Druse MK defies Syria travel ban

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September 6, 2007 23:15
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Amid acutely tense relations between Damascus and Jerusalem, MK Said Nafa (Balad) Thursday violated a ban on Israelis visiting enemy states and traveled to Syria. The Druse MK's application to visit Syria was denied by the Interior Ministry earlier this week, but he decided nonetheless to lead a delegation of 330 Druse religious officials there as a pilgrimage. According to Nafa, the trip was meant to maintain contact between Druse in Syria and in Israel, as well as between Syrian and Israeli Arabs. In his written request to the Interior Ministry, Nafa said that the group wanted to visit the Tomb of Habil, located 30 miles west of Damascus. Habil is the Arab name for Abel, Cain's brother. In the past, Israel has allowed Druse citizens to visit the tomb as part of their religious worship. However, Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit, who rejected the request, wrote that security officials "refuse to approve visits by Druse religious officials to Syria and Lebanon." Nafa replaced MK Azmi Bishara in the Balad Party after Bishara fled Israel amid accusations of espionage. Although Bishara's current whereabouts are unknown, he has frequently resurfaced in Syria and publicly supported the Syrian government. It is illegal for Israeli lawmakers and citizens to travel to states with which Israel is technically at war, such as Syria and Lebanon. Last year, Balad MKs Bishara, Wasal Taha and Jamal Zahalka, along with former MKs Muhammad Miari and Muhammad Kanan, were investigated for a trip they made to Lebanon and Syria not long after the Second Lebanon War. MK Effi Eitam (NU-NRP) slammed Nafa's visit, saying that the MK was following in the footsteps of Bishara. "Bishara started out by visiting capital cities of nations and ended up acting as an agent of the enemy," said Eitam. He added that he expected security officials to keep tabs on Nafa's activities in Syria, and act accordingly when he returned.

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