The al-Aqsa Foundation for Waqf (Islamic Endowment) and Heritage issued a press release on Thursday evening, denouncing a fresh attack carried out by extremist Israeli settlers against the Ma’man-Allah (Mamanullah) historic Islamic cemetery in Jerusalem.The cemetery is in West Jerusalem is one of the largest cemeteries in the city, and stands on an area of 200 Dunams (nearly 90 acres).
The settlers wrote racist graffiti, destroyed gravestones, and tried to dig-up some of the graves.
The foundation held the Israeli government responsible for the attack, and demanded prosecution of the assailants, especially since the graveyard has become subject to frequent Israeli attacks.
Israel wants to build the so-called Museum of Tolerance in place of the ancient cemetery that contains graves going back to the Muslim caliphate in Palestine.
The foundation stated that “Recently, extremist settlers carried out repeated attacks against Islamic and Christian sites and cemeteries, and even signed their attacks, yet, Israel fails to stop them, and they continue their violations with impunity.”
“We consider any attack against holy and ancient sites as an unforgivable crime, but the attack against Ma’man-Allah graveyard is the mother of all sins,” the foundations added. “This graveyard is 1,400 years old, its original size is nearly 200 Dunams, and it contains graves of the Sahaba*, scholars, and martyrs. Now it is under direct and official Israeli attack, being carried out by the government.”
The foundation also stated that “[t]he persons behind this crime, similar to previous crimes, are the Zionist institution that runs consecutive Israeli governments, attacks the Palestinian people and their holy sites.”
It concluded its statement by stating that, “Israeli crimes against Islamic and Christian holy sites in the country are ongoing and escalating”. They then called on all Arab and Islamic countries to intervene and protect all holy sites in Palestine.
On June 25 of this year, Israeli bulldozers removed and destroyed several graves in the cemetery as part of the Israeli plan to build the so-called “Museum of Tolerance” on the cemetery ruins.
The al-Aqsa Foundation reported that the attack was initiated at 11 p.m. on Saturday June 25 when three huge bulldozers and two smaller ones, and twenty municipality workers, started the destruction of nearly 100 graves in the three remaining areas of the graveyard.
The destruction targeted the eastern side, the western side and the pool of Ma’man Allah, and aims at including the graveyard area, after its destruction, to be part of the museum Israel is planning to build.
On July 13, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that Israel approved a the building on top of a Muslim burial site. The plan was the subject of a lengthy legal battle brought by Palestinians, some of whom have family buried in the proposed site.
The Israeli Interior Ministry has given the go ahead for construction of tolerance museum on the site of a Palestinian Muslim burial ground. The path to starting construction had been cleared following a 2008 Israeli court decision that the site was: “No longer a burial ground.”
Interior Minister Spokesperson, Efrat Orbach, told AFP, regarding the decision to start construction, that ‘[i]t was the first step towards building, which means that they have the permission to start digging. From yesterday they can start digging for that project. But the project itself was already approved about 10 years ago.’
Israeli courts ruled in 2008 that the area was no longer a burial site citing the fact there was no objections to car park built in the area in 1960. The city has also offered to transfer coffins to an area on the site that will not be affected by the building but relatives have rejected the offer.
A campaigner against the building Huda al-Imam has stated that activists will continue to fight against the planned project and will take their fight to the UN as well as international leaders. ‘They should respect human heritage and human dignity and not build this museum of tolerance on a Palestinian cultural site and try to delete our identity,’ Imam said to AFP.
The project is one of a series of controversial plans by the Israeli Jerusalem municipality for cultural sites on Palestinian land including the “City of David” archaeological site in Silwan.
Earlier in October, on the eve of the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, a group of Israeli extremists broke into both an Islamic and a Christian cemetery in the city of Jaffa, damaging graves and writing anti-Arab and Muslim slogans on the walls of the mausoleums.
*The Sahaba are the companions, scholars, disciples and family of the Muslim Prophet Mohammad.