The Van Leer Forum for Public Discussion
In 2015 the Israeli government outlawed the northern branch of the Islamic Movement led by Sheikh Raed Salah, thus expressing its position that it is a hostile, extremist organization like Hamas. The government based its decision on the argument that for the past years the movement had been conducting a mendacious campaign of incitement, accusing Israel of planning to damage Al-Aksa Mosque.
A large part of the Israeli public, most of which supports the iron-fist policy toward Arab protest movements, supported this decision, as did all the Zionist parties in the Knesset. In contrast, Israel’s politically variegated Arab population reacted angrily to the decision, because they see it as the suppression of a legitimate political movement and a violation of their freedom of speech and right to organize. Moreover, because of the decision’s timing—on the heels of the terror attacks in Paris—Israel’s Arabs saw it as yet another stage in the erosion of their status as equal citizens in the state.
It seems that the two sides are separated by a chasm. Whereas the Palestinians in Israel emphasize the religious and philanthropic activity of the Islamic movement and see its outlawing as political persecution, the Jewish population keeps repeating the argument that the northern branch of the movement challenges Israel’s right to exist. Arguments supporting each of the sides are also heard in the defense system and the judicial system: For example, some defense figures argue that the movement’s efforts to increase its presence on the Temple Mount in recent years are the main reason for the heightening of tension between Arabs and Jews in Israel. Others object to the government’s decision because in their view it is likely to increase the movement’s popularity and the difficulty of monitoring its activities. In the judicial system a fundamental criticism has been voiced regarding the use made of emergency regulations in order to outlaw the movement.
This discussion will address the various aspects of the government’s decision to declare the northern branch of the Islamic Movement a prohibited organization and will examine its implications for the already tense relations between the Jewish majority and Arab minority in Israel.