JERUSALEM — Israel's government, which is under internal pressure to find a formula to end the Arab uprising, banished eight Palestinian activists to neighboring Lebanon on Thursday. The move defied criticism from Washington and human rights groups that assert such action violates international law.
The eight were flown by helicopter to the northern edge of Israeli-controlled territory in southern Lebanon where they were given taxi money. The expulsions brought to 55 the number of Arabs forcibly sent abroad since the uprising began in December, 1987.
Greater Impact Sought
Military sources said that court decisions affirming some of the expulsion orders were handed down several weeks ago but that the group was exiled together in order to have greater impact on the Arab community.
Authorities timed the move to coincide with a general strike called by Palestinians on Thursday to protest shooting incidents by Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, the sources added.
There appears to be no consensus in the Israeli government over the long-term wisdom of ordering expulsions on a larger scale. Just a week ago, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin declared that exile would not bring an end to the intifada, as the uprising is known in Arabic.
Later, he was reported to be seeking approval from the Israeli Cabinet to speed up the procedure. For now, a painstaking appeals process must be undertaken before Palestinians are expelled; Rabin has proposed that the appeal take place after the Arabs already have been sent abroad.
The Thursday expulsions were the first since George Bush assumed the presidency, and the State Department reacted sharply. "We are strongly opposed to these deportations. They are harmful at any time, and especially harmful now when we are looking for international and especially Palestinian support for Israel's elections proposals," a department spokesman said.
In January, Israel expelled 15 Palestinians, drawing fire from the outgoing Reagan Administration. The United States argues that the expulsions violate the Geneva Convention on treatment of civilians under occupation.
U. N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar charged Israel with violating the conventions. "He appeals to Israel, as the occupying power, to abide by its obligations . . . and to rescind the deportation orders," a U.N. spokeswoman said on Perez's behalf.
Israel justifies expulsions under laws left over from British rule in Palestine before 1948. The government describes the ousters as deportations, which implies that the Arabs are aliens being sent back to their native lands.
8 May Return
An army statement said the eight might be permitted to return home in three years if they promise not to make attacks on Israel and if there is "tranquillity in the territories."
Two of the eight, Radwan Ziad and Majed Abdullah Labadi, are considered high-ranking organizers of the Arab rebellion, military sources said. The two were among the top five West Bank leaders of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Marxist faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The expulsions came just a few days before a meeting of the Likud Party to consider a peace plan put forward by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. The plan includes the holding of an election in the occupied lands for Palestinians to select a peace delegation. Several members of the Likud, which is the dominant party in Israel's ruling coalition, oppose the proposal, fearing it will lead to the loss of land.
Shamir has taken pains to assure his followers that a vote does not mean that Israel will give up the occupied West Bank or Gaza Strip. Earlier this week, he said that the intifada must end before elections could take place.
Protest Hikes Planned
Several right-wing politicians are expected to join a series of protest hikes in the West Bank today to reinforce their vow to hold onto the land. Israeli troops will escort the hikers to protect them from attacks from stone-throwing Arabs.
In a preview walk Thursday, a group of Israeli lawmakers led about 40 hikers through the disputed territory.
"A Jew can walk on any path in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. He can build his home anywhere in Florida," declared Binyamin Begin, son of former right-wing Prime Minister Menachem Begin and a Likud member of Parliament. "It is therefore inconceivable that the only place in which a Jew should be banned from moving freely is in his own country, his own homeland."
The policy of the Israeli government to establish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza has drawn criticism from Washington and several European governments as an obstruction to peace efforts.