Jerusalem – Yesterday morning, 199 Palestinians convicted of murder or attempted murder were released from prison, as an Israeli gesture to Palestinian Authority leader, Mahmoud Abbas.

The release became possible after the Israel High Court of Justice rejected the petition filed yesterday by Almagor, the organization that represents families whose loved ones have been murdered or maimed by Arab terrorists.

Israeli Supreme Court Justices Ayala Procaccia, Edmund Levy and Yoram Danziger also listened to the political considerations behind Israel’s reasons for releasing the convicts, as presented by Israel’s Deputy Attorney General Mike Balas.

The judges harshly criticized the state for providing them only “slogans,” instead of persuasive explanations. They told the Israeli government, they wondered what the political considerations were behind the unusual decision to release hardened convicted criminals.

The judges expressed their concern that this was a unilateral step, and Israel was receiving nothing in return. They said the move constituted a turnabout in the government’s position on the criteria for releasing convicted terrorists, noting the government had been strictly against releasing convicts who were serving time for first degree murder and previous commitments. Also noted as abandoned was the resolve of the Israeli government not to release convicts who had not yet served at least two thirds of their sentence.

In the end, all three judges upheld the government decision, writing in their decision that the government did have a right to free convicts in the framework of diplomatic negotiations.

Israeli Arab Islamic Movement: Suspicion Of Subversion

Dozens of Israeli police entered the Israeli Arab city of Umm el-Fahm at dawn on Sunday and raided the offices of the al-Aqsa organization of the Islamic Movement, which comprises thousands of Israeli Arabs who are citizens of the state of Israel.

The police acted under authority of a search and closure warrant signed by Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak, which described the Islamic Movement, as an “unlawful organization.”

Israeli intelligence officials suspects that the Islamic Movement has ties to Hamas in Jerusalem. The police confiscated a lot of documents, which would be closely scrutinized, according to Lt. Cmdr. Zohar Dvir. He explained that as of press time, the police had made no arrests.

Israeli Islamic Movement officials were furious Sunday at the closure, saying their activity was legal. Chairman of the Israeli Arab Monitoring Committee Shawki Khatib said that the documents that were seized and that relate to the al-Aqsa organization were of value to the entire Muslim world.

On the other hand, Mr. Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the Islamic Movement’s northern chapter, preferred to belittle the significance of the closure, and at a press conference he held, declared that even if the name were changed, the movement would continue to function. Mr. Salah, who was jailed in recent years because of incitement, by him and his movement, yesterday repeated his well-known militant statements: “We will not retreat; we will march forward. Jerusalem is ours and it is an Arab, Islamic and Palestinian right. The Israel occupation will pass and we will not retract this position.”

Meanwhile, his colleague, leader of the Islamic Movement’s southern chapter, Israeli Knesset member Sheikh Ibrahim Sarsur, who also serves as chairman of United Arab List-Arab Movement for Renewal faction, preferred to keep quiet yesterday in light of serious allegations, as did several other members of the Israeli Left, both Jews and Arabs.

In contrast, yesterday Member of Knesset Yisrael Katz (Likud) called not to suffice with this measure and to outlaw the Israeli Arab Islamic Movement, once and for all.

Mr. Katz said the movement was taking advantage of Israeli democracy in order to undermine it. “It is absurd that what they do in countries like Egypt and Jordan with such movements, here in Israel, is not considered proper,” he said. Mr. Katz said he plans to again bring his bill for a vote, which in the past encountered government opposition, when the Knesset reconvenes in October.

David Bedein can be reached at dbedein@israelbehindthenews.com. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com

©The Bulletin 2008

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.