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Erekat: Israel hijacking Christmas for political gain

Dec. 3, 2010 10:34 A.M. (Updated: Dec. 4, 2010 10:32 A.M.)
JERICHO (Ma'an) -- "The Israel Ministry of Tourism has hijacked Christmas for political purposes," chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said Thursday, denouncing the occupying nation for hosting a pre-Christmas reception in East Jerusalem.

The reception, set for 6 December, will see diplomats, heads of churches and other community members gather in the city to mark the start of the holiday season.

"This is yet another display of the lengths that Israel is willing to go to distract the world from its policies of dispossession against the Palestinian people," the official said in a statement, on the one hand hosting events to celebrate the Christian holiday, while on the other continuing to "sever the ancient link between Jerusalem and Bethlehem through the construction of the Wall and the expansion of settlements surrounding Bethlehem, including Har Homa and Gilo."

The isolation of Jerusalem from its West Bank neighbors, separating holy sites, families and religious networks, was condemned by Erekat, who said "we seek an open Jerusalem as the capital of two states, where free access to all holy sites is guaranteed."

In contrast, he added, "Israel continues its plan to make Jerusalem an exclusive Jewish city."

Using Christmas as an event to deepen the separation of the holy land, Erekat said, was doing a disservice to the holiday. "Christmas should be a day of good will and should not be tainted with unlawful actions of a military occupation."
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