Shades of Azmi Bishara! The Shin Bet has dusted off its “Arab terror” playbook and come up with the equivalent of the failed, but tried-and-true old standard: when you have an uppity Arab who’s bugging the hell out of you but doing so in accordance with the laws of the land, arrest him under secret gag order. Then wait for the uproar from the usual Commie-Arab suspects, and lower the boom on him with a charge of collaborating with the Arab enemy. Since Hamas is under blockade, it’s usually easier to charge someone with spying for Hezbollah or Syria. That’s precisely what the secret police have done regarding Ameer Makhoul and Omer Said, who were each arrested secretly and held in prison for days without benefit of counsel or charges being filed (until today):
The military censor on Monday lifted a gag order on news that two Israeli Arab political activists were arrested last week on charges of spying and contact with a foreign agent from Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
Omar Said, a member of the Balad movement, and Ameer Makhoul, director general of the charity Ittijah (Union of Arab Community-Based Associations) were detained by the Shin Bet security service and police anti-terror squads.
Makhoul was arrested in the early hours of Thursday morning, Said on April 24.
Reports of the arrests circulated widely on unofficial websites and blogs but government censors had banned the Israeli press from reporting them until the gag order was lifted late Sunday night.
Sayid was detained and his house was also searched, police said. The activist, who also practices alternative medicine, has been questioned by police on several occasions over trips abroad in the past few years.
After a group of foreign and Israeli bloggers protested by violating the gag and naming names, the Israeli kangaroo court and Shin Bet have deigned to remove the gag. Now they must file a charge and they’ve come up with a grave one: espionage. This is precisely what they did with Anat Kamm and Azmi Bishara. I wonder whether we’ll even see a charge of funding terror as they attempted to use against Bishara.
One thing the security goons did differently this time is that they prohibited Omer and Makhoul from going into involuntary exile (as Bishara did) by slapping a travel ban on them before their arrest. So the Shin Bet means business this time. They’re going to throw the book at these Arab troublemakers and put them away for years if they can get away with it.
But if the Bishara case is any guide, the security services have at most vague circumstantial evidence which they’ll attempt to formulate in as damaging a way as possible for media consumption. You can already read the damning headlines in places like Jerusalem Post which have convicted the victim-suspects before trial. You’ll read lurid claims backed up with virtually no facts. It will sound bad till you read between the lines and understand that the claims are based on an intelligence agent saying something happened without offering any evidence.
Make no mistake, it is not an espionage case nor a case of a dangerous Palestinian enemy of the state (except as that term is defined by the security establishment). This is a case of Israeli racial profiling. Just as blacks are said to be guilty of driving while black, so Palestinians are guilty of being that strange construct–the non-Jewish Israeli. It’s a concept right wing nationalists like those who dominate this government can’t stomach and would like to eradicate. They don’t yet feel they can do so in any comprehensive way say, by forced population transfer, so they bide their time and attempt to gradually clamp down on any expression of Israeli Palestinian nationalism.
Ameer Makhoul is “guilty” of being the director of a vigorous NGO which defends the social rights of Arab communities. Said Omer is guilty of being a pharmacist and member of the Balad political party (which also was Azmi Bishara’s home). Just as Jews have been accused of having dual loyalties for decades if not centuries, so whenever educated, activists like Makhoul and Omer go abroad to visit another Arab country, the Shin Bet sees treason in it. Who are they seeing? Why are they seeking anything outside Israel? What evil influence are they attempting to import into Israel?
The conclusion of the passage below will tell you how easy it is for the Shin Bet to slap a label of “traitor” on a Palestinian citizen:
The veteran activist is well-known among Arab charities and NGOs and is a regular participant in conference on discrimination in Israel and abroad and has been a virulent critic of government policy.
Unofficial sources say Makhoul was in contact with a number of foreign activists, some with links to groups classified by the government as terror organizations.
Hussein Abu Hasin, a lawyer who has handled several cases of spying charges, told Haaretz that espionage laws in Israel were so wide-ranging that an internet chat or telephone conversation with anyone in an ‘enemy state’ could lead to prosecution.
“The use of these laws has become draconian,” Hasin said.
In other words, Said and Makhoul MAY (emphasis on “may”) have had contacts with someone who may’ve have once had (or still has) some sort of affiliation with Hezbollah. And the mere existence of such a phone call or e mail message is sufficient grounds to label them spies.
This is the annals of the national security state in which any activity deemed undesirable by the regime can be labelled treasonous. And a pliant judiciary (in this case represented by the same judge with extensive prosecutorial experience working for the Shin Bet herself, who banned Anat Kamm) plays a willing role in the repression. Yes, this is what Israel has become. A parody of itself. Really, a shadow of the nation many Jews used to worship for its supposed adherence to democratic values and realization of the vision of a secular Jewish state.
The Israeli far-right seems to have got itself into high dudgeon over this case. The entire time I reported on the Anat Kamm case I hardly heard a peep from them. But she at least was a Jew. Now that I’m defending a Palestinian the knives are sharpened. As I reported earlier, my web host tells me it is very possible I experienced a Denial of Service attack on this blog after Yediot gave Tikun Oalm credit for breaking the gag order regarding the Makhoul arrest. In addition, the Facebook group dedicated to supporting Makhoul has received an influx of abusive right-wing exterminationists calling for hanging the accused/victims even before trial, even before they know of the evidence.
I don’t know what you call this, but it isn’t democracy. It’s some sort of state (or at least a significant portion of its citizenry) poisoned by hatred and ready to betray values of democracy in order to impose order and ethnic supremacy on a balky minority.
The farther down this road the intelligence services take Israel the more divorced Diaspora Jews become. What is this country? Do we recognize it any longer? It isn’t Israel as we thought we knew it? What is it? The State of Judea perhaps, a settler paradise?
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- Israeli-Arabs suspected of spying (news.bbc.co.uk)
- Two Arab citizens of Israel accused of spying for Hezbollah (guardian.co.uk)
- Gag order partly lifted: Makhoul and Said suspected of espionage, contact with Hezbollah agent (promisedlandblog.com)