Israeli police raided the Ambassador Hotel in East Jerusalem on Monday night, June 18, and broke up an event attended by many Palestinian officials and intellectuals and other distinguished public guests including the deputy governor of East Jerusalem Abdullah Siyam, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Atallah, representatives Russian Embassy, and graduates of the universities of the Soviet Union and Russia. Among those attending was chairman of the Joint List MK Ayman Odeh.
The police action was based on an order issued by the district police commander citing anti-terror legislation and its declared purpose was to ban the event which was allegedly organized by the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), two groups which Israel regards as terrorist organizations.
The Russian Embassy in Israel denied vociferously on Tuesday, June 19, that the conference in which the chairman of the Joint List was participating was in any manner the initiative of the PLFP and the DFLP. According to embassy officials, the invitation to the event read: “The Russian Embassy and the Palestinian-Russian Friendship Society invite you to participate in an event marking the Russia National Day of on Monday June 18 at 19:00 in the Ambassador Hotel in Jerusalem” thereby contradicting the version of the police.
When the raid began, Dr. Haider Aghanin, the Russian Ambassador to the Palestinian Authority, was delivering a speech affirming the Russian position that recognizes East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. Israeli police attempted to stop his speech by cutting the electricity in the celebration hall, but he carried on without the help of a microphone.
Dr. Samir Khatib, chairman of the Association of Russian and Soviet University Graduates in Israel, said in response to the events at the Ambassador Hotel: “This is not an incident related to terrorism. This is a completely legitimate event organized in cooperation with the Russian Embassy which, for political reasons alone, the Police decided to break up without knowing what it was about. There is no connection to the organizations mentioned in the police order.” He asked “Could it be that the Russian representatives were supposed to take part in a terrorist incident?”