Israeli Public Security Minister Bans E. Jerusalem Conference, Saying It Was Organized by Palestinian Authority

Organizers say the conference on the subject of 'Palestine facing Israeli incitement' was sponsored by an independent group

Border police outside the St. George Hotel in East Jerusalem, March 8, 2017.
Emil Salman

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan banned a conference earlier this week in East Jerusalem on the subject of Israeli incitement against the Palestinian Authority, claiming that it was organized by the Palestinian Authority. Those involved in convening the meeting said they represent an an independent academic non-profit group.

Israel had previously taken steps to head off Palestinian Authority activity in East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed following the 1967 Six-Day War. In his order barring the event, Erdan made reference to required consent from Israel pursuant to the Oslo 2 accords of 1994 for events sponsored or funded by the Palestinian Authority anywhere in Israel.

The conference, billed as dealing with the subject of “Palestine facing Israeli incitement,” was to be held at the Legacy Hotel, just inside East Jerusalem. It was allegedly due to be attended by Palestinian Education Minister Sabri Saidam, other educators and other senior officials from the Palestinian Authority. But conference organizer Mahdi Abdul Hadi, the head the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, told Haaretz that the conference had no connection to the Palestinian Authority and that no Palestinian ministers had been invited.

“We’re a totally independent organization that has been working for 30 years with international organizations and foreign diplomats. The planned lecture was about a book dealing with incitement against Palestinians,” he said. At the appointed hour for the start of the conference, Israeli policemen arrived and gave him and the hotel manager an order in Hebrew and Arabic signed by Erdan, barring admission of anyone into the hall, Abdul Hadi said. In Arabic, the order alleged that the event was being held under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority while the Hebrew version made reference to inflammatory content at the conference, Abdul Hadi stated.

“We told the police we had no intention of confronting anyone and cancelled the event,” he said, adding that he also received a summons to report to the police.

Among those who had been due to attend the conference was Nurit Peled-Elhanan, a language education professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the David Yellin Academic College of Education. She has studied the content of Israeli textbooks for more than 20 years and had been due to speak about the portrayal of Palestine in the books.

Erdan’s office stated: "[The conference]] was part of the repeated attempts by the Palestinian Authority to consolidate its position in Jerusalem through conferences and the operation of non-profit groups. Our struggle for sovereignty in Jerusalem did not end with the city’s liberation. The [Palestinian] Authority has been repeatedly trying to undermine Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem, and we continue to fight this throughout the city.”

Last month Erdan barred the holding of an International Women’s Day event that had been due to be held at the St. George Hotel in East Jerusalem. His ministry said that the Palestinian Authority had organized that meeting as well, although the event organizer denied any such connection.