Palestinian Muftis Bar Participation in Jerusalem Elections

Recent developments prompted need to reiterate long-standing policy, as religious authorities say participating constitutes capitulation

Palestinians pray in front of the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem on June 15, 2018.
Mahmoud Illean/AP

The council of Palestinian muftis has issued a religious ruling barring Muslim residents of Jerusalem from participating in the city’s municipal elections this fall, either by running for office or by voting.

In a statement issued on Monday, the council accused Israel of never ceasing its attempts to subdue the city’s Palestinian residents in various ways ever since it gained control of East Jerusalem in 1967. These attempts, according to the council, include urging Palestinians to participate in municipal elections, threatening to deprive them of municipal services if they don’t and engaging in other punitive actions. All this merely shows that the municipality acts like an occupying power, it added.

Therefore, it said, Islamic law forbids participating in the election, because it would constitute capitulation to the Palestinians’ oppressor and assist the occupier in implementing its policies.

It wasn't the first time Palestinian religious authorities have issued such a statement. According to a senior religious official in Jerusalem who asked to remain anonymous, a similar position was conveyed in many mosque sermons last Friday.

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Both the Palestinian Authority and the PLO have consistently urged Palestinians to boycott municipal elections in the city, on the grounds that participating would constitute recognition of Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem.

But even though this has always been the Palestinian position, the source said, religious leaders attributed great importance to reiterating it this year in light of several recent developments, first and foremost the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. He also cited statements by Israeli and Palestinian intellectuals in Jerusalem urging Palestinians to vote as a way to send a message about the lack of a diplomatic horizon and promote a one-state solution, for which Jerusalem could serve as a pilot.