JERUSALEM — Palestinian and moderate Israeli commentators Tuesday condemned as inhuman the arrest and planned expulsion of an East Jerusalem newspaper editor by military occupation authorities.
They said it is part of an effort to bolster Jordanian influence on the West Bank at the expense of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The order was issued Monday against Akram Haniya, editor of Al Shaab (the People), which is seen as one of the more moderate of the Palestinian newspapers published in East Jerusalem and distributed throughout the occupied West Bank. Haniya was accused of activity hostile to the state.
Haniya, who is appealing the order, is considered the most prominent of 14 Palestinians ordered expelled since the Israeli authorities reinstituted the practice, after a five-year lapse, in August, 1985. The U.S. State Department said at the time that it regretted the Israeli move and that it considered such punishment to be counterproductive.
Denies All Allegations
In a statement issued by his attorney at a press conference Tuesday, Haniya denied "all the allegations against me" and said he is being punished "only because I have asked for freedom to my people, trying to express it in my writing as journalist and a writer."
Haniya said he advocates the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state in the formerly Arab-held territories that have been occupied by Israel since the Arab-Israeli War of 1967.
His attorney, Felicia Langer, who is a member of the Israeli Communist Party and noted for her pro-Palestinian views, said it would be "an unbearable cruelty to expel such a man from his homeland." Other Palestinian journalists branded the action "inhuman."
The general manager of Al Shaab, Ali Yaish, charged that the deportation order is part of a recent Israeli campaign against Palestinian nationalists among journalists, trade union leaders and students. The authorities closed two Palestinian newspapers last August, and four West Bank journalists are currently under town or administrative arrest.
The 'Jordanian Lobby'
"All these steps together lead us to think the military authorities have a kind of plan to suppress our ideas of how to govern ourselves and to make the (groundwork) for a political solution that is not amiable to our ideas or our desires as a people," Yaish said. He added that all the actions appear to be aimed at "the betterment of the so-called Jordanian lobby in the West Bank."
Both Israel and Jordan fear that an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank might pose a security threat, and critics charge that they are working toward some kind of joint rule over the territory and its 800,000 Palestinian inhabitants.
Previous Israeli sanctions have fallen on individuals considered more radical in their views; Haniya is considered a moderate. A senior Israeli military source conceded that "he is not connected with terror operations."
'War on the Palestinians'
"Anyone who can't tolerate the presence of Akram Haniya and can't live with him in the same country has declared an eternal war on the Palestinian people," said Mohammed Miari, an Arab member of the Knesset, Israel's Parliament.
In an editorial, the English-language Jerusalem Post said the action will please only "those who believe in an 'iron fist' policy, who believe that putting fear in the hearts of discontented Palestinians in the territories will lead them to eschew all resistance to the occupation; perhaps even to leave en masse for a future under some Arab sovereignty."
Haniya had earlier been under town arrest, which prevented him from going beyond his hometown of Ramallah. But that restriction was lifted about three years ago after pressure was put on the Israeli government by Amnesty International, the London-based human rights organization, which described him as a political prisoner.
Criticism of Military
Responding to criticism that the military had taken Draconian action without warning, a senior military source said Tuesday that "in the last months we saw something like a turning point in his activity. . . . The new element that caused us to take this drastic decision was that he started to plan and implement the building up of an overall leadership of Fatah (the dominant PLO faction) in the territories."
The source said the authorities decided not to put him on trial because "we're convinced that even from inside prison he'll be able to continue to operate and maintain contacts with his colleagues."
The Jerusalem Post editorial suggested that a trial would be embarrassing, because it would center on political rather than terrorist activity. The newspaper said, "This would . . . contradict Israel's claims that the West Bank is benignly administered, not occupied."