIS's ideas and outlooks from the consciousness of the millions - perhaps tens of millions - who believe in them - as long as it is challenged by a moderate and attractive, religious-national-democratic Muslim ideological alternative. Such an alternative is missing today and will likely be missing tomorrow as well.