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Fatah mounts protests against Christian mayor of Bethlehem

Special to WorldTribune.com

RAMALLAH — The ruling Fatah movement has sought to oust the mayor of
a leading city in the West Bank.

Palestinian sources said Fatah was pressuring for the resignation of
Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun, the first woman to lead a major municipality in
the West Bank.

Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun.  /AP/Majdi Mohammed

Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun. /AP/Majdi Mohammed

The sources said Fatah was believed behind threats and attacks on
Ms. Baboun and her property.

“Fatah has decided that this woman has to go,” a source said. “It is
stoking tension between Christians and Muslims.”

The sources said Fatah helped organize Muslim protests against Ms.
Baboun, a Christian elected in 2012. They said the movement has also
distributed leaflets that demanded her resignation for purportedly stopping
girls who wear the hijab to attend a municipal ceremony. In May 2013, Ms.
Baboun’s car was defaced and damaged.

On June 3, the Palestinian Authority intervened. PA security forces
arrested four people, including a Bethlehem municipal council member, Maher Canawati, and his cousin. The cousin, George Canawati, reported the
content of the alleged Fatah leaflet on his Bethlehem Radio 2000.

“There is nothing called absolute freedom, and one’s freedom ends where
the freedom of others begins,” Bethlehem Gov. Abdul Fatah Hamayil said.

George Canawati was arrested several times by the PA for his reportage.
In 2010, he was detained for five days by the PA’s General Intelligence
Service for a report of tension within Fatah. During the following year, he
was arrested for criticizing PA medical services.

The sources said PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has urged Ms. Baboun, who
filed a complaint against Maher Canawati, to remain in office. Under
centuries-old tradition, the mayor of Bethlehem has always been Christian,
despite a Muslim majority over the last 30 years.

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