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Just a few months ago, most Americans had never heard of a violent extremist group in Iraq and Syria called ISIL. Now this country is committing significant military resources to fight a growing number of fighters—as many as 30,000—whose horrific violence is on full display 24/7 on your medium of choice. What motivates a person to join an organization like ISIL—and how, if at all, is this terrorist operation different from its predecessors? Today, an exploration of why and how ISIL attracts recruits to its ranks as more than 40 countries prepare to confront the threat.

Also, foreign ministers meet in Paris to strategize on ISIS, and dozens of Israeli intelligence officers have been branded criminal by that country’s defense minister for refusing to serve in the occupied territories.

Banner Image: An ISIS militant carrying the regime's flag in a propaganda video.

Foreign Ministers Meet in Paris to Strategize on ISIS 6 MIN, 30 SEC

Secretary of State John Kerry was in Paris today as part of his days-long effort to round up international support, and create a plan for action against the terrorist group ISIL. The meeting comes three days after the militant organization released a third video of the execution of a Westerner—this time, a British aid worker. Diplomats are vowing to destroy the threat “by any means necessary,” but those means are still subject to debate. With more from the meeting, we’re joined by Michael Gordon of the New York Times, who is in Paris.

Michael R. Gordon, New York Times (@gordonnyt)

The Allure of Extremism 33 MIN, 59 SEC

We’ve just heard what world leaders are discussing in terms of how to deal with the growing threat from ISIL, but here’s the question that lies behind everything that’s happening now: What draws someone to join an extremist group?

Terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East are not lacking for recruits—whether it’s fighters from within the continent, or foreign fighters from Western nations joining the effort against their own countries. There are tens of thousands of them, and their ranks are said to be growing with each passing day.

Today, a conversation about what these recruits are looking for in their lives, what conditions make them ripe for recruitment, and put simply: What is the allure to join up in violent jihad?

Graeme Wood, Atlantic Magazine (@gcaw)
Jessica Stern, terrorism policy consultant (@JessicaEStern)
Mohamad Bazzi, New York University (@BazziNYU)
Mark Juergensmeyer, University of California, Santa Barbara (@juergensmeyer)

Israeli Refuseniks Spark Debate over Intelligence Gathering 9 MIN, 27 SEC

43 veterans of one of Israel’s most secretive intelligence units signed a letter over the weekend refusing to serve in the occupied territories, specifically rejecting orders to spy on Palestinians. An unidentified captain who served from 2003 to 2011 spoke to the Guardian, saying, “The problem is that the goal of what the unit does in regards to Palestinians is not just self defense – it’s upholding a military regime, which means to oppress the population, weaken the political system so they can’t improve their situation so the military regime continues.”

They’re only the latest so-called “refuseniks” in that country, but their public act of defiance has caused an unusual backlash from government officials. The Israeli defense minister called them “criminals.” Part of the reason is the wing of the army they come from. Unit 8200 is a prestigious intelligence team for the Israeli Defense Forces; it’s been compared to the NSA here in the United States.

Bradley Burston is columnist and senior editor at the Israeli news site Ha’aretz.

Bradley Burston, Ha'aretz (@bradleyburston)

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