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Local Arab leaders intend to boycott Israel's flagship airline El Al, in protest over what they term "political persecution and interrogations at Israel's airports and border crossings."

At present, only representatives of "Arab institutions" will participate in the boycott, but the general public may be called on to join at a later date.

The boycott was announced by Amir Mahoul, head of the Popular Committee for the Protection of Liberties, during a press conference yesterday at the Nazareth headquarters of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee.

Mahoul's subcommittee was formed several years ago to support Islamic Movement head Sheikh Ra'ad Salah, who had been placed on trial along with other movement members. It will work alongside two other subcommittees, the Committee for Opposing Civilian Service and the Prisoners of Freedom Committee, which monitors the condition of Israeli Arab inmates. Their stated purpose is "to support all the national Palestinian figures who suffer political persecution by Israel and its systems of oppression."

Mahoul called on others to boycott El Al, and added that his subcommittee would consider boycotting other Israeli companies that "discriminate against Arabs."

A spokesman for El Al commented: "The security checks at Ben-Gurion International Airport are conducted by the Israel Airports Authority, and all passengers departing Ben-Gurion on any airline, from Israel or the rest of the world, undergo the security checks in accordance with security regulations set by the security authorities, in keeping with the law."