Coronavirus response stirs Jerusalem sovereignty struggle

Published April 18, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Agence France-Presse

Israel’s arrest of senior Palestinian officials for “illegal” efforts to contain coronavirus and the Jewish state’s closure of a clinic have exacerbated a long-running row over the status of east Jerusalem.

Adnan Ghaith, Jerusalem governor for the Palestinian Authority, was one of two senior officials arrested by Israel earlier this month as they purportedly tried to ramp up protection of Arabs from coronavirus (AFP/File / Ahmad GHARABLI / MANILA BULLETIN)
Adnan Ghaith, Jerusalem governor for the Palestinian Authority, was one of two senior officials arrested by Israel earlier this month as they purportedly tried to ramp up protection of Arabs from coronavirus (AFP/File / Ahmad GHARABLI / MANILA BULLETIN)

Since the onset of the health crisis, Palestinian officials allege the Arab population of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem has been overlooked by Israeli efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

Israeli police recently shuttered a COVID-19 screening facility in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan — the testing was unauthorised, they said, because it was only overseen by the Palestinian Authority, and not Israel.

“Our goal is to provide aid to the people of east Jerusalem who are intentionally being neglected” by Israel, Fadi al-Hadami, the Palestinian government’s minister for Jerusalem affairs, told AFP.

But meetings with “hospital doctors in Jerusalem, interviews with media calling on people to stay at home to fight corona(virus) — they (Israel) consider these things violations,” he lamented.

Earlier this month, Hadami and Adnan Ghaith, the Palestinians’ governor of Jerusalem, were detained by Israeli authorities amid their on-the-ground response to the coronavirus crisis.

Both men were released within 24 hours. But the spread of COVID-19 in predominantly Palestinian east Jerusalem risks exacerbating political tensions that could put lives at risk.

At the heart of the dispute is the status of Jerusalem — one of the thorniest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel captured that part of the city in a 1967 war and later annexed it in moves considered illegal under international law. It views the entire city as its undivided capital, banning any Palestinian government activity there.

The Palestinian Authority considers east Jerusalem the capital of its own future state and tries to maintain a presence on the ground.

The city’s status was meant to be resolved as part of a final peace agreement between the two sides, but the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians has long been dormant.

Israeli police meanwhile enforce the prohibition of Palestinian political activity in east Jerusalem.

 
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