PLO Faction Threatens Arab Mulling Jerusalem Council Seat

Hanna Seniora, the Arab journalist who announced he might seek election to the Jerusalem City Council next year, has run into more trouble from fellow Palestinian nationalists than from the most militant Jews.

Seniora, editor of the East Jerusalem daily Al-Fajr, has been threatened by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Syrian-backed terrorist organization held responsible for the murders of Palestinian moderates in the West Bank, among them Nablus Mayor Zafer Al-Masri.

The PFLP took credit for torching Seniora’s two cars Sunday. It warned that unless he toes the “national line” he would be tried by a “popular court.” This was seen as a death threat.

The Palestine Liberation Organization, which Seniora openly supports, has criticized his move. Dr. Sari Nusseibeh, a leading Palestinian intellectual, called it “premature.” Elias Zananiri, editor of the East Jerusalem English weekly Al-Awda, said Seniora was opportunistic and egotistical.

He touched off the barrage of criticism when he told a group of foreign journalists on June 4 that he would head an Arab list in the next municipal elections.

Seniora explained that it was better to challenge the Israelis through their own democratic system than on the battlefield. He said it was time the Arabs took advantage of their growing proportion of the population to demand full rights in Israeli institutions.

COULD HAVE THIRD OF SEATS

The 125,000 Arab residents of Jerusalem could command a third of the City Council seats if all of those eligible to vote cast ballots for an Arab list.

Israeli moderates, including Mayor Teddy Kollek, promptly welcomed Seniora’s plan to run for office. Jewish militants demanded the law be amended to preclude the possibility. They argued that an avowed supporter of the PLO must not be allowed to stand for election. Some suggested that any candidate should be required to take an oath of allegiance to Israel.

Seniora himself has since backed off. He said his announcement was more symbolic than an expression of immediate political intentions. He acknowledged that the Palestinian community in East Jerusalem and the administered territories is not ready for bold political moves.

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