Arab Jerusalemites are long waiting for a resolution

The issue of Jerusalem has always been a hot topic at Arab summits. If there were a Guinness Book record for the number of times the city of Jerusalem was mentioned at these meetings this would probably be a winner. The Arab summit, which ended in the Qatari capital Doha on Tuesday, vowed to support Palestinians in Jerusalem with a $1 billion special fund. The oil-rich Qatari emirate donated $250 million towards this fund, which reportedly will be collected through the Islamic Development Bank.

Jerusalemite columnist Khalil Assali, who has been writing regularly about the status of Jerusalem, sheds a very negative view on what is happening in Jerusalem. From his column that appears regularly on sites such, and, one gets a very dark view of what is happening in the holy city. Assali does not spare any single group from criticism. He blames the Palestinian leadership for all but abandoning what is supposed to be the capital of Palestine.

The Islamic waqf, which is one of the biggest institutions in Jerusalem, is also regularly criticised for barely doing anything of importance for the city, in general, and for protecting the Islamic sites, such as Al Aqsa Mosque, in particular. Palestinians who boycotted the unilaterally annexed "unified" Jerusalem have been unable to muster any serious political alternative to defend the Palestinian sector of Jerusalem.

During this week, Al Aqsa Mosque was repeatedly the scene of provocative visits by ultra-religious Jewish groups, many of whom have been working around the clock trying to revive the ancient Jewish temple on the site of the mosque. During the Jewish Passover season, there were attempts to revive the traditional act of offering animal sacrifices in the area that some say is the location of the Jewish temple.

The problems have intensified recently with the elections of more pro-settler members of Knesset, most pro-settler government in the history of Israel. The incursions are no longer limited to fringe and extremist Jewish groups, but also of the mainstream Israeli politicians.  Likud MK Moshe Figlin, who is now deputy speaker of the Knesset, has called on Jewish worshipers to storm and pray at Al Aqsa Mosque for the Passover holiday.

In the nearby Palestinian town of Silwan, the struggle is to try to safeguard the town from clear attempts to Judaise it. Radical Jewish groups are trying to take over Palestinian homes using the carrot and stick. Huge amounts of money are used to try and purchase Palestinian homes, and when this fails, land deeds are forged and settler groups simply break in and take over strategic homes.

The Israeli police often respond with protecting the newly created situation, claiming that the issue should be solved in the courts of law. By the time the courts get around to deal with these issues, the status quo is entrenched and they often rule in favour of the new realities. Palestinian, Arab and Islamic responses to this strong campaign in Jerusalem have not been up to par. No serious political strategy has been implemented at local or national levels. Activist Palestinians are regularly rounded up and put in Israeli jails.

Recently Palestinians received a boost from their brethren from Galilee and the Negev, but even such support is being restricted.  Sheikh Salah, from the Israeli-Palestinian town of Um Al Fahm, was ordered to stay away from Jerusalem by court order simply because he has been outspoken against the Israeli attempts to Judaise the holy city.

Arab and Muslim countries have given plenty of lip service, but not much more. An attempt by Palestinian leaders to adopt a new approach to Jerusalem by inviting supporters from around the world to visit the city has been rebuffed by an ill-advised campaign that considers visiting Jerusalem an act of normalisation with the occupiers.

Palestinians in Jerusalem are waiting to see whether or not the latest attempt to solve the Jerusalem issue through money will yield any serious results.  The author is a veteran Palestinian journalist and the director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds University.  All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.


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