Sheikh Raed Salah (C), head of the Islamic Movement in northern Israel..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Jerusalem District Court on Monday convicted Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement in Israel’s northern branch, of racist incitement, granting an appeal by the state.
The conviction was a reversal of an acquittal on those charges by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court in 2013 when that court convicted him of incitement to violence, but acquitted him of racist incitement.
The district court also rejected Salah’s appeal against his original conviction for incitement to violence.
As part of Friday prayer services on February 16, 2007, around 10 a.m., Salah arrived in Jerusalem and gave a speech in the Wadi Joz neighborhood to a thousand people and significant assembled media, the district court said on Monday.
At the time, various work was being done around the Temple Mount that Muslim groups objected to, part in the series of conflicts that erupt from time to time surrounding archeological work, repairs and new building near the Temple Mount.
Salah gave the speech in Wadi Joz as opposed to on the Temple Mount, having been banned by a previous court ruling from approaching within 150 meters of the Old City.
In the speech, he said, “Now we are in this blessed and pure place, a place of blessing and purity, if not for the disturbances and obstruction that has befallen us by the Israeli conquest, which will be removed, please God, just as other such occupations were removed in the past.”
Salah referred repeatedly to the merit of shahidim (“martyrs”), understood to mean those who were killed or committed suicide fighting Israeli and other non-Islamic enemies.
After the speech, the audience erupted and wounded three border policemen.
Based on his words and the immediate impact his words had on the listening crowd, the lower court convicted Salah of incitement to violence.
While “freedom of speech is a supreme value in a democracy, still it is not a freedom without limits and the state is obligated to defend its citizens and security forces from violence or terrorism,” the magistrate’s court said. “Therefore, the state cannot endure statements that call for harming the state and its security forces.”
The prosecution said references Salah made to the medieval blood-libel provided the basis for a separate claim against him for racist incitement, apparently convincing the higher district court.
In his speech, Salah said that he and other Muslims never made their Ramadan bread with the blood of children, adding, “Whoever wants a more comprehensive explanation, should ask what happened to some of the European children whose blood was mixed with flour for use in holy bread.”
Salah’s lawyer had convinced the lower court that Salah’s words on the blood-libel issue were open to multiple interpretations, including to Christian Crusaders killing children.
As a result, the lower court had convicted him of incitement to violence, but not racist incitement.
But the district court said that Salah’s statements were “not made in an empty vacuum, but in a clear context” that was racist against Jews.
Salah has also been arrested on charges relating to rioting he is accused of causing in August and September 2013.
In April 2011, he was detained for interrogation on suspicion of attacking police officers at the Allenby Bridge, connecting the West Bank to Jordan.
In 2010, he was released from prison in Ramle after serving a five-month sentence.
He also served two years in prison on charges of funding Hamas.
Salah famously took part in the 2010 Gaza protest flotilla, sailing on the Mavi Marmara, and was present during the raid by IDF naval commandos that left nine Turkish citizens dead.
In April, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court convicted Salah of interfering with police work.
The court said he went out of control when a policewoman asked to perform a security body search on his wife at the Allenby Bridge, including low-key physical attacks on police in an effort to enter the room where his wife was being checked.