Peace Activist Held As ‘danger To Israel’


Tali Fahima served her time in the Israeli army, voted for Ariel Sharon as prime minister and took it as given that her country was struggling for survival against terrorism.

Then last year, the 29-year-old legal secretary from Tel Aviv picked up a newspaper and read about Zakariya Zubeidi, the Jenin leader of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the group responsible for killing hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings and shootings. Ms Fahima decided she would ask Mr Zubeidi why he killed Jews.

On Sunday, the military placed Ms Fahima in detention without trial using a law applied to thousands of Palestinians over the past four years of intifada but rarely to Israelis.

The authorities declined to reveal the precise reasons but the defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, who signed the order, described her as “a clear and present danger to all Israelis”.

Intelligence sources told the Israeli press that Ms Fahima had a hand in bombing an army checkpoint last month, and that she was planning attacks inside Israel.

But Ms Fahima’s lawyers and friends accuse the government of using draconian security laws to silence her because she has broken a taboo against befriending and explaining the enemy.

Ms Fahima started visiting Mr Zubeidi in Jenin a little more than a year ago, despite an Israeli ban on its citizens travelling to Palestinian towns.

She said she wanted to find out what motivated him to kill.

“I had to ask why a man goes ahead and does this,” she told Israeli television this year. “There is a reason for this. A man doesn’t wake up one morning and decide, ‘OK, I’m going to carry out an attack.’”

The army describes Mr Zubeidi as one of its most-wanted terrorists. It has tried in vain to kill him five times.

After several meetings with the al-Aqsa brigade’s commander, Ms Fahima described him as a freedom fighter and “a kindhearted person whom I was lucky to meet”. She said she would be a human shield to protect him from Israeli assassination attempts.

“It is hard for a 28-year-old girl who was brought up on certain values to find out one day that they are all wrong,” she told the Jerusalem Post in June. “Who causes the occupation? The Palestinians? No. It is the Israelis and who am I? A Jew and an Israeli and by sitting at home and doing nothing I am also responsible.

“Zubeidi is not a terrorist, rather he is fighting against the occupation.

Suicide bombers are also fighting the occupation. Put yourself in their place and see what happens. They are denied basic rights and freedom.”

Those views have infuriated many Israelis who have denounced Ms Fahima as a traitor and terrorist sympathiser. Her religious parents refuse to speak to her, and she was sacked from her job.

Ms Fahima’s lawyers say if there were evidence she was involved in violence the authorities would have laid charges, not place her in the limbo of administrative detention.

The justice minister, Yosef Lapid, said the activist has not been charged due to the need to protect intelligence sources.

“There is very, very concrete evidence in the material indicating that she acted in a manner that endangers the security of Israel. Until there is a trial, the relevant officials believe that it would be better from the point of view of the security of Israel that she remain in detention,” he said.

But Ms Fahima’s lawyer, Smadar Ben-Natan, says her client was detained last month after refusing to inform for the Shin Bet.

“[The intelligence services] are attempting to prove to her that she is politically mistaken, they are giving her history lessons, debating with her whether this should be described as occupation, whether Palestinian fighters should be defined as freedom fighters or as terrorists,” she said.

One of Ms Fahima’s friends, Lin Dovrat, a peace activist, said the political motives behind her detention were clear from the authorities’ claim that information against her was too sensitive to be made public in court while the Shin Bet leaked accusations to the press.

“They tried to kill Zubeidi five times and failed and she got to him and was able to talk to him and was able to connect with him on a very basic human level and I think that drives them nuts,” she said.

Ms Ben-Natan says that when Ms Fahima refused to collaborate with the Shin Bet, it sought to discredit her by telling journalists she was sleeping with Mr Zubeidi, who is married. It is an accusation widely given credibility in the Israeli press, and denied by Ms Fahima.

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