Sheikh Kamal Al-Khatib, the deputy of Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement in Israel's northern branch, said in an interview that the northern branch is against participating in the Knesset elections, because the presence of Arabs in the Knesset only helps to legitimize Israel's actions. He added that the Islamic Movement does not distinguish between Israeli civilians and soldiers, because all Israeli Jews served in the army.
The following are excerpts from the interview, posted on the website islamoinline.net:
The Northern and Southern Branches Are Considering Reuniting
Referring to the years-long schism within the Islamic Movement in Israel, between the northern branch and southern branches, Al-Khatib said that the branches are considering reuniting: "At present, there are understandings between the two branches, and I hope they ripen into a reunification of the Islamic Movement. This, especially since the leader of the southern branch, the honorable Sheikh Hamad Abu Da'abas, has announced that, if the price of reuniting the movement is refraining from participating in the [Knesset] elections, they [i.e., the southern branch] will not participate. This statement enabled us to hold dialogue sessions, which are [currently] underway. I hope all these issues are resolved and we achieve complete unity... At the moment the dialogue is [just] beginning, [but] it is very promising...
"At the same time, there have been nearly 16 years of schism, which have left behind them a series of issues that each branch addresses by means of a different mechanism. Therefore, we will sit [together] and try to find a mechanism for addressing all these issues, and with Allah's help, we will find a joint mechanism..."
The Presence of Arabs in the Knesset Serves None but Israel
Asked why the northern branch is against participating in the Knesset elections, Al-Khatib replied: "The decision [not to participate] was based first of all on the experience of the Arab parties [in the Knesset] – [an experience] that has not benefited the Arab sector or advanced it in any way, and has not [helped it] to attain its rights. On the contrary, there are many Arab parties that enjoyed considerable popularity and support, but after they participated in these elections they lost much of their power base. Another point is that the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, is a media platform and nothing more. The Knesset and its racist laws are meant for the Israeli Jews. Therefore, I think that this experience [of the Arab parties] can be regarded as a failure that is of no benefit to others [i.e., to non-Jews]...
Al-Khatib added: "Our absence and non-participation in the Israeli parliament is more beneficial than [our presence would be], because our absence from this despicable parliament that calls itself democratic can expose the falsity of Israel's claims to democracy." He said further that the presence of Arabs in the Knesset only helps to beautify "the ugly face of Israel's occupation and racism," and elaborated: "Today there are 10 Arab Knesset members. There is a coalition of the Israeli Right and Left, and the Arab Knesset members are on the margins of the political [arena]. Their presence is of no benefit, and has not influenced a single step that these [coalition] parties have taken..."
The sheikh stated that there is no contradiction between the northern branch's opposition to entering the Knesset and its participation in the municipal elections, saying: "The municipal councils we run for are the ones that serve the Arab sector, not the ones that serve the Jewish sector. For example, the Islamic Movement runs the municipality of Umm Al-Fahm... This is an Arab city and we are serving our Arab and Muslim [people]."
Swearing Allegiance to the State of Israel Undermines One's Religious and National Loyalty
Asked whether an Arab Knesset member who swears allegiance to the State of Israel places his Arab identity in doubt, Al-Khatib answered: "We in the Islamic Movement say in the clearest possible way that we do not come out against the Israeli law. However, this does not mean that we are willing to swear allegiance to this state and to defend its Jewish [identity] and its path. Therefore, I think that swearing allegiance [to the State of Israel] does undermine the religious or national loyalty of an [Arab] Knesset member."
The Palestinian Refugees Must Return to the 1948 Territories, Not Only to the West Bank
The sheikh was also asked about the Islamic Movement's position on the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with land exchanges. He replied that the movement would "question the identity and nationalism of any [Palestinian] who accepts this proposal," because it directly benefits Israel, and added: "With regards to the [Palestinian] state, we have a clear position, namely that we support the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. [We also support] the refugees' [right to] return to their original lands from which they were expelled in 1948, not [only] to the West Bank. As for us, we will remain on our own lands and deepen our roots there."
Since All Israelis Serve in the Army, the Distinction between Soldier and Civilian Is Not Valid
Asked about his movement's position on resistance aimed at liberating the occupied lands, the sheikh said: "Clearly, the Palestinian people is [living] under occupation, and a people whose land has been occupied has the right to defend it by all means sanctioned by the international laws and charters and by the divine religions. After 20 years of failed negotiations, our people has the option of defending its land by all the means at its disposal. Israel is the one that initiates the attacks, so the Palestinian people has the right to defend itself and its future and to live in security."
He added: "...Clearly, every Jew [in Israel] is a soldier in the Israeli army reserves, so there is no difference between civilian and soldier. The civilian immediately becomes a soldier when he is called upon [to serve]. Thus, the Jewish society [in Israel] is a military society in its entirety..."
 Islamonline.net, June 29, 2011.