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Crackdown On Israeli-Arab Aid To Hamas

Some 800 policemen arrested 14 senior Islamic Movement leaders in their homes last night, in a unique crackdown on the Israeli-Arab Islamic Movement. The 14 will be charged with providing aid to Hamas.

First Publish: 5/13/2003, 11:58 AM

Some 800 policemen arrested 14 senior Islamic Movement leaders in their homes last night. This is the first time such a large-scale crackdown has been made on the Israeli-Arab Islamic Movement. The 14 will be charged with providing aid to Hamas.

Among those arrested is Sheikh Raed Salah, the former mayor of Um el-Fahm and one of the three Arabs who received warnings from the Ohr Commission for their role in instigating the riots of October 2000, which included highway-blockings, bank and post office-burnings, and attempted murder of Jewish motorists. In addition, a report prepared by the Prime Minister's Office back in August 1998 stated that northern Israeli-Arabs, led by Sheikh Salah, were acting not only against the State of Israel, but also against Jews and Judaism, and that his group could become a strategic threat to Israel. A month later, Salah participated and was injured in a day-long violent clash with police.

Another of the arrestees is the Islamic Movement's treasurer, who, it is hoped, will be able to shed light on the way in which funds were funneled from the U.S. to Hamas via the Islamic Movement. The 14 are not accused of aiding terrorist activities, but rather of transferring funds to relatives of terrorists, laundering money, and making contacts with Hamas members. All 14 were brought before a Tel Aviv Magistrates Court today for the extension of their custody. Some 150 Arabs held a prayer-protest demanding their release, chanting, "With spirit and with blood, we will redeem you, Salah!"

The Knesset Interior Committee will hold a comprehensive session next week on the growing involvement of Israeli-Arabs in terrorist activities. Committee Chairman Yuri Stern (National Union) says that up for discussion will be a proposal for legislation to revoke the citizenship of those who engage in or finance terrorist activity. At a meeting of the committee today, Public Security Minister Tzachi HaNegbi said that more arrests are expected in the coming days, and that evidence will soon emerge that will prove the justification of the arrests.

"The world has learned since 9/11 that in the war against terrorist organizations," HaNegbi said, "there can be no differentiation between their military infrastructures and the economic infrastructures." He emphasized that the vast majority of Israeli-Arabs are not engaged in terrorism.

Police raided Islamic Movement offices in Nazareth eight years ago after learning that monies had been funneled to Hamas from Europe and the U.S. The movement's newspaper and several other institutions were closed down, though the paper continues to appear because of legal technicalities. Though there have been calls to outlaw the entire movement, others say that this would not work, as it already has 150,000-200,000 members.