Mairead Corrigan Maguire, who tried to break Gaza blockade, loses appeal against deportation.
Israel today expelled an Irish Nobel peace laureate and pro-Palestinian activist who was barred from the country for trying to break the naval blockade of Gaza.
Máiread Corrigan Maguire was placed on an early morning flight to Britain, the interior ministry said.
Corrigan Maguire had been banned from Israel for 10 years after trying to sail to Gaza in June, but landed in Tel Aviv last week as part of a delegation meeting Israeli and Palestinian peace activists.
She was immediately held at an airport detention facility. She appealed but the supreme court upheld her deportation order yesterday.Adalah, an Arab Israeli advocacy group representing Corrigan Maguire, said she planned to give a news conference in Ireland today
Corrigan Maguire, 66, won the 1976 Nobel peace prize for her work in Northern Ireland. In recent years she has emerged as an outspoken critic of Israel. At yesterday’s court hearing, she called Israel an “apartheid” state, and, in comments to reporters, accused it of committing “ethnic cleansing”.
A supreme court justice told her the courtroom was “no place for propaganda” and cut her off.
Jody Williams, a Nobel laureate and part of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, which sponsored the delegation that included Corrigan Maguire, said she was unaware of the travel ban against the activist. However, Israel’s foreign ministry wrote earlier this year to the group refusing an appeal to let Corrigan Maguire join the delegation.
Corrigan Maguire has also voiced support for the Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, who is seen by many in Israel as a traitor. Before her ban, she attended anti-Israel demonstrations in the West Bank and compared the Jewish state’s nuclear arsenal to Hitler’s gas chambers. In 2007, police shot her in the leg with a rubber bullet at a demonstration against Israel’s West Bank security barrier.
By expelling her, Israel risked doing further damage to an image already tarnished by a perceived lack of tolerance of criticism.
Israel has banned other pro-Palestinian activists from entering the country, including, in May, the 81-year-old Jewish-American linguist Noam Chomsky. The government later said that that was a mistake.
Corrigan Maguire’s attempt to reach Gaza came a week after Israeli naval commandos killed nine Turkish activists on 31 May this year aboard a flotilla that tried to breach the blockade. Hundreds more activists were detained and expelled from the country. An Israeli commission investigating the raid on the flotilla, which included the Turkish-owned ship Mavi Marmara, said today it had summoned an Israeli official to testify on how international activists were treated in detention.
A report by the UN human rights council released last week accused Israel of using “extreme and unprovoked violence” against the detainees at a time when they posed no threat.
Israel refused to co-operate with that investigation, saying the council had a long record of bias. Israel is co-operating with a separate UN investigation commissioned by the secretary general, Ban Ki-moon.
The interior ministry official Yossi Edelstein, who was in charge of the detainees’ conditions, will testify to the Israeli commission next week. It will be the first Israeli account of what happened to the activists. “We need to check how the government acted. He was in charge,” said the commission spokesman Ofer Lefler.
It was not clear whether Edelstein was summoned in response to the UN report, or whether the testimony was scheduled in advance.
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