Festival spirit of Jerusalem fails to reach Arabs

FROM PATRICK COCKBURN

in Jerusalem

Some 3,000 years after King David sent his men up a tunnel to capture Jerusalem from the Jebusites, a festival to celebrate the conquest of the city is being strongly attacked because of a more recent takeover. Critics point out that the site chosen to inaugurate the celebration, to be called Jerusalem 3,000, is in the largely Arab village of Silwan, near houses taken over from Palestinians by an extremist Jewish settler organisation.

"The festival is in essence a celebration for the Jewish part of the city," Teddy Kollek, former mayor of Jerusalem, told the weekly Kolhair. "It is tactless and shows a lack of consideration to locate the festival in a largely Arab area. The celebrations have become a political and chauvinistic business."

There is no doubt that the organisers have a problem. The City of David, ancient Jerusalem, lies on a steeply sloping ridge outside the walls of the medieval city. Today it is home to the Palestinians of Silwan.

But the plan is to inaugurate, in about three months, the 15-month festival of cultural events on a site close to several heavily fortified houses which the Jewish settler group Elad took over in a paramilitary operation in 1991.

The idea for the festival originally came from Mr Kollek but it is being implemented by his right-wing successor, Ehud Olmert, who does not conceal that he finds it politically convenient. It runs from September 1995 through 1996, the year when negotiations between Israel and the PLO on the final status of Jerusalem are to begin. Mr Olmert says: "The timing is perfect to reaffirm Israel's sovereignty over Jerusalem."

Not surprisingly, other countries are chary about getting involved in quite such a political event. The Deputy Foreign Minister, Yossi Beilin, said in March: "I regret it very much but the fact is we have run into a cool reaction from elements in Europe and the United States." He questioned the wisdom of holding the festival when talks about the city were about to start.

There was an edgy atmosphere in Silwan yesterday as Israelis celebrated Jerusalem Day, commemorating the capture of the whole city in 1967. In the Pool of Siloam, just beyond the old walls of the City of David, three Palestinian boys were bathing, overlooked by a dozen Israeli teenagers, two of whom were armed. Further up the hill, on the Temple Mount itself, Jewish fundamentalists were holding a protest because they were not allowed to pray on the site of the Second Temple.

Another sign that Jerusalem 3,000 may not promote warmer feelings between Israelis and Palestinians is a pamphlet published by the municipality in preparation for the festival. It is by Joseph Shaar; he is known in Jerusalem as an author of biblical quizzes, but his pamphlet is being denounced by one council member for being full of "false and chauvinist statements about the [Arab] residents of east Jerusalem and flattery for Mayor Ehud Olmert".

Critics of the pamphlet point in particular at Mr Shaar's account of the massacre in 1948 at Deir Yassin, a western suburb of Jerusalem, when Irgun and the Stern gang killed 254 Palestinians, mostly women and children. These killings are not mentioned in the pamphlet, which says "members of the murderous gangs who fortified themselves [in the village] were sniping at the Jewish neigh -bourhoods around them". The pamphlet is being revised but Mr Olmert supports naming a street after Yehoshua Goldschmidt, a member of the Stern gang who planned the Deir Yassin attack.

n Rabat - Israel's Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, and the PLO leader,Yasser Arafat, yesterday renewed their commitment to meeting the 1 July target date to agree on the second phase of the Palestinian autonomy plan.

After overnight talks mediated by King Hassan of Morocco the two leaders pledged in a joint statement to agree by 1 July on "the redeployment of the [Israeli] army, security arrangements, elections and the transfer of authority" in West Bank towns. They said they would seek to establish "a durable peace and to avoid that the peace process be threatened again".

Mr Arafat told reporters he understood "the security attacks by Palestinian militants" have slowed talks on advancing beyond phase one of the September 1993 peace agreement, which allowed the Palestinians autonomy in the Gaza Strip and Jericho on the West Bank. Mr Peres earlier told Israel radio that during the talks, "the atmosphere was demonstratively friendly".

There was no immediate indication whether Mr Peres gave assurances that Israel will permanently drop plans to confiscate Palestinian land in east Jerusalem.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones