According a statement at a recent cabinet session, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu favors outlawing the Islamic Movement’s northern branch. Netanyahu said that he had set up an interministerial team to prepare the legal groundwork for the move but discovered that Justice Minister Tzipi Livni was impeding his initiative.
Three sources who attended that meeting reported that Netanyahu reacted with visible fury.
The prime minister’s outrage is underscored by this Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) information: Mahmoud Toama, a member of Hamas’s General Shura Council, was arrested at the Allenby Bridge to Jordan. During Toama’s interrogation he pointed unequivocally to the Islamic Movement in Israel – particularly the northern branch headed by former Umm el-Fahm mayor Raed Salah – as a Hamas front.
The movement hires youths under Hamas directives – for between NIS 4,000 and NIS 5,000 a month – to maintain a constant presence on the Temple Mount, foment clashes with the police, prevent Jewish visits and harass Jews praying at the Western Wall.
Salah is the chief contact for Hamas inside Israel, and his organization functions as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood’s long arm inside Israel.
Salah, it should be noted, spent a short stint in prison during 2003 for funneling millions to Hamas. Last March, he was convicted of incitement to violence though he got away with a suspended sentence, about which he crowed loudly and unabashedly.
In 2010, Salah was one of the star participants in the Gaza protest flotilla, sailing on the Mavi Marmara. The authorities plainly feared prosecuting him.
Already a decade earlier, the Or Commission that investigated the October 2000 riots in the Galilee ascribed much of the violence to Islamic Movement subversion, but officialdom’s reluctance to act further fanned the flames.
Salah feels immune. In 2003, he published the following poem in the Islamic Movement’s periodical: “You Jews are criminal bombers of mosques/ Slaughterers of pregnant women and babies/ Robbers and germs in all times/ The Creator sentenced you to be loser monkeys/ Victory belongs to Muslims, from the Nile to the Euphrates.”
In 2007, Salah orchestrated riots against archeological rescue-digs and a new pedestrian bridge to the Temple Mount. He accused Jews of “eating bread dipped in children’s blood.” He praised and eulogized terrorist murderers.
He threatened anyone who claims any Jewish connection to the Western Wall, “even to just one stone.”
In 2009, Salah urged cheering Arab students at the University of Haifa to die as shahids (“martyrs”) in the war against Israel.
Salah holds annual “Save al-Aksa” rallies dedicated to the rabble-rousing calumny that Israel is out to demolish the Muslim compound atop Temple Mount.
Israel has tolerated Salah’s inflammatory speech and prodigious provocations, as if disregarded, they would go away. Instead, he only gains stature and rises to prominence and popularity the likes of which should alarm us.
The longer he spreads sedition with impunity, the greater his authority as spiritual mentor grows and the more young Israeli Arabs will be swayed by his exhortations.
In 2011, Home Secretary Theresa May banned Salah’s entry to the United Kingdom due to his recurrent hate-promotion via sermons, lectures and in his so-called poetic output. His presence in Britain is “not conducive to the public good,” it was decreed. Salah was subsequently detained in London, after it emerged that he had entered the UK in defiance of the exclusion order.
Salah, nonetheless, won on appeal because the Upper Immigration Tribunal concluded that he is evidently not considered a menace in Israel, where he is a citizen and is effectively free to do as he pleases. Our policies here clearly have repercussions abroad. If we brush hate-mongering under the rug, we cannot expect foreigners to behave more courageously.
There must be a limit to the permissive lattitude parading as enlightened tolerance in our country. Democracy ought to be accepting and open-minded, but not suicidal.
Even the most pluralist of societies must protect itself.
If Israel outlawed Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach movement, there is no plausible excuse for not doing the same regarding an organization that openly pledges to destroy Israel.