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Liberman links Paris attack to local Muslim group

Netanyahu and Barkat send condolences; foreign minister urges tougher stance on northern branch of the Islamic Movement

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, January 4, 2014 (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, January 4, 2014 (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman issued a scathing broadside against a radical Islamic preacher in Israel in the wake of the deadly terror attack on the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris.

“If there is an important lesson that we learn from the terror attack,” Liberman said in a statement Thursday, “it is that extremist groups, which are distinguishable from terror organizations only by semantics and legal minutiae, must be dealt with preemptively. Those who tolerate such movements and organizations in the end pay for this [tolerance] with the blood of many innocents and with a threat to the very democracy that allowed them to function. Therefore, we must not dally any longer or allow the continued activities of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement headed by Sheikh Raed Salah.”

Salah, a firebrand Muslim preacher, anti-Zionist and former mayor of the Israeli Arab city of Umm al-Fahm, served a two-year prison term after a conviction for funneling funds to Hamas. The Islamic Movement’s northern branch, led by Salah, has long claimed that Israel was secretly working to destroy the Muslim shrines on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

“This movement is an inseparable link in the chain that includes the terror organizations of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, al-Qaeda and Islamic State, and over the years its members, led time and again by Sheikh Salah, have demonstrated that they support terror and identify with it,” Liberman maintained on Thursday.

Sheikh Raed Salah, right, head of the Islamic Movement's northern branch, arrives at Jerusalem's Magistrates court after been arrested by Israeli police, on September 3, 2013. (photo credit: Flash90)
Sheikh Raed Salah, right, head of the Islamic Movement’s northern branch, arrives at Jerusalem’s Magistrates court after been arrested by Israeli police, on September 3, 2013. (photo credit: Flash90)

“The northern branch of the Islamic Movement under Salah espouses the exact same values as the perpetrators of the massacre in Paris, and the same intolerance to any criticism or speech that does not fit their extremist values. They constitute a threat to Israeli democracy and to the lives of Israel’s citizens.”

Liberman vowed to “continue to work to push them outside the bounds of the law, and will do so with clear and unambiguous legislation that won’t be cancellable through legal sophistry.”

Israeli leaders sent messages of condolence and support following the killing spree by two suspected Islamist brothers in the offices of Charlie Hebdo.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat called his Parisian counterpart, Anne Hidalgo, on Thursday morning and said, “The residents of Jerusalem understand and share in your pain.”

He added, “We must make sure that terror does not pay. The terrorists must be brought to justice and everyone must understand that the savage attack in Paris was not an isolated event but part of an international campaign of terror.”

As in terror-stricken Jerusalem, the key to overcoming terror is resilience on the part of Paris’s residents, Barkat said.

“The support of the mayor of Jerusalem and the people of Jerusalem is very important to us,” Hidalgo responded, according to a statement from the Jerusalem municipality. “I will share this important message of support with the members of Paris’ City Council and with all of the residents of Paris.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu roundly condemned the attack after meeting Thursday morning in Jerusalem with Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende.

“Yesterday’s murderous attack on free expression clearly demonstrates the disdain of radical Islam for the values we hold dear,” the prime minister said.

“We cherish freedom and tolerance; they worship tyranny and terror. And through this terror they seek to impose a new dark age on humanity. We express profound sympathies to the government of France, the people of France. We extend our condolences to the families of the victims and our wishes for a speedy recovery to the injured,” Netanyahu said.

Police officers and firefighters gather in front of the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris on January 7, 2015, after armed gunmen stormed the offices leaving 12 dead.  (Photo credit: AFP/ PHILIPPE DUPEYRAT)
Police officers and firefighters gather in front of the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris on January 7, 2015, after armed gunmen stormed the offices leaving 12 dead. (Photo credit: AFP/ PHILIPPE DUPEYRAT)

The shooters, he added, “are part of a global movement and this necessitates a global response. I believe that with the strength of our resolve and the unity of our action, we can defeat this threat to our common civilization. And what the battle against terror requires is courage, clarity and consistency. Israel is being attacked by the very same forces that attack Europe. Israel stands with Europe. Europe must stand with Israel.”

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem decided to immediately send back to Paris the Israeli ambassador to France, Yossi Gal, who spent the last few days in Israel attending a conference of Israeli envoys to Europe.

“Upon his return, Ambassador Gal [will meet] with the leaders of the French government, with the leaders of the Jewish community and will express Israel’s condolences [over] the despicable attack in Paris,” ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon said in a statement.

The Paris attack also set off a ruckus between Hatnua leader Tzipi Livni and Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett.

In comments Wednesday in response to the Paris attack, Livni called it “an attack on all the nations of the free world, including Israel. You don’t talk with or appease terror. You fight an uncompromising total war against it – here, in France or anywhere else in the world.”

Speaking at a gathering of students at the College of Management in Rishon Lezion, she insisted that Israel faced diplomatic isolation because the Netanyahu-led government failed to advance peace with the Palestinians.

“It’s not enough to speak confidently about security. You have to know how to rally the world to support the defense interests of Israel – this Netanyahu does not know how to do…. The fact that the Palestinians are taking unilateral steps at the United Nations and are taking the IDF to the [International Criminal] Court in the Hague flows from their understanding that Netanyahu is weak in the world, that he can be defeated there,” said Livni.

Her comments were condemned by Bennett, who was next to address the gathering.

“Today there was a horrible attack in France in which a group of Muslims armed with rifles carried out a killing spree in Paris because of a cartoon that purportedly insulted Islam…. Livni stood here earlier and spoke about occupation, diplomatic isolation. So I ask: Why don’t you get on a plane to Paris to [help them] solve their problems? Maybe you’ll manage the negotiations, offer them a diplomatic horizon, because that’s the solution.”

Bennett compared Israel’s struggle with Hamas and Hezbollah to the wave of attacks by Islamist terrorists in France.

“What do they want? A piece of land?” he asked of Hezbollah. “No. They don’t want us here. We have to wake up and understand this.”

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