The Islamic Movement in the Area of “The Palestinians of 48″
It is a religious and political movement that works within the framework of Israeli laws. It was established in 1971 by Abdullah Nimar Darwish in the occupied territories and is active amongst the Arabs of 48 (the Arabs who hold Israeli nationality).
The Movement first started in the seventies, when Islamic action spread in Palestine and many youth began practicing Islam again and became directly involved in Islamic organizations in the West Bank. They were affected by several factors, including the Arab defeat in the War of 1967, the Islamic Revolution in Iran, and the reverse of the leftist Arab people’s tide in the area.
The Movement was developed in 1971 by Sheikh Abdullah Nimar Darwish in the Triangle area, which has a majority of Arab-Muslim residents and extends between Kafr Qasim and Umm al-Fahm on the border between Israel and the West Bank.
Sheikh Darwish was arrested in 1981 and sentenced to four years in prison due to accusations of being connected to a secret Islamic Jihad group in the western Triangle village possessing arms and explosives. He was released in 1984 and large numbers of Arabs in Israel continued to join the Islamic Movement until 1989, when the Movement took part in local elections.
The Ideology of the Movement:
The Movement adopted an ideology similar to – if not directly based on – the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. It worked to establish its infrastructure in religious institutes, clubs, health clinics, daycare centers, etc. These facilities became centers for preaching and ingraining Islamic values in Arab youth. Thus, a generation of religious youth with an interest in Islamic activity evolved with the belief that the solution to the Palestinian Issue is found in Islam, which has the solution to all human problems. These youth had hopes of establishing an Islamic country in Palestine which would be ruled by Islamic law and would be part of an international Islamic government.
The Movement calls for a type of equal rights between Arabs and Jews in Israel and supports the establishment of a separate Palestinian state. It also focuses on protecting mosques and Muslim graveyards in Israel and preserving an Islamic identity.
After deciding to participate in the fourteenth Knesset elections in 1996, the Movement split into two group: the northern group of Raed Salah, which opposed entering into the Knesset, and the southern group of Sheikh Abdullah Nimar Darwish and Sheikh Ibrahim Sursur, which has a deputies in the Israeli Knesset. The northern group believes that Israeli democracy will not preserve the Arab-Islamic presence in spite of the split, the southern group continues its direct support of Raed Salah and his companions.
The Men of the Movement:
Sheikh Raed Salah, whom Israel calls “the Leader of the Northern Wing” due to the concentration of his supporters there, is the current President of the Movement. He was imprisoned in Israel early in his political life on accusations of involvement with a group banned in 1981. He was later released and put on house-arrest and was not allowed to leave the city, or to leave his house at night; he was also required to report to a police station once or twice per day. He was imprisoned a second time between 2003 and 2005. Ibrahim Sursur is the President of the Southern Wing and is a member of the Israeli Knesset.
How Israel Views the Islamic Movement:
The Israeli campaign against the Islamic Movement has escalated notably since 1998. This can be seen in the writings and opinions of Israeli politicians and journalists. Journalist Shalom Yerushalmi cited the following excerpts from a report prepared by the office of Prime Minister Ehud Barak on the Movement’s activities:
“The Islamic uprising is still very limited, but it is potentially serious and threatening. The Movement took advantage of the gap the Israeli government left between the weak and the Bedouins, developing a theoretic and practical alternative to the existing authorities. The Movement has connections with different Islamic movements worldwide, including Hamas in Jordan. It attempted to use legal means to achieve illegal ends, including establishing an Islamic state in Israel. The Movement also encourages Arabs in Israel to return to the cradle of Islam by establishing a network of religious, social, and health services in the spirit of the fundamentalist understanding of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
The previous president Benjamin Netanyahu attacked the Islamic Movement saying, “The Islamic Movement in Israel is a cancerous tumor that is growing and becoming an existential threat to Israel.”
1. Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies & Consultations.
2. Taqrib News Agency
3. The Desert Warrior Encyclopedia
4. “What is the Islamic Movement in Israel?” Ahmad Badairi, BBC, 13/3/2007.
5. “The Islamic Movement in Israel and the Conflict over al-Aqsa Mosque,” Shafiq Shaqir, Aljazeera.net, 14/8/2007.
6. “The Horizons of Chasing the Islamic Movement in the Territories of 48,” ‘Adnan Abu ‘Aamir, Aljazeera.net, 5/2/2010.
7. “The Islamic Movement Strikes in Israel… Precursors and Indications,” Ibrahim Abul-Hayjaa, Aljazeera.net, 12/1/2008.
8. “Arab Parties and Movements in Israel,” the Center for Chinese and Asian Studies.