The Israeli court is scheduled to look into extending the detention of the head of the banned Islamic Movement, Sheikh Raed Salah, today. He was arrested on Tuesday morning in a large-scale raid by the police forces. This was done deliberately, as the police could have summoned Sheikh Salah, questioned him and arrested him. However, the major raid, accompanied by a search of the house, was the occupation’s way of sending a clear message to the Palestinians in the territories occupied in 1948 that Israel will be reinstating the methods of military rule, security control and the end of the relative period of “prosperity” and security truce. It is worth noting that Sheikh Raed Salah hasn’t been out of prison for more than a month and a half.
However, the latest arrest of Sheikh Salah did not come as a surprise, contrary to previous arrests. One could even say that it came a little late after the Israeli
Minister of Transportation and Intelligence, Yisrael Katz, called for his expulsion from the country, while Israeli Defence Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, talked about the possibility of imprisoning him as an administrative prisoner. There have also been calls to revoke his citizenship. Such calls are a dangerous sign, especially since they come after the Israeli Minister of Interior, Arie Deri, announced a few weeks ago that the procedures for the withdrawal of Arab intellectual Azmi Bishara’s citizenships are underway, as well as two weeks after the decision was made to withdraw the citizenship of Palestinian Alaa Zayoud from Umm Al-Fahm under the pretext of him running over Israelis near the town of Gan Shmuel last year.
These events and indicators regarding the direction Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is heading are a translation of the repeated violent incitement against Palestinians in Israel, their elected representatives in the Knesset, and non-parliamentary popular and national leaders, including Sheikh Salah, former mayor of Umm Al-Fahm, Suleiman Aghbariyya, and several members and supporters of the Islamic Movement. Lieberman’s recent approval of administrative detention orders for five Palestinians in Israel is a declaration of adopting a security approach in dealing with Palestinians in Israel, especially if they are not involved in public political activity or in political parities and movements that do or do not participate in parliamentary elections.
It is worth noting that the “war” on Al-Aqsa Mosque had not stop until before the outbreak of the recent crisis. Even after banning the Islamic Movement, led by Salah, the Israeli government is still persecuting members of this group and not only by preventing them from entering occupied Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque, but also by framing them with security crimes and continuously detaining them. This is part of the “Al-Aqsa Lovers” case, given their activity in the Murabitoun movements and their organisation of bus trips to Al-Aqsa Mosque.
In this context, we can also consider the arrest of Sheikh Salah to be linked to the lessons the occupation learned from the electronic gates crisis in Al-Aqsa. An Israeli memo issued by the National Security Research Centre, in this context, recommended strengthening coordination with Jordan and seeking to establish cooperation with “moderate” Muslim leaders in return for continuing to fight “the influence of Qatar, Turkey and the Islamic Movement.”
Although the arrest of Salah is exclusively linked to the issue of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa, the activity of Salah and his movement was a source of serious concern for the occupation authorities, especially after the movement was able to organise trips to Al-Aqsa through their Al-Bayariq buses, thus compensating for the absence of the Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza strip. Thousands of Palestinian Muslims from Israel that officially carry Israeli citizenships filled the mosque and the authorities were not able to prevent them or deal with them in the same manner or in accordance with the same procedures used with the inhabitants of Arab villages and neighbourhoods annexed to the city of Jerusalem.
Today, one can observe the occupation’s approach and the direction it is heading in, even during the electronic gate crisis. It is rushing to block the roads in the face of the buses transporting Muslims from Israel and issuing orders banning those the Israeli government suspects are linked to Salah’s movement from Jerusalem, and even those they believe are able to fill Jerusalem with dozens, if not hundreds. Moreover, the developments over the past two years have shown that the ban of the Islamic Movement did not directly lead to stopping the trips to occupied Jerusalem and this was realised by the occupation government recently after continuously blocking buses carrying worshippers to Al-Aqsa Mosque, who, on their way to Al-Aqsa Mosque were financially supporting the city’s economy.
It is most likely that Sheikh Salah’s detention will be extended, as the charges are ready and taken from each one of his sermons, especially those related to Al-Aqsa Mosque. The most important question remains: What is the current Israeli government hiding with regards to its measures to openly restore the security perspective in its dealings with Palestinians in Israel? This question is significant given the number of racist legislations that not only violate the freedom of expression but also restrict the organisation of Palestinian activities during national occasions. The most recent of such legislation is banning the marking of the Nakba and the criminalisation of all activities that consider Israel’s Independence Day as a Nakba.
It has even reached the point of criminalising political work on Palestine in Israel and trying to engineer and control what is permissible and what is prohibited in the context of political statements for Arab MKs. This has occurred on many occasions with MK Hanin Zoabi and Basel Ghattas. This has happened either after each one of these MKs separately participated in the flotillas to break the blockade on Gaza or after the statements each made regarding the right to resist the occupation and their refusal to consider the kidnapping of three settlers in June 2014 a terrorist act (in Zoabi’s case) or when Ghattas called for not attending Israeli President Shimon Peres’ funeral and reminding everyone that he was involved in all the crimes committed against the Palestinian and Lebanese people.
This article first appeared in Arabic on Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 17 August 2017.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.