Israeli court sentences radical Islamic cleric to 28 months


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 flareup 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 earlier 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.

Salah's organization, the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, counts an estimated 20,000 members, but its support is broader among Israeli Arabs and it has has also gained popularity by running a network of charities, kindergartens, health clinics and social services — a model that has been established elsewhere in the Middle East and beyond by the Muslim Brotherhood group, which has been banned in several Arab countries. Israel outlawed the group in 2015, accusing it of inciting Arabs to violence. 

Members of Israel's Arab minority, who make up about 20% of the population, have citizenship but suffer widespread discrimination in jobs, housing and social services.