82 Jordanian deputies call on leaders to visit Jerusalem

82 Jordanian deputies call on leaders to visit Jerusalem

Rejecting religious boycott, parliamentarians say regular visits will break the isolation of Palestinians

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Eighty-two Jordanian parliament members signed a petition on Monday calling on Arab and Islamic parliaments to organize regular trips to Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories, defying a religious edict banning such visits as long as Jerusalem’s holy sites remain under Israeli control.

In the appeal, addressed to the speaker of parliament, the deputies argue that avoiding the Palestinian territories and Jerusalem has placed the Palestinian people “under total isolation.”

“[This boycott] helps the occupier tighten his stranglehold on the Palestinian people… allowing him to continue his barbaric practices and Zionist arrogance immune from the Arab and Islamic world,” read the statement.

The statement was a direct challenge to a religious opinion issued by leading Sunni scholar Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi, who last year banned Muslim pilgrimage to Jerusalem’s holy sites.

“Visits are banned in order to deprive the occupier of legitimacy,” Qaradawi declared from Doha. “Those who visit legitimize an entity which plunders Palestinian lands, and are forced to cooperate with the enemy’s embassy to receive a visa.”

In April, Jordan signed an agreement with the Palestinian Authority granting the Hashemite Kingdom custodianship over the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem. Jordan continues to maintain close ties to the city of Jerusalem — the eastern part of which it lost to Israel in the 1967 Six Day War — through the Waqf (religious endowment) institutions it oversees in the city.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly spoken out against Qaradawi’s position, claiming that such visits affirm the Islamic and Arab identity of the city and strengthen the Palestinian economy. Last month, the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu endorsed Abbas’s position by paying a visit to Jerusalem.

In their appeal, the Jordanian parliamentarians called for more frequent official visits by the Jordanian parliament to Jerusalem in coordination with the Palestinian representative offices in Jordan, rather than the “Zionist embassy.”

Jordan’s Prince Hashem paid a surprise visit to the Temple Mount in April 2012. His great-grandfather, King Abdullah I, was assassinated by a Palestinian man in the Al-Aqsa Mosque in 1951.

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