Haaretz, Jan. 11, 2017
Waheed al-Bursh, a contractor with the UN Development Program, will be returning to his home in the Gaza Strip Thursday, seven months after he was arrested at the Erez checkpoint. This is a failure for the Shin Bet security service, which tried to frame him with a series of charges involving aid to Hamas over the years.
It’s also an embarrassment for the prosecution, which got out of the corner into which the Shin Bet had painted it and reached a plea bargain with Bursh’s attorney, Lea Tsemel. And it’s a hushed reminder how the Israeli media, which in August happily published false reports based on distorted information, convicted Bursh without trial as a terrorist or Hamas activist who had infiltrated the UN agency.
[...] Israel has designated Hamas an illegal organization. In Gaza, Hamas is the de facto government, which must also provide services to the public, and does so. Activists in Hamas’ civilian and military wings have been placed in various public-sector positions.
Bursh had every reason to assume that the men who approached him did so in their capacity as employees of the Public Works Ministry. He referred them to the official channels – which Israel monitors. This cost him the disruption of his life, seven months in prison, harsh interrogations, damage to his health, separation from his family and concern for his professional and financial future.
The message? Whenever it wants, Israel can convict and destroy the life of every gardener in the Gaza municipality, every saleswoman in a clothing store or every falafel vendor. The reason? “Rendering services to an illegal organization.”