Jerusalem court convicts Islamic Movement leader for incitement to violence

Sheikh Salah acquitted of racist incitement for 2007 speech; at the time, Salah was banned from approaching 150 meters of the Old City.

Sheikh Raed Salah 311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Sheikh Raed Salah 311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Thursday convicted Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement in Israel’s northern branch, of incitement to violence and acquitted him of racist incitement.
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 around a thousand people and significant assembled media, the court said.
At the time, various work was being done around the Temple Mount that various Muslim groups objected to, 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.
Immediately following the speech, the audience erupted into public disorder, including throwing stones at police officers, and wounded three border police.
Based on his words and the immediate impact his words had on the listening crowd, the 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 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 bloodlibel provided the basis for a separate claim against him for racist incitement.
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 convinced the court that Salah’s words on the blood-libel issue were open to multiple interpretations, including to the Christian Crusaders killing children in Europe.
As a result, the court convicted him of incitement to violence, but not racist incitement.
Salah was recently arrested and is expected to be indicted on charges relating to rioting he is accused of causing in August and September, and is once again banned from entering the Old City.
In April 2011, Salah 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 Israeli 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.