Israel Outlaws Islamist Group For Links To Terrorism And Instigating Muslim Violence

REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed, File
REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed, File

The Israeli government has banned the radical northern branch of the Islamic Movement for its alleged ties to terrorist groups and for inciting a recent wave of Arab violence in Israel.

Israeli Defense minister Moshe Ya’alon issued an edict forbidding any activity linked to the movement led by Sheikh Raed Salah after the national security cabinet outlawed the organization in a meeting late Monday night.

“Any person who belongs to this organization or who provides services to it or who acts within its framework is henceforth committing a criminal offence punishable by a prison sentence,” according to a statement from the Israeli Security Cabinet released early Tuesday.

The decision also allowed for the seizure of the organization’s property and law enforcement officials lost no time in implementing the ruling. Police have already raided more than a dozen of the movement’s offices around the country, confiscating computers, files and funds and freezing their bank accounts.

“Outlawing the organization is a vital step in maintaining public security and preventing harm to human life,” said an Israeli government press release. The government has called the Islamist group a “sister movement” of the Gaza-based Hamas terrorist organization.

The northern branch of the Islamic Movement denies the legitimate existence of the State of Israel and therefore boycotts national elections, according to the Times of Israel.

Three weeks ago Pope Francis said that attacks on the State of Israel and its right to exist qualify as a form of anti-Semitism.

“To attack Jews is anti-Semitism, but an outright attack on the State of Israel is also anti-Semitism,” Francis said in a private audience Wednesday with delegates from the World Jewish Congress (WJC), to the delegation headed by WJC President Ronald S. Lauder. “There may be political disagreements between governments and on political issues, but the State of Israel has every right to exist in safety and prosperity.”

Several Palestinian leaders decried the move, noting its proximity to Friday’s Paris attacks and suggesting it was a way of cracking down on all Arabs living in Israel. Ahmad Tibi, a member of the Israeli Knesset from Israel’s Palestinian minority defended the northern group as “an authentic movement” and denounced the ruling as “a pure, political rightwing decision.”

“The timing is suspicious because of the horrible crime which took place in Paris,” said Tibi. “We believe it’s a dangerous attack not only against the Islamic Movement, but against the Arab minority inside Israel.”

Mohammed Barakeh, the leader of a coalition of Arab Israeli political parties and community leaders, called the ruling “an unjustified, draconian step.”

Israeli’s Zionist Union, however, praised the ban, complaining only that it was long overdue.

“Outlawing the Islamic movement is an appropriate move that the Zionist Union demanded more than a month ago, and it’s a shame it took [Netanyahu] so long to take this necessary step,” the party said.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome