Saturday, May 15, 2010

CROSSING THE RED LINE : When an Israeli Arab leader is arrested for espionage

by Ben-Dror Yemini, Senior Writer, Maariv Daily Newspaper

In recent years, Amir Makhoul has placed himself on the far end of the spectrum of Arab activists inside Israel. In the legal sense, he remains innocent until proven otherwise. In the public sense, this does not make him innocent of malice and evil. If someone says that he supports the Hamas regime, the firing of rockets at Israel and the dismantling of the State of Israel in order to replace it with a large Palestinian state, there is reason for concern that he might not restrict himself to mere talk. He might also act. We might call it “Bishara syndrome.” Yes, that same Azmi who did more than just talk. He also acted. When question marks arose regarding that evil man, who later fled after having evidently committed treason, some claimed that he was merely a man with challenging opinions. His brain certainly had opinions, and worked feverishly in order to bring about the end of the State of Israel.

This time, too, like a Pavlovian response, Makhoul has been made into a contemporary saint here. After all, he was the director of the Popular Committee for the Defense of Political Freedoms. He was also the director of the umbrella organization of the non-profit organizations in the Arab sector. An important man in the sector, who became more extreme as the years went by. He, too, belongs to the secular branch. He, too, felt it necessary to be holier than the Pope. His identity also went astray toward the Islamo-anti-Semitic branch of the Palestinian movement. He supports Hamas and the rockets. He even published an essay against the “Future Vision” paper, which was a step up in the Arab fight against Israel. It was not enough for him. He wanted harsher statements. He gave a sharply-worded speech at Balad’s convention, the main point of which was opposition to the peace process. And once again, the “human rights activists” have picked the wrong side.

The organization that Makhoul led, Ittijah, was among those that gave rise to the “Durban syndrome,” a fight for the destruction of the State of Israel by means of demonization and delegitimization. During that time, he was also supported by none other than the New Israel Fund. Later on, both sides changed their minds. Less than a year ago, a conference was held in Sakhnin of Jewish organizations that contribute to the Arab sector. The convention was organized by Shatil, which works under the NIF’s sponsorship. Makhoul was there in order to demonstrate “against collaboration with organizations that support the Jewish state.” It turns out that one can be even more left-wing than the political groups that the fund supports.

Where is the line between expressing an abominable opinion and a criminal act? In Israel, freedom of speech is almost unlimited. The statements of people like Bishara, Makhoul and Raed Salah are proof. They have crossed all the red lines. Their preaching in favor of Israel’s destruction constantly puts them in a gray area. Some think that it is better to allow them and their fellow travelers to let off verbal steam so that there will be no need for a worse alternative. It is doubtful whether this assumption stands the test of reality. It is likely that removing all restrictions on incitement by these imams, religious and secular alike, makes them want more and more. For them, words are no longer enough. They need to go over to actions. And sometimes they do. After all, one who supports Hamas “in the ideological sense” will be more available to help Hizbullah in the practical sense.

If this man has crossed the line from hostile public activity to hostile security activity, it will be no great surprise. It is almost de rigueur. Makhoul is following in Bishara’s footsteps. Certainly ideologically. Maybe criminally, too.


Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 4) by Roni Shaked -- Several weeks after the revelation of the Anat Kam affair, once again a gag order concerning a case that has shaken up the security establishment has been lifted. The writer Amir Makhoul and Dr. Omar Radwan Abdu Said, both leaders in Israeli Arab society, were arrested on suspicion of severe security offenses that include espionage for Hizbullah.

Yesterday, after the court partially lifted the gag order, the GSS and the police released a short statement that revealed the strength of the allegations. “The two men were arrested on suspicion of committing severe security crimes, including serious espionage and contact with a foreign Hizbullah agent,” it read. “Their investigation continues.”

The case began approximately two weeks ago Saturday when detectives of the International Crimes Unit arrested Said, 50, a resident of Kafr Kana. Last Thursday, at 5:00 AM, Makhoul, 52, joined him. Detectives raided the Haifa home of the writer and social activist, the brother of former MK Issam Makhoul, and conducted a comprehensive search of his home. Makhoul, who is the director of the umbrella organization of Israeli Arab non-profit organizations and is also a member of the Israeli Arab Supreme Monitoring Committee, the leadership of the Arabs in Israel, was arrested in front of his wife and two daughters.

The detectives confiscated Makhoul’s papers, his own and his family’s computers, and their mobile telephones. Afterwards, the detectives continued the search in his office. Said and Makhoul, whose remands were extended in court, deny the serious allegations against them.

The arrests, which were reported officially yesterday, caused an angry uproar among Israeli Arabs. The Israeli Arab Supreme Monitoring Committee will hold a special meeting today, and the attorneys of the two men will speak before it. Only tomorrow will Makhoul’s attorney, Hussein Abu-Hussein, be permitted to meet with him and hear his version of events. “This is a Kafkaesque situation,” the attorney said. “This phenomenon has no precedent, even in benighted countries.”

Yesterday, Abu-Hussein met with Said for the first time. “He looked broken, pale, sleepless, after having been interrogated for hours upon hours,” he recalled. “These are two academics who have no connection whatsoever to any classified security information. This is a substantial breach of the basic rights of a citizen, who is permitted to be in contact with the Arab world. The value of the classified security information that these two men supposedly possess is not worth what a single one of the 2,000 documents [taken by] Anat Kam, who drinks coffee every morning in her own home.”

Security officials said yesterday that if the allegations proved to be true, this would not constitute an isolated incident. In past years, Hizbullah has made many efforts to recruit Israeli Arabs for its ends, mostly for espionage and the transfer of funds. Over the past three years, repeated efforts have been made to recruit Israeli citizens in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and in Europe to gather intelligence about Israel in general and Israeli figures in particular. Only several months ago, a resident of Tira was arrested and charged with stalking Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.

Hizbullah’s work in Israel is done by emissaries, websites and also by means of direct connection between Israeli Arabs and Hizbullah handlers, usually after first contact has been made by lower-ranking operatives. Hizbullah, which sees Israeli Arabs as an important means to promote its goals, even has a special department for recruiting them.

Ben Dror Yemini, Senior Writer at the Maariv Newspaper in Israek, was born in Tel-Aviv , Israel in 1954, on the eve of Passover. Hence the name, Ben Dror: the son of freedom..

He studied Humanities and History in Tel Aviv University , and later on he studied Law. After his university studies, he was appointed advisor to the Israeli Minister of Immigration Absorption and then became the spokesman of the Ministry.

In 1984, he began his career as a journalist and essayist and published the book "Political Punch" which deals in a critical way with politics and society in Israel. He worked as a lawyer and was a partner in a law firm. Since 2003 he is the opinion-editor of the daily newspaper Maariv and also published many articles and essays in other journals.

In recent years he researched and published "Industry of lies " about publications against the State of Israel and its Jewish character, which he considers false. In this framework, he published a series of research articles about the Israeli-Arab conflict in which he examined the issues of genocide, refugees, Palestinian and Arab capital, the status of Israeli Arabs , Multiculturalism , and the status of women. All these articles included a comparative study about each topic.

According to Yemini, "the modern Anti-Zionism is a politically correct Antisemitism ". He argued that the same way Jews were demonized, Israel is demonized, the same way the right of Jews to exist was denied, the right for Self-determination is denied from Israel, the same way Jews were presented as a menace to the world, Israel is presented as a menace to the world. In his comparative studies, he presents the huge gap between the myths against Israel, from one hand, and the real facts, from the other hand.

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