Outlawing the northern branch of the Islamic Movement is yet another McCarthyist step by the Israeli state. But if anyone thinks this will bring an end to the movement, they are dead wrong.
Say what you will about the Jewish state, just don’t say that the only democracy on the planet never stops challenging us. On Monday night, Defense Minister Ya’alon signed an order outlawing the northern branch of the Islamic Movement. Following the decision, the police raided the offices of 17 non-profit organizations connected to the group, confiscated documents and equipment, froze bank accounts, and announced that it would interrogate its leaders, among them Sheikh Raed Salah.
This is yet another McCarthyist decision brought to you by the Zionist establishment, both its left and right wing. And while the Palestinian leadership in Israel is busy condemning the decision, a closer look shows that the security cabinet’s decision is nothing less than a gift to the Palestinian public in Israel.
It is true that the leaders of the movement are going to be persecuted. Truthfully, they have been persecuted for quite a while now. Now the state will only be better able to whip its subjects into shape. Since the leaders of the northern branch previously announced that they would be willing to go to prison (Raed Salah has served time), they will be willing to do so again. But do the threats against the leadership, which represents a sizable portion of the Arab public, mean it will cease to exist? The answer is no. In fact, it will only grow more popular. This step may even wake up a number of Palestinians from their political slumber, providing only more proof of how the state views us.
Whether under or overground, the Islamic Movement will continue to exist. Raed Salah has already announced that he will continue to act as its leader. The state’s attempt at deterrence will not work, for the simple reason that there is an overwhelming feeling of persecution of Arab citizens that has been especially felt over the past few months. When the Palestinian public feels persecuted, it will prefer to unite and put aside its differences (similar to what happened with the formation of the Joint List in the run-up to the last elections). The goal of this decision, which comes in the wake of Netanyahu’s Mufti-Hitler episode and directly following the horrifying massacre in Paris, is the dehumanization of Israel’s Palestinian minority.
This is how racism rears its ugly head, violence against Arabs reaches dangerous levels, government officials incite against Palestinian citizens on a daily basis. Now the state and the police are inciting against the legitimate leaders of a significant part of the Arab public — who represent the poorest citizens of the country — in a pathetic attempt to turn the struggle against the occupation into a religious conflict.
The criticism by Israeli politicians — from both the Left and the Right — against the Islamic Movement is the ultimate proof of how reality is being distorted. There is no point in responding to the right, since it wants to outlaw Palestinians themselves. Thus, I will respond to the Zionist Left.
This morning, leader of the Zionist Left Isaac Herzog published a tweet in which he compares the Islamic Movement to far-right Jewish extremists, as if we face no occupation or oppression. Everyone is partner to this government’s grotesque policies, and there is no better proof than Herzog’s support for the government on this issue, along with many others.
Secular Palestinians do not hide their criticism of the Islamic Movement. Socially, it represents an ideology that we find difficult to agree with, as it discriminates against the Palestinian LGBT community and opposes equality between men and women, while making every effort to maintain the patriarchal structure of the traditional Palestinian family. But this is an internal conversation to be held among Palestinians, in which only we have the right to express our opinions. Politically, large parts of the Islamic Movement do view the occupation as part of a larger religious war. We struggle against this point of view, especially since it only promotes the Zionist agenda. This, again, is an internal matter.
The religious Palestinian community deserves both a voice and a leadership — this is the essence of democracy. However much we agree or disagree with the group’s ideology is our own matter, which we must now put aside in order to stand behind a movement that represents a large part of the Palestinian people. These are the days when we will hear Zionists repeat the mantra: “Say thanks that you are even allowed to express yourself and take advantage of our democracy.” Expect to hear these sentiments expressed often in the near future.
It is our right as Palestinians and human beings to say whatever we’d like. This right is not granted to us by anyone, especially not the establishment. As long as our rights are taken away, we will continue to express ourselves — even if it means struggling against a McCarthyist regime. This is our natural right as the indigenous people of this land, regardless of what the leaders of the only democracy on the planet believe.
This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.