JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli court on Monday sentenced a radical Islamic cleric to 28 months in prison for “inciting to terror” in a series of speeches he made after a deadly attack in 2017 on Israeli police at a contested Jerusalem holy site.
Raed Salah, head of the outlawed northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, was convicted in November on incitement charges for exhorting others to follow the example of the gunmen who killed the two Israeli policemen in that attack.
The attack, carried out by two Arab citizens of Israel at the Jerusalem shrine known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, triggered a flare-up of deadly violence between Israeli forces and Palestinians.
The cleric has denounced the charges against him as false and said following his sentencing that all the proceedings in the case were “far from the truth.”
Salah has had repeated run-ins with Israeli authorities. He completed a nine-month prison sentence in 2017 for “incitement to violence” and “incitement to racism.”
Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan tweeted that Salah’s sentencing “illustrates that terror supporters and inciters belong in prison for a long time and not in the Knesset,” Israel’s parliament.
He appeared to be referring to a Supreme Court ruling Sunday that struck down a move to disqualify an Arab Israeli lawmaker accused of expressing support for terrorism. The lawmaker, Heba Yazbak of the pro-Palestinian Balad party, denied the allegations.
Salah’s organization, the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, counts an estimated 20,000 members. It has gained popularity by running a network of charities, kindergartens, health clinics and social services — a model established elsewhere in the Middle East and beyond by the Muslim Brotherhood group, which is outlawed in several Arab countries. Israel outlawed the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in 2015, accusing it of inciting Arabs to violence.
Israel’s Arab citizens, who make up about 20% of the population, have citizenship but suffer widespread discrimination in jobs, housing and social services. They have close ties to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and largely identify with the Palestinian cause.