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Israel Jails Country's Top Islamic Militant

  • Robert Berger

A top Muslim cleric has been jailed in Israel.

Dozens of supporters accompanied Israel's top Islamic militant as he reported to prison for a five-month jail term. Sheikh Raed Salah, an Israeli Arab who heads the radical Islamic Movement, was convicted of leading a violent demonstration in Jerusalem and assaulting a policeman.

Salah is a supporter of Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that rules the Gaza Strip. He has openly called for the destruction of the State of Israel.

His fiery speeches draw big crowds, raising fears among Israeli Jews about growing extremism among the nation's Arabs, who comprise about 20 percent of the population.

Israeli Arab analyst Wadia Abu Nasser believes Jewish discrimination causes alienation among the Arab minority, and that, in turn, leads to radical Islam. But he says there is plenty of blame to go around.

"There is a great frustration growing, unfortunately, amongst Israeli Arabs, not only due to Israeli measures, but also due to the lack of sufficient, wise leadership amongst the Israeli Arab population,said Abu Nasser. "The combination of that is creating, unfortunately, [an] unpleasant reality."

The jailing of the sheikh exposes the divide among Israeli Arabs and Jews. Arabs say it is further proof of Jewish discrimination; Jews say it shows how the nation's Arabs exploit Israeli democracy to promote the Palestinian cause.

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