MOURNERS CARRY the body of a Palestinian killed in clashes with Israeli forces in east Jerusalem..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, government officials and others in the media have been pointing their fingers at the Islamic Movement in Israel’s northern branch, connecting it to the recent wave of violence.
A representative of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) told the cabinet on Sunday that the Islamic Movement and Hamas were chiefly responsible for the incitement that has led to the upsurge of terrorism, and that both groups reject Israel’s existence.
In an interview on Army Radio on Sunday, the head of the police operations, (Asst.- Ch.) Aharon Aksol, said that “these are not spontaneous events, the northern branch is a guiding hand.”
Unlike the more pragmatic southern branch, the northern branch does not participate in national elections.
There has been reports for some time that Netanyahu’s government was considering banning the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, a move that is unlikely to be carried out in any significant way even if it passes muster with the Supreme Court.
Fully disbanding the movement would require a massive security operation on par with what Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has undertaken against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt – imprisoning its members, preventing their supporters from preaching in mosques, and so forth.
And even after months of security operations and killings of Muslim Brotherhood members the group is still alive and kicking.
The Islamic Movement in Israel is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt.
“Security officials, politicians and the media have blamed the Islamic Movement for spearheading events and the prime minister declared for the umpteenth time that he intended to outlaw the Islamic Movement,” Nohad Ali, a sociologist from the University of Haifa and Western Galilee College who is an expert on Israeli-Arab affairs, told The Jerusalem Post.
Ali added that when they speak about the organization, they are referring to the Movement’s northern branch led by Sheikh Raed Salah and his deputy, Sheikh Kamal Khatib.
Security forces have prevented them along with other leaders of the movement to visit Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount.
“Politicians, especially on the Right of the political spectrum, are working hard to find who is to blame for the recent riots. Of course, they do not want to blame themselves,” continued Ali.
Netanyahu has accused three groups of inciting violence: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas and the Islamic Movement in addition to Balad MK Haneen Zoabi.
Because Netanyahu does not want to act against Hamas or the PA, argues Ali, he chooses to attack the weakest link: the Islamic Movement.
The northern branch of the Islamic Movement has been at the forefront of espousing the defense of al-Aksa Mosque.
It has even come to the point where Salah is recognized in the Arab and Islamic world as “the sheikh of al-Aksa,” said Ali.
The Islamic Movement has trained cadres of Muslim men and women, boys and girls known as the Murabitun, who are meant to defend the Aksa Mosque.
“Each of them believes in his heart that Aksa is in danger. They believe that the Israeli government wants to copy the exercise of the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, dividing the complex physically and restricting the amount of time the site is open to Muslims.”
Is Islamic Movement behavior behind the violence at the Aksa compound? Ali asserts that the profile of those using violence are youths or children from more secular households.
“They are not cadres from the Islamic Movement,” said Ali.
The banning of the Islamic Movement would only serve to deteriorate the situation further as the group would call on dozens to protest, he said. Furthermore, the High Court would likely overturn any ban.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.