Israeli Islamic Movement Leader Sentenced to 11 Months for Incitement

Sheikh Ra’ad Salah was originally sentenced to eight months in prison but was given a harsher punishment upon appeal. Salah called for an intifada in a 2007 speech.

Ilan Asayag

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Thursday sentenced Sheikh Ra’ad Salah, head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, to 11 months in prison following his conviction for incitement to racism and incitement to violence or terrorism.

The sentence was handed down at the conclusion of a hearing on an appeal filed by Salah’s attorney Avigdor Feldman and the prosecution regarding the Magistrate’s Court’s November 2013 verdict. In the original ruling, Salah was exonerated on the charge of incitement to racism and convicted on the charge of incitement to violence or terrorism, and sentenced to eight months imprisonment plus probation. The prosecution appealed the decision to exonerate the defendant on the charge of incitement to racism, as well the leniency of the sentence, while the defendant’s attorney appealed the decision to convict his client on the charge of incitement to violence or terrorism, as well as the harshness of the sentence.

On November 10, 2014, the Jerusalem District Court unanimously accepted the state’s appeal regarding the defendant’s exoneration on the charge of incitement to racism. The appeal of the conviction on the charge of incitement to violence was rejected by a majority of the panel, and the District Court sent the case back to a lower Magistrate’s Court, to Judge Chana Miriam Lomp.

The indictment against Salah was filed following a sermon he gave in Wadi Joz in Jerusalem during Friday prayers in February 2007. At the time, Salah was prohibited from attending prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque due to a restraining order against him issued by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court. Therefore, he gave his sermon in the Wadi Joz area, before hundreds of people who were also prohibited from entering the Temple Mount.

According to the ruling, the pertinent section of the sheikh’s sermon, for which he was also convicted in the District Court of incitement to racism, comprised his statements about the blood libel against the Jews that has existed for generations: “We have never allowed ourselves, listen carefully, we have never allowed ourselves to knead the bread of the breakfast meal during the blessed month of Ramadan with the blood of children. And if anyone wants further explanation, he should ask what happened to some of the children of Europe, whose blood was mixed in the dough of the holy bread. Dear God, is this religion? Is this what God wants? God will conduct a reckoning with you for what you do ”

He went on to say, “We call upon every Muslim and Arab in the Islamic and Arab world, be it a judge or a scientist or even a party or public institution or faction or people – we tell them, now it is their duty to help the Palestinian people. Now it is their duty to launch an Arab Islamic intifada from ocean to ocean, in support of holy Jerusalem and the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

In her ruling, the judge wrote that freedom of expression is a most fundamental principle of our system of government and law in Israel, and in all democratic countries. However, this does not mean this right is unlimited, or that it may be used to convey messages that harm the social values that are just as important as freedom of expression – values such as human dignity, the right to personal safety and security, and defending Israel’s survival from all who rise up against it and its citizens.

The court did accede to Feldman’s request to delay the incarceration, since the defense intends to file an appeal.

Islamic Movement spokesman attorney Zahi Nujidat told Haaretz in response to the ruling that every day or week that the sheikh sits behind bars would constitute an injustice, and that it is really the occupation and the occupation authorities that should be punished.