Awad Launches Global Campaign Seeking Return to Jerusalem

Palestinian activist Mubarak Awad vowed Tuesday to influence American and worldwide public opinion in his efforts to return to Jerusalem.

The Palestinian advocate of non-violence, who was deported from Israel on Monday, did not rule out the possibility of converting to Judaism and returning to Israel under the Law of Return, as he has threatened repeatedly.

But he indicated it would be a last step after he made appeals to the United Nations, American legislators, European parliaments and the next Israeli government.

Jewish organizations, meanwhile, released statements supporting Israel’s right to expel the Palestinian activist.

Awad spoke at a news conference here sponsored by the National Council of Churches. He arrived in New York Monday night, one week after the Israeli Supreme Court rejected his appeal to remain in Israel. He had been in prison since May 5.

Born in East Jerusalem, Awad, 44, lived in the United States for 13 years and eventually became an American citizen. He had been staying in Israel under a tourist visa and directing the Center for the Study of Non-Violence in Jerusalem. The visa expired last November.

Although the Supreme Court ruled only on the expiration of the visa, Israeli authorities accused him of helping to direct the Palestinian uprising in the administered territories.

Asked Tuesday if he was an instigator of the six-month insurrection, Awad said, “That’s true. I said that we cannot continue living under occupation… and have to struggle to get rid of occupation.”

SAYS HE ADVOCATES SABOTAGE

Awad also said, in response to a question, that he advocates sabotage of electrical lines and water lines, but only when such sabotage is directed against planned Jewish settlements on Arab land.

He said he continues to continues denounce violence, however, and that he opposes the throwing of stones, the setting of forest fires or “injuries to anyone.”

“I deal with people who always carry a gun,” he said, when asked why in some public statements he has not totally ruled out the use of violence in the service of Palestinian nationalism. “But I give them an alternative. If the alternatives are successful, then they don’t need the gun.”

He said he does not tell fellow Palestinians “what you have to do,” but rather gives them a choice.

Awad said his advocacy of non-violence does not conflict with his support of the Palestine Liberation Organization. “You do not have to agree with everything the PLO does to support them,” he said, adding later that Israel had no choice but to accept the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people.

Awad said he has written Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir asking, “If you don’t need violence, and you don’t need non-violence, how are we to protest?”

He added that by ordering his deportation, Shamir had made Awad a hero among Palestinians and around the world. Shamir signed the deportation order in his capacity as interior minister.

SPEAKS OF CONVERTING

In reference to his statements about converting to Judaism, Awad said that he was deported because he is a Christian. “That challenge (of converting) is still a very simple thing for me as a Christian,” he said.

Later he added, “I’ll have to take my chances with a rabbi and tell him frankly that it is not my belief to become a Jew, but that I am being persecuted because I am a Christian.”

Awad was joined at the news conference by his American wife, Nancy Nye, and by Rajah Shehadeh, a lawyer who assisted attorney Jonathan Kuttab in Awad’s defense.

Nye thanked the lawyers, the U.S. State Department, “the support of many governments” and the press corps in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and said there was still hope that Awad would be able to return to Jerusalem.

Shehadeh said Awad’s case was similar to thousands of others in which “husbands and sons are unable to be in the place where they were born and lived.”

The National Council of Churches released a statement saying it and its member-church bodies supported Awad and the work of his center for non-violence. The council is a member of Churches for Middle East Peace, which has written members of Congress to protest Awad’s deportation.

JEWISH GROUPS COMMENT

Jewish organization’s responded to Awad’s deportation and threat of conversion in statements released Tuesday.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, said in a statement that Awad “is not, as he claims, a believer in non-violence in the mold of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. Where in the teaching of Gandhi and King is advocacy for acts of sabotage: cutting of electric, water and communication lines, for example, or destroying roads and bridges?”

Seymour Reich, international president of B’nai B’rith, also released a statement, calling Awad a “fraud, who, under the banner of nonviolence, promoted a violent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem.”

“Any nation would have taken similar action and justifiably so — against a non-citizen and a non-resident who was engaged in activity aimed at spreading chaos and undermining its security,” Reich said of the deportation.

Leaders of Reform Judaism’s rabbinic and congregational arms said in a letter to Reform rabbis that “whatever you think of Awad or his deportation, surely we need not remind you that extraneous motivations, political motivations, are not sufficient reason” for conversion to the Jewish faith.

The letter was signed by the president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and by the president and executive vice president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

A statement released by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York said Israel was within its legal and political right to expel Awad. Noting that Awad supports the PLO, the group said he views non-violence as “a means of complementing violence to advance overall Palestinian-Arab political goals.”

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