Israel slaps travel ban on Palestinian former mayor

Palestinian citizens of Israel in Umm al-Fahm demonstrate against political detention in June 2014. The former mayor of the city, in present-day Israel, has been hit with a travel ban.

Omar Sameer ActiveStills

Israel has renewed a travel ban on a prominent Palestinian political leader from the Triangle region of present-day Israel, according to an Arabic-language report at the Arab48 website.

Suleiman Eghbaria, former mayor of Umm al-Fahm and high-ranking official in the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, received his first travel ban in July 2014. Citing “national security,” Israel’s interior ministry has since renewed the ban five times.  

An estimated 1.7 million Palestinians carry Israeli citizenship and live in cities, towns and villages across present-day Israel. According to the Haifa-based legal center Adalah, they are subjected to dozens of discriminatory laws that stifle their political expression and limit their access to state funds.

In addition to his activism in the Islamic Movement, Eghbaria works on the boards of several nongovernmental and civic organizations that work with Palestinians in Israel. The travel ban prevents him from traveling abroad for work-related purposes, according to Eghbaria’s lawyer Omar Khamayseh.

Khamayseh, who serves as director of the Foundation for Human Rights in Nazareth, wrote a letter to the interior ministry calling for the cancellation of the travel ban. Alluding to “strange and inaccurate considerations” listed in the ban order, Khamayseh said that the move “is not motivated by state security,” reports Arab48.  

The ban is an attack on “the Arab community as a whole,” Khamayseh wrote, stating that it will not prevent Palestinian activists from campaigning for the al-Aqsa mosque in occupied East Jerusalem and “will not deter us from communicating with the world and Arab and Islamic charities and associations.”


Israel “exploits” its emergency laws in order “to curb the activities of the Islamic Movement’s leaders,” he wrote, “and these measures are in violation of all international laws.”

Based in Umm al-Fahm and headed by Sheikh Raed Salah, the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel boycotts Israeli elections and rejects the legitimacy of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. For years, Israeli authorities have targeted its leaders and members for arrest, detention and interrogation.

While mayor of Umm al-Fahm, Eghbaria himself was arrested by Israeli forces in 2010 along with eight other members of the Islamic Movement. Israeli police had arrested them “on suspicion of money laundering for illegal groups,” Arab48 reported at the time.

More recently, Israel has mulled efforts to ban the Islamic Movement altogether. In October 2014, Israeli lawmaker Alex Miller – a member of the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party – proposed a bill to outlaw the Islamic Movement at the behest of Avigdor Lieberman, his party’s leader and then foreign minister.

Back in May 2014, hardline Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed forming a “special interministerial committee for Arab sector affairs” designed to “neutralize the extremist factors” by outlawing the Islamic Movement, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported. That committee was not created due to political squabbling within Netanyahu’s cabinet.

Mosque raided

The movement’s leader, Raed Salah, has been arrested by Israeli forces several times. In March 2014, he was sentenced to eight months in prison for “incitement to violence” over a 2007 speech in which he urged Palestinians to engage in an “Islamic intifada.”

Israel’s crackdown on Palestinian citizens of Israel has not been limited to members of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, either.

The renewal of Eghbaria’s travel ban comes just two weeks after Palestinian parliamentarian Basel Ghattas was arrested for his participation in an activist flotilla that aimed to break Israel’s ongoing blockade on the Gaza Strip.

Back in March, Israel’s Central Election Committee voted to ban influential Palestinian lawmaker Haneen Zoabi from participating in the elections. Israel’s high court, however, later overturned that decision.

And earlier this week, Israel’s Border Police were caught on tape as they raided a mosque in Zalafa, a Palestinian village near Umm al-Fahm. The Border Police claimed they had intelligence that “illegal Palestinian workers” from the West Bank were being sheltered in the mosque, but locals denounced the raid, Arab48 reports.

Balad – one of the four parties in the Joint List coalition that represents Palestinians in Israel – blasted the “provocative and cowardly act” in a subsequent statement, Arab48 adds. The party called on Israeli authorities to “stop the growing and repeated attacks on mosques and Islamic and Christian sites in [Palestinian communities in present-day Israel].”  




Sort of reminiscent of the tactic the US State Department used against the late great Paul Robeson, when they refused to issue him a passport.

The more I hear those hypocrites talk about their love of Liberty, Freedom and Democracy the more I want to cry in outrage, laugh in anger and fight for Equality.

Patrick Strickland

Patrick Strickland's picture

Patrick O. Strickland is an independent journalist and frequent contributor at The Electronic Intifada. He is presently working on his first book for the London-based publishing house Zed Books. See his in-depth coverage for EI.