Ma’ariv (p. 2) by Ami Ben-David, Ben Caspit and Amir Gilat — Israeli officials have become concerned lately about the escalation in the activity of the Islamic Movement’s northern chapter and its increasingly close ties with terror organizations.
A number of discussions on the subject have been held in recently weeks by the prime minister and the internal security minister in which officials raised the problem of terror organizations infiltrating certain sectors of the Israeli Arab community. Mostly at issue are members of the Islamic Movement’s northern chapter, which is headed by Sheikh Raed Salah.
“The northern chapter of the Islamic Movement is very dangerous to the security and future of the State of Israel. If they persevere with their current course of incitement there will be no choice but to outlaw them and to deal with them the way any organization that rejects the very existence of the State of Israel is dealt with,” said MK Ehud Yatom (Likud), the deputy chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Former internal security minister, Uzi Landau, currently a minister without portfolio, said: “Outlawing the Islamic Movement is an inseparable part of the war on terror.” Landau said yesterday that the decision about the necessary action against the Islamic Movement was reached in the course of his term as internal security minister. Landau: “No government in the past wanted to touch the issue, but today the atmosphere has changed both in the world and here. The State of Israel cannot tolerate anyone who, under protection of the law, undermines the foundations of law. We need to praise the security services that have been dealing with this issue, which, for some time now, hasn’t been one of errant weeds but entire plots of grass.”
The Islamic Movement has been in the sights of the GSS and the Israel Police for a number of years, but generally it manages to tread the tightrope between the legal and illegal. The Islamic Movement made its first political gains in the 1989 municipal elections, when its representatives were elected mayors of a number of Arab communities, including Umm el-Fahm, which to this day is considered to be a bastion of the movement.
The leaders of the Islamic Movement do not conceal their aspiration to establish a strict Islamic state on all of Israel, but they argue that they know that this is merely an ideal and that they are loyal citizens of the State of Israel. That fact has not stopped a few members of the Islamic Movement from taking part in terror attacks and from getting blood on their hands as a result.
The Islamic Movement leaders organize a mass rally every year under the slogan, “el-Aksa is in danger,” in the course of which severe accusations are made against the state.
Some of the movement’s leaders refused on ideological grounds to run in the 1996 Knesset elections, arguing that they should not be party to the symbols of the Zionist state. As a result, the Islamic Movement split into two chapters: the southern chapter, which is more moderate and which was headed by the movement’s founder, Sheikh Abdullah Nimr Darwish (who was replaced a few years ago by Sheikh Ibrahim Sarsur), and the northern chapter, which is more radical, that is headed by Sheikh Raed Salah.
The northern chapter of the Islamic Movement has drawn the attention of the security forces repeatedly in the past number of years. Security officials alleged that northern chapter activists published inflammatory material and incitement in the Islamic Movement’s mouthpiece and helped terror activists from the territories by supporting their families under the cover of humanitarian assistance.
The leader of the northern chapter, Sheikh Raed Salah, who until recently served as mayor of Umm el-Fahm, is still in the sights of the GSS. Last year a court order was issued barring Salah from leaving Israel because of suspicion that he was about to meet in Qatar with Sheikh Yousef Kardawi, the spiritual father of the Islamic terror organizations. He was also barred from leaving Israel to take part in the Omara ceremony in Mecca after the GSS submitted a detailed report to the internal security minister that warned: “His departure from Israel will be exploited for meetings with hostile elements.” In response to a petition Salah filed to the High Court of Justice, a panel of judges determined, after having looked at the material, that Salah’s departure was liable to jeopardize national security “with near certainty.” Salah was summoned four months ago to be questioned on suspicion of incitement.
In the past the Islamic Movement’s non-profit organization for prisoners’ welfare and for orphans’ welfare were shut at the order of an IDF general after they were suspected of serving as conduits to transfer funds to the families of terror activists.
In all of the above cases, say Islamic Movement leaders, no one ultimately was indicted and the charges were part of the political persecution of the movement.
The Foothold of Evil
Ma’ariv (p. 3) by Amit Cohen (news analysis) — That which began as the occasional fingerprints of radical Israeli Arab Islamic charities has quickly and disturbingly developed and evolved into a bold foothold of all the strains of evil in the community beating in the heart of Israel. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hizbullah, Iran and even al-Qaida-all try to influence the Islamic Movement and aspire to exploit it as a fifth column, as an infrastructure that can provide intelligence and, in quite a number of cases in the past, to have it take part in terror attacks.
The Islamic Movement’s northern chapter is one of the most sensitive organizations about which the GSS and the Israel Police try to gain intelligence. A delicate balance is maintained in the way in which this northern chapter is dealt with: on the one hand, security officials try to thwart the seditious activity carried out by some members of the Islamic Movement; on the other, officials try to refrain from taking action that will inflame the passions of Israeli Arabs.
The most disturbing point is the cooperation between the Islamic Movement and Hamas. Most of that activity is focused, apparently, in collecting contributions for Hamas’s charities and parochial schools, which ultimately are used to fund terror as well. Early in 2003 officials discovered that funds were being transferred from charities overseas directly into the Palestinian territories, transfers that were facilitated by the Islamic Movement’s northern chapter.
But in addition to logistical-financial aid, say security establishment officials, Islamic Movement activists are also actively involved in terrorist activity. Six months ago a terror cell comprised of three Israeli Arabs from Ramle, all members of the Islamic Movement, was caught. The three had been recruited by Hamas’s military wing and had even met with Mohammed Deif in Gaza. The three had planned to build a bomb lab for terrorist purposes and to kidnap and murder Israeli soldiers.
Officials are also afraid that the radicalization of Israeli Arabs will help hostile foreign elements, such as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Hizbullah or al-Qaida, to infiltrate. A year ago Prime Minister Sharon said that the Iranians were active within the Israeli Arab community by means of the Islamic Movement.
Legal measures against the Islamic Movement were accelerated after the annual rally in Umm el-Fahm last September that was organized by the northern chapter’s leader, Sheikh Raed Salah. Thousands thronged to the rally, which was titled, “el-Aksa is in danger” and listened to speeches that incited [against Israel] and donated money to the Palestinians. In the wake of the rally, Salah was investigated on suspicion of incitement and breaching national security. In tandem, discussions about outlawing the Islamic Movement were held.
Last December then interior minister, Eli Yishai, decided to shut Saut al-Hak Waal-Huriya, the Islamic Movement’s mouthpiece, arguing that it provided a platform to Hamas’s position in support of suicide bombing attacks. The relationship between the Islamic Movement and Hamas is reciprocal. One can find articles by Sheikh Raed Salah on Hamas’s internet site alongside of articles by Abdel Aziz Rantisi, one of the leading Hamas officials in Gaza, or Ibrahim Makadme, one of the commanders of Hamas’s military wing and one of the movement’s leading ideologues, who was killed by Israel.
These pieces ran on May 13th, 2003