The Muslim Brotherhood in the Israeli government


To what extent is a party whose roots are in the Muslim Brotherhood movement, and whose history is intertwined with the struggle against Zionism and the State of Israel, able to renounce its religious and national goals and to be satisfied with municipal conquests?

This question is particularly relevant in light of the inevitable clashes between Israel and Hamas, which is the sister movement of the United Arab List of Israel (Ra’am).

From the creation of the Muslim Brotherhood in the late 1920s, its founder, Hassan Banna, called the “Palestinian problem” a central issue for the Muslim world and did everything possible to support the fight against Zionism. The Muslim Brotherhood took part in the “Arab Revolt” (1936-39) in Mandatory Palestine and sent voluntary forces to participate in the 1948 war. It is no accident that the opening of the Alliance of Hamas – Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood – quotes Banna’s vow that “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam wipes it out, just as it wiped out others before it. “.

The Israeli Islamic Movement was created in the 1970s by Abdullah Nimr Darwish of Kafr Qassem. At first, the movement focused on charities and dawah (religious awareness) activities such as founding mosques and organizing groups for the Koran and religious studies. In the late 1970s, Darwish established the organization Usrat al-Jihad (Jihad Family), which engaged in terrorist activities in Israel. As a result, Darwish and his comrades were arrested, but were released under the 1985 Jibril Agreement.

From that moment on, Darwish took great care to stress that he was acting within the confines of Israeli law while urging the Palestinians and their supporters to continue the struggle against Israel. The Oslo accords precipitated a split within the Islamic Movement between the southern branch, led by Darwish and Ibrahim Sarsur, which favored participation in the Knesset, and the northern branch, led by Raed Salah and Kamel Khatib, who opposed such participation. In November 2015, the Northern Branch was declared illegal and its leaders put in jail, where they remain. The southern branch, in stark contrast, is now represented in the Knesset by the Ra’am party, which is also part of the ruling coalition.

The southern branch’s support for participation in the Israeli political system was explained in 2006 by Sarsur, then leader of the Ra’am Party, who said: “Our participation in the Knesset elections does not negate our ideology, that rule over land, or at least over Arab and Muslim lands [including what is now the State of Israel], must be an Islamic regime under the leadership of a caliph.

It is therefore not surprising that the southern branch has expressed its open support for the “Palestinian armed struggle against the occupation” in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and for the brotherly Hamas movement in particular. “We are certain that Hamas will lead the Palestinian people towards progress and achievement,” Sarsur said after Hamas’ landslide victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections in January 2006. “The Palestinians elected Hamas to lead them to achievements, not disasters, and we believe that the approach of [Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert aims to push the region down a dark tunnel. The world must honor the decision of the Palestinians.

The journal of the movement, as-Sirat, from its inception to the present day, has offered positive coverage of Hamas alongside anti-Israel expressions and overt anti-Semitism. In December 1989, for example, when Darwish was editor-in-chief of the newspaper, it asserted that “Satan cultivated the assertion of the superiority of the Nazi race over humanity in general. From now on, his descendants claim the superiority of a certain race over all the others. Satan has found his agents, flesh and blood, who joyfully carry out his satanic doctrine. Anyone who respects himself must stand up against Satan and his army. Only the Legion of Faith, when unified, can overthrow its council.

The anti-Semitic motive of Jews as soldiers of Satan appears frequently in the publications of the Muslim Brotherhood, including the Hamas Alliance, usually in the context of the hadith in the great judgment day battle in which the Muslims will wipe out all the Jews on earth.

Leader Ra’am Mansour Abbas’ pledge, when swearing in the Knesset, “to return the occupied lands that have been confiscated from our people” did not come out of nowhere. While for Westerners and Israelis the term “occupied territories” refers to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, captured by Israel during the 1967 war, with respect to Muslim Brotherhood religious scholars (not to mention the movement Palestinian national including the PLO, alongside the overwhelming majority of Israeli Arabs), all Israeli territory is “occupied land”.

Indeed, the ideological differences between the North Branch and the South Branch are minor, as attested in 2011 by Kamel Khatib, deputy head of the North Branch: “At the current stage, there are agreements between the two branches of the Islamic Movement. , and I hope it will take the form of unifying the movement. Especially now that the head of the southern branch, Sheikh Hamad Abu Dabas, has proclaimed that if the price of unifying the Islamic Movement is non-participation in the Knesset elections, then they will not participate.

Since then, significant changes have taken place in the status of the Islamic Movement, the main one being the ban on the northern branch. However, there is still an intrinsic contradiction between the ideology of the Islamic Movement / Raam and its pragmatic activities. So, for example, the Islamic Movement runs the non-profit Al-Aqsa Foundation, which brings worshipers to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to strengthen the Islamic presence on the Temple Mount and prevent Jews from leaving. enter it. The Islamic Movement also sponsors incitement rallies against the suspected danger to the mosque and organizes fundraisers for its upkeep.

During the riots of 2021, the Islamic Movement organized rallies supporting Israeli Arabs in mixed towns against “aggression by state authorities,” and the movement’s websites called for protests (i.e. – say riots) by the thousands in Akko and Jaffa. The southern branch also identified with Hamas during the last Gaza war, when the terrorist organization rained thousands of rockets and missiles on towns and villages in Israel.

The question then becomes how long and to what extent Abbas, as the representative of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Knesset and the Israeli government, will be able to settle for municipal achievements for his constituents while masking the ideological goals that guide his path.

IDF Colonel (res.) Shaul Bartal is an associate researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.

This article was first published by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.


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