Arab Knesset Member: 'Intifada' Connotes a Legitimate Popular Uprising

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Knesset member Aida Touma-Suliman (Joint Arab List), with faction chairman Ayman Odeh, in 2015.
MK Touma-Suliman, with Joint Arab List leader Ayman Odeh, last year. “Revolting against the occupation is a legitimate and natural position," she said.Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv

Knesset member Aida Touma-Suliman (Joint Arab List) said Tuesday that the Arabic word “intifada” refers to a popular uprising and is therefore legitimate.

The statement from her office came in the wake of remarks the previous day by Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran on the appeal by Sheikh Ra’ad Salah, head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, of the charge of incitement to violence.

A panel of three justices voted 2 to 1, with Joubran dissenting, to reject Salah’s conviction, but they did agree to reduce his prison sentence from 11 months to nine months. The justice's remarks, in response to Salah’s call for an Arab-Islamic intifada, were attacked on social media and news websites.

“Despite the violent ‘framing’ that the word ‘intifada’ has received in Israeli society and media," Touma-Suliman said, "in Arabic intifada is an uprising, and an uprising by definition is a popular matter – a matter of struggle and in the case under discussion, a call to defend a holy site [i.e., the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif] that is under occupation."

Moreover, the MK added in her statement, “Revolting against the occupation is a legitimate and natural position and action, according to universal moral standards, according to common sense and according to international law."

Therefore, she argued, “There is nothing wrong with the opinion and position of Justice Joubran, as a senior jurist who is well-versed in international law. What is not natural is that the Israeli government and Israeli public opinion do not recognize that there is an occupation, and that as in any other place, a nation that is under occupation has a right to resist it and to rebel against it.”

Touma-Suliman went on to warn against “any attempt to turn Justice Joubran’s remarks, which were made with the authority of his position, into an excuse for incitement against him.”

In his minority opinion, Joubran explained that Salah’s call for an Arab-Islamic intifada constituted support for Al-Aqsa Mosque. He wrote that the fact that the specific sermon for which the Islamic leader was convicted “was not addressed to a specific, inflamed, political audience, but rather to a general audience throughout the world, decreases the specificity of the call [to incitement] and as a result decreased the chance that the call will lead to a concrete possibility of the commission of a violent act.”

The justice added: “As a rough parallel, just as the universality of the common call for 'world peace' diminishes the practical effect of the call to bring about peace, I believe that there is nothing in the general calls for a 'world intifada' that could lead in a concrete manner to violence.”

The publication of Joubran’s opinion on the Hebrew news site NRG drew responses calling for an intifada against the Supreme Court and “against the enemy,” among other comments.

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