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Palestinian Activist Avoids Forced Exit from Israel – for Now

Israel refrained from its scheduled deportation Friday of Palestinian activist Mubarak Awad, apparently to avoid aggravating friction with the Americans over his case, at least while Premier Yitzhak Shamir is visiting the United States.

Awad, a Jerusalem-born Palestinian, is a naturalized American citizen. He went to the United States in 1969 and returned to Israel in 1985 to found the Palestinian Center for the Study of Non-Violent Resistance, in East Jerusalem.

Awad, who never held Israeli citizenship, was advised last August that his status as a resident alien was revoked. The Interior Ministry refused to extend his tourist visa, which expired Friday, and was about to issue the deportation order.

Awad said he would not leave the country voluntarily. The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv intervened on his behalf. In Washington last Wednesday, State Department spokesman Charles Redman described Awad as a “leading advocate of change through non-violence” who has “served as a moderating influence in a potentially volatile area.”

The American position was made even more clear when a press conference held by Awad here Wednesday to protest his expulsion was attended by the deputy U.S. consul general in East Jerusalem, Edwin Cubbison. Cubbison publicly expressed hope Awad could be allowed to remain.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry claimed in a letter to the U.S. Embassy that Awad did not limit himself to non-violence, but rather advocated sabotage. Nevertheless, the Friday deadline passed without the Interior Ministry issuing a deportation order.

A ministry spokesperson said later that it hoped that Awad, “an advocate of non-violence and observance of the law, will abide by the law and leave.”

Instead, Awad sought support Saturday at Kol Haneshama, a Reform synagogue in the Baka quarter of Jerusalem, where many of the congregants are American Jews who have immigrated to Israel.

He was invited by its rabbi, Levi Weiman Kelman, who heard of Awad’s plans to visit a mosque, a church and a synagogue to plead his cause.

“Since many of our members are Jews who moved to Israel, they are especially sensitive to the idea that someone born in this country could be deported,” Weiman-Kelman said.

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