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Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Israel Outlaws the Northern Islamic League – Another Step Along the Road to a Police State

The ‘Only Democracy in the Middle East’ Bans Israeli Palestinian Organisation


Israeli Police Raid Offices of Northern Islamic Leagues Seizing Computers and Files
Sheik Raed Salah - leader of the Northern Islamic Leagues
  

Despite the repression and racism, it can nonetheless be said that Israeli Palestinians still enjoy certain, albeit very limited democratic rights.  Foremost among these are the right to form their own political parties and groups.

The decision to ban the Northern Islamic League, on the grounds that it is no different from Isis is the kind of blatant lie one has come to expect from Netanyahu.  If anyone has something in common with Isis and Al Qaeda it is Zionism and Israel which also uses religious fundamentalism as a means of legitimising its repressive and murderous policies.
Under arrest in court
As the ancient Greek saying goes, those whom the gods seek to destroy they first drive mad.

It is no surprise that, once again, the Israeli Labour Party/Zionist Union has supported Netanyahu's repressive and racist legislation.

The banning of the Northern Islamic League is not only a blatantly political act of discrimination, but it contrasts with the refusal to outlaw even the most racist and violent Israeli organisations like Lehava, to say nothing of the Jewish Home party in the Israeli government.

Tony Greenstein
Sheikh Raed Salah

Israeli ban on Islamic party marks a ‘dangerous turning point’

17 November 2015

Palestinian leaders in Israel warn that Netanyahu is exploiting Paris attacks to ‘shut door’ to minority’s political activity
Middle East Eye – 17 November 2015

The decision by the Israeli government on Tuesday to outlaw the country’s main Islamic Movement marks a dangerous turning point in Israel’s relations with its large Palestinian minority, Palestinian leaders in Israel have warned.

The move effectively drives underground a religious, political and social movement representing the views of a sizeable portion of Israel’s 1.6 million Palestinian citizens, comprising a fifth of the population.

Sheik Raed Salah and the Northern Islamic League Supporters
Jamal Zahalka was among the Palestinian members of the Israeli parliament who called the decision a “declaration of war” against the country’s Palestinian minority.

“It is an attack not just on the northern Islamic Movement but on our entire community,” he told Middle East Eye.

Sheik Raed Salah
He and other community leaders noted that the Islamic Movement has not used or called for violence. He said the ban was driven solely by the agenda of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli right.

“Netanyahu is a leader who needs to create enemies,” Zahalka said. “The recent US deal with Iran deprived him of his main bogeyman. The PA is helping him with security in the West Bank. Gaza is quiet. So he makes an enemy of the country’s Palestinian citizens.

Sheik Raed Salah and the Northern Islamic League Supporters
“In the elections [in March] he began his ugly incitement by saying we were coming out to vote ‘in droves’. Now he has the Islamic Movement in his sights. But he won’t stop with this.”

Netanyahu first mooted plans two years ago to shut down the northern wing of the Islamic Movement, led by Sheikh Raed Salah.

However, fear of international condemnation, as well as advice from his intelligence services that such a step could not be justified on security grounds, appeared to stay his hand.

Declared ‘illegal organisation’

Asad Ghanem, a politics professor at Haifa University, said Netanyahu had moved now to exploit the attacks in Paris last Friday, which were claimed by Islamic State (IS) and left 129 dead.

“He is making an entirely false comparison between the Islamic Movement and the most violent armed Islamic groups so that he can persuade the Europeans that this is connected to their fight against terror,” he told MEE.

Declaring the northern Islamic Movement an “illegal organisation”, Netanyahu said it “denies [Israel’s] right to exist and calls for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in its place.”

Early on Tuesday morning, police raided the movement’s head offices in Umm al-Fahm, as well as dozens of Islamic charities and welfare associations in communities such as Nazareth, Jaffa, Kfar Kana, Turan, Beersheva and Rahat.

Some 17 related organisations were also served with orders shutting them down. The group’s leaders were called in for questioning. Computers and documents were seized and the organisations’ bank accounts frozen.

Ghanem said the move would signal to Palestinian citizens that the “door is closed to them when it comes to participating in the democratic process”.

He added: “As well as being politically dangerous, this will also be seen as an assault on Islamic belief. The movement funds and organises student associations that teach the Koran. They will now be treated as illegal.”

Ghanem said nothing about the Islamic Movement had changed in the past decade. “The only thing that changed is the political extremism of Netanyahu and his government.”

Draconian measure

Adalah, a legal group for Palestinians in Israel, said the order from the defence minister, Moshe Yaalon, was based on emergency regulations from the British Mandate period.

The decision threatens with arrest and imprisonment anyone who continues to be involved with the organisation or offers it services.

Adalah called it “an aggressive, draconian measure” that would “suppress a political movement that represents a large part of the Palestinian public in Israel”.

Salah denounced the ban, saying his movement would continue to defend Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City from what he termed Israeli threats.

For more than a decade Salah has clashed with Israeli officials by leading a campaign under the slogan “Al-Aqsa is in danger”, warning that Israel is seeking to erode Islamic sovereignty over the mosque area.

In September the government banned the Murabitoun, Muslim students organised by the Islamic Movement in the al-Aqsa compound. They had regularly clashed with Jewish extremists allowed into the area in ever-increasing numbers by the Israeli authorities.

Netanyahu and other ministers have accused Salah of incitement and blamed him for the wave of Palestinian protests and so-called “lone-wolf” attacks, many of them stabbings, of the past few weeks.

Salah said: “I will take every possible legitimate step, in Israel and internationally, to remove the measures taken against the movement.”

Welfare services threatened

The Islamic Movement was founded in the 1970s as both a political party and a provider of religious and welfare services. It split into two factions in the mid-1990s, with Salah’s so-called northern group refusing to participate in parliamentary elections.

The organisation runs kindergartens, health clinics, mosques, a newspaper and a sports league.
It is also a key member of the Follow-Up Committee, the Palestinian minority’s only representative national body. Mohammed Barakeh, the committee’s head, said the Islamic Movement would continue to participate in defiance of the ban.

Only a fortnight ago, the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported that a year-long investigation by Israel’s domestic intelligence service, the Shin Bet, had been unable to find security grounds for closing the organisation.

Two unnamed government ministers told the paper that Yoram Cohen, head of the Shin Bet, had told the security cabinet he objected to any move to criminalise the movement’s more than 10,000 members. It would do “more harm than good”, he reportedly told them.

Ghanem said the Shin Bet’s view was based on an assessment that allowing the Islamic Movement to operate “ensured its political activities were more open and more mainstream, and would avoid it being forced underground.

“The fact that Netanyahu has taken the opposite view tells us this is a political decision, not a security one.”

Both Zahalka and Ghanem said they feared that Netanyahu would next target Zahalka’s democratic nationalist party, Balad. Last month the Israeli prime minister accused the Balad party of conspiring with Hamas and Islamic State.

Terror link claims

The government immediately launched a media campaign implying that Salah’s movement had colluded with “terrorism” against Israel.

A document issued by Netanyahu’s office stated that the group was “a sister-movement of the Hamas terrorist organization. These organizations are secretly and actively cooperating with one another.”

The public security minister, Gilad Erdan, went further, saying: “The Islamic Movement, Hamas, ISIS [Islamic State], and the other terror organizations have a common ideological platform that leads to terror attacks in the world and the wave of terror attacks in Israel.”

Ghanem said it was preposterous to claim that the Islamic Movement shared common ground with Islamic State.

He also observed that, while the Islamic Movement and Hamas shared a political and religious ideology, Salah’s group forswore violence and militant activity in pursuit of its aims.

Zeki Aghbaria, a spokesman for the northern Islamic Movement, called the government’s characterisation of the organisation, as “political incitement”.

“Today I suddenly found I had become a criminal,” he told MEE. “That means they just criminalised any support for the defence of al-Aqsa, or for the Palestinian people under occupation, or for equal rights for Palestinian citizens in Israel, or for welfare provision for students and the handicapped.”

The decision effectively puts the Islamic Movement on an equal footing with the Kach movement, a Jewish extremist group banned in the 1990s after one of its members, Baruch Goldstein, gunned down 29 worshippers at the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron.

Kach members, who still have strong representation in some West Bank settlements, call for violence against Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories and demand their expulsion.

‘Anti-democratic persecution’

Ayman Odeh, leader of Joint List faction of all the Palestinian parties in the parliament, said of the move against the Islamic Movement: “This is indisputably a case of political, anti-democratic persecution that is part of the de-legitimization campaign waged by Netanyahu’s government against the country’s Arab citizens.”

However, the decision won overwhelming support from Israeli Jewish parties, including the main centre-left opposition party, Zionist Union.

The timing of Netanyahu’s announcement takes advantage of the growing climate against Islamic political activism at the local, regional and international levels.

Given the mood in Europe and the United States after the Paris attacks, Netanyahu can probably count on the international community not studying too closely the comparisons between the Islamic Movement, Hamas and Islamic State.

Regionally, meanwhile, the Islamic Movement is at its weakest. Its sister organisation, the Muslim Brotherhood, has been outlawed in neighbouring Egypt, while Cairo has joined Israel in isolating Hamas in Gaza.

And locally, the Israeli Jewish public wants someone to blame after weeks of Palestinian attacks, including stabbings, in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Israel.

Intelligence services have admitted they have little idea how to deal with the so-called “lone wolves”, individual Palestinians not affiliated with any political faction, behind most of the attacks.

Zahalka said Netanyahu wanted a scapegoat and had found a convenient one in Salah. In statements on Tuesday, Netanyahu blamed the weeks of unrest on what he called “incitement” by the Islamic Movement about the status quo at al-Aqsa.

Haifa University sociologist Sammy Smooha told reporters his polls suggested that 42 per cent of Palestinian citizens identified with the Islamic Movement.

Salah is due to start an 11-month prison term next week after an Israeli court found him guilty of incitement over a sermon he delivered in Jerusalem in 2007. It is the latest of several jail terms he has served.

Israel Outlaws Nation’s Leading Muslim Group



Contemplate this: the Department of Homeland Security announces that henceforth the Nation of Islam, the Westboro Baptist Church, and Zionist Organization of America are outlawed organizations.  They are considered supporters of a terrorist ideology and must completely dissolve their organizations and their programs.  Anyone found to be a member of any of the groups is liable to criminal prosecution.

In response, the groups refuse to accept the decree.  They announce that in order to continue representing the legitimate interests of their followers and co-religionists, they are going underground.  They denounce the decision as a serious violation of the Constitution and call upon the nation to protest it.  The result: dead silence.  Everyone who hasn’t been banned is too cowed to put up much of a fight, though scores of the remaining legal groups know the new policy is unjust and a grave violation of civil liberties.

That scenario sounds pretty far-fetched here in the U.S. (though China currently does precisely this to Tibetan Buddhists and the Falun Gong, and Iran does the same to the Bahai).  But it isn’t far-fetched at all in Israel.  Defense Minister Yaalon, a political ally of Kahanist Moshe Feiglin, took advantage of the terror hysteria sweeping the globe to outlaw the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, Israel’s leading Islamic organization.  Keep in mind that this is the same guy whom the NY Times’ Tom Friedman called “Israel’s very decent defense minister,” in a recent column.  Can you imagine what Friedman’s definition of ‘decent’ is?  Or better yet, what his definition of ‘decency’ is?

Israel’s Islamic Movement leader, Sheikh Raed Saleh

Its leader Sheikh Raed Saleh, has just been jailed for the umpteenth time for some offense or another.  Saleh, who successfully fought banning by the UK Tory government, is the equivalent of Malcolm X in the Israeli Palestinian community.

He is a fiery, uncompromising advocate for Muslim unity.  An implacable opponent of Israeli oppression of his co-religionists.  The Movement spearheaded resistance to Israeli encroachment on the Haram al Sharif.  Though it has never advocated violence or been charged with engaging in it, nevertheless the Israeli government blames the group for fomenting all of the Palestinian attacks against Jews over the past two months.

According to the Israeli Jewish narrative, everyone is to blame for anti-Israel terror: ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Islam–and now the Northern Movement.  Everyone, that is, except Israel.  It is never to blame for the bloodshed and massacres it inflicts.  It is merely a victim, defending itself against terrorist monsters like those who struck in Paris.

Is Saleh and the Northern Movement angry and defiant? Yes.  Is it an implacable foe of injustice against Israeli Muslims?  Yes.  Is its rhetoric intemperate at times? Yes.  But is it a terror group?  Does it commit or advocate violence? Does it advocate overthrowing the State?  No, to all of the above.

I warn the pro-Israel crowd here that you can dredge up misquotes and mistranslation from the Jerusalem Post and MEMRI all you want.  It won’t change the fact that this banning is inherently racist and Islamophobic (no Jewish terror group has been similar banned though there was talk of banning the Jewish fascist group, Lehava).  I have no interest in parsing propaganda tracts alleging Saleh said this or that, which you will all undoubtedly be marshalling to defend this outrageous decision.  So I put you on notice and a short leash.

מה שעשה היום יעלון, בחכמתו האינסופית, זה לקחת ארגון גדול וזהיר שהיה תחת זכוכית מגדלת, שכל צעד שלו דווח בגלוי, והפך אותו למחתרת. הכרזת מלחמה
— Noam R (@noamr) November 17, 2015

As I wrote above, this banning is a cynical ploy by the defense minister seeking to kiss-up to his Kahanist settler constituency.  It seeks also to criminalize a large cross-section of Israeli Muslims who are loyal to the NOrthern Movement, which plays a huge role in providing a social safety net among this community.   As NoamR tweeted (“What Yaalon did today in his infinite wisdom, was to take a large, cautious organization which was under a magnifying glass, whose every step was openly reported, and send it underground: a declaration of war”), this decree is not just anti-democratic, it will drive the Movement underground just as the Egyptian junta has driven the Muslim Brotherhood underground.  In Egypt, the result has been a series of bloody bombings and terror attacks by Egyptian Islamists angry at the massacres of the military regime directed against their followers.

This move by Yaalon will drive an even greater wedge between Jews and Muslims within Israel.  It will provoke more violence on both sides, more hatred.  As Noam wrote, it is nothing less than a declaration of war.  Until this time, the most savage violence was between Israeli Jews and Occupied Palestinians.  Henceforth, the action will gradually shift to within Israel itself.  The Palestinians of Israel are a loyal, long-suffering and generally quiescent regarding their second or third-class citizenship.  That may all be changing.  When it does, you will not have just a war between Israel and Palestine.  You will have a civil war within Israel: Israeli Jewish citizens murdering Israeli Palestinian citizens.  In the name of nationalist supremacy.

Israel is a State going to Hell in a handbasket.  It’s worst enemy is itself.  I have never witnessed a train wreck.  But watching this insanity slowly unfold is the closest thing to it.

I have been exploring what sort of organized protest or movement may spring up around this issue.  It is the sort of grave injustice which demands mass protest and the cooperation of disparate groups.  Speaking of which, watch what the Israeli “left” does and says around this issue.  Remember what I wrote above about “silence?”

Press Release  November 17, 2015
 
Gush Shalom: Netanyhau's outlawing of Israels the Islamic Movement is a demagogic and anti-democratic move, harmful in every respect

"Also those who disagree with the positions of the Islamic Movement in Israel should say clearly and unequivocally that outlawing this movement is a demagogic and anti-democratic move, harmful in every respect," says Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc. 

"Up to now, the Islamic Movement had acted openly, undertaking various political and religious activities which were public and visible for all to see – however disagreeable the message conveyed sometimes was. It is no coincidence that the heads of the Shabak Security Service had strong reservations about such a move. For many months they strongly advised the government not to drive underground a mass movement which has tens of thousands of supporters among the Arab citizens of Israel. In last night pushing through the banning of the Islamic Movement, Prime Minister Netanyahu has taken advantage of the atmosphere of hysteria following the atrocity in Paris, in order to take an ill-considered  step and gain cheap immediate popularity at the expense of incurring serious long-term damage. Historical experience in many times and places has shown that when a government gets away with outlawing a hated political movement, there would follow acts of oppression also towards other movements and parties".

Gush Shalom goes on to say: "The Northern Islamic Movement and its leader Sheikh Raed Salah were charged with fanning the flames at the Mosque Compound in East Jerusalem. But the very last body entitled to make such charges is a cabinet whose ministers include Uri Ariel, the foremost of all Temple Mount  provocateurs and firebrands. When the government in which Ariel is Minister of Agriculture outlaws Sheikh Salah’s movement, there is no escaping a feeling of outright discrimination and double standards in the actions and policies of the current government of Israel.”

Contact:
Adam Keller, Gush Shalom Spokesperson +972-(0)54-2340749


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