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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Outlawing the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel

Filed under: Israel, Muslim Brotherhood, Palestinians

On November 17, 2015, Israel’s security cabinet resolved to declare the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel as an illegal organization.

Logo of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement.
Logo of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement. Note both the al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock appear

This means that any entity or person belonging to this organization henceforth, as well as any person or group providing financial and other services, or acting on its behalf, will be committing a criminal offense and subject to imprisonment of up to 10 years. It will also be possible to seize all property belonging to the organization.

Critics of this resolution claim it is a draconian measure, relying on Emergency Regulations enacted by the British in 1945. They claim that it is overbroad and sweeping and targets everyone associated with the faction, even if their role has nothing to do with incitement, and as such, would prejudice the social welfare, religious and charity work of the movement.

The critics further claim that the declaration violates constitutionally protected rights to free speech, association, and religion. Anyone suspected of criminal activity of incitement to racism, terror and violence can be prosecuted within the current criminal process with the constitutional protections it affords to defendants, rather than an administrative process that entails civil rights violations on a much broader scope.

The Israeli government justified this declaration explaining that the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, a sister movement of the Hamas terrorist organization, is a separatist-racist organization that does not recognize the institutions of the State of Israel, denies its right to exist and calls for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in its place.

Led the “Al Aqsa Is in Danger” Campaign

The organization has led a mendacious campaign of incitement under the heading “Al Aqsa is in danger” that falsely accuses Israel of intending to harm the Al Aqsa Mosque and violate the status-quo on the Temple Mount. In this context, the northern branch has established a network of paid activists (Mourabitoun/Mourabitat) in order to initiate provocations and acts of violence on the Temple Mount.

The Islamic Movement’s activity has led to a significant increase in tension on the Temple Mount and throughout Israel. A significant portion of recent terrorist attacks has been committed against the background of this incitement and propaganda.
As such, the need to outlaw the organization was considered a vital step in maintaining public security and preventing harm to human life.

The legal grounds for this declaration include evidence of extensive cooperation and coordination of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement with the Hamas terror organization as well as global funding from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Despite having outlawed eight component organs of the Islamic Movement since mid-2014 that actively cooperated with Hamas against non-Muslim visitors on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the parent organization continued to advance such activity, as is evident from reliable intelligence sources.

While Israeli law indeed provides adequate basis for criminal prosecution of those individuals inciting and carrying out acts of racism, terror and violence, the case of the Islamic movement northern branch is far more serious and far-reaching than the problem of individual criminal offenders.

The orientation, motivation, ideology, funding and activities of the northern branch are on the whole openly identified with Hamas and the “Islamic State – Daesh” terror organizations. Their main purpose is to incite mass violence and undermine the basic integrity, public safety and order within Israeli society. Specifically, their incitement has generated the recent wave of terror attacks in the streets of Israel, including stabbings, shootings, and the use of vehicles to run-over by-standers.

Like an Islamic “RICO” Case

Once the basic purpose, funding and orientation of the organization are aimed at harming Israel and its public, then the entire organization, including its funding, assets and properties, must be criminalized in order to enable the state to block funding and to act to prevent further mass incitement. The state will be able to ascertain the extent of connections with enemy states and organizations, conspiracy, money laundering and even espionage.

A comparison may be drawn in this context with action taken within legal systems throughout the world in order to deal with any massive organized crime enterprise or mafia involved in conspiracy, racketeering and other criminal acts. Crime leaders and others involved can be tried for crimes they generated. The 1970 U.S. Federal “Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations” Act, commonly referred to as RICO, provided for extended criminal penalties and civil cause of action for acts performed as part of such an ongoing criminal organization.

While, as claimed by some critics, outlawing an entire organization could affect apparently legitimate charity, welfare or educational activity that may be carried out by it, Israel’s Supreme Court has nevertheless ruled that such activity cannot alter the fact that the movement as a whole is a terror organization that can be outlawed

Hence, this is not merely a situation involving individual criminal offenses and the prerogatives of individual criminal prosecution, but a far wider terror infrastructure threatening public order and safety throughout Israel and hence meriting being declared illegal.