Police break up 8 PA events in e. J'lem

Abbas criticizes crackdown as police shut down gatherings celebrating city as 'Arab cultural capital.'

dichter 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
dichter 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Jerusalem police on Saturday dispersed eight small east Jerusalem events organized by the Palestinian Authority as part of a Palestinian Culture Week aimed at declaring the city the "capital of Arab culture," police said. The events were intended to emphasize the Palestinian claim to east Jerusalem. Twenty people were arrested for allegedly organizing the events, which were disbanded on the order of Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, who said they were illegal, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said. No violence or injuries were reported in connection with any of the arrests. Palestinian activists organized the events, as well as others in various West Bank cities, to celebrate the Arab League's designation of Jerusalem as the capital of Arab culture for 2009. The 23-nation group chooses a different city for the honor each year. Under the Oslo Accords, Palestinian political activity is forbidden in Jerusalem, and police periodically break up similar events in the city. The small rallies and other events in the Arab sections of Jerusalem and in the Old City were to be attended by hundreds of people. In line with the injunctions, police detained two female employees at the Al-Quds University for planning to distribute T-shirts advertising the events, and police also blocked students from entering the university. A soccer match scheduled to be held at a school on Nablus Road and a conference for young women at the Al-Hiya'la Center, also organized by the PA, were both shut down. Police said they also prevented a group of Arab students from rallying at the Temple Mount with PLO flags. Later in the afternoon, in the Ras el Amud neighborhood, police confiscated a torch, brought in from Syria, which was to have been lit at a rally at sundown, police said. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas criticized the crackdown and said Israel's policies in Jerusalem were undermining the chances for peace. "The policy of discrimination, suppression, stealing the land, destruction of neighborhoods, and homes, the policy of falsifying the past, destroying the present and stealing the future should all stop if peace is to have a real opportunity in this land," he said at a West Bank event. The Israeli action was also condemned by Israeli Arab MKs. "This government is not only an enemy of any hope for peace, but also an enemy of culture and all that is humane," MK Muhammad Barakei (Hadash) said. "There is a fact that all of Israel's deluded efforts cannot change, and that is that Al-Quds [Jerusalem] will be the capital of Palestine." "I guess the occupation feels threatened by the Palestinian culture and narrative," said MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al). One-third of the city's 750,000 residents are Arab.