An Israeli court has given the green light for destruction of an additional 200 graves in Jerusalem’s Mamilla Cemetery.
Judge Dov Falk issued a decision on 19 January to Mohammed Suleiman Igbarieh, the lawyer acting on behalf of Al-Aqsa Foundation for Waqf and Heritage, which is undertaking the graveyard’s maintenance and restoration.
The Islamic Mamilla Cemetery is located at the center of West Jerusalem and the city’s municipality would like to use the historic burial ground as the site for a “Museum of Tolerance” sponsored by the Simon Wiesenthal Center (a Jewish human rights organization).
Judge Falk rejected the request made by the cemetery’s religious officials, Haj Sami Rizkallah Abu Mokh and Alhaji Mustapha Abu Zahra, asking the court to provide a temporary injunction to prevent the destruction of more than 200 graves in the cemetery.
The injunction was opposed by the Municipality of Jerusalem and the Israel Lands Administration which claimed that officials of the cemetery had built “fake graves” in Mamilla during restoration work, and that according to the Absentee Property Law, the cemetery belongs to the Israel Lands Administration, reported the Middle East Monitor.
The Al-Aqsa Foundation is calling the decision a “major crime” and is committed to preventing the further desecration of the cemetery.
The battle for Mamilla Cemetery has intensified over the past year. The cemetery has been a Muslim burial ground and holy site since as early as the 7th century, when companions of the Prophet Muhammad were reputedly buried there. In addition, numerous Sufi saints and thousands of other officials, scholars, notables, and Jerusalemite families have been buried in the cemetery over the last 1,000 years. It is considered to be the oldest and largest Muslim cemetery in the city.
Descendants of people buried in the historic Muslim cemetery, in addition to local and international human rights organizations, filed a “Petition for Urgent Action on Human Rights Violations by Israel: Desecration of Ma’man Allah (Mamilla) Muslim Cemetery in the Holy City of Jerusalem” to the United Nations in February 2010.
The petition, submitted to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Religion and Belief and on Contemporary Forms of Racism, the Independent Expert on Culture, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Director General of UNESCO, requests these international bodies to demand that the Israeli government halt construction of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance.
Renowned architect Frank Gehry who was set to work on the project, resigned from museum development in January 2010.