RAMALLAH, West Bank - The Palestinian Authority's (PA) religious hierarchy has forbidden Jerusalem's Arab residents to vote in the upcoming mayoral race.
Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi, the PA's top Islamic judge, issued a fatwa (legal religious edict) banning Arabs from voting in the election.
Jerusalem Post Palestinian Affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh pointed out that in the past, the PA has frowned on Arab participation in the municipality's elections, but this is the first time a fatwa has been issued.
"It's forbidden, from a religious and national point of view, to participate in the municipal election either by voting or by running as candidates," the sheikh told reporters in Ramallah.
The PA is especially unhappy with mayoral candidate Nir Barkat, who promised, if elected, to build a new neighborhood between French Hill and Ma'aleh Adumim.
They're also unhappy with Zohair Hamdan, an Israeli Arab from the Arab neighborhood of Sur Bahir, who may seek a city council seat and plans to run for mayor of Jerusalem in 2013.
Hamdan's slogan, "One Jerusalem for Jerusalemites," infuriates Arabs who would like to see the city divided.
Hamdan hopes that the Arab vote in the upcoming mayoral election will double from the usual five to seven percent to as much as 15 percent.
"No one is entitled to speak on behalf of Jerusalemites but themselves," Bahir told The Jerusalem Post.
"We deserve our own representation and will not allow anyone to interfere with our lives," he said in reference to PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
"In previous elections, people were afraid to vote. Today they know already who Fatah is and who Hamas is and they want neither," he said.
Bahir's courageous stand flies in the face of senior PA officials.
"This is a political issue," Fatah legislator Hatem Abdel Kader told Toameh. "Participation in the municipal election will be interpreted as recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the Arab part of Jerusalem," he said.
That's precisely the point Hamdan and other Israeli Arabs are making.
Source: The Jerusalem Post