‘I worked for peace,’ says onetime Arafat ally, deported from Canada over Fatah ties

A Palestinian man — once wounded alongside in his Ramallah headquarters during an Israeli Defense Forces siege — has been thrown out of for being a member of , which was deemed a terrorist group despite its role governing Palestinian territory with financial support from the Canadian government.

The decision by the , recently upheld by the Federal Court of Canada, highlights the awkward transition from violent roots to government entity.

Akram Muslih Anteer, 30, said he is dismayed by his .

“I told them Fatah is not terrorist group. It is a group that works with Canada, it is a group that works with Stephen Harper; the United Nations works with Fatah,” said Anteer.

“I don’t have any history like that,” he said when asked if he is a security risk.

‘I told them Fatah is not terrorist group’

“President Arafat made the people inside Palestine to see outside Palestine. He worked for peace. I promise you, I worked with him for the peace.

“Arafat came to Palestine and signed for peace with Israel. I was a volunteer with Arafat. I was a young guy. He talk about stopping the problems in Palestine, war wasn’t good. Just talking to him about the problems, I talked to him like that.”

Fatah was founded in the 1950s by Palestinian activists, including Arafat, and for years promoted violent struggle to achieve its goals of a Palestinian state. It is through Fatah that Arafat became chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Fatah has, like its founder, been moving from revolution to politics.

In 1994, Arafat was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and met with then prime minister Jean Chretien during official visits to Canada as a political leader.

Fatah is also the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who replaced Arafat.

Abbas Momani/AFPAbbas Momani/AFPIsraeli soldiers put up an Israeli flag on one of the buildings of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah in September 2002.

Global Affairs Canada, the foreign affairs ministry, says “Canada continues to support Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,” and has “a commitment of $300 million over five years towards improving Palestinian security, governance and prosperity.”

The IRB, however, declared Anteer inadmissible to Canada because of “reasonable grounds to believe” that Fatah is “a terrorist organization.”

He was ordered deported to Sweden, where he had lived before, in June while he took his case before the Federal Court of Canada.

Justice Cecily Strickland rejected his appeal last month, accepting it was a reasonable decision.

Costanza Musu, an associate professor of international affairs at the University of Ottawa, called the decision “surprising.”

“Fatah was for a long time a terrorist organization but that has changed for some time now. The Canadian government does support the Palestinian Authority; Abbas has been supported by the international community,” she said.

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Anteer suspects his problems stem from his perceived closeness to Arafat.

“I stayed with him at the house,” he said of a period in 2002, during the Second Intifada, when Arafat was confined to his compound in Ramallah during a tense standoff.

“I was at House Arafat as a volunteer, many people were. People came from the university, from the schools to stay there. The [Israeli] military thought people in the house were terrorists, maybe.”

After the siege, Anteer was jailed.

“I told them, ‘Never I have problems, why you put me in here in jail?’” he said of his interview with Israeli officials. “They say, ‘because you’re with House Arafat you stay in jail.”

Jailed several times over the next few years until he was expelled from Israel in 2009, he resettled in Sweden.

“After that, I’m thinking I come to Canada because I have family there. I want to come to Canada to live with my family.”

His mother and two sisters live in Mississauga, Ont.

Anteer arrived in Canada on April 18, 2013 and claimed refugee status.

‘I haven’t any trouble with the government, I just want to live normally, nothing more’

During an interview with Canada Border Services Agency, he spoke of his involvement in Fatah, acknowledging that he joined as a youth after the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 by Israel and the PLO. He was ordered detained.

His role was identifying and intercepting opponents of Fatah and working with high-ranking Fatah officials, the CBSA reported.

Anteer told them he reported to Ata Abu Rumeila, the head of Fatah in the Jenin area. That name troubled enforcement officers, who noted Rumeila was also the reputed head of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in Jenin, which is a designated terrorist organization by Canada.

The link been al-Aqsa and Fatah also caused problems with the IRB, which accepted evidence that Fatah supported al-Aqsa in terrorism against Israel.

Anteer distances himself from Rumeila.

“I never have any work from him, I never have any job with him. I don’t even like him,” he said. “I don’t have any contact.”

Anteer said he wants to return to Canada.

“I haven’t any trouble with the government, I just want to live normally, nothing more,” he said.

“Just me, my family, my business. Nothing more. No Fatah, nobody.”

Marc Herman, his Ottawa-based lawyer, hopes to file for the government’s intervention to allow Anteer another chance in Canada.

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