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Cynical Israeli timing to ban Islamic Movement

The decision was politically driven as Israel's intelligence service made clear it did not support the move

The Israeli cabinet's decision to outlaw the Northern Islamic Movement is a purely cynical, political decision. It serves the far right agenda of the Netanyahu government and has nothing to do with alleged security considerations. In fact it endangers them.

To outlaw the movement, the cabinet used emergency regulations which were inherited from the legislation of the British Mandate of 1945 -  proof, if ever it were needed, that the Israeli government is still acting as a colonial power not only toward the Palestinians in the occupied territories but also against its own citizens.

The decision was made two weeks ago and yet it was only announced on Monday. Netanyahu thus exploited the global tide of horror at the terrorist attacks in Paris, and the escalating  war on ISIS and radical Islamic groups, as cover for a move which has nothing to do with either.

Israel will try to describe itself as a victim of this Islamic terrorism and outlawing the Islamic Movement within Israel is part of this "global justified war". 

The Paris attacks present the perfect opportunity for Netanyahu to obscure the crimes of the Israeli occupation, which include brutal harassment, restriction of movement and continuous settlements. This week he approved plans to build hundreds of new apartments in East Jerusalem.

These are the optimal conditions to divert the world's attention from the events in East Jerusalem and unilateral changes Israel is making to the status quo in Haram Al-Sharif, changes which incited the current Palestinian uprising. Netanyahu's goal is to position Israel as a member in the international coalition against ISIS. 

The Northern Islamic Movement is a political and religious popular movement with a large network of local and national community-based organisations acting mainly in social services i.e. health, occupation, education. It has been doing this for many years.

It was under heavy intelligence surveillance over the years. On several occasions the NGOs affiliated with the organisation were banned and their properties were confiscated, its leaders arrested and persecuted. Shiekh Raed Salah, the leader of the movement, has been convicted recently for alleged incitement in a speech he made eight years ago, which shows that Israel already has all the legal tools that a state needs to suppress any illegal act done by any person or organisation.

The very fact that the Shabak (Israeli intelligence service) didn't support this decision to ban the movement taken by the cabinet emphasises the political nature of the move. It was done for domestic purposes, to strengthen and solidify Netanyahu's weak coalition. It conveyed a message to the panicked Israelis that the government is pro-active and takes initiatives against "terror", even at the price of brutal violations of basic rights such as free speech and political organisation. It is an aggressive attempt to restrict the political freedom of the Palestinians constituting 20 percent of Israel citizens.

What is astonishing really is how much Israeli Jewish society has become tolerant of such anti-democratic and even fascist acts done by the government toward basic rights, especially against minorities.

Only very few critical voices were raised against this illegal and immoral action taken by the Israeli government. The majority of the Israeli political parties support this action as part of the Israeli national consensus.

The political margins are diminishing, further proof that Israel as the Jewish and democratic state is a lie. If it used to be said that it is democracy only for Jews, even this is not taken for granted any more, with the increasing power and influence of fascist groups in the Israeli Jewish society.

- Basel Ghattas is a member of the Israeli Knesset for the Joint List.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.  

Photo: A man stands at the office of Raed Salah, the leader of the northern wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel, following an Israeli police raid on 17 November, 2015 in the Palestinian town of Umm al-Faham in Israel (AFP).