Israel Plans To Deport Pro-Palestinian Peace Activists

Julie Stahl | Jerusalem Bureau Chief | Friday, May 2, 2003

Israel Plans To Deport Pro-Palestinian Peace Activists

Jerusalem ( - A massive manhunt was underway in Tel Aviv on Friday for a British citizen, believed to be an accomplice of a suicide bomber who blew himself up earlier this week outside a seaside pub. Three Israelis were killed in the attack and scores more were wounded.

Omar Khan Sharif reportedly planned to blow himself up, too, but his explosive device apparently malfunctioned and he fled. Britain said it is working closely with Israel in the investigation.

British media reported on Friday that the two men, who entered Israel from the Gaza Strip just hours before the deadly blast, had posed as peace activists there. They reportedly took part in one gathering dedicated to the memory of Rachel Corrie - an American citizen and activist with the International Solidarity Movement, who died when an Israeli bulldozer ran over her in March.

The ISM said on Friday that the two British men had never worked with them.

"We had no contact with them whatsoever," said ISM's media coordinator Tom Wallace.

"We have a process for training and screening [for activists]. There are two days of training [and] the training also functions as a screening [process]," Wallace said.

After the activists are trained they are assigned to "affinity groups," which makes it easier to identify infiltrators, he said. "No one is acting alone."

Meanwhile, an Israeli government official confirmed on Friday that Israel intends to crack down on pro-Palestinian peace activists, although the official said it had nothing to do with the case of the two British citizens.

From now on, so-called peace activists will be denied entry to Israel, said the official who asked not to be named. Anyone visiting a Palestinian Authority area must pass through an Israeli airport or seaport or cross through Israeli border controls.

If activists are already in the PA areas and are found in a closed military zone, they will be detained and deported, the official said.

"The army will be less lenient toward peace activists. They'll be sent back to their country," he said.

According to the official, the decision was taken after an unnamed British woman, working for one of the activist groups was found to be hiding a wanted Palestinian terrorist in her office last week.

Wallace, from Boston, said he had been here for six weeks of a three-month visa, which he was certain would not be renewed.

He charged that Israel wanted to remove groups like the one he works for because Israel doesn't want anyone to see that "the army is the one that's hurting people."

The Israeli official charged that the actions of the activists were often "very provocative" and that they tried to prevent soldiers from carrying out their jobs.