Israeli Arabs protest in Haifa (archive)
Israeli Arabs protest in Haifa (archive)Israel news photo: Flash 90

An Israeli-Arab human rights activist has confessed to spying for the Hizbullah terrorist organization.

Amir Makhoul headed the Israeli-Arab organization Ittijah, a group that has rejected anti-terror clauses in funding agreements. The Haifa-based organization, established in 1985, describes itself as “the network for Palestinian non-governmental organizations in Israel.” At present, his brother Issa – a former Israeli-Arab Knesset Member – heads the organization.

Amir Makhoul, who was convicted Wednesday, confessed to charges of espionage and aggravated espionage, according to a statement issued by the Justice Ministry. Under the terms of a plea bargain deal, Makhoul also pleaded guilty to charges to “contact with a foreign agent and conspiracy to aid the enemy in time of war.”

Sentencing will take place in December, with the prosecution seeking a prison term of 10 years, and defense attorneys hoping for a maximum seven-year sentence.

Makhoul was arrested by the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) earlier in the year, together with Omar Radwan Said of Kafr Kana. Both were accused of spying for the Lebanese-based terrorist group, and both denied the accusations at the time.

The arrests set off a wave of angry protests in Haifa's Arab community. The Arab advocacy group Adalah charged at the time that the arrests were politically motivated because the suspects were not members of mainstream political parties.

Prosecutors for the state said that Makhoul's admission has put an end to accusations of political persecution.

Said is a member of the Balad political party, once headed by former Knesset Member Azmi Bishara, who fled Israel to avoid indictment on charges of selling classified information to Hizbullah during the 2006 Second Lebanon War. Said's attorney and state prosecutors reached a plea bargain deal in which Said was sentenced to seven months in prison on charges of “working for an illegal organization.” Said completed his jail term and was freed last month.

During Israel's 3-week Operation Cast Lead counter terrorist war in 2008-2009 against the Hamas rulers of Gaza, Ittijah issued a statement accusing Israel of conducting a campaign of genocide. 

In an interview with researcher Jonathan Dahoah-HaLevi, Makhoul stated that he sees Hamas as a legitimate political group, and added that he believes terrorist attacks targeting Israeli civilians are not a war crime.