February 22, 2023, message from Jonathan Kuttab
Today I visited Mohammad Halabi at his prison in the Negev desert. The prison is near Matspe Ramon.
Halabi wanted to thank all those who supported him and believed his story from the very beginning. He asked me to assure all of you that he is not only totally innocent, but that he has been involved in humanitarian work, from his youth when he worked with Youth for Peace, and he continues to work against violence, and believes he is being punished precisely because of this. He related that he was offered to be freed and given a scholarship to study for his Phd abroad as well as a job with the UN if he only confessed that World Vision is anti-semitic, or if he gave a secret testimony against OXFAM and Catholic Relief Services, but he refused. It was clear to him that the Israeli interrogators wanted some materials to use against the foreign NGO’s but he was unwilling to provide it as it would undermine their work in Gaza and Palestine entirely.
He determined to use his time in prison wisely, and started to give the other prisoners courses in all subjects he was good at: Leadership, Strategic Planning, Management and even Negotiating skills and strategies. He also used the knowledge of other prisoners to start an MA program in Political Science and managed over the years to graduate (by working with other universities ) the first group of 30 MA students from the Abu Dies University, and is now working on the second group of 30 prisoners.
He firmly believes in nonviolence and humanitarian work. His biggest worry is the support of his family and to ensure that they get a good education, since the World Vision has suspended his salary when he was arrested, for fear that they be accused of supporting terrorism. This is tragic since his whole imprisonment was because he refused to undermine their work by taking the easy way out and confessing falsely that their money was being diverted for illegal purposes.
Halabi also told me amazing things about his trial, which his own lawyer (Maher Hanna, from my office) was unable to tell me, as it was secret. I will be writing on this separately. Suffice it to say, there is nothing in it that justifies secrecy other than the fear of embarrassment that the evidence of the state is so thin as to be laughable. He is truly a hero and a humanitarian man, and wanted me to pass on to you his gratitude.
His Appeal will be heard in May, but Amnesty International is about to mount a campaign for his release. I hope this stubborn humanitarian will be able to join his family and enjoy the freedom seen by these rams.