Israel charges imam with incitement over anti-occupation activism

Sheikh Yusef al-Baz (63) is a prominent religious leader in Lydda (social media).

Middle East Monitor  /  July 8, 2021

After police investigations into claims of incitement, the Israeli Magistrate’s Court in Rishon Lezion charged Sheikh Yusuf al-Baz with incitement in relation to speeches and Facebook posts made against the occupation.

Israeli media reported that Palestinian citizen of Israel Sheikh Al-Baz was ordered to be put under restrictive conditions after his release, including a ban on internet access, international travel and financial fines.

Al-Baz was detained on 17 June over claims of incitement on social media, referring to his posts published during the Israeli offensive on Gaza in May, when thousands of Palestinians in Israel took to the streets in solidarity with the besieged enclave.

“I suggest that you stop your bullies, because your provocation will take us back [to the streets] and you will pay the price for these actions,” Al-Baz wrote on Facebook, allegedly addressing Lod (Lydda) Deputy Mayor Yossi Harush after the violent Israeli crackdown on the city’s residents.

“And as for the war you are threatening us with, Yossi Harush, we promise you that we will easily give up our souls in order to teach you to stop your bullying,” he continued.

Footage of Al-Baz addressing Palestinian citizens of Israel accusing Israel Police of carrying out “dozens of incidents of slaughter” and vowing that Israel will “exit the land” before the Palestinians do, were also referenced.

Al Baz served as imam of Al-Omari Great Mosque in Lod from 1991 to 2018 and still delivers speeches in the mosque and other mosques across Israel.

Commenting on his posts, the 62-year-old said: “That’s my Facebook. I am responsible for it and I stand behind every word that I posted,” stressing that criticizing the occupation is “not incitement”.

According to Israeli media, he was not arrested during the protest in May because of fear that this would have fueled the unrest on the streets.