The Palestinian Authority has condemned the Jerusalem Festival of Light, claiming it is part of Israeli efforts to “Judaize” the city.
This year’s festival, which runs from June 28 to July 6, features dramatic light-ups of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem and buildings on nearby Jaffa Street. The festival is run jointly by the Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Ministry, the Jerusalem Development Authority and the Jerusalem Municipality.
Yusef al-Mahmoud, spokesperson for the PA government in Ramallah, said on Sunday that the festival was one of Israel’s tools to “Judaize” Jerusalem.
“What the occupation authorities call the International Light Festival in our occupied capital is nothing but another of the tools of Judaization that the occupation authorities are working to impose,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
The Palestinians have long been accusing Israel of working towards emphasizing Jerusalem’s Jewish character while seeking to erase its “Arab and Islamic identity.”
“The truth requires that the festival be called the Festival of Dimness and not the Festival of Light,” al-Mahmoud said. “The occupation is working to use all means, including the light and its aesthetics, to serve its black goals.”
The PA spokesman also accused Israel of seeking to “impose more dimness on the history and present of the holiest and most ancient Arab city.”
Mahmoud described the Festival of Light as a “destructive practice” by Israel to wipe out its “Arab and Palestinian” character.
The whole world, he added, agrees that east Jerusalem is an “occupied Palestinian city that is recognized by more than 138 countries as the capital of Palestine. This, in addition to the fact that most historians, including Arabs, foreigners and some Israelis, recognize Jerusalem as an Arab city since the dawn of history.”
Hatem Abdel-Qader, a senior Fatah official from east Jerusalem and a former PA Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, told the Palestinian Ma’an news agency that the festival was aimed at “forging the historical facts and presenting an Israeli narrative that contradicts the true narrative that emphasizes the Arab identity of Jerusalem.”
Israel’s practices in Jerusalem, he said, “will not establish for it a history or a policy or a law in an Arab Islamic city that is the capital of the Palestinian state.”
Abdel-Qader noted that the festival coincided with an Israeli crackdown on Palestinian political activities in east Jerusalem
. In recent weeks, he said, the Israeli authorities have banned a number of events in east Jerusalem, including a reception to celebrate Russia’s National Day and a Ramadan breaking meal for the festival of Iftar. The Israeli authorities, he added, have also arrested and summoned for interrogation scores of Palestinian figures on charges of breaking a law that bans the PA and other Palestinian factions from holding political activities in east Jerusalem.