Israeli Arab villagers shocked by arrest of resident for joining Hizbullah

"We feel marginalized," says Kashkush's friend Mohammed, sitting in his office in Kalansuwa.

arab Kalansuwa 224 88 (photo credit: Abe Selig)
arab Kalansuwa 224 88
(photo credit: Abe Selig)
Khaled Kashkush went to Germany to study medicine, and came back a member of Hizbullah. Such are the allegations against the 29 year-old resident of Kalansuwa, an Arab-Israeli village within "the triangle" - a strip of Arab villages along the green line between Kfar Saba and Netanya - who appeared in a Petah Tikvah District Court on Wednesday charged with contacting a foreign agent with ties to Hizbullah, and disclosing information to the enemy. But in the sleepy village where his father runs a coffee house, Kashkush was spoken of as a simple, quiet man, who helped others and never spoke of radical views, even though he was a devout Muslim who prayed five times a day. "I never heard him say anything radical, not once," said Raed Mohammed, a friend of Kashkush's and a lawyer from Kalansuwa. "He wanted to make a home here, he wanted to get married and raise a family here. Is that what someone in his position would do, join Hizbullah?" But according to the two indictments against him, Kashkush met a Lebanese national in Gottingen, Germany in 2002 named Dr. Hisham Hassan, and did in fact begin working for the Lebanese Shi'ite militia. Hassan heads a German branch of the Orphaned Children Project, which has ties to Hizbullah, and raises funds for the Lebanese Martyrs' Institute, an organization that provides money to families of suicide bombers. Hassan put Kashkush in contact with another Lebanese national, a handler for Hizbullah named Rami Mazen, who is known to security elements by the name Muhammad Hashem. Mazen apparently asked Kashkush to provide him with information on Israel, including the names of Israeli citizens studying abroad, in order to recruit them for Hizbullah operations. According to the charges against him, Kashkush obliged, and received over €10,000 in return for his services. The indictments also state that Kashkush had attempted to get a job at Rambam Hospital in Haifa, where soldiers from the Second Lebanon War were still being treated for their wounds. Mazen also asked Kashkush to identify locations in Israel from maps that had been downloaded from Google Earth, and discuss the political affiliations of Israeli Arabs. Kashkush's arrest underscores a recent spurt in security-related arrests and terrorist activity among the Israeli-Arab population, who security forces say have become an attractive target for recruitment by terrorist organizations. Last month, two Israeli-Arab students were arrested at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem for suspected ties to Al-Qaeda, and the last four terrorist attacks in the country have been attributed to Arabs from east Jerusalem - both Jerusalem bulldozer attacks, a shooting in the Old City, and the attack at the Merkaz Harav Yeshiva. "We feel marginalized," said Kashkush's friend Mohammed, sitting in his office in Kalansuwa. "Israeli Arabs feel as though they're being forced over the green line. I heard Binyamin Netanyahu say at a convention a couple years ago, 'We [Israelis] are not afraid of the Palestinians living in the West Bank or Gaza, we're afraid of the Palestinians living inside the borders of Israel,' So how is that supposed to make me feel? I have Israeli citizenship, am I still a Palestinian?" Others in Kalansuwa were less forthcoming, including Kashkush's father, who sat solemnly inside the family coffee house. "I'm not going to talk to you about my son," the elder Kashkush said. But another friend of the family, who gave his name as Sami, was quite upset. "Who's going to help his family now?" he asked. Is Nasrallah going to give him more money now that he's in jail? No, his life is ruined, and for what? That's why I always say, just keep your head down and work hard," he continued. "There's no need to bother anybody."