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Jailed Palestinian icon Raed Salah defiant as ever

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By Anees Bargouthi


Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel’s northern branch, began a nine-month jail term on Sunday after being convicted by an Israeli court for “incitement”.

In exclusive statements to Anadolu Agency made shortly before his incarceration, Salah — a longstanding icon of the Palestinian resistance — voiced defiance.

“Prison will not change my longstanding conviction and absolute belief that the defense of Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque is a prerogative for Muslims around the world,” he said.

“They [the Israeli authorities] want to keep me out of Jerusalem and away from Al-Aqsa by locking me up, but I will continue on this path until the [Israeli] occupation’s demise,” Salah added.

The charges on which Salah was convicted relate to a sermon he delivered in 2007 in which he demanded an end to the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem’s iconic Al-Aqsa Mosque and vowed to give his life in defense of Islam’s third holiest site.

Israeli prosecutors had demanded that he be jailed for between 18 and 40 months for the sermon, which he delivered in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem’s Wadi al-Joz neighborhood after the Israeli authorities barred him from entering Jerusalem’s Old City.

In March 2014, Jerusalem’s Magistrates’ Court found Salah guilty of “incitement” and sentenced him to eight months in prison.

Last October, an Israeli district court slapped him with an 11-month jail term — a decision later appealed by his lawyer.

In April, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected the appeal, but commuted the sentence to nine months behind bars.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Salah stressed that Israel’s “racist” practice of killing and arresting Palestinians would not discourage the latter from defending the Muslim holy places.

“I will serve out my jail sentence and then reassume my responsibility to defend my people’s right to resist Israeli racism,” he said.

Leading the charge

For more than two decades, Salah has led the charge in defense of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, leading to frequent attacks and arrests by the Israeli authorities.

“I call on everyone to continue visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque and defending it against incursions by the Jewish extremists and Israeli attempts to Judaize it,” he said.

Salah was born in 1958 in the city of Umm al-Fahm in northern Israel and later studied Islamic Law at the University of Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

He served as mayor of Umm al-Fahm for three consecutive terms between 1987 and 2001.

In 1996, Salah was elected leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, known for holding daily protests at Al-Aqsa — Islam’s third holiest site — against perceived threats to the iconic mosque by the Israeli authorities.

Last November, Israel’s security cabinet outlawed the movement, accusing it of “incitement” and “propaganda”.

“The real face of terrorism and racism is the Israeli occupation, led by [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist government,” Salah said.

“The Islamic Movement is rooted in the conscience of the Palestinian people; it cannot be terminated by racist decisions,” he added.

Raed believes that Israeli policy is aimed at humiliating the Palestinians and forcing them to accept their subjugation by the Jewish state.

“But Israel is mistaken,” he said. “It has yet to realize that the Palestinians will never remain silent in the face of injustice, racism and occupation.”

Thanking Turkey

Salah also thanked Turkey for its historical support for the Palestinian people and their right to live in freedom and dignity.

“Turkey’s people and leaders have always played a significant role in supporting the Palestinians,” he said.

“We will never forget Turkey’s courageous stand in support of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and the besieged Gaza Strip,” he added.

In May 2010, Salah had been on board the Mavi Marmara, one of several ships that participated in a Turkish humanitarian flotilla that sought to deliver aid to the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip.

Before the flotilla arrived to its destination, however, Israeli Special Forces stormed the Mavi Marmara, killed nine Turkish activists, and commandeered the vessel

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