JERUSALEM (Feb. 21)
A visiting member of Britain’s Parliament complained Thursday that an Israeli soldier threatened his life during a tour of the Nablus casbah he was making with other members of a European delegation.
George Gallaway, still visibly shaken by the incident, which reportedly occurred Wednesday, told a news conference here that “it is not every day that a British member of Parliament has a gun stuck in his direction and a soldier threatens to kill him.
“If we were Palestinians yesterday, I might be dead now,” Gallaway said. But he said he had no ill feelings toward Israel and did not intend to besmirch its image.
As far as the European guests were concerned, “it was an isolated incident,” he said, stressing that only one soldier behaved “in an almost uncontrolled manner.”
The delegation, which included trade union leaders from Scotland, was visiting the West Bank to observe “the impact of the long-range curfew on residents of the territories.”
Accompanied in Nablus by Palestinian trade union leaders, the visitors were stopped by an Israel Defense Force patrol, which ordered them to the local police station on grounds that they had entered a closed military area.
An IDF spokesman denied that Gallaway and his party were taken from the casbah at gunpoint. He said the soldiers mistook them for journalists and that Gallaway identified himself as a member of Parliament only after a senior officer arrived on the scene.
Gallaway said he found “a very bad situation” in the territories. “In all the years that I have been coming here, I never saw more despair than currently exists, particularly in Gaza.”
He described Gaza as “a giant powder keg that is waiting to blow. And when it blows, I wouldn’t want to be an Israeli government which bears responsibility for that explosion,” he added.
Security forces, meanwhile, detained a Jewish settler from Tekoa, near Bethlehem, on suspicion that he fatally shot a 15-year-old Arab boy, Jallal Mussalah, from a passing vehicle Tuesday. The youngster was standing outside his home in Beit Sahur village.
Justice Minister Dan Meridor continued to receive anonymous death threats because he voiced objections to a bill that would pardon IDF soldiers who killed or wounded Arabs in violation of orders during the early stages of the intifada.
Graffiti scrawled on the staircase of his Jerusalem residence accused the veteran Likud minister of being a leftist. Meridor has also received threatening letters because he has not deported Faisal Husseini, a prominent Palestinian nationalist from East Jerusalem.