Amir Makhoul 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy of the Ittijah website)
Relatives and friends of Amir Mahoul and Omar Said, the two Israeli Arabs charged with helping Hizbullah, on Thursday expressed shock over the allegations, saying they are “politically-motivated” and part of a campaign to discredit Arab citizens of Israel.
If true, the serious charges against the two are an indication of a growing process of radicalization among Israeli Arabs.
Hard-line groups such as the Islamic Movement – Southern Branch, Abna al-Balad (People of the Homeland) and the Balad Party (National Democratic Alliance) are largely responsible for the radicalization of the Arab citizens.
Moreover, the fiery rhetoric and actions of some of the Arab Knesset members have led many Arab citizens to relate to Israel as an enemy and not as their own state.
On Thursday, these lawmakers, especially those who came to the Haifa District Court to express solidarity with Mahoul and Said, escalated their verbal attacks against the state and its security establishment.
“The decision to indict Mahoul and Said is directed against the legitimacy of our political and popular struggle,” MK Muhammad Barakei (Hadash) said. “Our masses have endorsed legitimate and legal practices against the racial discrimination and the policy of war and occupation. This onslaught [against Mahoul and Said] is directed against this stubborn struggle.”
Barakei said he and many Israeli Arabs were convinced that the charges against the two men were aimed at silencing the voice of the Arab minority.
Muhammad Kana’neh, secretary-general of Abna al-Balad, condemned the decision to file charges as “terrorism” and “political persecution.”
Several Israeli Arab non-governmental organizations also strongly dismissed the arrests of Mahoul and Said, saying they had been targeted as part of a campaign directed against all Arab citizens.
One of the organizations, Ittijah (Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, is headed by Mahoul. It said the the arrests and the “fabricated charges” won’t deter the Arab citizens and their representatives from pursuing their struggle against discrimination.
Arab Higher Monitoring Committee accused the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and police of “exaggeration” and “fabrication” and called for the establishment of an international commission of inquiry to look into allegations that Mahoul and Said had been physically and mentally tortured during their interrogation.
“We are determined to confront the [anti-Arab] incitement by the authorities and right-wing fascists,” the committee said in a statement. “These unjust and fabricated charges against Mahoul and Said will evaporate.”
The Islamic Movement – Southern Branch, headed by Sheikh Raed Salah,
said the decision to file charges against the two men was aimed at
covering up “violent practices and torture against them.”
The movement also claimed that their arrests came in the context of the
“policy of discrimination against the Palestinian Arab minority,
including house demolitions and land theft.”
Zuheir Andraus, a prominent newspaper editor and a long-time friend of
Mahoul, said the arrests of Mahoul and Said was part of the Shin Bet’s
campaign against Arab citizens who refuse to recognize Israel as a
Jewish and democratic state.
“The Arab minority is also paying the price of Israel’s failure in its
war with Hizbullah in 2006,” he said. “It would be healthy if
decision-makers [in Israel] stopped the current witch-hunt, which is
widening the gap between Arabs and Jews and between the Arab
Palestinians and the state.”