For years, he nurtured his contacts and relations with the Islamic leadership, local political activists, foreign diplomats and the Jordanian palace. Along with a small group of Jerusalemites, he was invited recently to Amman for a consultative meeting with Jordan’s king about the situation in Jerusalem.
Last month’s protests there provided Abdul Hadi with an opportunity to use his skills and contacts. He met with Islamic leaders, and together they issued the statement urging Palestinians not to use the metal detectors installed by Israel at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, calling that a change in the status quo.
Abdul Hadi spoke to Arab News outside Lions’ Gate in Jerusalem just before he joined thousands of Palestinians for prayers outside the empty Al-Aqsa mosque. He quickly attracted the attention of local and foreign media that were looking for a spokesman for the protest movement.
“Israel has paralyzed the role of the Islamic Waqf… and simply transferred their duties to the office of the Israeli Prime Minister” Benjamin Netanyahu, Abdul Hadi told Monte Carlo Radio. “Netanyahu is changing the conflict from a political one to a religious one.” Israel “needs to be held responsible for this dangerous change.”
On the role of civil society, Abdul Hadi said: “Despite 50 years of living as political orphans, our people are no longer looking for others to save them, but have decided they must do it themselves.”
Bernard Sabella, the member of the Palestinian Legislative Council representing East Jerusalem, told Arab News that Abdul Hadi is hard-working and persistent. “I’ve known Mahdi for many years, and whenever he puts his mind to an idea or project, he stays with it until completion,” Sabella said, calling Abdul Hadi a “patriotic Arab” who understands the needs of the people.
When a television station asked Abdul Hadi about the Arab world’s role, he answered: “Don’t talk to me about Arab countries that are divided.”
He was born in Nablus in 1944, and has lived all his life in Jerusalem. He can trace his family roots to the 7th century. He received his Ph.D. from the Peace Studies Center at the University of Bradford in the UK, and worked for a short time in Jordan before returning to Jerusalem and setting up PASSIA.
Abdul Hadi is known as a political moderate, supportive of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and having good relations with various political and religious groups, as well as with Jordanians.