Police interrogate Balad head for unauthorized Syria visit

After three reporters questioned about visits to enemy states.

said nafa 224.88 (photo credit: Knesset Web site)
said nafa 224.88
(photo credit: Knesset Web site)
Police on Sunday afternoon concluded their interrogation of Balad chairman, Knesset Member Said Nafa, for visiting Syria despite being denied permission by the Interior Ministry. In early September, 330 Druse religious leaders, led by Nafa, went on a tour of Druse religious sites in Syria. Nafa's visit to Syria was unanimously blasted by government members, including Deputy Knesset Speaker Majallie Whbee of Kadima, also a Druse, who called the visit a "trip of flattery to [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, initiated by members of the school of [former MK] Azmi Bishara," saying also that it "represents only the extremist, marginal groups and not the mainstream Druse population of Israel." Nafa has defended his trip to Syria as no different from those visits made to hostile Arab nations by Israeli journalists holding dual passports. Nafa told Yediot Aharanot: "We have relations with Arab states on a regular basis and no one asks us what the purpose of our visits is. It is only when we [Arab MKs] visit Syria that everyone makes a big deal. Two weeks ago, journalist Ron Ben Yishai visited Beirut, on journalistic assignment. Political assignment is just as important as journalistic assignment, especially if our messages prevent war and advance peace." Last week, in an apparently related development, the police announced that they had in fact recently questioned three journalists - Ben-Ishai, Tzur Shizef and Lisa Goldman - over unauthorized visits to enemy countries. The Israel Police spokeswoman for the Investigations and Intelligence Division, Dep.-Cmdr. Michal Hayyim, released a message to national-level police reporters regarding the investigation. "In the International Serious Crimes Unit there is an ongoing investigation against journalists who went to enemy states, without permission from the Interior Ministry as required by law," Hayyim wrote. "This morning a reporter was questioned about his departure to Lebanon, and in the course of the past month, two reporters were questioned - one for his trip to Syria and one for her trip to Lebanon. "The police see as serious the departures of citizens of Israel to an enemy state, even if done using foreign passports that they hold. Beyond the danger to their lives, their departure to enemy countries necessarily [constitutes] a danger to national security," Hayyim continued. "To emphasize - this is an offense of up to four years' imprisonment."