In a landmark decision which could impact dozens of other "terror-financing" cases for years to come, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld harsh punishments of up to seven years in jail for three east Jerusalem Palestinians who had been convicted of fundraising for Hamas’ social welfare programs, but not specifically for any violent operations.
While the courts have handled many past decisions on "terror-financing" directly for violent operations, the court said that how seriously to punish Hamas operatives who only did fundraising for its social welfare arm was a new issue.
The three Hamas fundraisers, Ahmad Elian, Kaf’ah Sarhan and Yacoub Abu Saeb, had appealed for a reduced sentence of either no jail time or jail time closer to two years.
They argued that it was unfair to treat them and sentence them to jail terms that were as or more serious than Hamas operatives who did fundraising for "terror operations" or even were involved in Hamas’ military wing, when they were only involved in Hamas’ social welfare wing.
The three justice panel of Justices Daphna Barak-Erez, Uzi Vogelman and Menchem Mazuz rejected their arguments and upheld their sentences of between 4.5 to seven years in jail.
Barak-Erez wrote that both confessions to police, by another Hamas operative and an expert opinion by “Eric” (a fictional cover name) of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), affirmed that Hamas’ social welfare organizations were created as part of an indirect but concerted long-term strategy to build recruits, funding and other support for Hamas’ military goals.
A Hamas operative who provided information connecting its social welfare and military branches stated that to build identity with Hamas it intentionally facilitated visits of Palestinian families to families of prisoners, sponsored summer camps, sponsored sports activities and sponsored childcare centers.
He said the purpose was “to help people and to cause them to love Islam and Hamas.”
According to the court, “Eric” said that “it is impossible to separate Hamas’ Jerusalem operations” into military and social welfare or Jerusalem from Hamas’ West Bank branch responsible for years of "terror" attacks.
The court commented that part of the harsh sentencing could be attributed to the fact that the three operatives, despite their focus on social welfare, had a senior status within Hamas and had contacts with high-level Hamas commanders overseas.
A fourth Hamas operative, Asraf Aasur, was given a much lighter sentence of only a few months, but this was attributed to his specific circumstances, including a lower rank and that it appeared he did not understand that his fundraising activities aided Hamas’ wider "terror" goals.
By Yonah Jeremy Bob
This story has been edited from the source material.
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