Islamic Movement in Israel

Raed Salah, the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel
Hamed Abu Daabas, the leader of the southern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel

The Islamic Movement in Israel (also known as the Islamic Movement in 48 Palestine) is an Islamist movement that aims to advocate Islam in Israel, particularly among Arabs and Circassians.

The movement was established and led by Abdullah Nimar Darwish from 1971 to 1991, when he was replaced by Ibrahim Sarsur. In 1996 the movement decided to participate in the Israeli parliamentary elections for the first time in history. The decision was controversial. The opposers of the participation, based in Umm el-Fahm branched off and were named the "Northern Branch" while the supporters, based in Kfar Qasim were named the "Southern Branch".[1] The Southern Branch is considered more moderate, while the Northern Branch is considered more radical.[2][3] The northern branch was banned by the Israeli government in November 2015 due to close ties with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, although it has been speculated that it may resurface as an underground organization.


Before the establishment of the Movement

The origins of the Islamic Movement can be traced back to the late years of the Mandatory Palestine. Early organization began in the days of the 1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine, however, it only began gaining momentum after World War II as a result of cooperation between the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini and the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the parent movement of the Islamic Movement in Israel.[4]

During the 1948 Palestine war, the movement cooperated with the Arab Higher Committee, much like the Egyptian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which cooperated with the Egyptian military. As a result, it suffered a major setback following the war as all of its institutions in the newly formed Jewish state were shut down. During the period of martial law on Israeli Arabs between 1949 and 1966, the movement was suppressed and was unable to recover. The institutions that remained in the West Bank were put under the control of Jordanian authorities, who controlled the West Bank. Though a mild recovery took place in the Gaza Strip during the 1950s under Egyptian rule, there too its influence steadily declined until 1967.[5]

The Six-Day War in 1967 caused a resurgence of Palestinian support, both for the Palestine Liberation Organization, which had transformed from a puppet organization to a militant movement, and for Islamic Palestinian movements, among them the Islamic Movement in Israel. The newly created contact between Israeli Arabs and the Palestinian Arabs in the territories occupied in 1967, in which the movement had managed to remain somewhat organized, also contributed to this resurgence. As part of this new contact, members of the Islamic Movement in Israel were sent to study in religious institutions in the occupied territories.[6] At the same time, the government of Saudi Arabia began to allow Muslim citizens of Israel to perform the Hajj to Mecca (all other holders of Israeli passports are barred from entry into that country).

Establishment to split

In 1971, the Islamic Movement in Israel was founded by Abdullah Nimar Darwish after he had completed his religious studies in Nablus.[7] During the 1970s the movement largely focused on establishing welfare services for the Muslim community parallel to those of the state.[8] Among its activities were provision of computers to schools, the establishment of an Islamic football league, marriage arrangement, charity and more.

Parallel to this charity work, several of the heads of the movement, led by Darwish, established an organization called Osrat al-Jihad ("The Families of Jihad"), with the goal of establishing "an Arab Islamic state in Palestine". The heads of the organization were arrested in 1979 following an attempted minor attack on a kibbutz in central Israel, which didn't threat any lives. Dozens of members served sentences of between a few months to three years in prison.[9] In prison, the members decided to continue their work under Israeli law.[10]

During the 1980s, the movement experienced a rapid increase in support.[6]

With the outbreak of the First Intifada, the movement established the 'Islamic Relief Committee', whose purpose was to assist those in need in the occupied territories, and particularly those harmed by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operations.

In 1989, the movement decided to participate in elections for several Arab settlements, in which it won control of six city councils and made substantial gains in other settlements. The most significant victory was achieved by Sheikh Raed Salah in Umm al-Fahm, which subsequently became the center of the movement.

The Oslo I Accord caused a split in the movement whereby the northern branch opposed the agreement (similarly to the position of Hamas), and the southern branch supported the agreement. In 1994, the activity of the movement was felt in the Jewish public when Salah attempted to mediate between Israel and Hamas on the issue of the captured Israeli soldier Nakhshon Waxman.

In 1995, the Israeli Shin Bet closed down the 'Islamic Relief Committee' after it was found that the body had been granting financial assistance to the families of Hamas members. It was quickly reopened under the name 'The Humanitarian Rescue Committee', whose objectives were almost identical. In 1997, the committee was closed a second time (though only for a short period), and subsequently restrictions were placed upon it.

Two separated branches

In 1996, the movement decided to run for the Knesset, following three previous rejections of the idea. The decision cemented the divisions between the northern and southern branches of the movement, the former, led by Raed Salah, arguing that elections should be boycotted. The southern branch, led by Sheikh Ibrahim Sarsur, ran for elections together with the Arab Democratic Party, and since 2000 it runs independently under the name United Arab List.

Ahead of Ariel Sharon's visit at the Temple Mount, the movement stirred agitation among Israeli Arabs. After the visit, both branches of the movement continued to incite their followers to violence in order to "protect the mountain." According to the Or Commission, these calls for violence contributed significantly to the heated spirits of the Arab public and caused a severe worsening in the October 2000 events.

In 2002, the 'Humanitarian Rescue Committee' was shut down, and after a short period 'The Organization of the Humanitarian Rescue Committee' was established in its stead. In the same year Eli Yishai, then Interior Minister, decided to close the newspaper of the northern branch, though the decision was never implemented.

In 2003, the heads of the northern branch of the movement were arrested under suspicion of aiding Hamas, of which two-thirds were released almost immediately. The remaining suspects were detained, but most were released during 2005 after signing a plea bargain. Both the arrests and the plea bargain stirred opposition from both the left wing and right wing camps of Israeli politics. The main offenses of which those detained were accused were financial offenses such as tax evasion, but also contact with a foreign agent and contact with a terrorist group. Ultimately, only the economic offenses were proved true.

These two events, as well as the history of incitement by the movement, have been defining factors in the group's image among the Jewish public, most of which views it as a terrorist organization, and to this day there are calls to ban the movement.

In 2007, in response to Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's comments on the Holocaust, the Islamic Movement (southern branch) leader Abdullah Nimr Darwish "slammed" the Holocaust denial. He also said that antisemitic texts in the Muslim world were contrary to the true spirit of Islam. At the same time, he criticized Israel for not supporting a Saudi peace initiative involving Hamas and Fatah.[7]

In 2012, the Murabitat and Mourabitoun were founded by the northern brunch of the Islamic Movement after fear arose for changes in the current status quo at Temple Mount. In September 2015, the Israeli government banned both groups stating they were a source of incitement and violence.[11]

In November 2015, the Israeli Security Cabinet outlawed the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, based on evidence gathered by the Israel Police and Shin Bet, which showed, among other things, that the movement had close connections with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. The organization's ties with Hamas were a major catalyst for the decision; the northern branch received funding from Hamas-affiliated groups, and collaborated with Hamas in its institutional activities. The decision legally allows any individuals or groups associated with the northern branch to be subjected to criminal penalties, and allows the authorities to confiscate its property. Police subsequently raided more than a dozen of its offices, seizing computers, files, and funds, and questioned several members, including Salah and his deputy. The Israeli government also froze the northern branch's bank accounts and ordered 17 organizations affiliated with the branch to close.[12]

See also


  1. Deskel, Shlomi (9 February 2013). "המדיניות המעשית [The practical policy]". HaAyin HaShevi'it. Retrieved 13 November 2016.
  2. Ettinger, Yair (2004-10-25). "בת ברית מפתיעה לשרון - התנועה האיסלמית" [A Surprising Ally for Sharon - the Islamic Movement] (in Hebrew). Walla! News. Retrieved 2008-05-03.
  3. Bard, Mitchell G:Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam's War Against the Jews, p. 205
  4. Danny Rabinowitz. "התעוררות דתית, פונדמנטליזם ורדיקליזם דתי אצל המוסלמים אזרחי ישראל" [Religious Awakening, Radicalism and Religious Fundamentalism among Muslim Citizens of Israel] (in Hebrew). Matach: The Center for Educational Technology. Retrieved 2008-05-03.
  5. Yisraeli, Rafi (1993). Muslim Fundamentalism in Israel. London: Brassey's. p. 18. ISBN 978-0080417936. as cited at:
  6. 1 2 Raphael Israeli (1999-10-15). "The Islamic Movement in Israel". Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Retrieved 2008-05-03.
  7. 1 2 Barkat, Amiram (2007-02-12). "Founder of Islamic Movement in Israel slams Holocaust denial". Haaretz. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  8. Abu Raia, Isam (1991). "Umnal-Fakhim – Leadership and Organization (MA Thesis)". Johns Hopkins University. as cited at:
  9. Nachman Tal (February 2000). "The Islamic Movement in Israel". Strategic Assessment. Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel-Aviv University. 2 (4). Archived from the original on 24 October 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-03.
  10. Dr. Dan Rabinowitz, Religious Revival, Fundamentalism and Religious Radicalism amongst the Muslim Citizens of Israel
  11. Hadid, Diaa (9 September 2015). "Israel Bans 2 Muslim Groups That Protest at Jerusalem Holy Site". New York Times. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
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