My dear son Mohammad El Halabi, who has been languishing in Ramon Prison since 2016, is innocent.
A parent knows the soul of the child. It is what parents give our lives to: to nourish and nurture our children’s bodies and souls. I know my son. He was innocent before the arrest and is still innocent.
How do I know? Why am I so certain? I know this with certainty because innocence is integral to integrity and truth, and my son is a good man, a man of integrity and truth. But he is accused of having diverted millions of dollars of humanitarian aid to Hamas. Yet no proof has been given.
While I do not need proof of Mohammed’s innocence, all the international agencies connected to his case have investigated the financial transactions and have come to the same conclusion. Investigations were conducted by the Australian government and by World Vision. Auditors from top accounting firms checked every detail and determined that not one cent of aid money was channeled to Hamas.
Mohammad was offered a plea bargain of three years’ imprisonment and, of course, he refused. Why?
Why would he not grab the chance to accept, knowing that after three years he would be once again in the arms of his agonized mother, in the arms of his beloved wife, and be able to hold in his arms the treasures of his heart: his five children?
Because he is an innocent man. Because as a man of integrity he would have to admit to the lie that said he was guilty. How then could he face his family as a liar? What great lesson of life would he be teaching his young children? That a lie has more power than the truth? That honor is a bargaining chip?
As my Jewish brothers and sisters are aware, the Talmud states, “The Holy One, blessed be He, hates a person who says one thing with his mouth and another in his heart”
And in my holy faith, we are warned, “Avoid falsehood, for it may appear to be a way of salvation, whereas in reality it leads to destruction.”
Better for Mohammad to suffer the torture and degradation of prison than to walk free suffering the degradation of his soul. I know that Jews understand the dilemma my son faced. His perseverance as well as all other facts show that he is innocent.
Surely, we Palestinians and Israelis share a common humanity that is held together by the principles of truth, compassion, justice and love. My son Mohammad lives by those principles in his personal and family life, and in his dedicated work for the most vulnerable, as the director of World Vision in the West Bank and Gaza. He should be freed on his terms, the truth of his innocence. The only thing holding back his release is the arrogance of those who made the false and unproven claim against him. They are ashamed to admit their mistake, ensure his immediate release and apologize to him and his family.
My son has been in jail for nearly five years and has suffered through a record 155 court appearances without any credible proof being presented. The Prophet Amos pleaded for justice, saying, “Let justice roll down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.”
Mohammad El Halabi is an innocent man.
The writer is a retired chief of the field education program at UNRWA and a resident of Gaza.