Israeli police raid map center outside East Jerusalem

Israel has closed some major Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem. In a March 14 press release, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat detailed the level of Israeli repression in East Jerusalem. “More than 20 Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, notably including the Orient House and the Chamber of Commerce, remain forcibly closed by Israeli occupying orders and raids since 2001, in violation of international law.”
Erekat went on, “Israel, the occupying power, continues to violate its obligations under signed agreements as well as of its commitments vis-a-vis the international community.”
One of the most important parts of the Arab Studies Society was the map department. Headed by Khalil Tufakji, the department moved quietly, with no media attention, out of East Jerusalem and re-established itself in Dahiyat al-Barid, a Jerusalem suburb that is technically outside the city limits.
Tufakji told Al-Monitor that the map department provides technical information and tries to stay apolitical. “We work scientifically and provide maps and information about maps to anyone who asks for it.”
Because of the technical nature of the department, Tufakji was surprised when Israeli soldiers came to his office to arrest him March 14. The Israeli police presented Tufakji with an order from the Israeli public security minister to close the map center for six months on charges of illegally working with the Palestinian Authority while in Jerusalem. “Then they took me to the Mascobia prison and confiscated our computers and equipment,” he added.
“When the interrogation began, they asked me why I was working illegally in Jerusalem. I told them that my office is outside the boundaries of Jerusalem, specifically in Dahiyat al-Barid, in Palestinian territories — Area C. I also said that I am in regular contact with the civil administration, which is in charge of the West Bank’s Area C.”
Tufakji’s answers seemed to surprise the Israeli police, since their order was clearly intended for a location they thought was in Jerusalem. Khalil was detained for some seven hours and released with a promise to be allowed to recover his equipment and return to work.

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