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Sailing on the Japanese Peace Boat


Legal restrictions on contact with PLO
Uri Avnery Social activist
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היו מקרים שבאתי לבד, היו עניינים דחופים שהייתי צריך לסדר, והיה החוק החדש בינתיים בארץ. בעקבות הפגישה שלי בביירות, שינו את החוק בישראל. מה היה החוק? החוק הקודם היה שמותר להיפגש עם אויב במקרים מסויימים ולמטה היה כתוב: "אם הנפגש חושב שאין פגיעה בבטחון המדינה, ואם אכן לא הייתה פגיעה בבטחון המדינה”. ולכן הפגישה שלי עם ערפאת בביירות עברה בסדר. הרי הממשלה החליטה לפתוח בהליכים פליליים נגדי והטילה את זה על היועץ המשפטי זמיר, ואני נקראתי למשטרה ונתתי עדות וכן הלאה וכן הלאה, אני חושב שגם ענת סרגוסטי ושרית ישי הוזמנו למשטרה לתת עדות, ובסוף אחרי חודשים של התלבטות היועמ"ש כתב לממשלה, עם העתק אלי, שהוא לא פותח בהליכים פליליים, מפני שהוא שוכנע, וכנראה גם שוכנע ע"י השב”כ, שלא הייתה פגיעה בבטחון המדינה, שאני חשבתי שלא הייתה ואכן לא הייתה, ולכן יצאנו נקיים מהעניין הזה. זה הרגיז את הממשלה ושינו את החוק לכבודנו. באמצע הייתה גם טיסה של אייבי נתן לביירות וערפאת קיבל גם אותו כמה ימים אחרי שהוא קיבל אותנו, ואמרו: "זה לא הולך יותר, מוכרחים לשנות את החוק" ושינו את החוק. ולפי החוק החדש כל פגישה הפכה לעבירה פלילית בלי קשר לפגיעה בבטחון. אבל עשו ארבעה יוצאים מן הכלל, אם אני זוכר נכון: (א) אם זה בשביל לשחרר שבויים, המטרה היא לשחרר שבויים ישראליים. (ב) אם זה עניין משפחתי הומניטארי או משהו מסוג זה. (ג) אם זה ועידה מדעית בינלאומית. ו-(ד) אם זה מסיבת עיתונאים בינלאומית. אז אני השתדלתי כשטסתי לבד, תמיד לקחת אתי לפחות עיתונאי בינלאומי אחד, כדי שזה יהפוך כאילו למסיבת עיתונאים. יום אחד קיבלתי הזמנה משבועון גרמני: הם רוצים לראיין את ערפאת, האם אני מוכן לבוא ולהיות המראיין, בשבילם. אמרתי: "בהחלט, כן, למה לא?" ופגשתי אותם בנמל התעופה בפאריז. טסנו יחד לטוניס ויש כמה וכמה תמונות של ערפאת אתי ועם הגרמנים ברקע והם עשו מזה כתבה גדולה עם הרבה תצלומים

There were instances where I came alone as there were urgent matters that I needed to arrange. Meanwhile there was a new law in Israel. Following my meeting in Beirut, the law was changed in Israel. What was the law? Previously, one was allowed to meet with the 'enemy' in some cases, 'if the person attending the meeting believes that there is no harm to national security and if, indeed, there is no harm to national security'. And so my meeting with Arafat in Beirut was all right. After all, the government had decided to initiate criminal proceedings against me and this was imposed on the Legal Advisor, Zamir and I was summoned to the police and gave evidence and so on and so forth. I think that both Anat Saragusti and Sarit Yishai were summoned by the police to give evidence. Finally, after months of deliberation, the Attorney General wrote to the government, sending a copy to me, that he was not opening criminal proceedings because he was satisfied, and probably persuaded by Shin Bet also, that there had been no harm to the security of the State, which I also thought was the case, that no harm had been caused, so we were acquitted. This angered the government and they changed the law because of us. In the middle of all this, there was also Abie Nathan's visit to Beirut where Arafat also received him a few days after he received us, and they said: 'This cannot go on, we must change the law' and they changed the law. According to the new law every meeting had become a criminal offence regardless of any threat to security. But they made four exceptions, if I remember correctly: (a) in the case of the release of prisoners, if the goal is to free Israeli prisoners; (b) in the case of a family/humanitarian matter; (c) in the case of an international scientific conference; and (d) in the case of an international press conference.

So when I was flying alone, I tried always to take with me at least one international journalist, so that it would be like a press conference. One day, I received an invitation from a German weekly which wanted to interview Arafat, and would I come and be the interviewer on their behalf. I said: 'Definitely, yes, why not?' And I met them at the airport in Paris. We flew together to Tunis and there are several pictures of Arafat with me and with the Germans in the background, and they turned this into a huge story with a lot of photographs.

Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was an Israeli writer, journalist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. As a teenager, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Later, Avnery was elected to the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine, 'HaOlam HaZeh' from 1950 until it closed in 1993. He famously crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including '1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem' (2008); 'Israel's Vicious Circle' (2008); and 'My Friend, the Enemy' (1986).

Listeners: Anat Saragusti

Anat Saragusti is a film-maker, book editor and a freelance journalist and writer. She was a senior staff member at the weekly news magazine Ha'olam Hazeh, where she was prominent in covering major events in Israel. Uri Avnery was the publisher and chief editor of the Magazine, and Saragusti worked closely with him for over a decade. With the closing of Ha'olam Hazeh in 1993, Anat Saragusti joined the group that established TV Channel 2 News Company and was appointed as its reporter in Gaza. She later became the chief editor of the evening news bulletin. Concurrently, she studied law and gained a Master's degree from Tel Aviv University.

Tags: Beirut, Paris, Yasser Arafat

Duration: 4 minutes, 12 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 26 June 2017