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Palestinians boycott quds vote under Isarael occupation

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Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of the state they hope to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Palestinians in Jerusalem say they will again boycott the Israeli poll next week for mayor of the holy city.

"I voted in the past but it brought me nothing. I don’t believe in their (Israeli) democracy," said Fawziyeh al-Kurd, a Muslim Arab born in Jerusalem 56 years ago.

Some 260,000 Arabs, most of them Muslim, live in Arab East Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in the 1967, in a move that international community has not recognized.

Palestinians in East Jerusalem can vote in the mayoral contest — in which only Jewish candidates are running — but few have in the past and most will probably heed renewed calls by the Palestinian Authority to boycott this year’s Nov. 11 election.

Hatem Abdel Khader, an adviser on Jerusalem affairs to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, said that by refusing to vote, Palestinians would demonstrate their opposition to Israeli occupation of the city.

"We cannot pay a long-term political price in return for short-term municipal services," said Khader, responding to some local Palestinian leaders who say participation in the election is the only way to secure equal rights in Jerusalem, which Israel’s 1948 occupation left divided.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of the state they hope to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Hostile Jewish settlers

For Kurd, the political battle hits close to home.

She and her husband are fighting in an Israeli court against a ruling that says they do not own the patch of land where they built their house 50 years ago. They face possible eviction.

Nestled on a hill in East Jerusalem, Kurd’s one-storey dwelling is surrounded by hostile Jewish settlers who moved into homes whose owners are Palestinians.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, a leading civil liberties group that also deals with Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, said Israeli authorities have expropriated some 6,000 acres (2,430 hectares) from Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

Since 1967, the group said, Israel has built some 50,000 buildings for Jews in the Palestinian areas while denying many Palestinians building permits in East Jerusalem.

"The municipality has no housing plan for East Jerusalem, which means it is practically impossible to build there," said Orly Noy of the Israeli Ir Amim, or City of Nations, rights group, founded in 2004 to advocate equality in Jerusalem.

The problems facing Palestinians in the city have been compounded by a wall Israel is building in and around the West Bank.

Sections of the barrier have cut off several Palestinian neighbourhoods from Jerusalem, making it impossible for some Palestinians to work or visit relatives in Israeli-occupied sections of the city.

Palestinians say the wall, as well as Israel’s policies in Jerusalem, are designed to drive them out and cement its hold on the city.

While Jews from around the world can do whatever they want, Palestinians can find themselves stripped of their right even to return to visit families in Jerusalem if, for example, they go abroad to work or study for a time.

Palestinian candidate

Zohair Hamdan, a local leader from the village of Sur Baher, had planned to become the first Palestinian to run for Jerusalem mayor under Israeli occupation. He withdrew his candidacy last month, citing what he called technical reasons.

"I regret the decision by the Palestinian leadership to boycott the municipal election. There are 260,000 Arab residents in Jerusalem and they have rights which they can get through active participation in the election," said Hamdan.

"The Palestinian Authority, with all due respect, should let Jerusalem’s Arabs run their own affairs," he said of President Mahmoud Abbas’s administration a few miles away in Ramallah.



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