PLO Executive Committee Member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi in the strongest terms denounced Israel’s storming and closure of the Arab Studies Society’s Mapping and Geographic Information Systems Department, the arrest of its director Khalil Tafakji and the willful confiscation of the Department’s property which took place on Tuesday morning in Beit Hanina and authorized by Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.
“In calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Tafakji, the reopening of the Department and the return of its property, Dr. Ashrawi stressed.
“Such premeditated actions are part of Israel’s ongoing policy that targets and closes Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, particularly the Orient House, the official address of the PLO and the headquarters of the Palestinian negotiation team, and the Chamber of Commerce; these acts are in direct violation of Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres’ promise to Norwegian Foreign Minister Johan Holst in October 1993 that he will “not hamper” the activities of the Palestinian institutions. It should also be mentioned that in the same letter, Peres wrote, “I wish to confirm that the Palestinian institutions of East Jerusalem and the interests and well being of the Palestinians of East Jerusalem are of great importance and will be preserved.”
“Clearly, Israel is prejudging the fate of Jerusalem and continuing the illegal annexation and ethnic cleansing of the city with the expansion of its illegal settlement enterprise in and around Jerusalem, the confiscation of Palestinian land, the summary execution of Palestinian civilians, the demolition of Palestinian homes, and the eviction of the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem and the revocation of their IDs, among other flagrant violations. Such unlawful measures are in direct breach of signed agreements and international law and conventions.”
Dr. Ashrawi concluded, “This is a direct affront to the new American administration and the international community at-large. It is imperative that they, along with the United Nations and the European Union, act immediately and put an end to Israel’s illegal unilateralism and system of occupation and apartheid.”