NEW YORK -- Mubarak Awad, a Palestinian-American deported from Israel because of his stand on non-violent resistance to Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, said today he is willing to become a Jew if it would allow him to return.
Awad, 44, arrived in New York late Monday and was greeted at the airport with shouts of 'Death to the Palestine Liberation Organization!' and 'Zionism is racism!'
In an interview on ABC-TV's 'Good Morning America,' Awad said the Israelis had used the fact that he holds both Palestinian and American citizenship as a reason to kick him out of the country, and noted that Israelis are permitted to hold dual citizenship.
'There is something wrong there and there is injustice over there ... so if I was kicked out and I couldn't get in except by becoming a Jew, I would be willing to be a Jew so that I would be able to live over there,' he said.
Asked how he could reconcile his belief in non-violence and his support of the Palestine Liberation Organization, he said, 'I publicly condemn the violent acts' of the PLO, but said the organization is 'the only identity we have, the only group that we have that could really make peace with Israel.'
'They changed us from refugees to a nation to be proud and fight injustices,' he said.
'Israel has the right to exist as a state,' he said. 'I believe that we as Palestinians need a state of our own. So we need a two-state solution.... We as Palestinians are asking for self-determination, a right of return and compensation.'
Awad was ordered deported over U.S. objections by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who said Awad was in Israel illegally and had threatened national security by inciting violence in the Israeli-occupied territories.
He denied the charges and said he had the right to remain in Jerusalem, where he was born before the establishment of the state of Israel.
Israeli and Palestinians awaiting Awad's arrival at the airport erupted in an angry clash of verbal threats but no violence about a half hour before his jet touched down from Tel Aviv.
The Jewish group included representatives of the Jewish Defense Organization and Kach International, part of the Kach Party in Israel that is affiliated with JDL founder Meir Kahane, a spokesman said.
They shouted 'Death to the PLO! Awad is Arafat!' and 'Awad is a terrorist!'
The other group, which included members of the Palestinian Anti-Discrimination Committee, responded with, 'Israel No, Palestine Yes,' 'Death to Zionism' and 'Zionism is racism.'
Charles Kimball, director of the Middle East office of the National Council of Churches was on hand to greet Awad, would not comment on his failure to appear at the scheduled news conference, but it was believed he was hustled out of the terminal through a side door because of the presence of the demonstrators.
Kimball read a short statement from Awad in which he said it had been 'a very difficult day' but that he 'wished to express his happiness to be out of jail after 40 days.' Kimball said Awad would continue to work for 'a non-violent resolution' of strife in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Awad was met at the airport by his American wife, Nancy Nye, Kimball said.
In Israel, police and security forces had brought Awad, a psychologist, to Ben-Gurion Airport from a nearby prison in a van with covered windows, state-run Israel Radio reported.
Two police officers escorted Awad to his New York-bound plane, where his handcuffs were removed and he was seated in the business section, the radio reported.
Journalists were not allowed to see Awad before his departure. He had vowed he would have to be carried aboard his flight but it was not known whether Awad resisted.
Awad has sworn to return to Israel and to continue his fight against the Israeli occupation.
Shamir, as acting interior minister, signed a deportation order May 5, saying Awad had been in Israel illegally since Nov. 20 when his tourist visa expired. Awad was arrested May 6 and has been jailed since then.
The prime minister's office also accused Awad of inciting violence during the Palestinian uprising, now in its seventh month in the territories.
Awad appealed the deportation order, arguing he should be allowed to remain in Jerusalem. Israeli officials said Awad lost his right to remain in Israel after obtaining U.S. citizenship.
Israel's High Court of Justice upheld the deportation order June 5, clearing the way for the government to deport Awad.
The United States has protested moves to deport Awad, citing his commitment to non-violent resistance and civil disobedience such as non-payment of taxes, commercial strikes and boycotts of Israeli goods.
Awad returned to Jerusalem in 1983 after studying and living for 13 years in the United States, where he obtained U.S. citizenship and married Nye. He established the Palestinian Center for the Study of Non-Violence when he returned to Israel.