Israel's Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal by Sheikh Raed Salah, the head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, against a verdict of incitement, but reduced his sentence from 11 to nine months in prison.
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The majority ruling was issued by Justices Elyakim Rubinstein, Anat Baron, with a dissenting view by Justice Salim Joubran.
Salah was convicted a year ago of making a sermon that incited to violence and racism. Joubran felt the verdict should not be overturned but that his punishment should be reduced to six months public service.
Baron and Rubinstein thought only two months should be taken off his sentence. Salah will begin his prison term on May 8.
Salah was indicted three years ago and sentenced last year, 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 his ruling on the appeal, Rubinstein wrote: "The incitement from Salah's sermon jumps off the page. It cannot be misunderstood" but he thought his sentence should be reduced based on what is customary punishment for such crimes.
Joubran wrote that he did not see Salah's remarks as a specific call to violence.
Salah said in response that the ruling was what he would have expected and pointing at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's denunciation of him this month as a "one-man explosive", Salah said he considered himself a victim of discrimination by the Israeli political system.