As we await the role MK Mansour Abbas, chairman of the Islamist Ra'am Party, might play in helping form the next Israeli government after having won four seats out of 120 in the last Israeli election, we should know more about the views of this 46-year-old Arab Israeli dentist who is the leader of the southern division of the Islamic Movement in Israel, a branch of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
According to the Israel Democracy Institute, Ra'am advocates the creation of a Palestinian Arab state with Jerusalem as its capital, the demise of the Israeli “occupation,” and dismantling of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. Ra’am seeks the release of Arab prisoners incarcerated in Israeli prisons, and the right of return of Palestinian Arab refugees. The party wants Israeli Arabs acknowledged as a national minority with their rights guaranteed in a constitution. They also insist on ending the disparities in the Arab educational system and constructing industrial zones close to Arab communities.
The Ra’am Charter: Israel is a Racist Occupying Zionist Project
The Times of Israel revealed that the Ra’am charter asserts, “The State of Israel was born of the racist, occupying Zionist project; iniquitous Western and British imperialism; and the debasement and feebleness of the Arab and Islamic [nations]. We do not absolve ourselves, the Palestinian people, of our responsibility and our failure to confront this project.”
With these extreme positions and his leadership in the Muslim Brotherhood, Abbas’ parties insistence that Israel’s Nation State Basic Law be cancelled, which affirms that Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, how does one categorize Mansour Abbas as a moderate?
Though Abbas claims he is willing to work with any faction that will “bring about achievements for our people,” the Ra’am charter declares “there can be no allegiance” to Israel. As a leader in the Muslin Brotherhood, it is essential for us to understand about the Muslim Brotherhood and its objectives.
What is the Muslim Brotherhood?
Hasan al-Banna, an Egyptian schoolteacher and imam, established the Muslim Brotherhood in Ismailia, Egypt in March 1928, to reflect the revival of Islam as the primary basis of individual and collective identity in the Middle East notes Matthias Küntzel, a German political scientist.
The importance of the Brotherhood “to Islamism,” Küntzel said, “is comparable to that of the Bolshevik Party to communism: It was and remains to this day the ideological reference point and organizational core for all later Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda and Hamas.”
The Concept of jihad and Martyrdom
The concept of jihad and martyrdom, which had practically been absent from Islamic teachings, and essentially ignored or regarded as irrelevant by Imams and preachers, was transformed into a fundamental religious principle by Hasan al-Banna.
In 1937, Al-Banna wrote an article about jihad called “The Industry of Death,” noted Abd Al-Fattah Muhammad El-Awaisi, a professor of international relations, and in 1946, the article was reprinted and entitled “The Art of Death.” Al-Banna concluded that, “To a nation that perfects the industry of death and which knows how to die nobly, God gives proud life in this world and eternal grace in the life to come… So, prepare yourself to do a great deed.”
Loss of Confidence in Palestinian Arab Leadership and other Systemic Problems
In “Why Palestinians Will Not Accept Advice from Arabs,” Khaled Abu Toameh, a fellow at Gatestone Institute, points out the problem the Arabs in Israel, Gaza and Judea and Samaria face currently. "The Palestinian leadership has lost its symbolism, even among the Palestinians," declared Abdullah Al-Ghathami, a distinguished professor of criticism and theory at King Saud University. "The Palestinian leadership has lost its credibility in the eyes of the new Arab generation, which is a generation of technology,” he said.” Once, for us the homeland was the whole Arab world. We were all an army of freedom fighters for the Palestinians. We used to accept their mistakes, even their insults because the Palestinian issue was Number 1 for us. Today the new generation thinks differently. The Palestinian leadership is irrelevant. Palestinians needs a young leadership that would be able to address the young Arab generation.”
Adding to the problem that is that Palestinian Arabs are a tribal society. According to AMAN, a nongovernmental organization that attempts to combat corruption and foster integrity, transparency, and accountability in Palestinian Arab culture, “some politicized religious groups, and the undeniable growth of the clans allied with them,” play a significant role in shaping policy in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. The increase and expansion of tribal authority comes with a steep price for developing a consensus. This fact “will weaken official institutions and deepen the existing crisis of lack confidence in these institutions and in the political forces and parties.”
This phenomenon might also enable the rise of populism, the spread of separate local and regional movements; and further intensify the separation of the Gaza Strip from Judea and Samaria. Already, societal and clan pressure have emboldened some groups to create the “authority and influence of representatives of tribal institutions, as an alternative to state institutions.”
In general, the Arab population of the Middle East have remained loyal to their tribe, ethnic group, religious group, or sect observed Mordechai Kedar, Israeli scholar of Arabic culture, and spurned all the philosophies that were introduced to them from the West. The foundation of Middle Eastern culture has always been tribal culture.
A Final Note
Given Ra’am’s refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist, their desire to end the “occupation,” allow displaced Arabs from the War of Liberation into Israel and other demands which would lead to the demise of Israel, one must ask: how can Zionists allow individuals who openly seek to destroy the Jewish state sit with them in any coalition?
Dr. Grobman is the resident scholar at the John C. Danforth Society and a member of the Council of Scholars for Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME)