Monday, March 23, 2009

Jerusalem, the “complete and united” capital of Arab culture

Since 1995, there is every year a new “Capital of Arab Culture”. After Damascus, it was normally Bagdad’s turn. Due to the circumstances, another city had to be proposed and the Palestinian minister of Culture, in the new Hamas government, suggested, in 2006, Jerusalem.

It was a real challenge to make a city under Israeli occupation – at least for the Eastern part of the city – the symbol of the ‘urĂ»ba (Arabism/ “arabity” for “Arab identity”). To be successful, such a project had to tackle various difficult issues, starting with the difficulty to deal with the occupied city of Jerusalem as a cultural capital when Ramallah has became, since the Oslo agreements, the real focal point of the Palestinian cultural life.

Jerusalem itself was a problem as one could ask which “city” had to be celebrated: the Eastern part, still reclaimed by the Palestinian authority although the Oslo agreements have enforced its “judaization” or the whole town, with the Western area on which Israel has full “legitimacy”? And who was to be involved in the cultural events: Palestinians living in the West Bank who are not allowed to go Jerusalem or Palestinian living either in the Israeli state or abroad and who are not under the “Palestinian Authority”?...

The political struggle between Hamas and Fatah made things worst as each party insisted to have its “official” committee: one has organised in Gaza, cut off from the rest of the world, its opening on March 7th, when the second had its own one last Saturday (March 28th) – plus a last one, led by Palestinians from the Diaspora, to be set on Earth Day, the 30th of March.

For the second one, Mahmud Abbas was obliged to attend the celebration, with some official who had come from various Arab countries, in Bethlehem as the Oslo agreements stipulate that the Palestinians are not allowed to have any political activity outside "their" territory.

Jerusalem being since 1980 the “complete and united” capital of their state, the Israeli authorities had no problem in cancelling a series of Palestinian cultural events in Jerusalem, as they had already done, one year ago, at the meeting for the launching of Jerusalem Capital of Arab Culture motto.

The lack of any serious protestation in the world shows that everybody is obviously convinced that the celebration of Arab culture in the Holy city is, indeed, a political matter.

As usual, here is the link to the more developed post in French.