Six years after it was outlawed, and following the recent riots in mixed Arab-Jewish cities in Israel, security officials have made the assessment that the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement is back in action and gaining in strength.
The Israel Hayom newspaper reports that the heads of the Northern Branch are also enjoying support from the Southern Branch (now represented in the coalition by the United Arab List), which also encourages its activities.
Senior Northern Branch officials Sheikh Kamal Hatib and his associate Ziyad Taha were recently indicted – Hatib for incitement to violence and dissemination of material in praise of terrorism and identifying with a terrorist organization; Taha for suspected involvement in a shooting incident and for being found in possession of an illegal weapon.
Another two senior figures – known by the security system as being involved in the recent violence in mixed cities – are Sheikh Yussuf Al-Baz, the imam of the Lod mosque, and Sheikh Mahmud Ma’adi, the imam of the Al-Ramal mosque in Akko.
Al-Baz has made various statements calling the State of Israel an “enemy state” and in the past has invited the former Mufti of Jerusalem, Ikrima Sabri, to Lod. Sabri openly identifies with Hamas, with the Northern Branch, and with the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Sheikh Ma’adi has called those arrested following the Akko riots, “Our youth who are fighting against the enemy.” He has also made numerous statements calling for Arabs to “join the struggle for Al-Aqsa and Sheikh Jarrah.”
Just recently, the head of the United Arab List, Mansour Abbas, visited the protest tent set up following the arrest of Kamal Hatib along with two other members of the Northern Branch who were involved in arranging transportation to the Temple Mount for Muslim prayers under the auspices of the Al-Aqsa Foundation, headed by the deputy head of the Southern Branch, Sheikh Safwat Farrij of Kafr Kassam.
A video produced by the Southern Branch even simulates the expulsion of Jews praying on the Temple Mount by an Arab mob shouting, “With spirit and with blood, we will redeem Palestine” and the replacement of a sign with “Jerusalem” on it with another displaying “Al-Quds” (the Arabic name for the city).
Sheikh Hamad Abu Debas, the head of the Islamic Shura Council, the entity that authorized the United Arab List to enter the current coalition, has congratulated Hatib on his release from prison and called for unity and solidarity between the various Islamic factions in Israel. The two branches of the Movement joined together on the day of remembrance for Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who provided assistance to Hamas in Gaza.
Sheikh Muhammad Salama Hassan of Kafr Raina, one of the senior officials in the Southern Branch, recently wrote: “Palestinians are united between the [Jordan] River and the [Mediterranean] Sea until the occupation is ended,” and “Until our struggle succeeds, we must act with wisdom and logic, according to circumstances, each one acting in his manner and according to his circumstances, his energy and his abilities. And the one who is wise will not need many explanations.”
The main difference between the Southern and Northern Branches is the issue of participation in Israeli national elections. The Northern Branch is vehemently opposed to participation, whereas the Southern Branch is moving toward integration.