RAMALLAH, Oct 5, 2010 (IPS) - Irish Nobel Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire was deported from Israel Tuesday after spending more than a week in detention at Tel Aviv Airport as she attempted to fight the deportation order.
Last week four Israeli security men tried to force the Nobel Peace prize winner to board an airplane after she arrived in the country as part of the Nobel Womens' Initiative (NWI) delegation to Israel and Palestine.
Maguire put up fierce resistance and stated she would fight the deportation through an Israeli court. She was supported by the captain of the airplane on which she was to be deported after he witnessed the event and refused to allow any passengers to be forcefully boarded against their will.
Following an urgent appeal by her lawyer to an Israeli district court the deportation was temporarily halted. While the Petah Tikva district court ordered the Israeli authorities to return Maguire's personal effects to her, it upheld the deportation order.
Her lawyer then filed an appeal with the Israeli Supreme Court, but this court too upheld the deportation while accusing the internationally renowned human rights campaigner of indulging in propaganda.
This was not Maguire's first experience with being deported from Israel. Four months earlier she was deported after the humanitarian flotilla from the Free Gaza movement was intercepted in international waters by Israeli navy commandos as it tried to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza. Nine activists were shot dead.
The Nobel Laureate, along with hundreds of other international activists, was forcibly taken to Israel's Ashdod Port from where they were subsequently deported, and warned they would not be able to enter Israel again for ten years.
This was her second participation in a humanitarian flotilla to Gaza. Maguire had also previously taken part in a non-violent protest against Israel's separation barrier in the village of Bili'in near Ramallah, making her a target of the Israeli authorities.
Maguire is not deterred. She has reiterated her determination to pursue peace wherever she sees children suffering following her experiences in her native Northern Ireland. Three of her nephews, all young boys, were killed during a targeted assassination carried out by British security forces. Their mother (Maguire's sister) committed suicide shortly afterwards.
Maguire's subsequent work in helping the peace process in Northern Ireland earned her a Nobel Peace Prize. In 2006 Maguire together with sister laureates Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Rigoberta Menchu Tum and Betty Williams established NWI. The women decided to bring together their extraordinary experiences in a united effort for peace with justice and equality.
"We believe peace is much more than the absence of armed conflict. Peace is the commitment to equality and justice; a democratic world free of physical, economic, cultural, political, religious, sexual and environmental violence and the constant threat of these forms of violence against women -- indeed against all of humanity," read a statement released by NWI to journalists in Ramallah.
The NWI delegation visited Israel and Palestine to meet with Israeli and Palestinian women in an effort to further the cause of peace in this troubled region and to try and bridge the yawning chasm between the two communities.
IPS spoke with Jaclyn Friedman, executive director of Women, Action, and the Media (WAM) about her experiences and impressions during the tour.
"We decided it was important to continue with our work in the region despite Maguire's incarceration. We also believe as mothers and women we have a unique perspective on conflict and are concerned about the security of women here due to the political situation and cultural constraints," Friedman told IPS.
"One of our primary objectives was to see how we could support a coalition of Palestinian and Israeli women in an effort to improve their lives and strengthen non-violent protest. We met with a large group of Palestinian women in Ramallah who are working for change through social services and job training."
NWI also met with Israeli and Arab women at Isha La Isha Feminist centre in Haifa which is trying to change Israeli society by fighting for the emancipation of women.
One of the issues which concerns Friedman is the status of women in Gaza as honour killings and the marrying off of young Gazan girls to old men continues.
In the West Bank Friedman believes that institutionalised discrimination against Palestinian women can be helped by the Palestinian Authority (PA) being held more accountable.
"Holding municipal elections and implementing programmes to increase the participation of Palestinian women in governance would help build up a true democracy in Palestine," said Friedman.
She acknowledged being shocked at seeing the living conditions in the West Bank first-hand.
"As an American Jew, witnessing the impact of the occupation on the daily lives of Palestinians was tough. Conditions are far harsher than I had been led to believe.
"This is another area we can offer support by lobbying our governments and speaking out against the occupation through the American media. It is imperative that the international community hold Israel accountable for its actions and war crimes," Friedman told IPS.
However, the activist was also uplifted by witnessing Israeli and Palestinian women working together and managing to bridge the huge political and geographical divide between the two communities to a certain degree.
"Despite the militaristic culture here and the endless conflict, the ability of these women to work together has been inspirational and given me some hope for the region and for its future."