Protests again thwart Israeli-Palestinian meeting

Palestinian political activists protest meetings designed to "normalize" relations for second time in a week.

Palestinians celebrate the release of prisoners in Gaza 311R (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)
Palestinians celebrate the release of prisoners in Gaza 311R
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)
In the second incident of its kind in the past week, Palestinian political activists Tuesday thwarted a meeting between Israelis and Palestinians in east Jerusalem.
The activists are opposed to such meetings under the pretext that they are designed to promote “normalization” between Palestinians and Israelis.
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Tuesday’s meeting was initiated by the Palestine-Israel Journal, a non-profit organization founded in 1994 by Ziad Abu Zayyad and Victor Cygielman, two prominent Palestinian and Israeli journalists.
Abu Zayyad is also a former Palestinian minister for Jerusalem affairs.
The group states that its main goal is to encourage dialogue between the civil societies and broaden the base of support for the peace process.
“It was obvious from the start that, alongside the institutional efforts of Palestinians and Israelis, channels of communication must be opened for academics and other intellectuals, opinion and policy makers, grassroots organizations and activists to voice their views and take part in the public debate for a democratic and just solution to the conflict,” the Palestine- Israel Journal states on its web site.
The title of Tuesday’s meeting was the “Arab Spring’s impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
However, the event was called off at the last minute after the organizers learned that a group of Palestinian activists belonging to various factions, including Fatah, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s party, was planning to stage a demonstration in front of the conference hall.
“As a result of circumstances beyond our control, we regret to announce that the conference scheduled to take place today is postponed,” the organizers said in a statement.
This was the second time that Israelis and Palestinians were forced to cancel a joint event as a result of pressure and threats from Palestinian activists in east Jerusalem.
Last week, another organization called the Israeli Palestinian Confederation was forced to cancel a conference at the Ambassador Hotel in east Jerusalem after scores of Palestinians demonstrated outside the building. Some of the protesters stormed the hotel and confiscated leaflets and signs belonging to the organization.
Al Quds University President Sari Nusseibeh, who was invited to address the conference, did not show up after receiving threats from the anti- “normalization” activists.
The Israelis who were supposed to attend the conference included Shlomo Ben-Ami, a former foreign minister, and left-wing activists Uri Avnery and Ruth Dayan.
Earlier this week, Hatem Abdel Kader, a senior Fatah operative, announced that his faction has declared “war” on meetings aimed at promoting “normalization” with Israel.
Abdel Kader told The Jerusalem Post that such meetings were being exploited by Israel to create the impression that there is some kind of dialogue going on between the two sides despite the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to return to the negotiating table unless its conditions are met – cessation of settlement construction and recognition of the pre-1967 lines as the basis for a two-state solution.
Abdel Kader told the Post that early Tuesday he received a phone call from the Jerusalem Police asking him to report for interrogation in wake of his “anti-normalization” campaign.
Nusseibeh denied Tuesday that the purpose of last week’s conference was to promote “normalization” between Israeli and Palestinian academics.
“On the contrary – the goal was to end the occupation and lay a mechanism for a better future for both sides,” he wrote in an article published in the Palestinian daily Al Quds.
He said that those who resorted to violence to foil the conference caused damage to the Palestinian leadership by making it appear as if it’s not interested in peace.
“I believe that this is one of the diseases that harms our general political situation,” Nusseibeh charged. “We are being exposed to this [disease] by those who claim that they are educated, but are ignorant.”