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Two prominent members of the Arab community in Israel were charged for spying and allegedly giving information about the location of Israeli defense facilities to Lebanon’s militant Shiite Hezbollah movement.

The indictment of Ameer Makhoul , the general director of Ittijah, a union of Arab organizations in Israel, and Omar Sayid, a member of the Israeli Arab political party Balad, coincided with what some here say is a broader campaign by Israel to intimidate activists who speak out against the idea of Israel remaining a homeland for Jews.

When Israel was created in 1948, the Palestinian Arab community was split between those who remained inside Israel’s borders — and became Israeli citizens — and those who relocated to the West Bank, Gaza or farther abroad. Today, Arab Israelis constitute one-fifth of Israel’s citizens.

According to the indictment, Makhoul met with a Hezbollah agent in Denmark in 2008 and agreed to serve as a secret source of information for the organization. Omar Saeed, another Arab Israeli activist, was also charged with having contact with a foreign agent and transferring information that could be of assistance to the enemy. Both men denied the charges against them.

A senior Israeli official said Makhoul had “connections with certain enemies around us,” and he “tried to undermine the idea of the Jewish state.”

Much of the recent tension stems from Arab Israeli demonstrations against Israel’s widely criticized bombardment of the Gaza Strip in January 2009 — a campaign carried out to stop rocket fire into Israeli towns.

By Janine Zacharia

Washington Post

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