The Israeli Police in Jerusalem barred the Palestinians in the city from holding a cultural festival which was entitled ‘Jerusalem, the Arab Cultural Capital for 2009’.Hundreds of Israeli policemen deployed on Tuesday around the Hakawati Theater in East Jerusalem, where the festival was supposed to be launched barring the residents and participants from reaching the area.

Policemen also assaulted the Palestinian Minister of Culture and the head of the Palestinian President’s office in the West Bank.

Also, policemen illegally arrested Bassim Al Masry, the executive director of the festival and transferred him to the Al-Maskobiyya interrogation facility in the city.

Israeli Internal Security Minister, Avi Dichter, issued an order stating that this festival was planned by the Palestinian Authority without obtaining a license from the Jerusalem District Police.

He added that, according to article 3.B of the Israeli law, he forbids this ‘gathering at the Hakawati Center in Jerusalem and at any other location in Israel’.

In spite of the ban, and despite extensive police presence, the ‘Higher National Committee insisted on holding the celebration and held the activity acros the street from the theater’ and participants chanted the Palestinian National Anthem.

Rafeeq Al-Husseiny, secretary-general of the president’s; office, stated that the national Palestinian activities will continue in Jerusalem even if the Israeli police decides to close all halls and theaters, adding that in spite of these harassments, the Palestinians will prove that Jerusalem is an Arab City and is the capital of all Arab Countries.

In a special interview with the Palestine News Network, Al-Husseiny stated that the Israeli decision to bar the Cultural Festival in Jerusalem is an assault against culture, humanity and development.

He added that this festival is not politically motivated and is only cultural but ‘Israel want to suppress the Palestinian culture in Jerusalem’.

Palestinian Minister of Culture and Youth, Tahani Abu Doqqa, said that this Israeli violation is part of the brutal assaults against the Palestinian people while Israel talks about peace and negotiations.

‘This proves that Israel does not want to live side-by-side with the Palestinians, especially in the Holy City of Jerusalem’, Abu Daqqahsaid, adding that ‘the festival is a peaceful activity which is not directed against the occupation or any person’.

Ministers of Culture of the Arab Countries decided that Damascus would be the Capital of Arab Culture in 2008 and Jerusalem in 2009. Since then, the Palestinians created a national committee to prepare for this event; the Committee is headed by the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas.