American Islamic Leader Urges Arafat not to Cross Red Lines on Jerusalem
By Munir K. Nasser
The head of a leading American Muslim organization urged Palestinian President Yasser Arafat not to cross the red lines on Jerusalem because “it is a matter of faith and religion, and not of political expediency.”
Nihad Awad, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Washington, said “no political circumstance would adjust or change the status of Jerusalem in the minds of Muslims and Arabs.”
Awad said in an interview with Albawaba.com that Arafat realized the issue of Jerusalem is of paramount depth in term of attachment to Muslims worldwide. “He could not get the green light from any Islamic source and realized more than anyone else in this whole episode that he will enter history from its dark gate if he signed away Jerusalem,” he stressed.
Awad said that his organization focuses on domestic issues in the United States, but the very fact that Jerusalem is a global and historic issue, the Muslims throughout time and place transcend borders and ethnic lines. “We present the issue from a pure Islamic perspective. The issue of Jerusalem in our last survey has been the most important issue to Muslims in the United States,” he noted.
He called on the Clinton Administration to play a fair role in these negotiations and urged them not pressure the Palestinians and instead pressure the Israeli side. He stated that he predicated the failure at Camp David, “simply because the party that doesn’t have anything to offer was asked to offer a lot, namely, the Palestinian side. The party that has everything in its hand was not asked to offer what they could give, and that was a recipe for failure from the beginning,” he argued.
Awad blamed Clinton for putting more pressure on Arafat to give more concessions.
“Historically, they have put more pressure on the Palestinians than the Israelis,” he explained. “Therefore, it is automatic that the Administration has sided with Israel. From Clinton’s perspective, he will not put the blame on Israel, which was never blamed by the United States, no matter what it does, whether it was confiscation of the land, house demolitions, attacking people and countries or even failing at a summit of this nature,” he noted.
He said that during the summit talks, the right of return was not granted for the Palestinians. “It was granted selectively for a small segments of those who survived, but not the entire population that has been uprooted,” he stressed. “I see only fairness when every Palestinian who has been scattered around the world has the right to go back to his farm, to his house, then that will be a recipe for peace.”
“Israel doesn’t feel obligated to compromise. Barak has already set the tone with his five red lines. So what kind of negotiations are you going to have? The Israelis have taken a stiff position even before they entered the negotiations. The issue of sovereignty of Palestinians over their land should not be a point of doubt for any one. They are the rightful owners,” he argued.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)