The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) has conveyed its outright condemnation at the conviction of prominent Palestinian activist Sheikh Raed Salah, sentenced by an Israel court to 11 months imprisonment on charges of incitement of violence. He was also handed an additional three-month suspended jail sentence.
Pro-Palestinian supporters reacted with shock outside a Jerusalem court on Thursday, as the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic movement in Israel was jailed over comments made during a 2007 sermon. This came amidst an Israeli offensive to demolish several historic buildings and sites within the compound surrounding Masjid al-Aqsa.
Salah is seen as a key figure and activist amongst those within Israel and the occupied territories, and holds a strong influence amongst the Palestinian masses.
Locally the MJC holds a strong relationship with the scholar, having brought him to the country as part of a delegation several years ago. Reacting to the conviction, President Maulana Ighsaan Hendricks said it was important that Salah not be viewed as guilty of any crime. Rather, it was the occupation on the Israeli side that need be the ones facing conviction, he said.
“I have to place on record that it is not the first time Sheikh Salah has been convicted by an Israeli court. He has been convicted before, and spent a number of years already in an Israeli prison. We are quite familiar with the processes that are followed by the Israelis,” he noted.
Describing the prominent leader as the ‘defender of the position of al-Aqsa’, he urged the local community to show their solidarity and make their voices heard. In the same breath, he recognized the scholar’s resilience in the face of such detentions.
“If there is anything that we must respect and we must value, then it is the resilience of the Palestinian people in this process (of occupation),” he stated.
The sermon in question was delivered in mid February 2007, a week after the Israeli regime began its controversial demolition process. Part of the sermon reportedly included the following excerpt:
“The Israeli establishment wants to build a temple that will be used to pray to God. It is so impudent and such a liar… someone who wants to build a house of God cannot when our blood is still on his clothing, our blood is still on his doors, and our blood is in his food and in his drink. Our blood goes from one terrorist general to another.”
Israeli authorities have given Salah and his lawyers 45 days in which to launch an appeal against the sentence.
Despite this however, Hendricks said any such process would have little effect within the Israeli judicial system.
He added that such a conviction would play into the aspirations of the Israeli settlers.
“By removing Sheikh Raed Salah from the equation, they may believe that they will weaken the Palestinian struggle. Instead we have seen the contrary,” he said.
Sheikh Salah’s lawyers have indicated their intention to contest the sentence. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)