The head of the outlawed northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, was slated to begin serving a nine month sentence in prison on Sunday.
He left the northern Israeli Arab city of Umm al Fahm in Wadi Ara and arrived at Oholei Kedar Prison near Be’er Sheva at 10 am to begin serving his sentence.
Salah was convicted on charges of incitement to racism and violence in 2013, and again last October, when he was sentenced to an 11-month jail term.
His attorney filed an appeal against the conviction, which was rejected, but on April 18 the sentence was reduced to nine months.
The conviction followed a sermon Salah delivered in 2007 in the Wadi Joz section of eastern Jerusalem.
The radical Islamist is responsible for repeated sermons in which young Muslims are whipped into a frenzy of hatred and then violence against Israelis, using the pretext of “defending Al Aqsa” from the Jews on the Temple Mount.
On Friday he told the Palestinian Authority newspaper Al-Resalah, “Prison strengthens me due to my faith that Jerusalem is a pure right for Muslims and defending it is imperative.” He said that the ‘Israeli aggression’ will accelerate “the end of the occupation of the Holy City. “I will continue [defending Al-Aqsa] until martyrdom. No retreat, whatever the price is. The Islamic Movement [banned in November 2015] is not a simple name, but it has its roots in Galilee, Negev and Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Although the mosque is the third holiest site in Islam, Jews have no intention of touching it. Jews are forbidden to pray anywhere on the Temple Mount grounds surrounding the mosque. Jewish pilgrims visit the compound because it is the holiest place in the world in the Jewish faith, as the site of the past two Jewish Holy Temples of Jerusalem.
Muslims vehemently object to the presence of Jews anywhere on the site, and some Islamic clerics at the mosque seize this opportunity to to stir up trouble. Chief among them is Salah, who told followers at a rally on Friday in Umm al Fahm that he does not fear prison, according to Haaretz; he believes he will emerge ‘stronger than ever.’