The Nazareth Magistrate’s Court on Sunday convicted the imam of a city mosque on
charges of incitement to violence and terrorism and supporting a terror
The state attorney’s office filed an indictment against
Nazem Abu Salim in 2010, charging that the imam founded a Salafist-jihadist
group, Ansar Allah Bait Almakdas- Alnasira (Supporters of God
Jerusalem-Nazareth). The group’s ideology was alleged to be identical to that of
al-Qaida and its global jihad movement – and Abu Salim was accused of preaching
and distributing literature about it to his congregants.
Abu Salim, 47,
has been the imam of the Shihab a-Din mosque in Nazareth since 1997. He
delivered Friday sermons to a congregation of around 2,000 people and also gave
sermons in other mosques, including the al-Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem.
prosecution alleged that Ansar Allah calls on its followers to wage jihad in
order to lead Islam to victory and free Jerusalem from what it says is a
Abu Salim, who has been held under house arrest
since the commencement of legal proceedings against him in 2010, also
established a website, MUSLIM 48, designed to spread Ansar Allah’s teachings to
a worldwide audience, the indictment said.
Abu Salim expressed solidarity
with the al-Qaida terror group and on several occasions encouraged violence, the
The indictment charged that Ansar Allah has as its
symbol a globe in the shape of the Dome of the Rock topped by a black flag, an
emblem also identified with the Taliban as well as with the radical Islamist
ideologies of the Salafist movement.
The prosecution argued that a group
of worshippers at Abu Salim’s mosque were influenced by the extreme Islamist
ideologies expounded upon in his publications. The group went on to commit
violent acts against Christians and Jews – including murdering a Jewish taxi
driver and attacking Christians.
Other worshippers had become determined
to join al- Qaida’s global jihad and yet others had begun hoarding weapons,
aiming to use them against Israeli soldiers, the prosecution
Abu Salim denied both the charges against him and that the
organization named Ansar Allah exists, saying that the term comes from a Koranic
His lawyer, Taha Osama, argued that the material found on Abu
Salim’s computers was the result of many years of collecting content with the
eventual aim of establishing an Islamic cultural center. Other people had
assisted with the task and Abu Salim had no control over the material downloaded
by those assistants, Osama argued.
However, Judge Lili Jung- Goffer said
that the evidence shows that Ansar Allah belongs to the Salafist Islam movement,
and that the group has about 100 activists and thousands of worshippers and
According to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) website,
the Salafist-jihadist movement is a radical group within Salafism, a Sunni
movement that strives to restore the glory days of early Islam by establishing
an Islamic society under Shari’a law.
In Israel, Ansar Allah is headed by
its founder and spiritual leader – Abu Salim, the judge said.
materials seized, including the flag and the symbol, indicate that the
organization also had the symbolic trappings of a real group, with an ideology,
a purpose and a leadership,” Jung-Goffer said.
Ansar Allah was also
declared an illegal organization by the defense minister in July 2011, the judge
Jung-Goffer also referred to an expert opinion given by
Dr. Sagi Polka of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, who said that the
Ansar Allah’s ideology is to lead jihad for the purpose of establishing a global
caliphate. Polka said that Abu Salim’s website had published materials typical
His attorney argued that Abu Salim had the right to hold the
materials found on his computers because the law permits freedom of
However, while the judge emphasized that freedom of
expression is one of the basic rights of any democracy, including Israel, she
said that right is not absolute and must be weighed against other rights and
Consequently, the penal code prohibits inciting, encouraging
or supporting violence or terrorism, including publishing material that could
lead to violence or terror, the judge said.
Jung-Goffer also said that
the court did not accept Abu Salim’s arguments that his statements praising
al-Qaida leaders, the Taliban and Islamic Jihad were made innocently, and not
out of solidarity with those terror groups.
Abu Salim had also confirmed
to the Shin Bet that he viewed former al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden as a hero
and that he supports Islam’s struggle against the West, the judge
According to the Shin Bet, Salafist and Salafist-jihadist
ideologies are being disseminated mostly in the PA-controlled territories and
the Gaza Strip, but recently have also been spreading on a smaller scale among
Israeli Arabs – and Abu Salim is the ideological leader of the movement in
The Shin Bet has also said that over the past few years, Israeli
security and law enforcement authorities have exposed several Israeli Arab
groups with links to Salafist-jihadist ideology.
On one of these
occasions in 2011, several residents of the Arab village of Daburiya were
arrested after allegedly planning attacks against the local police station. In
2010, Arab youths from Nazareth, inspired by Salafist-jihadist ideologies, were
involved in the murder of Jewish taxi driver Yefim Weinstein.