The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has named Jerusalem as the capital of Islamic tourism for 2016, a senior Palestinian official has said.
The independent Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported that the Palestinian Authority Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud Habbash called the designation a step towards breaking Israel’s “siege” of holy sites in Jerusalem.
Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 War after having been attacked by surrounding Arab countries. The holiest site in Judaism, the Second Temple and its remaining Western Wall, are located in the eastern part of the city. The Temple Mount, where the First and Second Temples sat, is considered the third holiest site in Islam and is known in Arabic as the Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary.
Israel maintains the entire city of Jerusalem as its capital and says it will never divide the city. The Palestinians hope east Jerusalem will be the capital of a future state.
The Palestinian minister accused Israel of trying to hide the Arab and Islamic identity of Jerusalem.
“Jerusalem is the religious and political capital of Palestine,” Habbash said on Thursday, adding that he hopes the Islamic designation will encourage Muslim officials to visit Jerusalem in greater numbers.
Palestinians and Islamic clerics in the Middle East have for years accused Israel of “judaizing” Jerusalem. According to the Bible, King David established Jerusalem as the capital for the Israelites.
The Organization for Islamic Cooperation held a meeting last week in Indonesia to promote an Islamic tourism destination. In a press release on its website, the organization said the goal was to promote “the development of Shariah-compliant hotels and resorts, entertainment and sport facilities, in addition to visits to Islamic cultural sites, promotion of Halal food and drinks, and family dedicated swimming and spa areas.”