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Saturday, 5 October, 2002, 17:46 GMT 18:46 UK
Arab fury at Jerusalem decision
Al-Aqsa
Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque is Islam's third holiest site

Anger raged across the Muslim world over the US Congress's decision to approve a bill recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The status of Jerusalem has always been a contentious issue, as the city is claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians.

President George W Bush has said the bill is not binding, but this did not prevent many in the Arab world from regarding it as provocative and insulting.

"Bush has blown up Jerusalem... with a single signature!" Egypt's government-owned Al-Akhbar exclaimed.

The US Congress "has donated the Holy City, which it does not own, to the Israelis who have no right to it," Qatar's Gulf Times complained.

It is "the biggest insult to the beliefs of Muslims worldwide," Iran's conservative daily Jomhuri-Ye Eslami declared.

But even this move "will fail to save the usurper Israel from the quagmire it has created with its American allies," the hard-line Iranian newspaper added.

The Arab press sees the move as an illegal one that violates existing resolutions on Jerusalem.


It is the most dangerous and strangest US decision since the creation of the State of Israel

Al-Akhbar - Egypt

"No one is allowed to impose a de facto situation at variance with the UN resolutions, so the US Congress recent resolution on Jerusalem can be considered as invalid because it is groundless," the United Arab Emirate's Al-Ittihad said.

In Lebanon, the TV station Tele-Liban announced the government's opposition to any decision or measures "aimed at Judaizing the city of Jerusalem and falsifying its true identity".

President Emile Lahoud said "it was another US move that harms the feelings of Arabs", the TV reproted.

Call for action

A columnist in Egypt's government-owned daily Al-Akhbar expressed dismay at the "delayed and weak" Arab reaction to "this most dangerous and strangest US decision since the creation of the State of Israel".

But there have in fact been many calls for action from various parts of the Middle East.

As Palestinians took to the streets on Friday shouting revenge and condemning the move, the Iranian news agency IRNA quoted Tehran cleric Qorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi as saying that the UN will face "the tumultuous roar of the Islamic world" if it does not intervene.

In a statement read on Lebanon's Al-Manar TV, the militant group Hezbollah called on Muslims to "bear their historic responsibility concerning this 'flagrant aggression' and to take action on the ground".


Will the Arabs remain silent at the change in Jerusalem's identity?

Babil - Iraq

"Arabs and Muslims have lost a great deal after the 11 September events, and they have nothing else to lose," the Libyan daily Al-Zahf AlAkhdar said.

"The only thing in front of them is to stick to Jerusalem and its sanctities which are the reason for life."

"Indeed," the Baghdad daily BABIL said, "everyday the Arabs get a slap from their American 'friend' threatening their basic rights and gaining possession of their holy sites".

"Will the Arabs remain silent at the change in Jerusalem's identity?" the paper asks.

Compromising peace

There is also concern that the move will compromise the US position in Mideast peace talks.

Palestinian Local Government Minister Sa'ib Urayqat told Radio Cairo the decision "contradicts all UN Security Council resolutions and blows up the entire peace march".

The Palestinian Human Rights website LAW condemned the move as an attempt to "sabotage final status negotiations on Jerusalem between Israel and the Palestine people."

This is "against the interests of peace," the group said.

In Syria, Damascus radio said the bill "paints a grim picture for the future of US-Arab relations".

And Qatar's Gulf Times said: "The president's signature on a document recognising Israel's claim to Jerusalem marks a profound shift in the ground rules for future American involvement in peace efforts".

"The United States," Egypt's Al Wafd declared, "has revealed its ugly face and shown itself to be more Zionist than the Zionists themselves".

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

04 Oct 02 | Middle East
28 Sep 00 | issues
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