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Israel Outlaws Hamas-Aligned Islamic Movement

Israel’s security cabinet declared the Hamas-affiliated northern branch of the Islamic Movement an illegal organization late Monday night, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Israel has resolved to outlaw a domestic Islamist movement with ties to Hamas and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, according to a press release distributed early Tuesday morning by the Prime Minister’s Office. …

The northern branch of the Islamic Movement is led by Sheikh Raed Salah, who has been convicted in court of numerous subversive activities, including funding Hamas, contacting an Iranian agent, assaulting a police officer, and leading a violent protest.

In recent months, Salah has been at the forefront of agitating against Israeli rule over Temple Mount. His rallies frequently invoke the mantra of “Al-Aksa is in danger.”

The decision was approved by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.

Last month, an Israeli court upheld Salah’s conviction on charges of incitement to violence and sentenced him to eleven months in prison.

The government’s statement explained that the decision to outlaw Salah’s group was “a vital step in maintaining public security and preventing harm to human life.”

For years, the northern branch of the Islamic Movement has led a mendacious campaign of incitement under the heading ‘Al Aqsa is in danger’ that falsely accuses Israel of intending to harm the Al Aqsa Mosque and violate the status-quo. In this context, the northern branch has established a network of paid activists (Mourabitoun / Mourabitat) in order to initiate provocations on the Temple Mount. This activity has led to a significant increase in tension on the Temple Mount. A significant portion of recent terrorist attacks have been committed against the background of this incitement and propaganda.

Various Israeli security experts and Palestinian activists have attributed the recent wave of Palestinian violence to incitement, particularly over false charges that Israel is threatening the al-Aqsa Mosque.

The new ban on the northern branch of the Islamic Movement means that those who remain active in the organization are subject to arrest, with all of the group’s property subject to seizure.

The Times of Israel reported:

After the security cabinet declared the movement illegal in a meeting late Monday night, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon signed an edict banning any activity connected to the group.

Israeli security forces then carried out a series of overnight raids on the organization’s offices, seizing computers, documents and cash in regional branches across the country, the Israel Police and Shin Bet security agency said. Police also froze bank accounts linked to the organization and a number of NGOs working alongside it.

In total, 17 regional branches were ordered closed, including offices in Umm al-Fahm, Jaffa, Nazareth, Kfar Kana, Turan, Beersheba and Rahat.

The group was founded in the 1970’s as both a political and religious outreach group. In 1996, it split into northern and southern branches. The southern branch has typically been more moderate, with some of its members serving in the Knesset.

“The Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement is endangering the security of the State of Israel and collaborating, according to intelligence we have collected, with Palestinian terror organizations, including Hamas, in order to inflame the current situation and encourage violence,” said Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who signed the order banning the Islamist group.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan emphasized that the move to outlaw the organization was part of a global effort to fight Islamic extremism. “The State of Israel must set an example and spearhead the fight against radical Islam, whose emissaries we saw slaughtering innocents in Paris, New York, Madrid and Israel,” he said. “The Islamic Movement, Hamas, the Islamic State and other [Islamist] organizations have a common ideological platform that is the cause for terrorist attacks around the world and the wave of terror in this country.”

French President Francois Hollande declared yesterday that France would seek to amend its constitution to give the state broader powers to fight terrorism.

In an article tracing the history of both the northern and southern branches of the Islamic Movement, to be published in the December 2015 issue of The Tower Magazine, Raffa Abu Tareef, a Druze researcher with 25 years of experience in the Israeli Defense Forces, wrote:

Perhaps the most problematic issue in regard to the relationship between the Movement and the Israeli state is its continuing relationship with Hamas. More than once, Movement activists have expressed pride in Hamas’ accomplishments, maintained connections with Hamas on the ground, and even intervened politically in Hamas’ relationship with the Palestinian authority.

At a time when the pragmatic faction chose to work as a mediator between Hamas and the PA, members of the radical faction took the side of Hamas against then-PA President Yasser Arafat’s policies. The radical wing, like Hamas, criticized the agreements the PA signed with Israel and accused the PA of appeasement. It published prominent Hamas figures in its journal, and held meetings with Hamas leaders outside of Israel. In the days of the first intifada, the Islamic Movement began a large-scale effort to send clothing, food, and money to the territories in general and Hamas in particular. The Movement aided orphans, wounded families, the needy, the hospitalized, and the handicapped. And as later become clear, many of those aided were Hamas members and their families. In July 1995, the Israeli police closed the offices of the Movement’s aid committee and confiscated documents and equipment. This was another expression of the process by which the religious revival in the Israeli Muslim community led to political radicalization.

In 2011, British Home Secretary Theresa May sought to deport Salah, who had entered Britain illegally, on grounds that his presence there was “not conducive to the public good.”

This past August, a congressional delegation that visited the Temple Mount, site of the al-Aqsa Mosque, witnessed members of the northern branch harassing a group of Jewish visitors.

[Photo: Yonatan Sindel / Flash90 ]