Israeli crackdown intensifies against Palestinian political party

Israeli crackdown intensifies against Palestinian political party
2 min read
21 September, 2016
A total of 36 activists and officials have now been detained by Israeli police investigating allegations of fraud and money laundering.
Balad has been the target of repeated Israeli attempts to ban it [Getty]
Another 13 members of a prominent Arab political party have been arrested in Israel on suspicion of fraud.

A total of 36 members of Balad have now been detained, including party officials and activists.

The movement, which represents Palestinians living in Israel, is especially critical of Israeli policy. It has denounced the probe as an attempt to silence Israel's Arab minority.

"The arrests aim to intimidate and scare, nothing else," it said in a statement.

Israeli police, who arrested 23 people on Sunday, said they were investigating fraud, money laundering, and illegal use of party funds.

Members of Balad were accused of creating a mechanism that for years misrepresented "the origin of millions of shekels" obtained from within Israel and abroad, police said.


The New Arab understands four of those arrested on Sunday were released on conditional bail on Wednesday.

The party's most senior member, Chairman Awad Abdel Fattah, has been remanded in custody until Sunday.

The rest remain under police arrest and are due to appear in court later on Wednesday or Thursday, The New Arab's correspondent added.

No MPs were among those detained in the latest wave of arrests.

On Sunday, Balad MP Jamal Zahalka said they faced "baseless accusations".

On Tuesday, a demonstration was held in Nazareth in support of the party. Israel's Arab minority accounts for 17.5 percent of the country's eight million population.

Balad, an acronym for its full name, National Democratic Assembly in Hebrew, is part of the Joint List, a coalition of Palestinian parties in the Israeli parliament.


Balad has been the target of repeated Israeli attempts to ban it under various claims, including supporting "terrorism" and incitement against Israel.

Its three MPs caused outrage among Jewish Israelis earlier this year when they met relatives of Palestinians who authorities say were killed while carrying out attacks.

In response, parliament passed a controversial law in July allowing the expulsion of MPs deemed guilty of racial incitement or supporting armed struggle against Israel.

Analysts have said the law will be extremely difficult to put into practice as any expulsion would require the support of 90 of the 120 MPs.