Israelis, Palestinians alike decry expulsion of editor
Israeli and West Bank Palestinian journalists, usually separated by a deep political gulf, have found common cause in denouncing the deportation of a Palestinian editor from the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Perhaps the more interesting protests over the deportation of Akram Haniyeh came from Israelis, who have to deal daily with Israel's security concerns. They criticized the Israeli security forces' failure to make public the evidence against Mr. Haniyeh, editor of the east Jerusalem daily A-Shaab. Haniyeh was alleged to be a senior official in the Al-Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is outlawed in Israel.
``Yet once more the security people dangle `Akram Haniyeh's thick file' in front of me,'' Yehuda Litani, Mideast editor of the Jerusalem Post, wrote recently. ``And what counterclaims can one make against undisclosed contents?''
Mr. Litani, who has covered the West Bank and Arab affairs for more than a decade, went on to warn that expulsion of leading Palestinian intellectuals and journalists such as Haniyeh would not solve the dilemma Israel faces in its ongoing control of some 1.5 million Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
``Once again, as has happened over and over again during the 19 years of occupation, the security decisionmakers are choosing the easy way out,'' Litani wrote. ``Anything not to have to confront the real problem. The security personnel know, as well as the PLO, that within a very short time another young man - more extreme in his views, less willing to compromise - will take Akram Haniyeh's place.''
Before his deportation Sunday, Haniyeh said he withdrew his appeal because the justices ``refused to give either me or my lawyers permission to review the secret evidence against me.'' The evidence was kept secret on grounds that disclosing it would endanger Israel's security. The allegations included charges that he collected funds from the PLO and distributed them to PLO operatives in the West Bank.
Leading Palestinian journalist Hanna Siniora, editor of the east Jerusalem daily Al-Fajr, said that Haniyeh's deportation has left pro-PLO east Jerusalem activists feeling more frustrated than ever. Siniora liked Litani's article so much that he translated it into Arabic and displayed it prominently on the front page of his paper.
Mr. Siniora and Palestine Press Service Editor Ibrahim Karaeen charged that the expulsion of Haniyeh is the latest in what they say are a series of recent moves by the military authorities against Palestinians and Palestinian publications known to be sympathetic with the PLO. Mr. Karaeen pointed to the decision to close one newspaper and the military authorities' recent suspension of Al-Fajr's circulation in the West Bank.
Siniora and Karaeen both said they believe that Israel and Jordan have jointly cracked down on West Bank individuals and institutions closely identified with the PLO since Jordan's King Hussein and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat split last February in a disagreement over how best to pursue negotiations with Israel.
``Everybody is saying that this is a demonstration of Israeli acquiescence to Jordanian demands,'' Siniora said. The charge that they are consulting secretly on taking steps against pro-PLO Palestinians is denied by both Israeli and Jordanian officials.
Israel claims the right to expel Palestinians from the occupied areas under emergency orders that were enforced by Britain during its mandatory rule of Palestine. Before abandoning the mandate in 1948, Britain deported several leaders of the Jewish underground. After the expulsion order was issued against Haniyeh last month, several Israeli commentators noted with irony that an order Jewish leaders condemned as inhumane before 1948 is now used by Israel against Palestinians.
``Deportation is the worst punishment in the occupied territories,'' said Dani Rubenstein, West Bank correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Davar. ``In the early years of the occupation, when it looked like it would be temporary, Moshe Dayan deported hundreds. Now that the occupation looks permanent, the situation is different. Now when you deport someone, you are separating him from his homeland for life.''
Since expulsion was reinstituted some 18 months ago, a dozen Palestinians have been deported. Israeli military authorities maintain that Haniyeh's expulsion should not be viewed as an attack on the Palestinian press. Haniyeh was not deported because of political views expressed in A-Shaab, the authorities said, but rather because he was actively engaged in helping the PLO.
In protest of the deportation, both Al-Fajr and A-Shaab went on strike Monday, refusing to publish their newspapers Tuesday. Siniora acknowledged this was a relatively weak form of protest. ``We have to think of better ways to accentuate our protest,'' he said. ``But until we do, the decision not to publish for a day shows that morally, we are with Akram Haniyeh.''