Ameer Makhoul, Israeli-Palestinian community leader, was sentenced by an Israeli court to nine years in prison for allegedly spying for Hezbollah against Israel. The court also added an additional year to his sentence on conditional terms. This was essentially the sentence the prosecution had requested, with the defense asking for seven years. The court, as it almost always is in security cases, proved to be rubber stamp for the State.
Makhoul has two teen-age daughters a third of whose lives he will have missed by the time he is freed. That’s IF he is freed as the State has a habit of extending sentences for prisoners for whom it has special distaste (cf. the recent case of Abdallah Abu Rahme).
They say in a democracy a man is innocent till proven guilty. Well, Makhoul is innocent and wasn’t proven guilty, but he’s still going to prison. So what does that say about Israel’s form of democracy? A democracy perhaps for Jews (unless you’re really uppity like Jonathan Pollak or the Shministim), but for Palestinian citizens? Not so much.
Makhoul is guilty of nothing more than having contacts outside Israel with other Arab peace and environmental activists (NOT Hezbollah agents as claimed). He was the director of a community NGO doing his job as such people do in every democracy in the world without having their lives stolen from them for it.
In fact, what is so laughable about the charges is that the alleged spying happened in Jordan, a state with which Israel has generally cordial relations. The notion that Hezbollah would engage in spying on Jordanian soil or that Jordanian intelligence would allow such activity is preposterous.
And just listen to the chief judge reciting the litany of Makhoul’s “crimes” and ask yourself whether a Palestinian either would have acess to any of this information of would care even if he could:
[Hezbollah] requested that he pass on to them intelligence about the residence of the Shabak chief and arrangements of the security detail at his home, along with the travel arrangements of the security details of the prime minister and defense minister.
Let me parse this for you: the Shabak and Mossad have killed Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese, you name it, in the name of promoting Israeli security. Hezbollah has vowed revenge for these killings (al-Mabouh, Mugniyeh most notably) and has expressly pointed to Israeli leaders as targets. Shabak has no evidence that any Israeli Palestinian has become party to such a plot of vengeance. But it needs to stir the pot of fear and paranoia among Israeli Jews that this COULD happen. So it picks the most ornery, uppity Palestinian leader it can find and chooses to make an example of him. With this it kills two birds with one stone. It justifies its existence to the Israeli Jewish public AND it suppresses the political aspirations of Israeli Palestinians.
Whatever “evidence” was amassed by secret police or offered at trial will never be known. This is the Israeli police state at its worst. This is Israeli “justice.”
My readers who support the Israeli government’s draconian treatment of its Palestinian citizens will point to Makhoul’s “admission” of guilt as proof that Shabak proved its case. Not at all. As the victim’s attorney noted, he knew of not a single case in which a Palestinian security defendant went to trial and was acquited. Never. Not once. Shabak gets its man, every time. So Makhoul was faced with a choice of ten years or a possible life sentence if (or I should say “when”) found guilty. So yes, discretion was the better part of valor.
I want to put those who cheer for this strange justice in Makhoul’s shoes. If you had two daughters you loved dearly, were innocent, and knew you had virtually no chance of beating a rap, would you risk an almost certain life sentence in a vain attempt to stand up for the principle of your innocence?
Ameer Makhoul walks into an Israeli prison cell an innocent man. Instead, J’Accuse. I accuse Shabak of being guilty. Guilty of destroying Israeli democracy. Guilty of poisoning relations between Israel Jews and Palestinians. Guilty, guilty, guilty. Maybe some day Yuval Diskin will serve time himself for the travesties he and his agents have perpetrated in the name of security for Israel’s Jews and the country’s few “good Arabs.”
All around Israel the flames of fading autocratic regimes are raging. Regimes whose rule was supported by the type of heavy-handed torture and running rough-shod over individual rights as exemplified by Shabak. Will it take long before justice comes even to the gates of Jerusalem and Shabak’s prisons?
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.