Thousands Protest in Nazareth Against Distribution of Charlie Hebdo

High Court last week allowed Yisrael Beiteinu to give French weekly away for free. Nazareth mayor calls on Avigdor Lieberman to apologize for insult to Muslim community.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Lieberman holding a copy of Charlie Hebdo's "survivors' edition" in Tel Aviv, February 5, 2015.
Lieberman holding a copy of Charlie Hebdo's "survivors' edition" in Tel Aviv, February 5, 2015.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Thousands of people took part in a protest march in Nazareth yesterday against a High Court of Justice ruling to allow free distribution of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which features an illustration of the Prophet Mohammed weeping and holding a sign saying “Je suis Charlie.”

The march was organized by the Islamic Movement Northern Branch and led by its leader, Sheik Ra’ad Salah. Also present were the chairman of the committee of Arab mayors, Mazin G’Nayem (mayor of Sakhnin), and Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam. Marchers carried red and black banners bearing the words “We are all for you, messenger of God.”

The Islamic Movement said yesterday that Israel and its justice system “are trying to hide behind the claim of freedom of expression,” and that “insult to religious symbols, especially to images of the prophets, cannot be considered part of freedom of expression.”

Sheikh Husam Abu Leil, deputy head of the Islamic Movement, said after the march, “This event is not an act of protest against the insult to the prophet Mohammed, but rather an insult against all prophets everywhere, including Moses and Jesus.”

Abu Leil continued, “We are conveying a message to [Avigdor] Lieberman and the High Court justices who made the indecent decision, as well as to the entire Israeli establishment, which apparently is not pleased with the fact that the most common name in Israel is Mohammed.”

Abu Leil was referring to the chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu, which began distributing the special edition of Charlie Hebdo, which was published the week after two Islamist gunmen murdered 12 people at the magazine’s Paris offices. The party distributed the magazine locally at no charge until, on February 4, the chairman of the Central Elections Committee, Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran, issued an order prohibiting the party from doing so, in response to a request by MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al). Joubran cited regulations banning parties from giving gifts to voters. Tibi appealed the ruling to the High Court.

Mayor Salam said the protest was the least that could be done in response to the High Court ruling, and that “Lieberman and his extremist friends should apologize for such a serious insult against the Muslim community in Israel and worldwide.”

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