AMMAN: Palestinians protested for the sixth day in a row in the port city of Jaffa against plans by the Tel Aviv/Jaffa municipality to destroy the Al-Isaaf Muslim cemetery, which dates back to Ottoman times. The Jaffa List, which has been in coalition with the ruling municipality, quit in protest.
Israeli bulldozers started the demolition of the cemetery on Monday, in preparation for building a new housing project. Al-Isaaf Cemetery includes hundreds of graves of Muslims who were laid there before the Israeli occupation of the city in 1948.
A large crowd performed Friday prayers and started a march condemning the Israeli decision to demolish the cemetery located in the north of the city of Yafa.
Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the imam of Al-Aqsa Mosque, who is currently banned by the Israelis from entering Al-Aqsa, delivered the Friday sermon at the site of the cemetery, noting that exhuming tombs is prevented in Islam.
Sabri told the gathering that “defending cemeteries is defending lands, and defending the dead is defending a legitimate right.”
Knesset Member Sami Abu Shehadeh taped a statement that was posted on Facebook expressing support to the people of Jaffa and hailing the Jaffa List which had the courage to withdraw from the coalition with the municipality of Tel Aviv/Jaffa.
Abu Shehadeh said that “protecting our holy sites in Jaffa is not only a right but a responsibility.” The destruction of the cemetery “violates the section in the coalition agreement in which the municipality undertakes to preserve what remains of our architectural and spiritual heritage and the markers of our culture and history.”
The statement ended by calling “upon all the people of Jaffa, from all sectors, to continue the struggle to preserve.”
Abed Al-Kader Abu-Shehade, a member of the Jaffa List, said that recent developments over the Muslim cemetery “reflect the municipality’s violation of the coalition agreement on that issue, its disregard of our reasonable demands and our efforts to reach a settlement.”
Hanna Issa, secretary-general of the Islamic-Christian Council for Jerusalem and the Holy Places, denounced the decision to destroy the cemetery.
He told Arab News that “destroying an old Islamic cemetery to build a shelter for the homeless is yet another sign of the Israelis going after anything that is holy to any religion except the Jewish ones.” Issa said that racism toward Palestinians in Israel was deeply ingrained in policy and practice.