5 Arab Israelis Indicted with Solidarity Intifada
Five Arab Israelis Indicted with Solidarity with Intifada
The Haifa District Court on Tuesday charged the leaders of the largest political organization among Arab Israelis with funneling cash to the Islamic Resistance Movement “Hamas” in the occupied Palestinian Territory, and having contacts with an Iranian agent in Lebanon, in a move the main defendant Sheikh Raed Salah described as “meant to silence the entire Arab community.”
Israel’s Palestinian citizens, who make up a disproportionate segment of the country’s poor, have long complained of systematic discrimination by Israeli governments.
The 1.2 million community accounts for 19% of Israel’s total population. They are Palestinian Arabs who managed to stay on when the state of Israel was created on their homeland in 1948.
Friction between the government and the Arab community has increased sharply since the outbreak of Palestinian Intifada (uprising) against the 36-year-old Israeli occupation in September 2000, particularly after 13 Palestinians were killed by Israeli police in anti-government protests that year.
Since the start of the Intifada about 30 Arab Israelis have been arrested for collaborating with Palestinian anti-occupation groups.
Several Israeli Arab leaders have said the trial is meant to intimidate Israel’s Arab community.
''This is a blow to the entire Arab community,'' Salah shouted as he entered the court. ''It is meant to silence the entire Arab community.''
“This is not a fair indictment. This is a religious harassment and a political discrimination,” he added.
Five Israeli Arabs belonging to the Israeli Islamic Movement were charged on Tuesday with alleged funding of Hamas.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s office accused Iranian intelligence of involvement in the case.
Four of the accused, including the leader of the movement, Sheikh Raed Salah, were charged with “belonging to a terrorist organization,” “contacts with foreign agents,” and “plotting criminal acts.”
Only the last two charges were leveled against Suleiman Aghbariyeh, the mayor of the northern Arab Israeli town of Umm el-Fahm.
Other defendants include Mahmoud Mahajna, Tawfik Mahajna and Nasser Aghbariya.
A separate indictment was issued against two non-profit organizations the defendants ran: the Institute for Humanitarian Aid and the Humanitarian Rescue Committee.
The Israeli prosecution “claimed the defendants conspired to create institutions that would raise money from Hamas offices overseas and transfer it to Hamas charities in the occupied Palestinian territories,” Haaretz reported on Wednesday.
The trial comes at a time when Israel and the United States are trying to dry up funding to Hamas, which they have labeled a “terrorist” organization. The European Union says it may declare Hamas a terror organization unless it agrees to halt attacks on Israelis.
The 12-count indictment, filed in the Haifa District Court, said Sheikh Raed Salah and the other four defendants transferred at least $6.8 million from Hamas institutions abroad to Hamas activists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The Islamic movement is also accused by the prosecution of raising up to $10 m in Germany and the United States for Hamas charities operating in the occupied territory and distributing money to the families of Palestinian martyrs and detainees.
"The main point in the charge sheet is that the Islamic Movement is receiving money from illegal organizations abroad with links to Hamas," said defense lawyer Mustafa Tleil.
"I expect that during the next session on July 7, the five will be released on bail," he added.