New Arab Israeli party could be ploy by banned Islamic Movement

New party members come from the academic ‘hard core’ of the Islamic Movement at the Center for Contemporary Studies in Umm el-Fahm, expert tells 'Post.'

April 11, 2016 22:28
2 minute read.
Leader of the northern Islamic Movement Sheikh Raed Salah

Leader of the northern Islamic Movement Sheikh Raed Salah gestures after leaving the district court in Jerusalem October 27, 2015.. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)

Personalities involved with the recently banned Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel announced the establishment of a new political party in Nazareth on Monday.

The new party could be an attempt by the radical branch of the Islamic Movement to circumvent the ban and continue political and charitable activities.

The government decision in November to ban the group led to the freezing of many bank accounts affiliated with the group and the closing down of charities.

The new entity – the Trust and Reform Party – is not registered with the state and does not intend to run for the Knesset, Israel Radio reported.

The head of the party is Husam Abu Leil, who was the second deputy head of the Islamic Movement’s Northern Branch.

Muhammad Barakei, the leader of the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee, was present at the event in Nazareth and welcomed the new party. Barakei, from Shfaram, is a former head of the Hadash party, which he represented in the Knesset from 1999 to 2015.

Ghada Zoabi, the founder and CEO of the Israeli Arab news portal, told The Jerusalem Post that the move seems to be a way for the Islamic Movement to bypass sanctions after being outlawed.

Arik Rudnitzky, the project manager of the Konrad Adenauer Program at the Moshe Dayan Center of Tel Aviv University, told the Post, “The composition of the new party is based on affiliated factors with the northern faction of the Islamic Movement.

“They come from the academic ‘hard core’ of the movement at the Center for Contemporary Studies in Umm el-Fahm,” he said.

What is new, said Rudnitzky, is that one of the party’s founders is a woman.

“It seems that a group of people involved are affiliated with the Islamic Movement from Kafr Kana, which is [Northern Branch] deputy head Sheikh Kamal Khatib’s hometown, and Umm el-Fahm, which is [Northern branch head] Sheikh Raed Salah’s hometown,” said Rudnitzky.

The party’s goals remain unclear as well as any connection it may have to Beduin in the Negev or to Arabs in mixed cities, he added.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended outlawing the Northern Branch for acting to undermine the state, inciting violence, cooperating closely with Hamas and seeking to replace Israel with a caliphate.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

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