(photo credit: Melanie Lidman)
The Jerusalem District Court on Thursday convicted two Hamas politicians who
were holed up for a year-and-a-half at the east Jerusalem office of the
International Committee of the Red Cross office of membership in a terrorist
organization and illegally residing in Israel.
The two men, Khaled Abu
Arafa and Muhammad Totah, were arrested on January 23, 2012, after spending 569
days living in the Red Cross office in the Sheikh Jarrah
Abu Arafa and Totah were elected to the Palestinian
Legislative Council as representatives of Hamas in 2006.
The same day,
then-interior minister Ronnie Bar-On revoked the men’s Jerusalem residency based
on their membership in a terrorist organization.
After protracted court
hearings as the politicians attempted to appeal the decision, the High Court of
Justice denied them residency for the final time on June 20,
Fearing that their arrest and expulsion from Jerusalem was
imminent, they informed the Red Cross that they wished to hold a sit-in protest
on the premises to draw attention to their situation.
Their sit-in at the
Red Cross compound began on July 1, 2010.
Hamas MP Ahmad Attoun also
spent nearly 16 months in the Red Cross office with them but was arrested
separately. Attoun, Abu Arafa and Totah held blue identification cards, which
gave them Israeli residency but not citizenship.
The Red Cross denied at
the time that it offered the politicians a haven.
provided the politicians with a room inside the building where they could sleep
and keep their belongings, a bathroom, electricity for their large protest tent,
and a water cooler. Family members came daily to bring food and
Cecilia Goin, the Red Cross’s spokeswoman for Israel and the
Palestinian territories, told The Jerusalem Post last year that the organization
immediately made the police aware that the three men were staying on its
The Red Cross does not have diplomatic immunity, but police
refrained from entering the compound.
According to the indictment, the
men held frequent strategy meetings with other Hamas politicians and met with
international leaders, distributed propaganda and held regular Friday prayers
with large crowds at their protest tent, erected in the courtyard of the Red