Israel Deports Former Pop Star Cat Stevens

ByABC News
July 13, 2000, 2:59 PM

July 13 -- The man who gained fame as pop star Cat Stevens was denied entry into Israel and deported hours after arriving because he supports Hamas, a militant Islamist group, officials said today.

The former British music star, who has gone by the name Yusuf Islam for more than 20 years, landed in Israel on a flight from Germany early on Wednesday. He was held at the airport for several hours and sent back to Germany, government spokesman Moshe Fogel said.

Islam, who now sings only for his mosque, had transferred funds to Hamas in the past, Fogel told Reuters.

There was a problem with allowing him into the country because he is a Hamas supporter, he said. He didnt seem like he was coming here for summer tourism. Any country has the right to prevent terror within its own borders.

Fogel said Islams trip was intended to show support for the Palestinian cause while Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat were trying to hammer out a final peace deal at the U.S. presidential retreat at Camp David.

He knew before he got on the plane that he didnt have permission to come into the country, Fogel said.

Israel has sought to cut financial support for Hamas, which opposes the Palestinian-Israeli peace process and has been held responsible for numerous guerrilla attacks in which scores of Israelis have been killed or wounded.

Had Been Barred Before

Al-Islam, who recorded hits including Peace Train and Wild World before converting to Islam in 1977, last visited Israel in 1988. The government claims that during that trip he delivered tens of thousand of dollars to Hamas.

Two years later, in 1990, he tried to enter again along with his 8-year-old son but was barred.

This time, the former singer arrived at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday and was detained by airport authorities when his name appeared on a list of people banned from Israel, the Israeli daily Maariv reported.