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Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations held a lecture in its headquarters in Beirut entitled “Spotlight on Islamic-Christian Relations in Ramallah in Late Ottoman Era and During British Mandate Based on Records of Ramallah Municipality.” The lecture was delivered on 28/6/2011 by Dr. Sameeh Hammoudeh, the political science professor at Beirzeit University. It was attended by a select of intellectuals and experts in the Palestinian issue and moderated by Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh, the General-Manager of al-Zaytouna Centre. 

Dr. Hammoudeh started his lecture stressing the importance of considering Palestinian history and returning to historical documents to counter the Zionist narrative through the formulation of a national system based on the study of documents in a strict scientific way. He also asserted the importance of the critical reading of the Western analytical system and called for the employment of an analytical system consistent with the spirit of our communities. 

Dr. Hammoudeh pointed out that Zionism is based on a historical narrative as it has been concerned since its presence in Palestine with collecting newspapers and documents and archiving them. He also added that the Zionism is the project of cultural separation rather than cultural communication. It is contrary to the religious coexistence in Palestine. In addition, Hammoudeh noted that the problem on the Palestinian level is a result of ignorance of the importance of the Palestinian documents and called for the re-documentation and drafting of our narrative to face the Zionist narrative.

He then talked about the records of Ramallah municipality, which amount to around 126, and the decisions of the municipal council since its inception in 1912 which were indexed in around a year. 

Dr. Hammoudeh talked about the close relations between the Muslims and Christians in Ramallah and al-Bireh and the missionary schools which entered the two cities and attracted many students there. He said that this openness to the West through engagement with missionary schools has strengthened Muslim-Christian relations.

He also shed light on the two factors which led to enhancing Muslim presence during the British Mandate. The first factor, Dr. Hammoudeh said, was the emmigration from Ramallah to the US for financial and economic reasons while the second was the advent of Muslims to Ramallah to work. He stressed that the Islamic expansion in Ramallah was not faced with any aggression and the only thing that was disputed was Abraham’s Shrine (Maqam Ibrahim), which Christians also used for worship, and which was registered in the Islamic endowments in Ottoman records. However, the issue was resolved amicably without any disagreement between the two sides. At the end of the lecture, Dr. Hammoudeh talked concisely about the Masonic movement and its presence in

Palestine. He concluded that we should move from general to detailed history and focus on the theoretical and cognitive foundation of societal and historical studies.

Following the lecture, Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh stressed the prevalence of tolerance in the Palestinian society within all its religious ingredients—Christian and Muslim. He drew attention to some prominent Palestinian figures throughout the Palestinian history who have worked within an atmosphere of coexistence without religious or sectarian fanaticism. 

Many participants presented important remarks where they talked about the importance of researching Islamic-Christian relations and confirmed that Palestine has so far presented a model of national unity instigated by the concern about the dangers of the British occupation and the Zionist project. They also addressed the ambiguity under which the Masonic movement works and its role in the Arab societies. They further attested the importance of education in spreading the spirit of brotherhood among the people of one nation based on enhancing nationalism and rejecting sectarianism not only in Palestine but in the whole Arab world. They noted that the problem in the Arab world was not the attempts to abolish other sects only but also other parties and political regimes whether they were leftist, socialist and secular ideologies.

Al-Zaytounce Centre for Studies and Consultations, Beirut 28/6/2011