Outcry Over Ban on PFLP Founder Memorial

About 30 demonstrators from the Israeli-Arab Abnaa elBalad Movement (Sons of the Land) rallied in Haifa yesterday in protest of a police decision to ban an open-air memorial service for George Habash, the founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The PFLP is considered a terrorist organization in Israel.

Mohammed Kanana, secretary general of the movement which organized the rally, told Haaretz he had not been surprised by the police decision.

"The Israel Police is famous for its oppression of the Arab public and for its opposition to lawful democratic activity," he said. The event was supposed to be held in a Haifa theater yesterday, marking the first anniversary of Habash's death. Among the invited speakers were Arab public figures, clergymen, and Habash's relatives living in Israel.

Kanana said that the event was not to be a support rally for the Popular Front, but merely a memorial service. He also said Habash was not a terrorist but a "fighter against Zionism and imperialism."

"On Saturday a rally in support of Habash's organization was supposed to take place, under the guise of an election rally," a police spokesman said Friday. "Since it's a terrorist organization, such activities are banned by law."

"He enjoyed a special status among the Palestinians, as well as among Israeli Arabs," Kanana said of Habash. "Terrorists are the people who carry out carnage in Palestine, Lebanon and everywhere for over 60 years. It's no different to what the Nazis and the Fascists did in Europe."

The Sons of the Land have been urging Israeli Arabs to boycott the national elections. It is one of the oldest movements of Israeli-Arabs, founded in 1969. It takes very strong stands against the Israeli establishment and calls for a single bi-national state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

Habash, a refugee from Lod, is buried in Jordan. Last year the police also canceled planed events on the anniversary of his death.

MKs Jamal Zahalka of Balad, Ahmed Tibi and Talab al-Sana, both of the the United Arab List-Ta'al, denied they had been interviewed by the Iranian news agency Fars yesterday, which had quoted the three speaking in favor of the Palestinain national struggle, the agency said. "The interview is fabricated and a fake. We were never interviewed by them. This is contemptuous behavior," said Tibi in response to the publication.

The Fars story quoted Zahalka as saying, "We are first and foremost Palestinians who are concerned with Palestinian interests. The aggressive nature of Zionist society towards the Arabs stems from the fear of the demographic weapon that we have as Palestinians who live here. This exposes the policy of occupation to possible harm in the qualitative balance between Israelis and the Palestinians and this is a situation Israel refuses to get to." Fars quoted Tibi as saying that Israel has thus far refused to reveal an accurate count of the casualties it sustained during the Gaza operation in an effort to whitewash military miscues it committed during the war.