LETTERS FROM PALESTINE
14 September 2004
I can't resist adding one comment to the following
article. My pro-Zionist friends sometimes say, "There
are so many Israelis supporting the Palestinian cause.
Why don't more Palestinians stand up and support
Israel?" It's a veiled allegation that Palestinians
are more closed-minded and intolerant than Israelis.
Of course, to me this question is like asking why more
Vietnamese didn't support America when so many
American activists supported the Vietnamese during the Vietnam War.
Anyway, the following story is about an unlikely
convert. Israel is inexorably losing the battle of
wills as more and more people are seeking the facts
for themselves. The question is whether the
international community will allow them to win the
battle of might, bluster, and propaganda.
(Not to give anything away, but you know people are
desperate when they accuse the activist in question of
not just aiding but also sleeping with the
Lawyers question state motives behind detention
without trial of former woman soldier who befriended
leading Palestinian militant
Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
Tuesday September 7, 2004
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
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
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
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
"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
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
The justice minister, Yosef Lapid, said the activist
has not been charged due to the need to protect
"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
"Any cop, confronted by any crime, looks for a motive.
But confronted by an international crime against
humanity, we were not to be allowed to seek the
~Robert Fisk, speaking about the crimes of 9/11
Next: Overview of the Conflicts in Palestine and Israel