The first time we were told we had to close was in July 2009. The order was signed by the head of the Jerusalem police, and it stipulated a suspension of activities for one month. Then, in September 2009, the closure was extended to a year, with the possibility of renewing it for another year.
We’ve never received a satisfactory explanation regarding the real motive behind the closure. The Israeli police referred to Article 6 of an anti-terrorism law dating back to 1948, but this only mentions “security reasons”. We took our case before the Israeli courts, but the judge informed us that the decision to shut us down had been based on confidential information that, of course, we were not allowed access to.
Every year since then we’ve been notified that the closure has been extended and given the date when the new order will expire. But this year we haven’t heard anything, and I don’t really understand why. It’s very unusual for an organisation that has been closed down by the authorities to be allowed to re-open again.
"Our sole ambition is to work with the city’s young people"
The Nidal Centre is not the first organisation to come under pressure from the Israeli authorities, nor will it be the last. In one year, more than 80 cultural organisations have been shut down in East Jerusalem, with no valid reason being given for any of the closures [Editor’s note: in February 2010 the European Union claimed that Israel had systematically closed down almost all Palestinian institutions
in East Jerusalem]. The Israeli government is doing this to put pressure on the Palestinians living and working in this area to leave the Old City. Their goal is to have enough Israelis living here so that, at some point in the future, Jerusalem can be declared the capital of Israel [Editor’s note: the UN has condemned Israel’s “Judaisation policy” of the occupied territories].
We want to have the building renovated and we’re waiting for an expert to give us his report on what work needs to be done. We want to be up and running again as soon as possible but we feel as if there’s a sword hanging permanently over our heads. The laws are so arbitrary and there’s a risk that we could be closed down again at any moment. Our sole ambition is to offer activities and entertainment to the city’s young people, to keep them from hanging around the streets in their free time. But it seems that our presence here is seen by the Israeli authorities as a form of resistance.