Zuhair Bahloul
Zuhair BahloulMoshe Shai/Flash 90

It has been revealed that Arab sports journalist Zuhair Bahloul, number 17 on the joint Labor Hatnua Knesset list, provided testimony on behalf of the family of an Arab citizen of Israel from the Galilee convicted of terrorism in a 2012 trial. 

Although Bahloul did not praise the terror acts of Milad Khatib, he did not condemn them either, and gave the testimony in the context of a positive character recommendation for the terrorist's family on behalf of the defense.

In response, Bahloul said that the testimony was given on behalf of the Khatib family, and not Milad, “who had gone off the straight path.”

Bahloul, who hails from Majd al-Krum as does the Khatib family, is well known to Israelis as a broadcaster and commentator on soccer and basketball games on Israel Radio and Channel 1.

Although he has generally shied away from politics, he has participated in numerous sulha (pacifying) type meetings between police and groups in Arab towns, in an attempt to calm tensions on a number of matters. It was on that background that he was placed on the Labor list for the upcoming Knesset elections.

Khatib was convicted in 2012 of helping supply Lebanese terror organization Hezbollah with information. Khatib was convicted in a plea bargain in which he confessed to charges of contact with a foreign agent, conspiracy to aide an enemy during a war and providing a service to an illegal organization.

A plan to assassinate Peres?

Khatib had met in Turkey with a Danish citizen who was a Hezbollah activist and agreed to supply information about strategic places and Arabs with connections to Zionist political parties. According to the court, he went to Turkey in July 2012 and gave a contact information on the locations of a military base with hidden weapons, two weapons factories and a number of arsenals, as well as details about elected officials who hosted very important people.

Specifically, he gave the contact information about a visit planned to Majd el-Krum by then-President Shimon Peres, with the intent of causing Peres harm. In July 2013, he was sentenced to seven years in prison in a plea deal.

Bahloul testified in the case about a month before Khatib was convicted. In the testimony, he praised the Khatib family highly, saying they “could be an example of coexistence between Arabs and Jews.” While he did not speak in defense of the defendant, he did call the family the “salt of the earth. This is the first time I am testifying in court, and I felt I could not remain silent in this case,” he told the court.

“When I heard what this young man did I was shocked,” he said, making clear that whatever led the younger Khatib to “fall off the right path, it was not the family that brought him to this. It is not at all typical of this family.”

In a statement Thursday, Bahloul stressed that the testimony had been given for the family, not the defendant.

“I know the Khatib family well and their efforts for coexistence between Jews and Arabs,” the statement said. “I am completely opposed to the kind of actions taken by Imad Khatib. I find attempts to harm the good relations between Jews and Arabs on the basis of the acts of individuals to be disgusting, and I will fight it with all my power."