PA fatwa condemns Arab voters in J'lem

Fatah officials argue that participation in municipal vote legitimizes Israeli annexation of east J'lem.

East Jerusalem Arabs vote (photo credit: Channel 1 [file])
East Jerusalem Arabs vote
(photo credit: Channel 1 [file])
The Palestinian Authority's chief Islamic judge, Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi, published a fatwa on Saturday banning Arab residents of Jerusalem from participating in the upcoming municipal election. In a separate development, the chairman of the Supreme Islamic Council in Jerusalem, Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, renewed the fatwa barring Palestinians from selling property to Jews. He also warned Arab Jerusalemites against resorting to Israeli courts to settle disputes over real estate, out of fear that their homes and lands might end up in Jewish hands. Although the PA has previously urged Jerusalem Arabs to boycott the municipal election, this is the first time the chief Islamic judge issued such a fatwa. The overwhelming majority of Arabs in the capital have refrained from participating in the local elections since 1967 - some for political reasons and others out of a belief that they won't benefit from going to the ballot boxes or running as candidates. The handful of Arabs who defied the boycott have been attacked both physically and verbally. The last-minute appeal to boycott the elections came as three of the four mayoral candidates - Meir Porush, Nir Barkat and Arkadi Gaydamak - were recruiting supporters in the city's Arab neighborhoods. The three have also been holding low-profile rallies in some Arab neighborhoods with the hope of persuading residents to vote. Alarmed by these activities, the PA leadership in Ramallah decided to warn Arab voters against casting ballots. The warning came in the form of a series of statements from top PA officials and Fatah representatives in Ramallah and Jerusalem, who argued that participation in the election would legitimize Israel's 1967 annexation of east Jerusalem. "It's forbidden, from a religious and national point of view, to participate in the municipal election either by voting or by running as candidates," Tamimi told reporters in Ramallah. He accused Israel of committing "grave and immoral violations" against the Aksa Mosque. He also lashed out at Barkat for promising to build a new neighborhood between French Hill and Ma'aleh Adumim, east of Jerusalem. Jihad Abu Znaid, a Fatah legislator from the Shuafat refugee camp, the only community of its kind within the boundaries of Jerusalem, also called to boycott the vote, arguing that the municipal election was illegal. Abu Znaid said the Jerusalem Municipality had long carried out a policy of systematic discrimination against Arab residents. "We urge all the Arab Jerusalemites to boycott the election," she said. "We appeal to the international community to exert pressure on Israel to halt its arbitrary policies against the Arabs." Another Fatah legislator, Hatem Abdel Kader, told The Jerusalem Post that the Arab residents were not protesting only against the lack of municipal services. "This is a political issue," he said. "Participation in the municipal election will be interpreted as recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the Arab part of Jerusalem."