Jerusalem Post Israel News Is the PA using coronavirus to violate Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem?

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY President Mahmoud Abbas. The author argues that the Palestinians too often deny the Jewish connection to the land of Israel (photo credit: REUTERS)

Israeli authorities say the PA is violating Israeli sovereignty by operating in Jerusalem on the pretext of combating the disease.
The PA and east Jerusalem residents, however, argue that their activities are limited to medical and relief assistance  and are totally unrelated to issues of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. 
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In the past few weeks several east Jerusalem residents have been detained by the police on suspicion of carrying out activities on behalf of the PA and the ruling Fatah faction to prevent the spread of the virus in several neighborhoods and villages in the city.On Sunday morning, police officers detained the PA “governor” of Jerusalem, Adnan Gheith.Last Friday, PA Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, Fadi al-Hidmi, was also briefly detained by the police.The two officials are suspected of overseeing the work of “emergency relief committees” that were established in Arab neighborhoods and villages in Jerusalem after the outbreak of coronavirus last month.The committees consist of hundreds of volunteers, some of whom are affiliated with Fatah. The volunteers have been spraying disinfectant and distributing food parcels to many families in Jerusalem.
Last week the police detained four members of a relief committee in the village of Sur Baher, south of Jerusalem, and confiscated 300 food parcels.Earlier, the police detained 12 east Jerusalem residents who were caught spraying disinfectant in mosques and churches in various parts of the city. Another four residents were detained for distributing pamphlets that include instructions to the Arab residents of Jerusalem regarding the fight against coronavirus.Israel says that the Palestinians have been acting in violation of the Law for the Implementation of the Agreement on the Gaza Strip and Jericho Area – Restriction on Activity – 1994, which bans the PA from carrying out political, governmental or similar activity within the area of the State of Israel, including east Jerusalem.The law prohibits the PA from opening or operating a representative mission or holding meetings in the area of the State of Israel and authorizes the police to take any action necessary to ensure its implementation.In the past few months, the police have stepped up their efforts to prevent the PA from operating in Jerusalem.Gheith and al-Hidmi, the PA’s two senior representatives in Jerusalem, have been frequently detained for interrogation about their activities among the Arab residents of the city.The two, who hold Israeli-issued ID cards in their capacity as permanent residents of Israel, have also been served with orders banning them from entering the West Bank. The orders are aimed at preventing Ghieth and al-Hidmi from coordinating with PA officials concerning their activities within the Jerusalem Municipality boundaries.On Sunday, police officers also raided the home of Shadi Mtour, secretary-general of Fatah in Jerusalem, and summoned him for interrogation about his activities in the city.Last week Mtour said that the Israeli authorities were not doing enough to protect the Arab residents of Jerusalem against the possible spread of coronavirus. He revealed that dozens of residents have volunteered to work with a recently established group called The Jerusalem Association for Combating Coronavirus. The volunteers, he said, include physicians, nurses, school teachers, journalists, paramedics and lawyers.Lawyer Majd Owais told the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida that the Israeli authorities in Jerusalem give priority to dealing with Jews, “while the fate of the [Arab] residents remains unknown.”Hours before he was detained by the police on Sunday morning, Gheith, the PA governor of Jerusalem, warned Arab residents of the city not to purchase furniture or any other items from religious Jews on the eve of the Jewish Holiday of Passover on the pretext that they may be contaminated with coronavirus.PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh denounced the crackdown on Palestinian activists in Jerusalem and urged the World Health Organization to condemn the Israeli measures which, he said, “constitute an attack on the organization’s protocols in facing this pandemic.”PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi also denounced the crackdown. She accused Israel of obstructing “all self-help efforts and arresting volunteers for the crime of assisting Palestinian Jerusalemites in resisting coronavirus.” Israel, Ahsrawi charged, “wants only defeated or infected Palestinians.”Some of the east Jerusalem volunteers who were briefly detained by the police last week said that their activities were completely unrelated to political issues. “Since when is spraying disinfectant in public places considered a crime?” asked one volunteer from the Old City of Jerusalem. “We are ready to work with any party that will help the Arabs of Jerusalem. But if Israel doesn’t want to work with us, it should at least stop preventing us from helping our people.”Another volunteer said he and his friends were "shocked" to see how much effort the Israeli authorities are putting to stop them from helping Arabs in Jerusalem during the pandemic. "Our work is not political, and there's no reason for Israel to panic," he said.




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