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Palestine's Abbas, Al-Azhar grand imam call on Arabs to support Jerusalem in Cairo conference

Ahram Online , Wednesday 17 Jan 2018
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: azhar.eg)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: azhar.eg)
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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayyeb called on Arabs to show support for the Palestinian people during a conference in Cairo on Wednesday on Jerusalem.

President Abbas called on Arabs to visit Jerusalem, noting that doing so would not legitimize Israel's control of the city, and that calls for a boycott would only harm the Palestinians.

"We hope you don't leave us alone with the occupation," the Palestinian president told the international audience. "Visiting Jerusalem does not [mean] visiting Israel or normalization with it."

Many Egyptian officials including religious leaders from Al-Azhar, the highest institution of Sunni Islamic authority, and Egypt’s Coptic Christian church have for decades refused to travel to Jerusalem in protest at the Israeli occupation.

Since last month's decision by US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, 30 Palestinians have been killed, 7,000 injured and 1,000 arrested, Abbas said.

The two-day gathering of world religious and political figures, which began Wednesday, is sponsored by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and organized by Al-Azhar.

The event aims to foster awareness about Jerusalem and its Arab identity and the role of the international community regarding the holy city, Al-Azhar said.

It brings together senior Muslim and Christian clerics, political figures as well as regional and international organizations from 86 countries.

The conference is the 12th held by Al-Azhar on the subject of Jerusalem and in rejection of "Zionist aggression" since the 1948 Israeli-Arab war.

It the first such gathering in the past 30 years, Al-Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayyeb noted in his address to the conference.

Israel seized control of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed it in 1980, a move that has never been recognised by the international community.

The Palestinians have long demanded East Jerusalem for the capital of their future state.

This year's conference aims to underscore the need to "stand up to the barbaric Zionist absurdity of the 21st century, which is supported by international policies… drawn by the Zionist entity and its policies," Al-Tayyeb told the audience.

Al-Tayyeb expressed disapproval that school curricula in the Arab and Muslim world fail to raise awareness about the Palestinian issue, saying that youth in Israeli settlements are raised through "educational curricula… songs and prayers that constitute hostility, fuel them with racism and hatred of all that is Arab and Muslim."

He called for declaring 2018 the "year of Jerusalem," suggesting material and moral support for people of the city, as well as ongoing cultural and media activities to be sponsored by leading Arab, Islamic and civil society organisations.

Last month Al-Tayyeb rejected a meeting requested by US Vice President Mike Pence in protest against a US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

In a message read to the conference by his Egyptian secretary, Pope Francis recalled for "resuming dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians for a negotiated solution to peaceful coexistence in two countries with internationally agreed borders."

Egyptian Coptic Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox church, said Trump's Jerusalem decision paves the way for "the judaization of Jerusalem and wiping away the holy city's pluralist nature."

He called for the world to consider "the tragic humanitarian situation" of Palestinians living in Jerusalem, who he says have long been struggling to obtain their legitimate rights, adding that the issue has political, economic and cultural dimensions.

Al-Azhar gathering is expected to conclude with several recommendations that support the Palestinian cause and stress the rights of Palestinians to establish an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Trump's move has prompted an outcry from Palestinians, Middle East leaders and the wider international community, and set off regional protests.

Officials from Arab countries and several world powers have insisted that the final status of Jerusalem should only be determined through negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. 

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