It’s not often that when a defendant is sentenced to do time behind bars he calls out jubilantly. But that is precisely what happened last week when Islamic Movement Northern Branch leader Sheikh Raed Salah – an Israeli who is a former mayor of Umm el-Fahm convicted in the past for collaborating with Hamas – was handed down an eight-month term for inciting to violence in 2007.
Back then, Salah orchestrated riots against archeological rescue-digs and a new pedestrian bridge near the Temple Mount. He accused Jews of “eating bread dipped in children’s blood.” He praised and eulogized terrorist murderers. He threatened anyone who claims any Jewish connection to the Western Wall, “even to just one stone.”
Since then, Salah has been regularly holding “Save al-Aksa” rallies dedicated to the incendiary calumny that Israel is out to demolish the Muslim compound atop the Temple Mount.
His ultra-light sentence inspired him to shout insolently in open court: “Blessed is God – I got off cheap!” He certainly did and therefore his rejoicing. It was not a sarcastic pose. Salah had cause for celebration. Considering his history, he expected far worse.
Not only was Israeli justice incomprehensibly slow, but yet again, it allowed Salah to escape serious penalty despite a long and brazenly escalating record of sedition.
He once more defeated the system and exposed Israel’s lack of deterrence and its utter reluctance to confront him. Hence he can carry on his overt subversion and rabble-rousing with impunity.
Back in 2003, Salah was convicted and briefly jailed on charges of raising millions for Hamas. That year he published the following poem in the Islamic Movement’s periodical: “You Jews are criminal bombers of mosques/ Slaughterers of pregnant women and babies/ Robbers and germs in all times/ The Creator sentenced you to be loser monkeys/ Victory belongs to Muslims, from the Nile to the Euphrates.”
In 2009, Salah urged cheering Arab students at the University of Haifa, which allowed him to speechify on campus, to die as shahids (martyrs) in the war against Israel. He charged that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu “aims to implement plots hatched during his previous term and complete the takeover” of the Temple Mount.
In 2010, Salah was one of the leading participants in the Gaza flotilla, sailing on the Mavi Marmara.
in 2011, Home Secretary Theresa May banned Salah from entering Britain due to recurrent hate-promotion via sermons, lectures and his so-called poetic output. His presence in Britain is “not conducive to the public good,” it was decreed. Salah was subsequently detained in London, after it emerged that he had entered the UK in defiance of the exclusion order.
He, nonetheless, won on appeal because the Upper Immigration Tribunal concluded that Salah is evidently not considered a menace in Israel, whose citizen he is and where he is free to essentially do as he pleases.
This episode is vitally important. What we do here clearly has repercussions abroad. If we brush hate-mongering under the carpet, we cannot expect foreigners to behave more bravely than we do. The bottom line is that while Britain’s home secretary thought Salah was dangerous, Israel prefers permissive lassitude parading as enlightened tolerance. That ought to serve up lots of food for thought among Israelis.
The latest sentence imposed on Salah is a joke and he told us so to our faces.
He has again managed make a mockery of our legal system and law enforcement. Unfortunately, this is not just between him and the judiciary. It affects us all.
Much of this was facilitated by the fact that for years Israel has tolerated Salah’s inflammatory speech and prodigious provocations, as if on the premise that if these were pooh-poohed, they would go away. Instead, however, he gained stature and rose to prominence and popularity at levels that should alarm us, considering his nonstop incitement.
The longer Israel allows Salah to spread sedition with impunity, the greater his spiritual-mentor authority will grow and the more young Israeli Arabs will be swayed by his exhortations to join the procession of shahids to paradise. Making light of Salah’s subversion will not make it disappear. It does not work that way.