Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu directed the relevant authorities on Sunday to weigh the possibilities of outlawing the Islamic Movement’s Northern Branch, following a protest Friday in Umm el-Fahm that included calls to kidnap IDF soldiers.
Hundreds of Israeli Arabs waved Palestinian flags and chanted, “With spirit and blood, we will redeem you Palestine” in support of Palestinian security prisoners.
Declaring the group an illegal organization, Netanyahu said that Israeli citizens cannot “countenance such outrageous” remarks.
Speaking at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that a legal ban would give the security forces important tools to use against the movement. That group, he said, “constantly preaches against the State of Israel, and its people publicly identify with terrorist organizations such as Hamas.”
“IDF soldiers protect all of us,” he said, adding that in many cases the Islamic Movement’s Northern Branch, led by Sheikh Raed Saleh, stands behind this type of protest.
Netanyahu noted that most of the Israeli-Arab public does not identify with calls heard at the protest, and he called upon the group’s leadership to show courage and condemn the remarks.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman quickly denounced the protest, saying that those who participated and encouraged the kidnapping of IDF soldiers would be treated as “terrorists in the full sense of the word.” He welcomed the prime minister’s directive to look into banning the organization.
Liberman said, however, that existing laws also provide tools to deal with those advocating kidnapping soldiers.
He added that he expected the justice system to immediately and effectively “make clear that Israeli society will not tolerate this type of incitement from within.”
During an interview with Army Radio last month Liberman said that “enlightened” Israel had been in an uproar following a wave of “price tag” vandalism and graffiti incidents, with numerous articles written about “Jewish terror” and “hate crimes.” By the same reasoning, he said, people should not “be quiet” when there are “calls for more abductions during an illegal protest” against the State’s operations to find the kidnapped boys, Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah.
MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab-Ta’al) responded to Netanyahu’s directive to consider banning the Islamic Movement’s Northern Branch by saying this was a “cynical use of the kidnapping crisis” to implement a plan against the movement that was long kept “in the drawer.”
“If political movements would be banned for every sentence they say, then there would be no political party left in Israel, including those inside the coalition,” Tibi said. “This is a spin to deflect the media’s fire from the government’s failures. We are sick of Israeli politicians’ spin, where the victim is always an Arab.”
Tibi said that the Islamic Movement represents the “texture of the Arab-Palestinian society in Israel, and we will not agree to its being outlawed, even if the law at its basic level is against us.”
Zahin Jihan, the spokesman for the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the prime minister’s “unruly language does not mark the first time that Mr. Netanyahu has incited against the Islamic Movement.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman did the same just a few days ago, he added.
This is “a declaration of war” by the Israeli government, Jihan said.
Asked how he thinks the government could carry out a ban that would require a massive security operation, Jihan responded, “You need to ask [Netanyahu] this question; we are present in every village, town, and household – everywhere.”
The government’s effort seeks to delegitimize the Movement and “therefore anyone who wants to ban the Islamic Movement will have to remove over a million Arabs.”