Abie Nathan Gets 6-month Sentence for Meeting with Top PLO Figures

Peace activist Abie Nathan received a six-month prison sentence for meetings with Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat and other PLO figures in Tunis and Strasbourg last year, in violation of a 1986 law barring contact with terrorist organizations.

Nathan insisted afterward that he would continue his efforts to establish dialogue with the Palestinians, which he said was the only way to peace.

The 62-year-old Nathan was found guilty by a Ramla magistrates court last Wednesday of violating Israel’s law banning contacts with members of terrorist organizations.

Nathan derided the law as “senseless” and an obstacle to peace, calling it a “political law which has no place in a democratic country.”

He said he would not appeal the verdict but would begin serving his sentence right after Yom Kippur in order to be free sooner to continue his activities.

Judge Aharon Fass said Tuesday he imposed a stiff sentence because the accused, a public personality, should be made an example to deter others from breaking the law.

He gave Nathan an additional 12 months, that he suspended for the time being but declared enforceable for a period of three years.

‘IT’S NOT THE FIRST TIME’

Right-wing nationalist elements complained immediately that the sentence was too light. The Association of Victims of Terrorism accused Nathan of encouraging the PLO and other terrorists to continue their murder of Jews.

But members of the leftist Mapam and the Citizens Rights Movement promised redoubled efforts to get the law amended.

“Before I met with Arafat, I knew I would be breaking the law and was ready to accept punishment,” Nathan told reporters. “It’s not the first time I will have been to prison.”

He recalled that he was jailed for 40 days in 1968 after flying a light plane to Egypt on a one-man peace mission to visit President Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Nasser ordered Nathan ousted from Egypt and he was arrested upon returning to Israel.

Born in Iraq, Nathan served as a fighter pilot in the Indian Royal Air Force during World War II and volunteered for the fledgling Israeli air force during the War for Independence in 1948.

Afterward, he opened a popular American-style restaurant in Tel Aviv.

In the early 1970s, Nathan purchased a small seagoing vessel in Holland, named it “Voice of Peace” and converted it to a “pirate” radio station, broadcasting pop music and peace messages in Hebrew and Arabic from just outside Israel’s territorial waters.

Speaking to reporters after he was sentenced Tuesday, Nathan rejected suggestions that he might be able to do public service in lieu of going to jail.

“Public service should be a welcome duty, something done from the heart willingly and not a punishment for wrong-doing,” he said.

“I do public service all the year round because I want to do it,” he added.

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