Israeli Police and Special Forces Prevent Faisal Husseini Memorial Meeting in Jerusalem

Israeli police and special forces prevented the holding of a memorial meeting in honor of the memory of the late Jerusalem political figure, Faisal Husseini, who died in Kuwait on 31 May 2008. The memorial was scheduled to take place at 4: 00 pm Sunday afternoon in East Jerusalem’s Hakawati Theatre,

This would have been the seventh Feisal Husseini memorial meeting in Jerusalem. Last year’s event was held in the Dar al-Tifl school, originally established sixty years ago by Hind Husseini to house and educate 55 orphans who survived the 1948 massacre and expulsion of Palestinians from the village of Deir Yassin on the outskirts of Jerusalem by the Jewish Irgun and Stern Gang militias, during the fighting that surrounded the creation of the State of Israel.

But, although all previous six annual Faisal Husseini memorial meetings went ahead without interference, this year’s event was not allowed to take place.

“The Israeli police brought with them ‘the brass’, and on the side they had special forces ready”, said Adnan Abdel-Razek, a former UN official and then an associate working with Faisal Husseini in the Orient House, who was there to attend Sunday’s memorial. “They did not even have a court order – which would have meant they would have had to go to the court and explain why they wanted to prevent the memorial, and we would have had the opportunity to explain why we wanted to hold it. No, in Jerusalem, in this supposedly ‘united Jerusalem’, the Israeli police relied on the British Military Regulations of 1947″.

Abdel Razek explained: “They told us to leave, and then they started chasing people. We decided to regroup in front of Orient House. They were brutal – and they were more than brutal, they were nasty. They hit some people. Then they detained Abdel-Qader Husseini, the son of Faisal, who was the sponsor of the memorial meeting. We have 40 witnesses who say that Abdel-Qader did not do anything to provoke this detention. He did not even open his mouth. But the officer in charge said ‘It’s my decision’. Fifteen minutes later Abdel-Qader was released. Then, the officer said that he would not allow even two people to gather together. We know the law and argued with him, saying that the exact stipulation in the military regulation prevents three people (not two) assembling. So, eventually, the officer said that three people could not gather together, then he changed it back to two”.

He continued: “The Israelis have zero tolerance for any Palestinian voice, and it’s getting worse and worse. We have no government, the PLO does not weigh in, and the Palestinian National Authority is not active in stopping the march of the occupation. The Israelis are building settlements, continuing construction of The Wall, confiscating land, and our people are busy discussing ‘important matters’ to advance the negotiations. But there is no way the Israelis can prevent people forever from exercising their basic human rights to political expression and free speech.”

Both Dar al-Tifl, which is located behind the American Colony Hotel, and the Hakawati Theatre, are in the same neighborhood and very close to Orient House, described on its own website as the “Palestinian national gathering place for Palestinians in Occupied East Jerusalem …which aspires to develop Arab East Jerusalem as the capital of the emerging Palestinian state”.

Orient House, a Husseini family property, was closed for a long period after the June 1967 war. It was renovated in the early 1980s to serve as Faisal Husseini’s office and headquarters, first for his Arab Studies Society, and later, when Husseini served as a member of the Palestinian team to the multilateral negotiations that emerged from the Madrid Peace Conference, Orient House became known as the unofficial Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Jerusalem,.

Husseini, a member of Fatah, was the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee Member in charge of Jerusalem.

Faisal Husseini’s offices in the Orient House were shut down by the Israeli authorities during the first Intifada from 1988 until 1992, and again on 10 August 2001, during the second Intifada. It has not since reopened. The only current occupant of the building, the American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) non-government charity organization, works out of rented office space on the upper floors.