PA President 'Abbas in Doha: Israel Is Carrying Out 'Ethnic Cleansing' in Jerusalem
At the International Conference on Jerusalem, which took place in Doha on February 26, 2012, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud 'Abbas said that the Israeli authorities have stepped up their efforts to Judaize Jerusalem while obliterating its Arab, Muslim and Christian character. He said that Israel is pursuing this goal by constructing settlements, demolishing Palestinian homes and historical buildings, carrying out "ethnic cleansing" of the city by forcing Arab residents out, isolating East Jerusalem from the West Bank by means of the "Apartheid Wall," and impoverishing the city and destroying its infrastructures, for instance by withholding permits to build facilities such as hospitals and schools.
'Abbas stressed the need to help East Jerusalem by means of joint Islamic projects for health, education, infrastructure, trade and economy, and said that Jerusalem must be a key issue in the Arabs' and Muslims' political and economic relations with the rest of the world. He added that the 1976 Israeli law annexing East Jerusalem was "null and void" because Jerusalem was the eternal capital of Palestine.
The following are excerpts from a report on the speech published in the English-language Qatari daily Gulf Times.
"The Israeli Occupation Authorities Have Accelerated Their Efforts to Obliterate the Arab and Christian-Muslim Character of Jerusalem"
"...President Mahmoud Abbas explained that the conference is being held at a very delicate stage; Al-Quds [Jerusalem] is facing challenges and dangers which can no longer be ignored. Providing adequate answers to such challenges facing Al-Quds is a big responsibility, which calls for adopting policies to ensure the preservation of its Arab and Christian-Muslim character, Abbas said. Abbas also noted that the Israeli occupation authorities have accelerated their efforts to obliterate the Arab and Christian-Muslim character of Jerusalem, in order to Judaize it.
"The Palestinian president explained that the Israeli occupation authority's attempts to achieve the ultimate goal of these plans in Jerusalem have three axes.
"The first is that they are working to change the character and structure of Jerusalem, believing that they can remove the name of Al-Quds from the memory of the world. In this context, Abbas said that Al-Quds is witnessing an unprecedented acceleration in construction of settlements, with a view to changing its architectural characteristics and its cultural roots.
"Since the occupation authorities removed the Mughrabi neighbourhood after the 1967 war in the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel is still demolishing Palestinian homes that carry historical symbolic such 'Karm al Mufti' and others, and building settlements in more than one site on lands confiscated from the citizens of the holy city, Abbas underlined. He said that Israel had erected the 'Apartheid Wall' and the settlements in order to isolate the city from its surroundings in the West Bank, and to also prevent communication between the north and south of the West Bank."
Israel "Is Completing the Ethnic Cleansing" of Jerusalem
"The Palestinian president said that the second axis of the plan of the Israeli occupation in the city of Jerusalem is completing the ethnic cleansing. Israel began implementing this scheme when the occupation began in 1967, forcing merchants, business owners, and the Palestinian citizens to leave their city by imposing high taxes associated with punitive measures. He emphasized that what is implemented by the Israeli occupation authorities is ethnic cleansing against Palestinian citizens, to make them a minority in their city with resident status only.
"The Palestinian president explained that the third axis is the Israel's endeavor to impoverish the holy city, destroy its infrastructure, and undermine its economic resources. He said that Jerusalem has always been, through all ages in history, a center of prosperity with thriving economic, medical, educational and tourism activity, embracing cultural, intellectual and artistic work in Palestine.
"To achieve the end [of impoverishing Jerusalem], Abbas said, Israel closed the headquarters of many of the Palestinian institutions, like the East House, the headquarters of professional and workers' trade unions, the Chamber of Commerce, which he added was founded in the 1930s before the Palestine 'Nakba' (exodus) and the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. He said that Israel also refused to grant licenses to construct hospitals, universities, schools, hotels, apartments and shopping centers.
"The Jewish state, he said, has passed laws and taken measures to control the movement of foreign tourists to keep them away from the city's hotels owned by Palestinians. He pointed out that the most serious measure, apart from surrounding Jerusalem with a series of settlements in order to separate it from the rest of the West Bank, is the occupation authorities' erection of permanent barriers since the 1990s, preventing Palestinian citizens from entering Jerusalem whether for prayer, work, medical treatment, study, shopping or visiting their relatives and families without permits which are almost impossible to obtain.
"The Palestinian president went on to say that these measures have led to what he called 'the stopping of the flow of blood from the arteries to the heart,' because Jerusalem throughout its history had been receiving daily tens of thousands of other Palestinian cities' citizens, who used to flock to the holy places, markets, schools, hospitals and workshops."
Israel Aims to "Reduce [East] Jerusalem to an Old and Decrepit Neighborhood of Deserted Mosques and Churches and Empty Markets and Streets"
"Abbas said that Israel's aim is to rob Jerusalem of its historical and religious character. It wants to wipe out its character as an avant-garde civilization and global center, and to reduce Jerusalem to an old and decrepit neighborhood of deserted mosques and churches and empty markets and streets.
"President Abbas underlined the need to support the steadfastness of Jerusalemites, the defenders of the holy city, stressing that they would challenge the grave circumstances facing them and would live in their city to protect Al-Aqsa mosque and the city's churches. He stressed the need to implement all plans and projects aimed at helping save Jerusalem.
"'To this end,' he said, 'we agreed with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which adopted the plans on Jerusalem, that we work together so that able Arab and Islamic countries could adopt one of the sectors, such as health, education, housing, infrastructure, trade, economy, culture and religious sites, needed to enhance the steadfastness of our people in Jerusalem,' Abbas said. He said he had met the Secretary General of the OIC, Dr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu. 'We have an agreement on the plan and mechanisms to implement this. Dr. Ihsanoglu will personally follow up the implementation of this plan which we hope would serve to strengthen the steadfastness of our people in Jerusalem,' he added
"Abbas lauded the document on Jerusalem that was announced by Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar days before the conclusion of the Cairo Jerusalem Conference, for the clear vision it contained and for the plans and activities it proposed. He said, 'Any work we do is based on the centrality of Jerusalem for the Palestinian cause. Out of this comes our adherence to our principal position of not to resume negotiations as long as the occupation authorities do not fulfill their commitments to halt all settlement activity, particularly in Jerusalem.'
"Underscoring the need to work on several axes, the first of which being that Jerusalem must be the core issue in the political and economic relations between the Arab and Muslim and rest of the world, Abbas also called for developing a unified plan of action with the various Christian churches which are concerned with preserving churches as places of worship rather than as tourist attractions, 'as there are tens of thousands of faithful Christian who perform pilgrimage to the Holy Land every year.'
"The other contentious issue was the so-called annexation of Jerusalem by Israel through a law enacted by them on June 27, 1976.'This law is null and void because Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine,' he said.
"The second topic of discussions centered on strengthening the infrastructure of the community in Jerusalem by adopting projects to support institutions and other projects in the Holy City. 'Towards this objective we can expand the scope of participation of entities by including NGOs as well as Arab and Islamic governments,' Abbas said. 'There are broad areas to build twinning relationships and partnership among similar institutions in various sectors, including educational, economic, cultural and social. There are areas to make a qualitative difference through a series of small projects involving the maximum number of Arab citizens – both Muslims and Christians.'
"He said that the third topic dealt with creating constant contact with the people of Jerusalem to break the siege imposed on them and on the holy city, pointing to the leading role played by brethren in the areas of 48 who continuously organize mass visits to Jerusalem, praying in its mosques, shopping in its markets, and helping its people feel that they are not alone.
"Abbas said, 'This area underscores the need to encourage all who can, especially brethren from Arab and Islamic countries as well as our fellow Arabs and Muslims and Christians in Europe and America to go to visit Jerusalem', adding that this move will have political, moral, economic and humanitarian repercussions on the city of Jerusalem and its people."