I’m no supporter of Sheikh Raed Salah, but as Jewish Israelis we have an enormous responsibility to state loudly and clearly that which our privilege still permits us. That means opposing political persecution when we see it.
Two years ago Israel outlawed one of the largest popular associations in the country, the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement. In the days that followed, authorities quickly moved to shut down dozens of affiliated charitable organizations, women’s organizations, media outlets, and educational and childcare programs. Hardly a word of protest was uttered by the Jewish population in Israel.
Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the Islamic Movement, was arrested for the umpteenth time this week. Salah has become a regular target for Israeli authorities over the years, to the point that his frequent arrests aren’t barely newsworthy anymore.
According to media reports about Sheikh Raed Salah’s many previous arrests, he has been investigated for making statements including: “Al-Aqsa is in danger”; “the occupation will disappear”; and for making calls to “free Palestinian prisoners.” There’s not a statement among them that I wouldn’t gladly put my name on myself.
So why does practically nobody among Israel’s Jewish population find problematic the almost routine arrest of one the country’s more influential popular leaders? Because he’s accused of incitement, and that sounds pretty logical to the vast majority of people — by virtue of the fact that he has been arrested so many times on suspicion of incitement. Tautology at its finest.
Israeli authorities count on the public coming to the conclusion that, if Salah has been arrested so many times, surely he is dangerous. The same phenomenon of blind trust and acceptance exists with regards to administrative detention: if administrative detainees have been imprisoned for years, surely they are terrorists. And that’s exactly how most of the Jewish Israeli public thinks of administrative detainees, as terrorists, despite the fact that they have never been convicted, let alone even indicted or given a chance to defend themselves.
It’s a tried and tested system.
The bottom line is that every part of the Arab population in Israel is in the establishment’s cross-hairs. The state is engaged in open warfare against one out of every five of its own citizens. That means that for much of what we, Jews, can say relatively freely (not that there aren’t attempts to change...Read More