Cairo: Arab political and legal experts as well as clerics on Thursday pushed for evolving new approaches to a long-running battle for Israeli-occupied Jerusalem in reaction to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of the holy city as Israel’s capital.
Gathering for the second and final day of a major conference on Occupied Jerusalem hosted by Al Azhar, Sunni Islam’s influential seat of learning, several experts and former diplomats took the podium and outlined their views on how to revive world attention to the city.
“It is important to restore awareness about the cause of Jerusalem and the Palestinian issue by pushing it to the international stage and standing firmly against any attempts to erase the Arab identity of Jerusalem,” head of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Abdul Aziz Al Tawaijiri, told the conference.
“Critical and influential” efforts are needed to renew global interest in espousing Palestinians’ right to Jerusalem, claimed by Israel as its un-divided capital, he added.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future promised state.
On his part, ex-Sudanese foreign minister Mustafa Othman, said the Arab world needed to double its efforts to raise awareness about Occupied Jerusalem.
“This should not be limited to its spiritual aspect, concentration should also include its culture and history,” he told the conference.
He called on Arab governmental and non-governmental institutions as well as political parties to help highlight the issue.
Othman pointed out that Arab issues, particularly the Palestinian cause, have been poorly advocated in the past and said awareness campaigns were needed.
“It is necessary to raise awareness about the Jerusalem cause in order for Arabs to shoulder their responsibility in supporting the Palestinians,” Othman argued.
The ex-diplomat also called for forging links with what he called “respectable Jews” pointing out that Arabs had no problem with Jews, but their issues lied with Zionists.
Mufeed Shehab, an ex-Egyptian minister of parliamentary affairs and a legal expert, dismissed Trump’s move on Jerusalem as “invalid”.
“We are facing a situation that violates the international law and norms,” he said.
“The legal aspect of the Palestinian cause is emphasised by UN General Assembly resolutions and the resolutions of the Security Council, which state that East Jerusalem is an occupied land and that any Israeli decisions changing the status are null and void.”
Trump’s decision to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Occupied Jerusalem has reversed a decades-long policy by Washington on leaving sensitive issues to be resolved at final-status negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.
Abbas Shuman, Al Azhar’s deputy head, says Trump’s should be viewed as a blessing in disguise.
“Trump’s unfair decision has rekindled hopes in reuniting the umma [Muslim community] after its discord. This rash decision has revived the Jerusalem cause in our minds,” the prominent Muslim cleric said.
He urged educational institutions in the Islamic world to teach its youth about the importance and significance of Jerusalem, home to Al Aqsa Mosque—Islam’s third holiest site.
“There is a relentless campaign to falsify the history of this holy city and obliterate its Muslim and Arab identity. We should not leave our people, mainly the youth, to succumb to cultural alienation and the enormous media machine being deployed to manipulate and distort facts.”
Shuman said that Al Azhar will prepare a syllabus on the history of Palestine and target around 2 million students.
He also renewed Al Azhar’s opposition to trips to Occupied Jerusalem, a day after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on Arab Muslims and Christians to support the city and its people by visiting it.
“Visiting Jerusalem while it is under sinister occupation, which wants to eliminate all its Islamic, Christian and historical features, leads to grave harm and dire consequences,” Shuman said, without elaborating on what those consquences were.
Instead, Muslims should liberate it first before traveling to occupied land, he said.