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Israel: Government Declares Northern Branch of Islamic Movement Unlawful

(Nov. 18, 2015) On November 17, 2015, the Israeli government’s Security Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, declared the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel to be an illegal organization. (Press Release, Prime Minister’s Office, Security Cabinet Decides to Outlaw the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel (Nov. 17, 2015).)

The authority to declare an organization unlawful is based on regulation 84 of the Defense (Emergency) Regulations 1945. (The Defence (Emergency) Regulations 1945, PALESTINE GAZETTE No. 1442 (2nd Sup, Sept. 27, 1945), INTERNET ARCHIVE.) These Regulations were issued by the British Mandate authorities in Palestine and absorbed into Israeli law, subject to the changes necessitated by the end of British Mandate rule in 1948 and the establishment of the State of Israel.

According to regulation 84, an “unlawful association” is

(a). … any body of persons, whether incorporated or unincorporated and by whatsoever name (if any) it may from time to time be known, which —

(a) by its constitution or propaganda or otherwise advocates, incites or encourages …

(i) the overthrow by force or violence of the constitution of [the State of Israel] or [its] Government …;

(ii) the bringing into hatred or contempt of, or the exciting of disaffection against, [the Government of Israel] or [one of its ministers] in his official capacity;

(iii) the destruction of or injury to property of [the Government]; …;

(iv) acts of terrorism directed against [members of the Israeli Government] or against [its employees]; or which has committed or has claimed to have been responsible for, or to have been concerned in, any such acts as are mentioned in sub-paragraph (ii), (iii) or (iv) of this paragraph; or

(b). is declared by the [government], by notification in the Gazette, to be an unlawful association, and includes any branch, centre, committee, group, faction or institution of any such body.

(Id., with relevant substitutions for terms such as “the Government of Palestine” with terms referring to the State of Israel and its government; for a complete list of associations deemed unlawful in Israel, see Declarations on Terrorist Organizations, Unlawful Associations and Confiscations Decrees, ISRAEL MINISTRY OF DEFENSE (last visited Nov. 17, 2015) (in Hebrew).)

As a consequence of declaring the northern branch of the Islamic Movement an unlawful association, “any entity or person belonging to this organization henceforth, as well as any person who gives it service, or who acts on its behalf, will be committing a criminal offense and is subject to imprisonment. It will also be possible to seize all property belonging to the organization.”  (Security Cabinet Decides to Outlaw the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, supra.)

The Press Release explains the reasons for the declaration as follows:

For years, the northern branch of the Islamic Movement has led a mendacious campaign of incitement under the slogan ‘Al Aqsa Is in Danger,’ which falsely accuses Israel of intending to harm the Al Aqsa Mosque and violate the status quo. In this context, the northern branch has established a network of paid activists (Mourabitoun/Mourabitat) in order to initiate provocations on the Temple Mount.  This activity has led to a significant increase in tension on the Temple Mount.  A significant portion of recent terrorist attacks have been committed against the background of this incitement and propaganda.  (Id.)

According to the Press Release, the Islamic Movement’s northern branch maintains a close cooperation with Hamas, a similarly outlawed organization, and Israel views the branch as “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.” The Press Release adds that the organization “belongs to radical Islam and is part of the global ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ movement.” Both movements, accordingly, “share an extremist ideology and a common goal – the destruction of the State of Israel.”  (Id.)

The Press Release expressly distinguishes between the general Arab and Muslim population in Israel, “the great majority of which upholds the laws of the state and disavows incitement and terrorism,” and elements such as the northern branch of the Islamic Movement that “drive and support incitement and racist activity, undermine regional stability and cause harm to innocent life.” (Id.; see also Barak Ravid, Israel Outlaws Islamic Movement’s Northern Branch, HAARETZ (Nov. 17, 2015).)