A banner near the headquarters of the Nidal organisation reads "United Against the Closure of Jerusalem Institutions”.
Palestinian cultural organisations in East Jerusalem are finding it increasingly hard to keep their doors open, resisting the pressure exterted upon them by Israeli authorities eager to see them leave the area. After being shut down more than three years ago, the Nidal Cultural Centre finally re-opened its doors this week. Our Observer, who works for the centre, describes the organisation's precarious position.
The Nidal Centre – a Palestinian cultural organisation founded in 1999 – works with young people, offering them cultural and educational activities (including first-aid courses, school tutoring, and IT training) and arranging trips during school holidays. In July 2009, the Israeli authorities ordered the centre to suspend its activities, claiming that the organisation posed a “security risk” to Israelis.
This was not the first time the Nidal Centre had been targeted by the authorities. In 2005, security forces searched their premises and seized some IT equipment. However, as they didn’t find any incriminating evidence during their search, no charges were ever brought against the staff.
Based in the Old City, Nidal’s headquarters are located in a sensitive area of Jerusalem where the Israeli authorities have been pursuing their settlement policies.
After being closed for three years, this is what the rooms inside Nidal’s headquarters look like now.

"The laws are so arbitrary. We feel as if there’s a sword hanging over our heads"

Mahmoud Jiddah worked at the Nidal Cultural Centre. Since its closure, he has been employed by the Health Work Committee, an organisation that the Nidal Centre worked with in the past.
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.
The entrance to the organisation, three years after it closed down. 
Our Observer Mahmoud in his former office.
The building's yard. 
One of the building's rooms. 
All the photos above were taken by our Observer, Daoud Mahmoud.
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Sarra Grira.