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Shaikh Raed Salah will continue to defend Al-Aqsa, even in prison

Shaikh Raed Salah has managed to accomplish what no other Palestinian has been able to do in the Palestinian territories occupied in 1948. In addition to being the protector of Al-Aqsa Mosque, he has also shattered the Israeli dream of "Israelising" the Palestinians in these areas. He did so by creating a bridge to link the Palestinians in Israel to their fellow Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, extending to Palestinian refugees across the world.

He is the most radical in his view of the relationship with the Zionists: no normalisation with the occupation government; no participation in Israeli elections for the Knesset; the restoration of the sanctities in the territories occupied in 1948 (in what is now called Israel); rescuing the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa; no raising of the Israeli flag; and a massive "yes" to the reawakening of the Palestinian identity.

According to the occupation, therefore, he has destroyed decades of Zionist effort to "Israelise" the "Israeli Arabs" and is rebuilding a psychological barrier that Zionist research centres thought had almost disappeared. The Palestinian identity has re-emerged in the occupied cities in Israel; from the Palestinian flag, to the national anthem and even to solidarity with all of the Palestinian issues.

This humble man studied at Hebron University; not only sharia, but also the reality of the occupation. He lived the same life as the people and gained insight into the details of living under occupation. He then returned to his home in Umm Al-Fahm and the territories occupied in 1948 and used it to build a bridge with the West Bank, which grew quickly. The people's feelings and visions converged; Al-Aqsa Fund, which he established, supports thousands of orphans. One of the accusations he has faced from the Israelis — in 2003 — is using it to launder money for Hamas.

The Israelis do not want this bridge to stay on their side of the 1949 Armistice ("Green") Line. They do not want any demonstration in Hebron to be mirrored or supported in the streets of Umm Al-Fahm or Kafr Kana, or anywhere else in Israel. Neither do they want an attack in Jabel Mukaber to be imitated in the Negev. That is why Shaikh Raed Salah is considered to be such a threat to the occupation.

He has been the most visible of Palestinians from the territories occupied in 1948 at conferences held in the Arab world, where he is often the star because of the cause he represents, the sincerity of his presentation and the confidence and trust placed in him by the Arab masses. Shaikh Raed shows them the maps of Israel's excavations under and around Al-Aqsa Mosque; he talks about the Al-Bayariq March Project, the reconstruction of the Marwani Masjid and reviving the Masateb educational classes; and then he leads the people on the Freedom Flotillas heading towards the besieged Gaza Strip.

This humble leader has carried the Palestinian cause to the Arab world in order to scupper the plan to separate the Palestinians in Israel from the Arab world; he also wants to draw the world's attention towards Palestine and Al-Aqsa Mosque. He was a most worthy recipient of the King Faisal International Prize awarded to him in 2013 for his leadership and humanitarian work in the occupied Palestinian territories and protection of the Islamic holy sites.

As a result of all of this, the Israelis have again dropped all pretence of their "democratic" veneer and arrested Shaikh Raed Salah. Nevertheless, he has continued to reiterate his determination to defend Al-Aqsa Mosque: "Even from inside prison. Prison will only make us stronger!"

Translated from Alresalah.ps, 6 May, 2016

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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