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Jerusalem Mayoral Hopeful Egged by Fellow Palestinians

Aziz Abu Sarah is breaking the traditional East Jerusalem boycott on local elections ■ 'They don't have any arguments so they're using violence,' Abu Sarah says of protesters

Aziz Abu Sarah, center, evades eggs thrown by Palestinian activists as he announces his intentions to become the first Palestinian mayor of Jerusalem at a news conference in front of city hall in Jerusalem, September 6, 2018.
Mahmoud Illean/AP

Several Palestinian youngsters threw eggs during the press conference that presented the new Palestinian nominee for the Jerusalem municipal elections on Thursday.

The eggs were aimed at the man heading the list, Aziz Abu Sarah, who has declared his candidacy for mayor. The candidates on the slate, all of them young Palestinian Jerusalemites, held their press conference at Safra Square, the site of Jerusalem city hall, wearing Palestinian flag lapel pins. They called upon the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem to vote for them in order to change the status quo and end the occupation.

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Mayoral candidate Aziz Abu Sarah egged in Jerusalem

"I am submitting my candidacy for mayor. It’s a patriotic thing to run as a Palestinian, to defend Jerusalem and defend its Arab identity," said Abu Sarah at the start of the press conference. “City hall uses our taxes to establish settlements and to demolish our homes. We are not asking for our rights; we are taking them. It’s not relinquishing our rights; it is part of the struggle to end the occupation as quickly as possible."

Beside him sat his two fellow candidate partners on the slate, Aida Kalibo, 21, a student majoring in human rights at Al Quds University, and Habib Abu Ramila, 39, a resident of Beit Hanina who works as a cook. “We want to help Palestinians remain in Jerusalem and this in itself is an act of resistance. We are running in order to challenge the status quo,” said Kalibo.

“The chances that Palestinians will come out to vote this time are good because there has never before been a slate like this. It is a revolution, it is a moment of change in the history of Al Quds and I think people will be persuaded to become a part of the revolution,” added Abu Sarah.

Aziz Abu Sarah, center, evades eggs thrown by Palestinian activists as he announces his intentions to become the first Palestinian mayor of Jerusalem at a news conference in front of city hall in Jerusalem, September 6, 2018.
Mahmoud Illean/AP

At this stage a number of young Palestinians, apparently from Jerusalem, appeared and began to throw eggs at the three candidates. A scuffle broke out and the egg-throwers were detained by a policeman who arrived on the scene but were released within a short time.

Abu Sarah refused to file a police complaint about the incident. “I don’t think it’s significant. These were five people whom someone – I don’t know who – paid and I don’t think it will get any more extreme than eggs. The biggest mistake Palestinian can make is to start injuring one another,” he said.

Full press conference of Aziz Abu Sarah

According to Abu Sarah, “Those who are opposing us aren’t proposing anything. They only keep complaining. We are doing this because this is our city and our people and if they think I am wrong, then let’s wait and see what happens. They don’t have any arguments so they are using violence.”

In the last election, less than 2 percent of the potential voters in East Jerusalem cast ballots. Abu Sarah predicts that this time between 20 and 30 percent will come out to vote, giving him three or four seats on the 31-seat municipal council. To run for mayor, he still has to bring about a change in the law by means of the High Court of Justice, because under the current law the mayor must be an Israeli citizen and Abu Sarah, like the vast majority of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem, is a resident of Israel but not a citizen.

Next week he intends to petition the court on this issue. “This just goes to show what Israeli democracy is. They tell us that if we run we will strengthen the Israeli claim that there is democracy here, but this reveals the bluff. What kind of democracy is it if 40 percent of the residents of the city can’t run for mayor?”