Police disperse 'Palestinian Culture Festival' events
By Jonathan Lis and Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondents, Haaretz Service
Sunday, March 22, 2009
http://haaretz. com/hasen/ spages/1072679. html
Jerusalem Police on Saturday dispersed a number of small events staged
as part of the Palestinian Culture Festival, meant to declare the city
"the capital of Arabic culture for 2009."
As of Saturday afternoon, police had shut down eight events and arrested
20 people, believed to be the events' organizers.
Among the people detained were two employees of Al-Quds University, who
were planning to hand out T-shirts promoting the festival. Police also
prevented students from entering the university's campus.
At a school on Nablus Road, police broke up a soccer game affiliated
with the culture festival. They also dispersed a gathering of young
girls at the al-Hiyala club, blocked a group of students bearing PLO
flags from reaching the Temple Mount and prevented a similar event on
Haroun el-Rashid road.
In the neighborhood of Ral al-Amud, police confiscated a torch, brought
in from Syria, which was to have been lit at an inauguration rally at
sundown, an Israeli official said.
Police also dispersed crowds on Salah al-Din Street and in the Jerusalem
neighborhood of Wadi al-Joz. Despite the confrontations, no violence or
injuries were reported.
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter had instructed police to act
forcefully against any attempts by the Palestinian Authority to stage
events in Jerusalem or other parts of Israel.
Israel Police and Border Police increased their presence in the Old City
and Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem on Saturday in preparation for
possible clashes relating to the Palestinian Culture Festival, organized
by the Palestinian Authority and scheduled to take place Saturday.
Jerusalem Police announced on Friday they would prevent the so-called
Palestinian Culture Festival the Palestinian Authority plans to organize
in the city.
MK Mohammed Barakeh (Hadash) harshly criticized Dichter for cancelling
the event in Jerusalem and Nazareth.
"The event planned for Saturday evening was initiated by the
municipality of Nazareth and sponsored by the Palestinian Authority and
was meant to be a cultural event," said Barakeh.
"This government is not only an enemy of any hope for peace, but also an
enemy of culture and all that is humane," Barakeh added. "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."
The PA were planning to fly a glider plane painted in the colors of the
Palestinian national flag over the walls of the Old City as part of the
festival, meant to declare the city to be "the capital of Arabic culture
The police said that they were determined to enforce the law, whereby
any event organized and funded by the PA is prohibited within
Jerusalem's municipal jurisdiction.
The head of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, Nachi Eyal, on
Wednesday urged Dichter and Police Commissioner David Cohen to thwart
the staging of the event.
"To the best of my understanding, this is an attempt to demonstrate
Palestinian sovereignty in Jerusalem in an illegal manner," said Eyal.
"The law...obligates the Palestinian Authority to respect the
sovereignty of Israel within the boundaries of the State of Israel,
including East Jerusalem."
Since early Friday morning, large police forces, including Border
Police, have arrived at the city and were slated to deploy to East
Jerusalem and the surrounding Arab villages on Saturday.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, was scheduled to kick
off the celebrations from his headquarters in Ramallah. Events were also
due to be held in Gaza, Lebanon, Nazareth and Bethlehem.