The northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, headed by Sheikh Raed
Salah, has long been considered an organization that puts the issues of
Jerusalem and the defense of the Al- Aqsa Mosque at the forefront of its
activity. Recently, however, the movement has expanded its ideological and
political focus to the Palestinian cause as a whole – including the Hamas-
Palestinian Authority power struggle, the right of return, and negotiations with
Israel – and in the process it now embraces and openly supports Hamas’s
In an interview last month with the Islamic Web site
Islamonline, Salah described the expansion of the Islamic Movement’s activity
from the local level to the overall Palestinian level, and to the global level,
saying: “The Islamic Movement and its leadership played a prominent role in the
issue of occupied Al-Quds [Jerusalem] and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. [This role] began
to expand from the local level to the overall Palestinian level, and then to the
global level – more precisely, in the matter of occupied Al-Quds and the Al-Aqsa
Mosque. [The movement’s engaging in the issues of] Al- Quds and Al-Aqsa has
opened doors for [the Islamic Movement] to create a global connection in all
matters in which the Islamic Movement frequently engages,” which, he says, are
Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa, the right of return, breaking the Gaza siege, and “creating
a connection with the Arab and Islamic [world] and with humanity in general [in
order to] present the just Palestinian position to all people on Earth, and in
an attempt to expose the false claims of the Zionist discourse.”
same interview, Salah spoke of the pressing need for involvement for the sake of
the Palestinian cause, and called for an acknowledgment of the failure of the
negotiations with Israel: “The Palestinian cause is currently in a state of
regression – which, if it continues, will not bode well.
needs every honest person to act to rescue it from its current distress, and for
every honest and ambitious idea to push it forward toward actualizing
Palestinian rights, and to help all the principles in the Palestinian cause.
Personally, I do not think that I am the one who can implement this, but I do
aspire to take part in the collective effort that is now required, with the aim
of healing the internal Palestinian fractures and uniting the Palestinian
leadership with the Palestinian factions and with the Palestinian
"In my opinion, today we need the Palestinian leadership, which
has itself chosen the option of negotiations, to boldly come out and say that
these negotiations were an illusion, and that although they have continued for
two decades they have only set back the Palestinian cause... and that we must go
back to the beginning, to collective thought and a collective vision that will
unite the leadership, the factions, the Palestinian public, and the various
SALAH STATED that the Oslo Accords have led to tragic
results for Jerusalem and to Israeli preparations for expelling the
“Palestinians of ’48” i.e.
the Palestinians living in the 1948
territories, which is to say the Israeli Arabs, and that this means the
revocation of the right of return for refugees: “The Oslo Accords bound the
hands of the Palestinian side in all things concerning Al-Quds [Jerusalem],
claiming that this issue would be postponed [to the end of the negotiations]...
At the same time, it gave the Israeli occupation a free hand to continue its
unceasing Judaization of Al-Quds and its holy sites, headed by the blessed
Al-Aqsa Mosque. It also opened the door to the expulsion of the Palestinians of
’48, and I am not exaggerating – even if this was found out late. That is, one
of the long-term ramifications of the Oslo Accords is that the Israeli side has
begun to talk about the state as a Jewish [state], and this means two things:
First, the closing of [the door] to the right of return and the refugees’ right,
and second, the view of the existence of the Palestinians of ’48 on their land,
in their homes, and in their holy places as temporary.”
He also said that
Israeli moves against the “Palestinians of ’48,” such as the seizure of lands
and the destruction of homes, are “preludes to expulsion.”
expressed similar positions in an article titled “The Palestinian Cause Is in
Danger,” published in May in the movement organ Sawt Al-Haq Wal-Hurriya, and on
Pls48.net. In the article, Salah called for renewing the Palestinian cause, and
for deciding whether it is strictly a Palestinian cause, a general Arab cause,
or an Islamic cause. He also discussed the Palestinian leadership’s proposal to
hold PLO elections and to allow all Palestinians, including those living in the
diaspora, to directly elect the organization’s leadership – a proposal that
corresponds with Hamas’ demand for Palestinian Legislative Council elections and
for reorganizing the PLO to represent all Palestinian elements.
same context, Salah discussed the conflict between the Hamas administration in
the Gaza Strip and the Fatah government in the West Bank, and the issue of
extending the term of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud ‘Abbas. He wrote:
“If we look at the situation since the current schism, we will find that there
are two governments and two prime ministers.
There is prime minister
Isma’il Haniya, who came after the recent Palestinian elections, and there is
Salam Fayyad, who came after the Palestinian schism – and there is the
Palestinian constitution. What is the legitimacy of each of these? What is the
legitimacy of the decisions that were made and the posts that were distributed?
And what is the legitimacy of extending the term of President Mahmoud ‘Abbas?...
And what about the legitimacy of the current negotiations, whether direct or
indirect, without taking into account [our] fundamental position on these
While Salah was mildly critical of Abbas’s extended
term as Palestinian Authority president, Hamed Aghbariya, editor of the Israeli
Arab newspaper Sawt Al-Haq Wal-Hurriya, openly attacked Abbas.
response to statements Abbas purportedly made at a June 2010 meeting with
representatives of the Jewish lobby in the US, in which he said that he did not
deny the Jewish people’s right to Israel, Aghbariya wrote: “[Abbas] is not the
president of the Palestinian people, not even of part of it. At most, he is
chairman of a wretched authority, and his term there ended long ago, but he is
still ‘hanging’ from it by a line [thrown him] by the Israeli establishment, by
America, and by several Arab regimes.
Therefore, Abbas has no right to
speak in the name of the Palestinian people about others’ rights to Palestine –
especially after he has so far failed to remove [even] a small military
roadblock at the entrance to Ramallah, let alone to actualize any of the rights
of the people he claims to represent.”
An example of Salah’s close
relationship with Hamas can be seen in Hamas’ reaction to his arrest on charges
of attacking an Israeli policeman.
The Hamas-affiliated website
Palestine-info.info devoted an entire special section to the matter, publishing
statements of condemnation of the arrest by Hamas officials, and also articles
praising Salah. Hamas prime minister Haniya depicted Salah as “someone who bears
the honor of the Palestinian people, of the [Arab] nation, of the [Islamic]
ummah, and of Al-Quds and Al-Aqsa.”
THE ISLAMIC Movement’s support for
Hamas is not only ideological, but political and practical as well. One salient
example of this is Salah’s participation in the Freedom Flotilla that sailed
from Turkey, with the aim of breaking the Gaza siege which, according to the
Islamic Movement, had been imposed “merely because [the people of Gaza] had
exercised its free democratic choice.”
Prior to his departure for Turkey,
Salah said at an event in Kfar Kanna commemorating what the Palestinians call
the ‘Nakba’ [Israel’s establishment in 1948] that the flotilla participants
“will come to break the siege on the noble, free, brave, and steadfast Gaza,
where [even] the smallest child has succeeded in trampling the American and
Zionist terrorism beneath his feet.
Allah willing, in another few days we
will see how this siege is broken...”
Salah played a central role in the
flotilla, even delivering sermons in support of jihad, according to several
people who were also aboard the ship.
For instance, Kuwaiti MP Walid Al-
Tabtabai said, after he returned to Kuwait, that Salah had been the “star” of
the convoy and had made enthusiastic statements on the trip.
Al-Baltaji, deputy secretary- general of the Muslim Brotherhood faction in the
Egypt parliament, reported that on the night that Israeli forces raided the
ships, several clerics delivered sermons that fired up the passengers. Salah, he
said, related a hadith in which Muhammad explained the virtue of jihad and of
the ribat [a border region of the Islamic world where Muslims set out to fight
non-Muslims] in Ashkelon. Al- Baltaji added that Salah considered Gaza to be
part of Ashkelon.The writer is a research fellow at MEMRI, the Middle
East Media Research Institute, for whom this article was written.
printed here by permission.