Arab coalition members condemn police ‘attack’ on Islamist leader

Police say Sheikh Muhammad Hassan Salamah and two family members were detained because they disturbed the peace.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Ra’am party has accused Israeli police of “attacking” a top Islamist Movement figure and his family in Jerusalem Sunday, but according to the authorities, the Islamists were the ones who disturbed the peace.

Ra’am MK Walid Taha condemned the police in a Facebook post in Arabic, writing, “This is a cowardly attack on the sheikh and his family,” after Sheikh Muhammad Hassan Salamah, his wife and his son were forcibly escorted off the Temple Mount.

Taha and the party — which belongs to the current government coalition and is guided by the religious heads of the Islamist Movement — demanded that “the aggressive police officers” be prosecuted for their actions after Salamah, according to Taha, had simply asked a policewoman not to smoke in the al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Also, he stated, “The response of the occupation police is indicative of the racism, extremism and aggression faced by worshipers in al-Aqsa every day, no matter how much the police try to embellish their image by claiming to preserve the freedom of worship and security of the worshipers.”

Those arresting Salamah, he continued, are “no less extremist than the settler groups who enter the compound on a daily basis and desecrate its sanctity.”

The police provided a completely different account on the incident.

“During border police activity in the Old City of Jerusalem, the suspect and his family members began to disturb the peace on the spot, to get angry and shout at the police,” the authorities said in a statement.

“The policemen tried to prevent the escalation of harsh words and calm things down, but the family members attacked the policemen and even tore one officer’s uniform. As a result of their misconduct, they were detained. Later on, they were released by a decision of the officer in charge.”

In a mashup of video clips posted on Twitter by Kan News reporter Suleiman Maswadeh that was shot near the Forgiveness Gate to the Temple Mount in the Muslim Quarter, the middle-aged Salamah can be seen struggling with police officers, having his arm put behind his back and being forced to his knees. A woman, presumably his wife, screams at female police officers around her before she slaps them.

In light of the Islamist party’s anger over the incident and its attitude towards the “occupation,” it is doubtful that Ra’am will vote with the coalition Monday on an important law that must be renewed every five years, which allows Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria to be governed by Israeli civil law instead of military rule.