Humiliation Is the Message

The police have no evidence connecting the leaders of the Islamic Movement directly with terrorism. No lesson has been learned: even though quite a few false arrests have been made in the past among the members of the Islamic Movement, the police, with the backing of the government, continue to intimidate the movement.

Would the Israel Police dare raid the offices of a subversive right-wing Jewish movement in the dead of night with a force of 1,000 police officers, a helicopter and an army of reporters, and arrest its leader, who was sitting by the bedside of his dying father?

Was there no way to show a little more respect for a spiritual leader, whose status resembles that of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef among the Jewish public, such as by summoning Sheikh Ra'ad Salah, whatever the accusations against him, to a police station without the panoply of humiliation that accompanied the events? Was someone concerned the sheikh would not show up to be questioned? Or is it possible that the humiliation was the message?

These questions became more pertinent at the weekend when it transpired that the authorities made a mountain out of a molehill, because what's involved is an investigation into monies and their destinations, according to the head of the National Fraud Squad, Deputy Commander Miri Golan. The police have no evidence connecting the leaders of the Islamic Movement directly with terrorism. No lesson has been learned: even though quite a few false arrests have been made in the past among the members of the Islamic Movement, the police, with the backing of the government - the prime minister approved the arrests personally - continue to intimidate the movement. The Islamic Movement may be a subversive organization, but as long as it has not been proved that its members broke the law, we have to learn to live with it. However, when the country's Arab citizens are involved, the norms are different: First, a showcase arrest is made and grave accusations are disseminated, then the authorities climb down from the tree little by little. The press coverage reflects this: "domestic enemy," "the money-terrorism connection," "extremist and dangerous," the headlines screamed.

Only the corrective move made by the police, in allowing Sheikh Ra'ad to attend his father's funeral, without additional manifestations of humiliation, reduced the damage to some extent, and for this the police deserve to be commended. And, astonishingly enough, precisely without the presence of the police, the funeral proceeded with exemplary order.

The arrest of the leaders of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, and the suspicions hurled at them, bring to the fore another complex question, about whether the solidarity between Israel's Arabs and the Palestinians in the territories is a legitimate phenomenon. Clearly this is a particularly complicated situation, in which citizens of a state are the brethren of the state's enemies; and citizens of an occupying state are members of the occupied nation. No little sensitivity is needed to deal with these interconnections, but that is in short supply with regard to Arabs.

What should we expect? That Israel's Arabs will turn their backs on their brethren who are suffering under the Israeli occupation? That they will react with indifference to the actions of their country in the territories? That they will turn away, like most Israelis, and say it has nothing to do with them? That they will not outstretch their hand to help their brethren? That Israel's actions in the territories will not affect their attitude toward the state?

Israelis of all people should display understanding of this state of affairs. Solidarity with the Jews in the Soviet Union was part of the Zionist ethos in the 1960s and `70s. Israel moved heaven and earth to assist them. True, the Arabs in Israel are in a more complex situation; a state of war exists between their country and their people, but the national sentiment is similar. Nothing can overcome that feeling, and it would be best if Israel took account of it instead of fighting it.

The major suspicions against the Islamic Movement have to do with the transfer of money to the families of Palestinian casualties. The Palestinians who are killed by Israeli soldiers are heroes to their families just as our heroes are, and their families are the war orphans and bereaved parents of Palestinian society. The desire of the Israeli Arabs to assist the families of the fallen is natural and legitimate: Someone has to help those whose homes are demolished and whose loved ones are killed, and it is the right of the Arabs in Israel to mobilize for that mission. Nor does it harm the security of the state.

The contention that support for the families of suicide bombers is a different matter gives rise to several questions: What was the crime of the suicide bomber's family? Why should their home be demolished? The police and the security forces claim that the donations to the families of suicide bombers encourage terrorism. That is just as true as the claim that demolishing the homes of the families prevents terrorism. No one has yet succeeded in proving it. Israel demolishes, but the terrorism continues.

In any event, if there is no suspicion that the heads of the Islamic Movement directly abetted terrorism, it is impossible to accept the crude behavior of the police and the government. Since when is it necessary to mobilize 1,000 police officers against economic criminals? Have the authorities forgotten that the military occupation, which is terrible in itself, nevertheless stops at the Green Line and that all the territory west of that line, including Umm al-Fahm, is an integral part of the State of Israel?