'We've been waiting 60 years for these words'

100 gather in east Jerusalem to watch PA President Abbas's speech to the UN General Assembly on Palestinian statehood bid.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
September 23, 2011 22:45
3 minute read.
East Jerusalemites watch Abbas speech to UN

Abbas viewing party 311. (photo credit: MELANIE LIDMAN)

 
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More than 100 people of all ages gathered outside Damascus Gate in east Jerusalem on Friday evening to watch Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech to the UN General Assembly, as emotions ran high.

“We’ve been waiting for what he’ll say tonight for more than 60 years, we’ve been waiting for these words. This is what Palestinians inside and outside of Palestine are waiting to here, and it will definitely bring a big affect on the situation,” said Ibrahim, an east Jerusalem resident, ahead of the speech.

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Locals had originally planned to show the speech on a giant screen set up at Damascus Gate, but this was canceled after police said that a mass viewing of the speech would block traffic. At the last minute it was moved to a community center in the A-Tur neighborhood on the Mount of Olives, but some people still gathered at a small store across from Damascus Gate that had rigged up a large projection screen.

“Everybody, the whole world is listening to Mahmoud Abbas’s speech,” said an ecstatic Fadu Ahwad, also from Jerusalem, immediately after the the PA leader finished his remarks, as firecrackers were shot off from the top of a restaurant and cars passed, honking, with young people hanging out of the windows flashing victory signs.

“Even if we get the get the American veto [in the Security Council], we will [bring it to vote] again and again, even dozens of times we will bring it, so there will be no more settlements, no more apartheid wall, and we will live in peace together!” Ahwad said.

The crowd, joined at the end by the mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, trooped over to the amphitheater surrounding Damascus Gate to sing traditional songs and chant “Liberation for Palestine!”

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“This is not the end of the road for us, this is one battle in the war,” said Ghada Zughayar, the executive director of the Coalition for Accountability and Integrity in Palestine, an NGO that monitors corruption in the PA. “We will continue our struggle, we will not give up, because we are fully aware of our legitimate right... We are only asking for our right to exercise our right as a people. As Abbas said, we are the last nation in the whole world that is still under occupation. This is the moment the whole world [is watching], and two-thirds of the world is supporting our right... We are not asking for anything that is against international legitimacy. This is the time for us to do fair and justice to the Palestinians,” she said.

Others were less enthusiastic about the speech.

Osuma Azorba, a 19-year-old photography student, said he was very worried about the issue of refugees and the “right of return,” since his parents are refugees from Lifta, at the western entrance to Jerusalem. “I am pessimistic because of everything that’s happened before; they are still neglecting the Palestinians, and the strongest countries are against [the statehood bid] so nothing can change,” he said.

The concern about the “right of return” was echoed by Rali Bakir, a 71-year-old refugee from the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. “If I don’t have my old house, then I have nothing, if I don’t have my house, they can forget their speech,” he said.

Still, Abbas’s speech filled the crowd with excitement and hope for the future.

“It was amazing for us to hear him speaking about the refugees and ending the occupation,” said Amad Zorba, who works at Al- Quds University. “We have one red line, Jerusalem is our capital... I hope to see my flags in Jerusalem as soon as possible, because that’s my right,” he said.

No one stayed to watch Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech to the General Assembly.


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