Arab Jerusalem mayoral candidate called a traitor

JERUSALEM — Pamphlets distributed in eastern Jerusalem are denouncing an Arab candidate in the city's mayoral race as a traitor and threatening the start of a new intifada.

In addition, an editorial recently published in the pro-Palestinian Authority daily Al-Ayyam, called on Jerusalem Arabs to boycott the municipal elections scheduled for November.

Two Arab parties — the first ever to run in Jerusalem elections — are fielding candidates: the Independent Arab List, headed by Mussa Alayan of Beit Safafa, and Hadash, headed by Nazim Bader, who is also running for mayor.

Jerusalem's Meretz list also has an Arab candidate, Mofid Jaber, who is in the seventh slot.

The leaflets against Alayan, handed out in recent days, were issued by a group calling itself "The National Leadership in Jerusalem."

"Raise up the voices of our people in Jerusalem from every neighborhood and village against dealing with this outlaw, whom we consider a traitor to the Palestinians' national will," they say.

Alayan, an Israeli citizen, said he expected opposition to his candidacy, but stressed that his campaign has "nothing to do with political issues like control of Jerusalem — which is all the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority."

He added that his party wants to deal with "day-to-day" issues, such as improving living conditions in Arab neighborhoods.

The Palestinian National Council, the Palestinian Authority's parliamentary body, decided at a meeting in late August at Al Kuds University to oppose Arab candidates running in the election.

PNC member Hatem Abdel Qader, who was at the meeting, said the council could not stop Alayan from running, but would not cooperate with him.

"We are against the election, because it is a political issue. Jerusalem is occupied," Abdel Qader said.

The Al-Ayyam editorial, written by Hassan Al-Batal — former editor of a PLO magazine in Cyprus — said that by voting in city elections, Arabs would be complying with Israeli rule, while also harming the Palestinian Authority's chances in final-status negotiations.

A recent poll conducted by the Jerusalem Times, an English-language Palestinian weekly, found that nearly 54 percent of Palestinians in eastern Jerusalem oppose participating in the election.

The main reason given was that "voting will support the Israeli claim that Jerusalem is the united capital of Israel."

More than 35 percent of those surveyed think Palestinians should vote — which is nearly triple the 12 percent turnout rate in the last elections. The main reason they support voting is that they think an Arab list could improve living conditions for Palestinians in Jerusalem.