By Amos Harel and Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondents and Agencies
Israel will from now on bar pro-Palestinian activists from entering the country and will try to expel at least some of the dozens of activists who are already here, according a new plan drafted by the Israel Defense Forces and the foreign and defense ministries.
Most of the activists, who come from Europe, Canada and the United States, belong to the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).
Their goal is to act as “human shields” for Palestinian individuals and houses during IDF incursions into Palestinian towns, and they have often been involved in confrontations with IDF soldiers. They also try to help Palestinians pass through IDF roadblocks.
Some two months ago, an American ISM activist, Rachel Corrie, was run over and killed by an IDF bulldozer in Gaza. Her colleagues accused the bulldozer driver of having run her over deliberately. The IDF denies the accusation and decided not to indict the driver. In two other recent cases, international activists have been seriously injured by IDF gunfire during confrontations in the territories.
Israel Radio on Friday quoted British news agencies as saying that the two men involved in the suicide bombing at Mike’s Place in Tel Aviv late Tuesday night had entered Israel earlier in the day in a cab that passed through the Erez Crossing. The two had taken part in actions carried out by peace activists in the Gaza Strip. [Note: Read the ISM response to this issue in the FAQ.]
In the first sign of the new crackdown, a member of ISM was detained by Israeli troops in the southern Gaza refugee camp Rafah on Thursday.
Military sources said the woman activist was sleeping in a house suspected of concealing one of the tunnels used by militants to smuggle arms from nearby Egypt, and her case was being handled by the Foreign Ministry.
Foreign Ministry officials were not immediately available for comment and the ISM said it would release a statement later in the day on the new Israeli measures.
IDF accuses ‘riot inciters’
The IDF charges that many of the self-proclaimed peace activists are “provocateurs” and “riot inciters” who deliberately interfere with the IDF’s work, with the goal of blackening Israel’s image. Army sources noted that in one case, they discovered a wanted terrorist being hidden by ISM activists in Jenin. The sources said the activists received training overseas in how to deceive border control officials at Ben-Gurion International Airport in order to be allowed into the country.
Furthermore, both the army and the Foreign Ministry fear that additional foreign citizens might be killed or wounded by the IDF if the ISM’s activities are allowed to continue.
Wednesday’s bombing in Tel Aviv, which was committed by two men who entered Israel on British passports, added a new reason to the authorities’ desire to clamp down on the foreign activists – fear that other terrorists from overseas might enter the country under the guise of peace activists.
IDF and Foreign Ministry officials held another meeting on the subject this week and decided to instruct border control officials at Ben-Gurion and the land crossings with Egypt and Jordan to bar foreign activists from entering the country. In addition, IDF officers who encounter such activists in closed military areas will be ordered to arrest them, after which they will be deported.
On Thursday, the IDF arrested a foreign activist during its search for arms smuggling tunnels in the Gazan town of Rafah. Army sources said the woman was inside a house that was slated for demolition. The woman was later released and allowed to remain in the country, though she was barred from returning to Gaza.