Contrary to a common assumption that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and its administrative arm, the Palestinian Authority (PA), demand “East Jerusalem” as a future capital for a nation state of Palestine, they actually want all of Jerusalem.
This year, what some are seeing as a symbolic step toward this aim was decidedly taken.
In tandem with United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the PA and PLO have decided to recognize Jerusalem as “the capital of Arab culture” for 2009.
UNESCO is working with Palestinian Authority officials and key Israeli Arab figures in Israel to organize celebrations and turn them into a huge event against what they describe as the Israeli occupation of “Holy Jerusalem.”
As with everything in the Holy Land, their reasons have history behind them.
The Palestinians demand stems from the fact that 16 neighborhoods in West Jerusalem are constructed in place of pre-1948 Arab neighborhoods from which the Arabs fled during the 1948 war.
The consistent term used today in the Arabic language for the Jerusalem aspirations of the Palestinians is “al-Quds A Sharif” – holy Jerusalem, all of Jerusalem – not only East Jerusalem
Since 1996, the title “capital of Arab culture” has been accorded by the Arab bloc in UNESCO to one of the capitals in the Arab world. This year, for example, Damascus, capital of Syria, was given the coveted title, and last year Algiers, capital of Algeria, received it. Other cities that received the title over the years were Cairo, Tunis, Amman, Beirut and Khartoum.
Jerusalem is the latest chosen to bear the prestigious title and now PA officials and prominent leaders the Arab population in Israel are preparing to turn the title into a symbol of the battle against Israeli control of Jerusalem.
The basis for cooperation between the PA and members of the Arab population in Israel was laid over the weekend in Shfaram, where a meeting took place between PA representatives and the Arab population, to discussion preparations for the events associated with the title to be granted to Jerusalem.
One of the participants at the meeting with the PA representatives was Amir Mahoul, the chairman of Ittijah-the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, the umbrella organization of the Arab NPOs in Israel and the chairman of a “committee for the defense of freedoms.”
Mr. Mahoul, said that he believed that Israel would try to create difficulties for the events that will take place in the framework of the declaration that “the capital of Arab culture” is Jerusalem.
“We expect Israel will make things difficult for us and this is a fact that we will take into account, and over which we will battle the Israeli occupation authorities,” said Mr. Mahoul.
Mr. Mahoul stressed that he and the PA plan to turn the events associated with the title into a campaign against the occupation of Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem. “This will be an event symbolizing the battle against the occupation, beyond the historical and cultural value of Jerusalem,” he explained. “We will stress that Jerusalem is the capital of Palestinian-Arab culture, which is under occupation, and Israel should realize that every time there is a battle over Jerusalem, it loses.”
In contrast to Mr. Mahoul, the secretary general of Mada, the Arab Democratic Party Mahmoud Mawasi, said that the purpose of the events was to raise awareness of the Arabic and Islamic past of Jerusalem and not necessarily to create friction with the Israeli establishment. “We don’t want to clash with the establishment,” he said, “rather our intention is to celebrate the fact that Jerusalem was for many years the center of Arab and Islamic culture.”
Although it is widely assumed that the Western nations recognize Israel’s sovereignty in Western Jerusalem, that assumption is not correct. No member state of the United Nations maintains an embassy in Jerusalem. Every nation in the world, except for Israel, list birth certificates of their nationals who were born in Jerusalem as having been born in Jerusalem, with no listing of the country of birth. That includes the United States.
This ran in the Phila.Bulletin in September 4th, 2008