Arabs constitute 31 percent of those eligible to vote in Jerusalem’s municipal elections, but in the past they’ve made up only about 1 percent of the voters. Ramadan Dabash seeks to change this with his candidacy for the city council, but—as usual—the PLO, Hamas, and Muslim religious figures are waging a campaign of propaganda and intimidation to keep Arabs from voting. Nadav Shragai reports:
[T]he mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, [ruled] that whoever takes part in the elections is a traitor and . . . “will be defined as someone who has left the fold of nationhood, the homeland, and the religion.” A few weeks ago, the PLO executive committee took the same stance, warning the east Jerusalem population not to have anything to do with the elections. The committee, which is headed by Mahmoud Abbas, warned that “participating in the elections could signify de-facto recognition of Israeli rule and sovereignty in Jerusalem.” . . .
Early this year, a wide-ranging survey of east Jerusalem Arabs by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion found that 60 percent think they should take part in the Jerusalem municipal elections at the end of October. . . . [A]fter 50 years together in a single city, . . . many in the Arab community seek [to obtain] parity of services and infrastructure between east and west Jerusalem by securing clout on the city council. The survey findings suggest that this interest is stronger than interest in the Palestinian national narrative about Jerusalem pushed by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. . . .
And yet, just months before the elections, the atmosphere in some parts of east Jerusalem is one of fear, and it is not clear whether these trends, which have been mounting for several years, will be translated on election day into east Jerusalem Arabs heading to the polling stations. . . . In previous municipal-election campaigns, the terror organizations were able to torpedo any significant participation by east Jerusalem Arabs and Arab parties. . . . For example, Hanna Siniora, the former editor of the newspaper al-Fajir, who wanted to run for the city council, had two of his cars set ablaze. Local initiatives in [the neighborhoods of] Beit Safafa and Sur Baher met a similar fate. . . .
Israel, for its part, failed to create a sense of security that would have enabled more east Jerusalem residents to take part in the elections.
Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
More about: East Jerusalem, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem, PLO