An Irish Nobel peace laureate called Israel an "apartheid" state during a deportation hearing before the country's Supreme Court today, prompting a rebuke from a justice who told her to keep her "propaganda" to herself.
Israel has banned Mairéad Corrigan Maguire, 66, from entering the country because of her attempt to breach the Gaza naval blockade aboard a vessel in June.
She was detained last Tuesday after landing at the airport in Tel Aviv on her way to meet Israeli and Palestinian peace activists. She appealed the move however and asked the Supreme Court to allow her into Israel to join a women's human rights delegation.
During today's hearing, Ms Maguire called on Israel to cease what she called its "apartheid" policy against the Palestinian people.
"This is no place for propaganda," Justice Asher Grunis retorted and cut her off. The session ended soon thereafter.
The government opposed a court-proposed compromise that Ms Maguire be allowed to join the delegation for two days and then leave.
Ms Maguire's lawyers said they expect her to be deported, another decision that could further tarnish Israel's image abroad. Interior ministry officials say Ms Maguire knew she would not be allowed into the country but sought to provoke an incident.
Upon entering the courtroom, Ms Maguire said to reporters: "There will be peace in this country, but only after Israel ends apartheid and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people."
Fellow Nobel laureate Jody Williams of the Nobel Women's Initiative, which sponsored the delegation, said they were unaware of the ban. But earlier in the year, Israel's Foreign Ministry denied the group's appeal to ease the ban and let Ms Maguire take part in the delegation that arrived last week.
The activist won the peace prize in 1976 for her efforts to end sectarian violence in the North. She has since become a marginal political figure at home and turned most of her attention in recent years to the Palestinian cause.
She has voiced support for Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, a man widely seen in Israel as a traitor, attended anti-Israel demonstrations in the West Bank and compared the Jewish state's reported nuclear arsenal to Hitler's gas chambers.
In 2007, she was wounded at a demonstration against Israel's West Bank security barrier when a rubber bullet fired by police hit her in the leg.
Israel has banned other pro-Palestinian activists from entering the country, including Jewish-American linguist Noam Chomsky in May. The government later said that was a mistake.