Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman instructed the young members of his Yisrael Beiteinu party to purchase thousands of copies of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo's latest edition and to distribute them at the Steimatzky bookstore in Ramat Gan, after the chain canceled its launch of the issue in response to pressure from the Israeli Arab leadership.
The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee released a statement on Saturday calling the decision to sell copies at its Ayalon Mall branch was a provocation that offended the sensitivities of Muslims and their faith, not only in Israel but throughout the Islamic world. The latest edition features the Prophet Mohammed on its cover saying "Je suis Charlie," under the headline [translated from French]: "All is forgiven."
MK Masud Ganaim, who represents the Islamic Movement in the United Arab List faction, sent an urgent letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, demanding that he intervene to prevent the sale of the magazine, which Ganaim said could lead to anger among Muslims both in Israel and worldwide, and “no one can predict the outcome."
Meanwhile, the Nazareth-based Al Meezaan Center for Human Rights approached Steimatzky with a demand not to sell the magazine, saying that if it did not receive an answer, it would seek a court injunction.
Steimatzky responded that it supported freedom of expression and had sold Charlie Hebdo for several years, and would continue to do so. However, it added it would not be holding a special event in-store at this point, selling the magazine only via its website, beginning Monday at 5 P.M.
In response to the decision, Lieberman said that Israel could not let itself be "turned into the Islamic State (ISIS)."
"We will not allow extremist Islam terrorize and turn the State of Israel into a state that relents to threats and that harms freedom of expression," Lieberman said, adding that the warning sent by the Arab leadership "crossed another red line."
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