Israel Bans Two Muslim Activist Groups From Temple Mount

Informal Mourabitoun and Mourabitat groups, composed mostly of Arab women and elderly men, demonstrate when Jews visit the Jerusalem holy site.

Women demonstrating for Palestinian hunger striker Mohammed Allaan at the Temple Mount
Women demonstrating for Palestinian hunger striker Mohammed Allaan at the Temple Mount, August 14, 2015. AP

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’aon outlawed on Tuesday two Islamic Movement organizations operating on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif.

According to his office, the declaration of the two organizations, called Morabiton and Morabitat, as unlawful received approval from the attorney general. Consequently, anyone participating in the organizations’ activities, organizing them or funding them is subject to punishment by law. The declaration is backed by force of the Mandatory Defense (Emergency) Regulations.

According to the minister’s office, the Shin Bet security service and police recommended outlawing the groups after Ya’alon was convinced that “the matter was necessary to protect state security, peace and public order.

“The activity of the Morabiton and Morabitat groups constitutes a central figure in creating tension and violence on Temple Mount in particular and Jerusalem in general,” Ya’alon’s office announced. “The activity is inflammatory and endangers tourists, visitors and worshippers at the site, leading to violence that could harm human life. The goal of Morabiton and Morabitat is to undermine Israeli authority on Temple Mount, alter reality and existing arrangements and restrict freedom of worship, and it is tied to the activity of hostile Islamist organizations and even directed by them.”

The northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel founded the two organizations – Morabiton for men and Morabitat for women – to harass Jews visiting Temple Mount. The organizations operate a daily shuttle service from the Triangle (a concentration of Arab villages including Umm al-Fahm and Taibeh), the Galilee and the Negev to the Temple Mount.

A few dozen men and women usually arrive on a given day, joined by some East Jerusalem residents. The participants spend most of the day praying or listening to lectures, but when Jews enter Temple Mount, they draw close, shouting and cursing at them. This behavior has led to occasional violence.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan asked Ya’alon late last month to outlaw the groups. “These organizations stalk Jewish visitors to Temple Mount, yelling impassioned and inciting things and blocking the visitors’ way on the Mount,” said Erdan. “Their goal is to narrow the steps of Jews seeking to visit the Temple Mount through violence and intimidation, and I will do anything within my ability to stop the activities of these dangerous organizations that upset the balance on the Temple Mount.”

The police a few days later began preventing almost all Muslim women from entering the Temple Mount complex before 11 A.M. They were permitted to enter after this hour, on condition that they leave their ID cards as a deposit. The directive came about because of the increase in run-ins and violence against Jewish visitors on Temple Mount by Morabitat members.

The Shin Bet and the police had closed in January the offices of organizations set up by the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, which were dedicated to funding Morabiton and Morabitat.

The organizations are “dedicated to hurting Israeli sovereignty at the site by violating the security of Temple Mount visitors, raising tensions and disturbing the peace,” according to the Shin Bet.

Security officials say the NGOs that were closed recruited paid activists for both groups so they would visit Temple Mount every day at set times. Activists earned 3,000-4,000 shekels ($771-$1,028) per month, according to the officials. They added some of the funds were sent from the Gulf States, sometimes via couriers, to the West Bank, and from there were transferred to East Jerusalem.

“When a group of visitors would arrive at Temple Mount, the activists tended to use verbal violence as well as physical violence against them, violating their freedom of religion in a way that threatens their personal security,” asserted a Shin Bet official. “The activity of these institutions caused agitation and incitement at the site, exploiting the holy site for Islam and Judaism.”