A Palestinian activist's fight against deportation has highlighted the potential effectiveness of his strategy of nonviolent resistance - as well as its lack of support among fellow Palestinians. Mubarak Awad, a Jerusalem-born Palestinian with United States citizenship, has in recent days fended off an Israeli attempt to force him out of the country. The Israeli move was prompted by Mr. Awad's calls to Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip for mass civil disobedience and noncooperation with Israeli authorities.
Awad, a student of the methods of Mohandas (``Mahatma'') Gandhi and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., has circulated an article entitled ``Nonviolent Resistance - A Stretgy for the Occupied Territories,'' which proposes such actions as refusal to pay taxes and work in Israel, lying down in front of bulldozers clearing land for Jewish settlements, boycotting Israeli products, and filling up Israeli jails through mass violation of military orders. In 1983, Awad established the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence.
The Israeli authorities began to move against Awad in August. Last week, he was told his tourist visa would not be renewed and he would have to leave Israel.
Awad then launched his nonviolent campaign. He announced that he was not planning to leave. A group of Israeli supporters handcuffed themselves to Awad should the police come to deport him. Over the weekend, Awad visited a mosque, a synagogue, and a church in an ecumenical appeal for support.
His American citizenship and advocacy of nonviolence brought him backing from the US government, which urged he not be deported.
The immediate outcome was a freeze on the deportation. US diplomats say a final decision is apparently pending the return from the US today of Israeli Prime Minsiter Yitzhak Shamir.
The storm that erupted over the Awad case showed the potency of his nonviolent appeal in Israel. Other Palestinians have faced deportation, but Awad's case has drawn wider sympathy. At least four prominent Israeli politicians opposed the deportation. Papers carried front-page stories on Awad and his welcome in an synagogue on Saturday was unprecedented.
The support and interest Awad generated were clearly the result of his advocacy of nonviolence. Other Palestinian deportees, accused of anti-Israeli violence or activism on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organization have aroused little public sympathy in Israel.
The backing for Awad by some Israelis is indicative of the success his tactics might have if they were implemented by Palestinians on a mass scale. Many Israelis concede that a Gandhi-style campaign by Palestinians in the occupied territories would have a devastating effect on Israel's ability to control those areas.
``If the Palestinians all start doing what Awad proposes, the occupation will crumble in three days,'' one Israeli says.
The demoralizing effect of having to violently repress a nonviolent movement, and the high price of such a campaign in world opinion is apparently not lost on Israeli officials.
However, the primary difficulty Awad faces is rallying support in his own camp. Palestinian protest against Israeli occupation has been predominantly violent, ranging from spontaneous stone-throwing to planned bombings. Awad's nonviolent appeal, by his own admission, has had little impact on the Palestinian public.
His chief ideological problem is escaping accusations that his doctrine contradicts the PLO's strategy of ``armed struggle'' against Israel. (Awad has carefully avoided condemning armed struggle, saying he supports a nonviolent alternative.)