How many Israelis are familiar with Sawt al Haq Wal Hurrieh ("The Voice of Freedom and Justice"), a weekly published by the northern faction of the Islamic Movement in Israel, or with Al-Mithaq ("The Covenant"), which is issued by the southern faction? How many even know there is a northern faction and a southern faction?
Who, aside from a handful of scholars and Middle East specialists in the Shin Bet security service is able to distinguish between the theological, national and social doctrines of Abdullah Nimr Darwish and those of Sheikh Ra'id Salah, or between Abdulmalik Dehamshe and Ibrahim Sarsur? What difference does it make? They are all Arabs, all Muslims, and as such, it makes no difference to the Jewish perspective what they think, but rather into what category they can be placed - good Arabs or bad Arabs.
The Islamic Movement in Israel, be it the activists who are members of Knesset or those who proscribe any participation in political life in Israel, is no different ideologically from other Islamic movements that seek to impose a religious regime founded upon the principles of Islamic law. In Arab or Muslim countries, there are theoretical concerns that the years of religious preaching or of acts of terror against the regime may sweep the believing public into the arms of these movements. Indeed, rigid laws have been enacted in many Arab countries with the intention of preventing political activity by religious movements.
For example, the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt, the ideological progenitor of Israel's Islamic Movement, has been legally banned from establishing a political party; the newspaper of another pro-Islamic movement was closed; and Jordan's Press Law imposes restrictive conditions on the establishment of any new newspaper, fearing the founding of new Islamic journals.
The situation in Israel is altogether different. Israel is a Jewish state, not only according to its official designation and the composition of its population, but also by the way it conceives the minority as an enemy - a position that neutralizes any chance of the public identifying ideologically with the positions of the Arab minority and, even more so, the Muslim minority.
Therefore, anyone wanting to make use of the principle of a democracy on the defensive against the Islamic Movement must also answer the basic question of what it is defending itself from. The fear that Israel could turn into a state in which Muslim law is the law of the land, or that the foundations of its regime might be undermined through incitement, is at such a distant remove from the definition of "clear and present danger" that only a state in which the "democracy" is so feeble and so jumpy would decide to fight the newspaper.
Only the newspaper is under discussion, in fact, because no one is forbidding the activities of the movement, or arresting its activists. Preachers in mosques will continue to speak out; and in the movement's schools and kindergartens, children will continue to learn its fundamentals. It is no accident that only enlightened democracies like Syria and Iran view the press as a genuine danger to the regime, while in Israel the interior minister went so far as to portray the newspaper's closure as part of a war on terror.
However, anyone who is willing to close a newspaper with such a light finger is also liable to be convinced with similar ease to completely shut down the Islamic discourse, and perhaps prevent religion classes, close mosques and arrest preachers. All of these have much greater influence over the hearts and minds of Israel's Muslims than does the movement's newspaper.
Indeed, since there is no danger of the opinions of the movement influencing the Jewish majority in Israel, the interior minister's closure order can be interpreted as a desire to interfere in and influence the internal discourse of minorities in Israel. In other words, if there was no Islamic newspaper publishing this incitement, "good" Arabs would have no source of inspiration. They would not boycott the elections; they would support Israeli policies in the territories; and they would even accept the budgetary discrimination against them with understanding.
Evidently, the interior minister has a difficult time understanding that it is not the incitement in the words of Sawt al Haq Wal Hurrieh that should be seen as a threat, but the context that produces them. This same long-time policy has pressed Israeli Arabs into adopting a status of political panhandlers who are obligated to submit, day in and day out, to the flag and national anthem citizenship test, so that they do not become "suspicious objects."
All Sawt al Haq Wal Hurrieh does is offer the Arabs of Israel another option, if they so desire - a religious option for recoiling from the policies of Israel.
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