Leader is expected to receive jail time for praising the actions of three Israeli Arabs who killed two Border Police officers in Jerusalem’s Old City in 2017.
Sheikh Ra’ad Salah, the former head of the northern branch of Israel’s Islamic Movement, was convicted on Sunday of incitement to terrorism and support for illegal organizations.
Salah was arrested during the summer of 2017 after police alleged he had praised a terrorist attack that summer on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and incited violence at the funeral of the three assailants in that attack, who were from the Israeli Arab town of Umm al-Fahm. Two Border Police officers were killed and another was wounded in the incident at the entrance of the Temple Mount.
In court on Sunday, he was accompanied by dozens of supporters.
While Haifa Magistrate’s Court Judge Shlomo Benjo accepted the sheikh’s argument that some of his remarks at the funeral had been mistranslated, the judge ruled that the translation errors did not alter the general meaning of his comments.
“Despite the attempts to give the defendant’s statements a religious character, the conclusion is that the accused expressed praise, sympathy and support for the attacks,” the judge said in delivering his verdict. Freedom of expression “does not mean that a person can say whatever he feels like. There are limits, first and foremost, when it comes to state security,” the judge added.
Salah had received a suspended sentence on a prior conviction and is therefore now expected to serve jail time.
According to the indictment, Salah praised the Temple Mount attackers at their funeral, saying: “At these moments [we need to stand together] as one house, as one family. We take leave of our martyrs … and express the wish that they join the prophets, the righteous ones and the martyrs. At these moments, may we pray that God increases their value in the heavens in paradise.”
On various occasions, Salah allegedly posted calls on Facebook to commit acts of terrorism and other violence. One example cited was a video in which he is seen speaking in the Israeli Arab town of Baka al-Garbiyeh. He made reference in the speech to the controversial extremist Jewish religious book Torat Hamelech, which he said permitted the killing of Palestinian children.
Addressing the children in the audience, he said in part: “We would be happy to go to prison for your sake. We would be happy to carry out attacks and threats for your sake. We would be happy to die as martyrs for your sake.”
In July 2017, Salah allegedly delivered a Friday sermon in Umm al-Fahm to hundreds of people in which he praised two outlawed Islamic organizations, the Murabitat and Murabitun, in addition to people who “never stop guarding, confronting the Israeli occupation, confronting the weapons of the Israeli occupation, and are not afraid of being hit, being injured, being arrested.”
The Islamic Movement’s northern branch was declared illegal in November 2015. Salah headed the branch from 2006 until it was outlawed.