Leader of Israeli Muslim group arrested on suspicion of supporting terror

"Salah spoke in a way that encourages extremism and understanding of violence and despicable murder," says internal security minister.

Leader of the northern Islamic Movement Sheikh Raed Salah gestures after leaving the district court in Jerusalem October 27, 2015. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
Leader of the northern Islamic Movement Sheikh Raed Salah gestures after leaving the district court in Jerusalem October 27, 2015.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the outlawed Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, was arrested on Tuesday morning by police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) for inciting terrorism.
Salah’s arrest in the Umm el-Fahm neighborhood of Mahajina by a contingent of officers from Lahav 433 follows a joint investigation ordered by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit.
Salah, who has served multiple prison sentences for supporting Hamas and inciting terrorism, was elected mayor of Umm el-Fahm three times. He was last released in January to a hero’s welcome in the Arab community after serving a nine-month prison sentence for incitement during an east Jerusalem sermon that provoked followers to commit violence against Jews.
Long considered a terrorist organization, the Northern Branch was banned by the security cabinet in November of 2015, and its male and female members were barred from visiting the Temple Mount, where many were paid to harass, threaten and assault Jewish visitors.
Arab leaders deemed the legislation a “declaration of war,” and Salah and others falsely claimed the government intended to destroy al-Aksa Mosque, leading to the so-called “stabbing intifada,” which engulfed the capital for over a year.
According to police, Salah’s arrest on Tuesday was ordered after he continued, on several occasions, to make inflammatory remarks to the public, a number of which were published in the media.
“An examination of all the material indicates that some of the statements raised the suspicion of the commission of [security] offenses, and as a result an investigation was authorized,” Lahav 433 said.
“Following the developments in the investigation, coordinated with the Haifa District Attorney’s Office, it was decided to bring the suspect to court for a hearing on his case.”
Witnesses to Salah’s arrest said some 20 officers entered his home and seized his computer before taking him into custody.
A spokesman for the Northern Branch called Salah’s arrest “political persecution.”
When the organization was outlawed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was not an indictment against Islam, but rather against Muslim extremists.
“We have nothing against the Muslim citizens of Israel who enjoy full equal rights and the vast majority of whom are law abiding citizens,” he said. “But we will continue to act against inciters and those who encourage terrorism.”
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan expressed hope that Salah will go to prison, pointing out that the Northern Branch was outlawed because of its “extreme ideology that has led to acts of murder and terrorism.”
“Salah spoke in a way that encourages extremism, understanding of violence and despicable murder and, therefore, in my eyes, he is a danger to the public. I hope that this time he will be brought to justice and he will be sent behind bars for a long time,” Erdan added.
Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay said he supports Salah’s arrest, calling him “a man who encourages hatred and tries to heat things up.”
Gabbay called for a “determined battle against inciting extremists to eradicate and cut off the violence,” adding that Israeli Arabs are an inseparable part of the country, and coexistence must be encouraged.
Similarly, Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni tweeted: “Raed Salah is a poisonous, inciting element, in a way that encourages terrorism and harms the fabric of relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel and beyond. I support law enforcement.”
MK Moti Yogev of Bayit Yehudi, on Twitter, called for Salah’s citizenship to be revoked and for him to be deported, saying he takes advantage of his Israeli citizenship to harm the country.
MK Taleb Abu Arar, of the Islamic Movement Southern Branch-affiliated United Arab List, accused the authorities of “injustice and hastiness toward the explosive Arab minority in Israel, actions that are part of intentional and blatant political persecution toward that population and its leaders.”
Abu Arar said there has been an escalation of “malicious arrests” of Israeli Arabs, and expressed hope that their leadership will not be “sacrificed again on the altar of the Israeli media.”