JERUSALEM (Aug. 4)
A delegation of six Israeli Arabs returned from Tunis this week after meeting with leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization in blatant defiance of an Israeli law banning such meetings.
Two weeks ago, before leaving for Tunis — home to the PLO headquarters — the group said the purpose of the trip was to attend an annual festival in the ancient Tunisian city of Carthage. The group’s spokesman, Dr. Ahmed Tibi, had insisted at the time that the delegation would not violate Israel’s law forbidding meetings with representatives of Palestinian terrorist organizations.
On returning to Israel, five members of the group refused to discuss details of their meetings.
But the sixth member of the delegation, Knesset member Hashem Mahamid of the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality, known popularly as the Hadash Communists, openly told reporters that he had met with PLO leader Yasir Arafat and Nayef Hawatmeh of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Mahamid said he realized he had violated the law, but felt no compunction about doing so since, he said, the law was “undemocratic and unjust.” He added that it was high time the law be “buried.”
The law was passed by the previous Knesset under pressure from Israel’s right-wing parties. It was under this law that peace activist Abie Nathan was twice jailed.
Following Mahamid’s disclosures to the press regarding his meetings in Tunis, a motion was raised in the Knesset to waive his right to parliamentary immunity.
The Rabin coalition recently won a vote of confidence in the Knesset, partly thanks to the votes of the five members of Hadash and the Arab Democratic Party of Abd el-Wahab Darawshe.
It is therefore unlikely that the coalition will support any parliamentary moves against Mahamid.
Israeli police, moreover, have so far taken no measures against the other five members of the delegation, even though they do not enjoy parliamentary immunity.