Thousands of Israeli Arabs protested Saturday evening in northern Israel over a government decision declaring the northern branch of the Islamic Movement an illegal organization.
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The demonstration, which was organized by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee and took place in the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm, included Israeli Arab lawmakers as well as the movement's leadership, which vowed to continue its activities despite the ban.
"The Islamic Movement is a movement well rooted within the Arab community and it cannot be outlawed with an arbitrary decision," said Sheikh Ra’ad Salah, leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, adding that the thousands of protesters proved that the movement has now been "born again."
"Anyone with eyes in their head knows that this is anti-democratic political persecution," said Israeli Arab MK Yousef Jabareen. "This is just another chapter in the delegitimization campaign against the Arab public," he said, claiming the move was part of what he described as the government's ongoing discrimination against Israeli Arabs.
MK Jamal Zahalka said that the Israeli Arab leadership was united in its opposition to the outlawing of the movement: "An attack on the Islamic Movement is an attack on the entire Arab public and a provocation. Instead of being grateful that our struggle is conducted in a lawful and non-violent manner, they ban and push parts of our public outside the borders of legality, and the ramifications can be dangerous. It's not just evil, but also stupid," he said.
Arab Monitoring Committee chair Mohammad Barakeh also said that the protest was a message to the government that the Israeli Arab community is unified in its objection the decision and that it would continue to struggle against it.
Earlier this month, the security cabinet declared the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel to be an unlawful organization. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon signed the declaration under the authority given him by the 1945 [British Mandate-era] Emergency Rules. The corollary of the cabinet decision is that anyone belonging to this organization, acting in its name or providing it with services will be criminally liable and subject to imprisonment. Any property belonging to the organization can be confiscated.
The Prime Minister’s Office explained the decision saying the Islamic Movement is a faction of the Muslim Brotherhood and “the two movements share an extreme ideological approach and a common goal: to destroy Israel.”
Following this decision, the police and Shin Bet security service seized property belonging to the organization and shut down its offices. Closure injunctions were handed to 17 NGOs that are associated with it in Rahat, Jaffa, Nazareth and Umm al-Fahm.