Returning to the days of military rule in Israel

The law that survived Israel’s “constitutional revolution” of the 1990s continues to be employed as a doomsday weapon.

Israeli Arab protesters women shout slogans during a demonstration against the outlawing of the Islamic Movement''s northern branch, in the northern Israeli-Arab town of Umm el-Fahm
It is an act that outlawed a civil, political and religious movement without trial and due process, writes Bishara [Reuters]

For the first time in Israel’s history, a political movement has been declared an unlawful association on the basis of government claims that are not grounded even ostensibly in security rationales, but instead are based on ideological reasons.

The Israeli defence minister’s administrative order outlawing the northern branch of the Islamic Movement on November 17 did not cite any charges that the movement was involved in terrorist activities, financing terrorist activities, receiving funds from dubious sources, incitement to terror and violence, or incitement to racism, as government officials repeatedly claim.

Instead, the order simply stated in one brief sentence that the measure was necessary for the protection of the “security of the state, public safety and public order”.

False accusations

In an interview on the Arab station Radio al-Shams, Gilad Erdan, the Israeli public security minister, explained the reasons for the government’s decision to ban the Islamic Movement, which was executed through a law known as the Defence (Emergency) Regulations of 1945.

Erdan did not mention anything related to security grounds in a proven and substantiated manner. He explained instead that “an organisation does not need to carry out terrorist acts itself in order to be declared an illegal organisation”.

Erdan stated that he views the movement’s ideological platform and activities as problematic, particularly its “false campaign” on behalf of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which he claimed causes “people to go astray and decide to go off on terrorist missions”.

He noted that the Islamic Movement funded transportation for worshippers to al-Aqsa, claiming it did so “in order to shout and create friction with security forces, tourists and visitors”.

He also said that the movement funded Maharjans (festivals) during which it called on people to protect al-Aqsa with their bodies. Erdan said the mosque was not in need of protection.

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“This activity harms coexistence” he added. Of course, Erdan’s view of “coexistence” is one in which Palestinians accept the reality of occupation, racism and oppression in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

His attempts to justify the government’s decision cannot conceal the fact that there is a huge and extremely problematic gap between the government’s “accusations” against the Islamic Movement, and the government’s choice of using a repressive administrative measure to outlaw a major political and religious movement.

The decision taken by the government to circumvent this gapdespite the opposition and reservations of Israel’s General Security Service – demonstrates that the ideology and ideologically based activities of the Islamic Movement are the sole basis for the order.

Arbitrary rules

The government’s accusations are instead merely a facade for an arbitrary political decision designed to suppress a legitimate political and religious movement that represents a broad section of the Palestinian population in Israel.

Israel’s legal framework contains numerous laws that are designed to punish those who call for and employ violence in all forms.

The decision to ban the Islamic Movement must be understood in the historical context of the use of the Emergency Regulations.


For example, the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance prohibits any activity that supports or is identified with an organisation designated as a terrorist organisation, the Prohibition of Terrorist Financing Law prohibits the giving or receiving of funds to or from terrorist organisations and activities, and the Penal Code determines that incitement to violence and terrorism, incitement to racism, and prohibited association and gatherings constitute criminal offences.

Despite these numerous laws – which certainly require investigations, collection of evidence, filing indictments, and a trial – the Israeli government decided to employ a highly draconian and arbitrary tool, the Emergency Regulations, which dates back to the colonial British Mandate of Palestine.

The government invoked this law while voicing very laconic and general accusations, without granting the movement or its leaders the opportunity to defend themselves and their right to freedom of political and religious expression.

The result was an act that outlawed a civil, political and religious movement without trial and due process, and without any evidence or history of security offences that could justify the measure.

In the past, Israeli defence ministers have indeed outlawed the extremist Jewish organisations “Kahane Lives” and “Price Tag” through the Emergency Regulations without justifying the use of the administrative and draconic tool.

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However, unlike with the Islamic Movement, ministers’ declarations were based on the organisations’ direct connections with violent and criminal acts. For example, the “Kahane Lives” movement was involved in the massacre by Baruch Goldstein against Palestinians praying in the Ibrahimi Mosque/Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron in 1994, while the “Price Tag” movement was associated with continuous acts of violence and vandalism against Palestinians, both inside Israel and in the Occupied West Bank.

The decision to ban the Islamic Movement must, therefore, be understood in the historical context of the use of the Emergency Regulations.

Colonial leftover

Besides the fact that these regulations were drafted by the colonial British authorities in order to suppress Palestinian resistance in Mandatory Palestine, and the fact that they serve as a principal tool for sustaining the Israeli occupation in the West Bank, they were employed by Israel for the expulsion of thousands of Palestinian citizens and residents of Israel from their villages following the Nakba of 1948, as well as during the 1950s by designating their villages as closed areas.

The Emergency Regulations were also the basis for the establishment and rule of Israel’s military government over Palestinian citizens of the state, which lasted until 1966.


In 1964, the Palestinian Al-Ard political movement was proclaimed an unlawful association through the regulations. The government’s justification at the time was based solely on security reasons; but it later became apparent during deliberations before the Supreme Court that, in fact, the reasons for this measure were purely ideological.

Now, some 60 years later, the tool that survived Israel’s purported “constitutional revolution” of the 1990s continues to be employed as a doomsday weapon in the ideological war between the Jewish state and the Palestinian people, both against Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinian residents of the territories occupied since 1967.

The writer is the Acting General Director of Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.