Israel has presented an unpersuasive case in support of its plan to expel Mubarak Awad, an Arab Christian political activist who was born in East Jerusalem in 1944 and is now a U.S. citizen. A government spokesman accuses Awad of writing leaflets inciting violence in the occupied territories. Significantly, this serious charge has not been repeated in court. In fact, no criminal action has been filed against Awad. Instead, he has been described by Shin Bet, the domestic intelligence service, only as a "security risk" who advocates transforming Israel into a binational (Israeli-Arab) state. For propaganda purposes, then, Awad is accused of sedition. Before Israel's highest court, however, the government can do no better than vaguely allege a threat to national security.
The government in fact has wanted to expel Awad since last November, when his tourist visa expired. That was weeks before the Palestinian uprising erupted. U.S. protests at that time halted this effort, and those protests continue. The American objections are twofold. Awad is a vocal advocate of civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance to Israeli rule in the occupied territories. Moreover, his status as a native Jerusalemite, born before the state of Israel came into being, argues against treating him as an alien. As Awad's attorney has suggested, it hardly makes sense to consider him a tourist "in his own homeland."
It doesn't make much sense, either, for Israel to try to drive away those like Awad who present a political alternative to militancy, however unwelcome to government hard-liners his message for the moment may be. If Awad is a security threat, then what Palestinian under Israeli occupation is not? And if a man like Awad is expelled, then who will be left to talk to should the day ever arrive when negotiations become possible?