This morning, Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire was denied entry to Israel and was detained at Ben Gurion Airport.
Maguire, an Irish peace activist and a co-founder of the Nobel Women's Initiative, was traveling to Israel to lead a delegation through Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The group intends to learn about the efforts of Jewish and Arab women who are actively working for peace and coexistence.
"Dedicating your life to peace should not be a threat to national security," commented Jody Williams, one of the six founders of the Nobel Women's Initiative, as she prepared to board a flight to Tel Aviv.
With the help of Adalah, a local NGO that advocates for the rights of Israel's Palestinian citizens, Maguire has begun fighting her deportation. Fatmeh El-Ajou, an attorney for Adalah, remarked, "We believe that the decision to refuse entry to Ms. Maguire is based on illegitimate, irrelevant, and arbitrary political considerations."
"All of her activities [in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories] were done in a peaceful and nonviolent form and all of her activities should be protected under the right to express her opinion," El-Ajou added.
Maguire has been a vocal critic of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians, including the siege on Gaza. This summer, she participated in the Freedom Flotilla, which Israel took over in international waters. The Israeli raid led to the deaths of nine internationals and sparked international outcry; Maguire, along with other activists, was detained and subsequently returned to her home country.
Deportation from Israel results in a 10-year ban from returning to the state.
According to El-Ajou, Maguire was so concerned that her repatriation might prevent her from returning to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories that she contacted Israeli authorities after she'd arrived Ireland. They informed Maguire that she wouldn't be barred from entering the country.
When she arrived today with a fellow flotilla participant, her colleague was permitted to enter Israel. But the Israeli authorities told Maguire that she was denied entry because of her participation in the flotilla.
Sabine Haddad, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Interior commented to The Huffington Post: "A few months ago [Maguire] was on the Rachel Corrie [a ship on the Freedom Flotilla]. After that she was deported. So she knows that she can't come to Israel. She says that she [checked] with the embassy before but she didn't do that."
Is Maguire's detainment politically motivated? Is it related to her support of the Palestinians?
"No," Haddad answered.
"She's not special, ok?" Haddad added. "She has to go by the law in Israel."
Referring to the state's position that Maguire was denied entry on the basis of her participation with the Freedom Flotilla, El-Ajou remarked, "This is the excuse."
What does detaining a Nobel Peace Prize winner say about the state of the Israeli government? Is it a strike against free speech? Is it punishment for supporting the Palestinians?
"It's both," El-Ajou responded. Maguire is being singled out because of her "commitment to alleviating the suffering of the people of Gaza and because of her wide activities seeking peace and justice," El-Ajou said.
Other prominent figures who are critical of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians have been denied entry to the country. In May, Noam Chomsky was barred from entering. In 2008, Professor Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian Territories, was detained as he attempted to enter Israel and was subsequently deported.
Maguire's detainment comes just two days after the end of the settlement freeze, which endangers fledging peace talks. Construction resumes. A Nobel Laureate is detained. Both moves cast doubt upon Israel's commitment to peace.