Lod imam charged for encouraging murder of police officers

Sheikh Yousef al-Baz also charged for threatening Lod’s deputy mayor.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

An imam from Lod in central Israel, which saw some of the worst Arab rioting during Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021, was formally charged on Thursday for incitement to violence after repeatedly calling upon followers to attack police officers via social media.

Sheikh Yousef al-Baz, 63, a well-known Islamic figure who served as the imam of the city’s Great Mosque for almost three decades, was also slapped with charges for threatening Lod’s deputy mayor.

The indictment alleges that during several consecutive nights of violent riots in Lod, in which synagogues were torched and a Jewish man was killed by Arab rock throwers, al-Baz used his Facebook page to stoke the flames of tension even higher.

He reportedly posted a clip from a movie that depicted a man murdering two police officers, and captioned the video, “The best way to deal with injustice.”

In another post, al-Baz threatened Lod deputy mayor Yossi Harush, who had encouraged a strong police reaction to the rioting.

He wrote that Harush would “pay the price” for his condemnation of Arab rioting, adding that Lod’s Arabs would “easily give up our souls in order to teach you to stop your bullying.”

Hebrew-language media reported that al-Baz has a history of making incendiary remarks on social media, calling Israel an “enemy state” and praying for “death” to the “Zionist occupation.”

During a May interview with Channel 12 News, al-Baz placed the blame for the widespread rioting in Lod on police officers.

“There’s no [incitement] in the mosques…everything that’s happening in Lod is self-defense…everything that happened because of the police,” he said.

According to al-Baz, Arab protesters had been peacefully demonstrating in Lod until the police suddenly “invaded the protest with stun and flash grenades, and the problems started from there…

“When the police started their shameful operation, that directly caused everything that happened,” he said. “We’re just defending ourselves.”

He also blamed the presence of “settlers” (Jewish Israelis) in Lod as a factor for the riots.