Israeli court sentences Al-Aqsa sheikh to 8 months in prison for 'incitement'

12:00 Sep 26 2016 Jerusalem

Israeli court sentences Al-Aqsa sheikh to 8 months in prison for 'incitement'
Sheikh Omar Abu Sara. Published by Maan News

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- The Israeli magistrate’s court in Jerusalem sentenced 51-year-old Sheikh Omar Abu Sara to eight months in prison on Monday for delivering a sermon at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in November 2014, claiming he “incited violence against Jews.”

A statement from the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners' Affairs said that lawyer Muhammad Mahmoud demanded that the court postpone executing the order until December to allow him to present an appeal.

Abu Sara told Ma’an that he was initially detained Jan. 1, 2015 and spent five days in jail. During his detention, he said that Israeli officers interrogated him about a religious lecture he gave at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City on Nov. 28, 2014, entitled: “Jewish characteristics in the Holy Quran.”

After five days of interrogation, Israeli authorities released Abu Sara and sentenced him to house arrest for six days until legal procedures were completed. He was also banned from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound for 60 days.

Abu Sara denied Israeli accusations and said that his sermon was not racist or incitement, but rather religious teachings and verses from the Quran.

However, Israeli media translated the sermon after a video of it was released, which included statements such as: “I say to the Jews loud and clear: The time for your slaughter has come. The time to fight you has come. The time to kill you has come.”

Abu Sara said after being sentenced: “If my sermon was incitement, then what do you call Israelis calling for the slaughter of Palestinian children, women, and men, who claim that the children will grow up to be terrorists?”

His remarks seemed to refer comments made by Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked -- similar to comments often made by Israel's right-wing media and leadership -- who advocated for the killing of the mothers of slain Palestinians, referring to them ‘snakes.’

“They should follow their sons. Nothing would be more just. They should go as should the physical houses in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise more little snakes are raised,” she wrote in the summer of 2014, just one day before a group of Israeli settlers attacked, beat, and burned alive Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian teenager from occupied East Jerusalem.

Abu Sara’s sentence came as Israel blocked the Facebook accounts of scores of Palestinian journalists, following an agreement between Shaked and other Israeli officials with Facebook to censor content that Israel deemed as “incitement.”

In recent months, Israel has detained scores of Palestinians for social media activity, alleging that a wave of unrest that first swept the occupied Palestinian territory last October was encouraged largely by "incitement." The violence has left 230 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces and settlers, as well as some 32 Israelis killed by Palestinians.

Palestinians have instead pointed chiefly to the frustration and despair brought on by Israel's decades-long military occupation of the Palestinian territory and the absence of a political horizon.

Meanwhile, Israel has banned a number of Palestinians from the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound for their alleged role in inciting violence and tension in the compound.
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