Supreme Court of Israel.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld harsh punishments of up to seven years in jail for three east Jerusalem Arabs who had been convicted of raising money for Hamas’s social welfare programs.
While the courts have issued many decisions on terrorism-financing directly for violent operations, the court said that how seriously to punish Hamas operatives who only did fund-raising for its social welfare arm was a new issue.
The three Hamas fund-raisers, Ahmad Elian, Kaf’ah Sarhan and Yacoub Abu Saeb, had appealed for reduced sentences of either no jail time or jail time closer to two years.
They argued that it was unfair to sentence them to prison terms that were as or more serious than those received by Hamas operatives who raised money for terrorist operations or even were involved in Hamas’s military wing, when they were only involved in Hamas’s social welfare wing.
The three-member panel of Justices Daphne Barak-Erez, Uzi Vogelman and Menachem Mazuz rejected their arguments and upheld their sentences of between 4.5 and 7 years in imprisonment.
Barak-Erez wrote that both confessions to police by another Hamas operative and an expert opinion from “Eric” (a fictional cover name) of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) affirmed that Hamas’s social welfare organizations were created as part of an indirect but concerted, long-term strategy to acquire recruits, funding and other support for Hamas’s military goals.
A Hamas operative who provided information connecting its social welfare and military branches said that to build identity with Hamas it intentionally facilitated visits of Palestinian families to families of prisoners, and sponsored summer camps, sports activities and childcare centers.
The goal was “to help people and to cause them to love Islam and Hamas,” he said.
According to the court, “Eric” said “it is impossible to separate Hamas’s Jerusalem operations” into distinct military and social welfare initiatives, or its Jerusalem operations from Hamas’s West Bank branch responsible for years of terrorist attacks.
The court commented that the relatively long sentences could be attributed in part to the fact that the three operatives, despite their focus on social welfare, had senior status within Hamas and had contacts with high level Hamas commanders overseas.
A fourth Hamas operative, Asraf Aasur, was given a much lighter sentence of only a few months, but this was attributed to his specific circumstances, including a lower rank and that it appeared he did not understand that his fund-raising activities aided Hamas’s wider terrorist goals.