The names of two prominent European political figures have been tossed into the ring on behalf of Palestinian activist Faisal al-Husseini, who was arrested Sunday in Jerusalem and placed in administrative detention for six months.
In Paris, Marie-Claire Mendes-France, widow of France’s late Jewish Premier Pierre Mendes-France, personally issued a statement Tuesday asking for Husseini’s release.
In Amsterdam, the dovish Israeli group Peace Now petitioned Dutch Premier Ruud Lubbers to use his influence with Israeli authorities to release Husseini. Lubbers just returned from a trip to Israel during which he toured the Israeli-administered territories and spoke to Palestinians and representatives of Peace Now about conditions there.
Lubbers was accompanied on his trip by Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van den Broek. While Lubbers was meeting with Peace Now representatives, van den Broek was holding meetings with 18 private Palestinians, including Husseini.
Lubbers was on vacation when the petition was sent to him, and therefore has not replied to the request.
Mendes-France, who heads a committee for Israeli-Palestinian understanding and who is highly popular in French intellectual circles, cabled Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres asking for Husseini’s release.
“His liberation would be a sign of Israel’s desire for peace,” Mendes-France wrote, concluding, “I appeal to your conscience.”
In France, intellectual circles have started circulating a petition in Husseini’s favor that claims that if Israel had any proof against the Palestinian activist, he would have been brought before a court of justice, rather than placed in administrative detention.
Husseini, arrested in pre-dawn hours Sunday, was described by Israeli authorities as a senior activist in Al Fatah, the military wing of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Husseini has been arrested and held in administrative detention several times before, but reportedly has never been charged with anything. He is considered a senior proponent of West Bank Palestinian nationalism and is widely viewed as the senior PLO representative in the territories.
It was Husseini who met last year with Knesset member Moshe Amirav of the Likud bloc’s Herut wing. Together they reportedly worked out a document on the governance of the West Bank. When news of the meeting became public, Amirav was drummed out of the party.
(Contributing to this report were JTA correspondents Edwin Eytan in Paris and Henrietta Boas in Amsterdam.)